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.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

3/3/2014
11:25 AM
50%
50%

Supply-Chain Threats Still An Uncertain Danger

With a global manufacturing economy muddying the definition of a foreign product, nations are still hashing out strategies to secure their supply chains

Governments need to take a more active approach in helping companies secure their IT supply chains -- an expensive proposition that holds little economic incentive for most businesses, a panel at the RSA Conference said in San Francisco last week.

RSA Conference 2014
Click here for more articles about the RSA Conference.

While supply-chain risks have historically seemed theoretical, the leaked documents by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden illustrated the broad capabilities of a skilled national intelligence agency's ability to compromise hardware and devices. The NSA's intelligence toolbox includes firmware backdoors that can be remotely installed on Huawei and Juniper routers, but many other so-called "implants" require the hardware to be intercepted during shipment and compromised, according to a December 2013 article in Der Spiegel.

Securing against national intelligence agencies and other actors is difficult, but each company needs to start with an analysis of its risk, James Barnett, partner, co-chair of the telecom and cybersecurity practice at Venable LLP Attorneys at Large, told attendees.

"The main thing with risk management is making sure that you understand this risk," he said.

In 2008, the Bush administration began a Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI), which aimed to give agencies a framework to better secure their systems. As one of the dozen initiatives, the CNCI called for federal agencies to secure their supply chains by developing tools, policies, and partnerships with industry to manage the risk.

Yet dealing with the security of products is difficult when it is no longer clear what could be considered a foreign product, said Curtis Duke, deputy director of the Information Assurance Directorate at the U.S. National Security Agency. The IAD is the defensive side of the NSA, with a mission to secure the nation's communications infrastructure.

"In today's global economy, most products are globally sourced. They may be manufactured in the U.S., but the actual components are made offshore," Duke told attendees. "Unfortunately, companies around the world may operate under different rules and uneven oversight, and the practical reality is that raises concerns on the quality, safety, and security of the products."

[Los Alamos National Laboratory's move to oust Chinese hardware without any evidence of backdoors highlights how supply-chain insecurities are difficult to manage. See Supply Chain Uncertainties Complicate Security.]

Locking down a development environment is a large expense, but a necessary one to deal with a national government, Nigel Jones, chief financial officer of mobile-security firm Koolspan, told attendees. The company has created a secure development facility and engineered its systems with an airgap to make it extremely difficult for attackers to penetrate.

"It is not possible, to our knowledge, to extract our intellectual property in any usable form," he said. "It is an ongoing process, which we have to do every day, and we have to keep at it."

Such measures have a significant cost attached to them, Jones said. While such measures are there to assure the U.S. government that the products are secure, convincing other nations that the products do not have U.S. implants is a significant battle as well.

"We have to spend a lot of time assuring some of our non-U.S. customers that their data and communications systems are sufficiently safe against U.S. surveillance," Jones said. "It is the inverse of the supply-chain issue."

While classified government agencies will need to carve out strict standards for suppliers and their products, the commercial sector can use technical standards and certifications to help maintain a secure supply chain, said Roar Thorn, a senior adviser to the Norwegian National Security Authority. Norway and other countries in the European Union have created a common set of standards so that a supplier certified by one country is considered to be vetted by the others, he said.

"We have partnered up with a lot of NATO countries and gained trust over time," he said. "It would be hard to sell any kind of products if we had 350 different standards and rules that different companies had to follow in the product itself."

The Open Group has established the Open Trusted Technology Provider Standard (O-TTPS), for example, so that companies can demonstrate their adherence to best practices.

While the actual threat remains unclear, nations should not seek to block technology because that does not solve the problem, Venable's Barnett said.

"There is a role for government in dealing with this issue, but we need to make sure that we don't clamp down on trade," he said. "There should be a national investment in finding a solution."

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Veteran technology journalist of more than 20 years. Former research engineer. Written for more than two dozen publications, including CNET News.com, Dark Reading, MIT's Technology Review, Popular Science, and Wired News. Five awards for journalism, including Best Deadline ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
macker490
50%
50%
macker490,
User Rank: Ninja
3/4/2014 | 1:52:58 PM
re: Supply-Chain Threats Still An Uncertain Danger
be proud of your work and sign for it
check out the UEFI initiative: kernel software components have to be signed with a valid digital signature or the boot loader rejects them. this is a good practice we should all adopt. it's part of a ZERO DEFECTS process. which needs to be combined with Product Liability.
it's a 'sea change'; a different approach to software.
that is badly needed
Mobile Banking Malware Up 50% in First Half of 2019
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/17/2020
Active Directory Needs an Update: Here's Why
Raz Rafaeli, CEO and Co-Founder at Secret Double Octopus,  1/16/2020
New Attack Campaigns Suggest Emotet Threat Is Far From Over
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  1/16/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
The Year in Security: 2019
This Tech Digest provides a wrap up and overview of the year's top cybersecurity news stories. It was a year of new twists on old threats, with fears of another WannaCry-type worm and of a possible botnet army of Wi-Fi routers. But 2019 also underscored the risk of firmware and trusted security tools harboring dangerous holes that cybercriminals and nation-state hackers could readily abuse. Read more.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Organizations have invested in a sweeping array of security technologies to address challenges associated with the growing number of cybersecurity attacks. However, the complexity involved in managing these technologies is emerging as a major problem. Read this report to find out what your peers biggest security challenges are and the technologies they are using to address them.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-5216
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-23
In Secure Headers (RubyGem secure_headers), a directive injection vulnerability is present in versions before 3.9.0, 5.2.0, and 6.3.0. If user-supplied input was passed into append/override_content_security_policy_directives, a newline could be injected leading to limited header injection. Upon seei...
CVE-2020-5217
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-23
In Secure Headers (RubyGem secure_headers), a directive injection vulnerability is present in versions before 3.8.0, 5.1.0, and 6.2.0. If user-supplied input was passed into append/override_content_security_policy_directives, a semicolon could be injected leading to directive injection. This could b...
CVE-2020-5223
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-23
In PrivateBin versions 1.2.0 before 1.2.2, and 1.3.0 before 1.3.2, a persistent XSS attack is possible. Under certain conditions, a user provided attachment file name can inject HTML leading to a persistent Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability. The vulnerability has been fixed in PrivateBin v1.3...
CVE-2019-20399
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-23
A timing vulnerability in the Scalar::check_overflow function in Parity libsecp256k1-rs before 0.3.1 potentially allows an attacker to leak information via a side-channel attack.
CVE-2020-7915
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-22
An issue was discovered on Eaton 5P 850 devices. The Ubicacion SAI field allows XSS attacks by an administrator.