informa
Commentary

Black Hat: How's Your Security Crystal Ball Looking?

Perhaps the best reason to attend Black Hat is the opportunity to see what's on the horizon when it comes to security. It's human nature to want to know things your colleagues don't. It gives people a reason to listen to you and helps you sound smart. In the spirit of water-cooler chat dominance, here are three security issues I observed at Black Hat that probably won't send your security staff scurrying for answers tomorrow, but will sooner rather than later have a significant impact on the sec
Perhaps the best reason to attend Black Hat is the opportunity to see what's on the horizon when it comes to security. It's human nature to want to know things your colleagues don't. It gives people a reason to listen to you and helps you sound smart. In the spirit of water-cooler chat dominance, here are three security issues I observed at Black Hat that probably won't send your security staff scurrying for answers tomorrow, but will sooner rather than later have a significant impact on the security of your systems and/or data.1) The most obvious surrounds the much-anticipated and oft-delayed Microsoft Windows Vista. Several companies I've spoken with over the past few months say they're perfectly content with Windows XP at this time and that Vista is purely spectator sport at this time. That may be, but Vista is something you'll have to deal with at some point, and Joanna Rutkowska's Black Hat presentation Thursday gave security pros plenty to squawk about when she demonstrated the possibility that under the right conditions, a cyberattacker could inject arbitrary code into the Vista x64 kernel and stealthily take control of a user's system. Rutkowska's Vista demo was the only one I attended that received a round of applause.

2) Companies excited about RFID's promise to improve supply chain efficiency, enable automatic payments, and store data on mobile assets such as human beings (there's actually a bar in Rotterdam that offers its VIP patrons the ability to be tagged with a subdermal microchip) probably don't want to worry about malware infecting those systems. But as Vrije Universiteit researcher Melanie Rieback pointed out Thursday at Black Hat, there are ways to infect RFID systems with malware. "I guess I decided RFID didn't have enough problems," Rieback said of a paper she wrote entitled "Is Your Cat Infected with a Computer Virus?" The paper suggests computer viruses could spread from RFID tags through readers into poorly written middleware applications and into enterprise back-end systems and databases. Rieback pointed out that this is just one more thing for businesses to consider before adopting RFID. Don't look for any sudden onslaught of RFID attacks, but be prepared for them as RFID matures.

3) When Jeremiah Grossman, founder and chief technology officer of WhiteHat Security, asked the Black Hat audience at his presentation, entitled "Hacking Intranet Websites from the Outside," how many had heard of cross-site scripting, a sea of hands went up into the air. "Maybe four people knew last year, and we were two of them," he said afterward, acknowledging his WhiteHat colleague T.C. Niedzialkowski. Grossman's research already indicated that outsiders can use JavaScript exploit code to steal cookies, capture keystrokes, and monitor a user's navigation throughout the Web. Now he wants companies to consider something much worse: an attacker's ability to use hijacked Web browsers to likewise exploit intranet sites as well. This means the Web browser of every user within a company's network can become a stepping stone for intruders. Cross-site scripting vulnerabilities in Web applications make it possible for JavaScript malware to infect Web surfers, who bring those troubles back inside their companies' networks. "We are 18 months away from this, but it's coming," Grossman said.

You've been warned.

Recommended Reading: