Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Risk

2/21/2008
09:50 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
50%
50%

Encrypted Disks At (Some) Risk To Eavesdroppers

Whether you are using Windows Vista BitLocker, Mac OS X FileVault, Linux-based dm-crypt, or open source disk encryption software TrueCrypt - your data could be at risk to snoops, researchers have found. While it is troubling news, all is not lost.

Whether you are using Windows Vista BitLocker, Mac OS X FileVault, Linux-based dm-crypt, or open source disk encryption software TrueCrypt - your data could be at risk to snoops, researchers have found. While it is troubling news, all is not lost.As reported earlier today by my associate Thomas Claburn, researchers from Princeton University, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Wind River Systems have found a way to find disk encryption keys in system RAM.

This means, if you leave your system in either "sleep" or "hibernate" mode, it has been proven that the keys used to encrypt and decrypt files or an entire drive can be found -- still resident in memory -- and used to access private data at will.

Also troubling is that the researchers warn that this attack could be used to snoop on SSL sessions (how Web site communication is commonly secured in transit to and from your PC) as well as DRM technologies (such as is used for eBooks and music files).

It's important to note that it's not the encryption scheme, which is the mathematical algorithm used to scramble legible information into gibberish, that has been proven vulnerable. It's how all data is stored in RAM that creates the condition. And by using software to scan RAM for private encryption keys, after either booting from across a network, external, or USB drive, the secret keys can be uncovered, for a short period of time, after the machine has been turned off.

A system still getting power, such as in hibernate mode, is vulnerable to this attack.

What all of this means is that walking away from your system in an office, hotel room, or any place you don't feel secure: relying on the system's automatic screen saver password, or going into sleep mode isn't safe enough. You have to turn the system off, and if you're really concerned, wait a few minutes until the RAM has no more power. What's more, the researchers found, is that the length of time that residual files remain available in RAM memory, including crypto keys, can be extended through the use of giving DRAM modules a cold blast of compressed air.

None of this is going to change my behavior much. I'm still going to continue using TrueCrypt. Only I'll now shut my system off when leaving it unattended in a hotel room, or other place I don't feel secure. And I'll keep an eye out for strangers rapidly approaching me armed with little more than a can of GasDuster.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
NSA Appoints Rob Joyce as Cyber Director
Dark Reading Staff 1/15/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
2020: The Year in Security
Download this Tech Digest for a look at the biggest security stories that - so far - have shaped a very strange and stressful year.
Flash Poll
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
COVID-19 has created a new IT paradigm in the enterprise -- and a new level of cybersecurity risk. This report offers a look at how enterprises are assessing and managing cyber-risk under the new normal.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-22847
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-22
Hyweb HyCMS-J1's API fail to filter POST request parameters. Remote attackers can inject SQL syntax and execute commands without privilege.
CVE-2021-22849
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-22
Hyweb HyCMS-J1 backend editing function does not filter special characters. Users after log-in can inject JavaScript syntax to perform a stored XSS (Stored Cross-site scripting) attack.
CVE-2020-8567
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-21
Kubernetes Secrets Store CSI Driver Vault Plugin prior to v0.0.6, Azure Plugin prior to v0.0.10, and GCP Plugin prior to v0.2.0 allow an attacker who can create specially-crafted SecretProviderClass objects to write to arbitrary file paths on the host filesystem, including /var/lib/kubelet/pods.
CVE-2020-8568
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-21
Kubernetes Secrets Store CSI Driver versions v0.0.15 and v0.0.16 allow an attacker who can modify a SecretProviderClassPodStatus/Status resource the ability to write content to the host filesystem and sync file contents to Kubernetes Secrets. This includes paths under var/lib/kubelet/pods that conta...
CVE-2020-8569
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-21
Kubernetes CSI snapshot-controller prior to v2.1.3 and v3.0.2 could panic when processing a VolumeSnapshot custom resource when: - The VolumeSnapshot referenced a non-existing PersistentVolumeClaim and the VolumeSnapshot did not reference any VolumeSnapshotClass. - The snapshot-controller crashes, ...