Researcher Dan Kaminsky pokes holes in network security at Black Hat USA

BLACK HAT USA 2011 -- Las Vegas -- Researcher Dan Kaminsky will be "kickin' it old school" here tomorrow in his annual Black Ops Of TCP/IP presentation with a series of hacks and tools he'll unveil that include a range of topics that include Bitcoin, home routers, firewalls, DDoS attacks, passwords, and even exposing Net neutrality issues.

Kaminsky's research represents a laundry list of things he has recently discovered. Although some of the items are completely unrelated, he says for the most part they represent some of the underlying themes in security today. "We have three core problems: broken authentication, bad code, and we can't bust the bad guys," he says. "No one doing cybercrime is particularly afraid they are going to go to jail. Us security researchers are worried because we say, 'I'm Dan, and look what I've got.' But if you're a company making money from fake AV scams, no one is going to bust you."

Bitcoin, the peer-to-peer virtual currency service, was recently scrutinized by Irish researchers who demonstrated how it's possible to unmask user transaction information. Kaminsky's research overlaps somewhat with that paper. Among other things tomorrow, he will release a tool for deanonymizing a Bitcoin transaction.

"Peer-to-peer networks were never supposed to be anonymous about their peers. Bitcoin was the first attempt to provide anonymity for P2P," he says.

Kaminsky also will discuss a common flaw in home routers that he found and had also previously been discovered by Daniel Garcia, a researcher who will be revealing his findings at Defcon later this week. The hole comes via the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) protocol found in popular home routers, which could allow an attacker to remotely open a port on the router: "You could be on the outside [of the network] and open things up," Kaminsky says.

Garcia will reveal during his Defcon talk findings on the number of these devices that are vulnerable to such an attack, which at the least numbers in the hundreds of thousands so far, according to Kaminsky.

Home router devices have many vulnerabilities and little if any patching mechanisms, he says. "Attackers are breaking into routers and compromising the firmware," he says.

"When I think of the next major cause of worm [attacks] I think of home routers," he says. "With a $40 device, how secure do you really expect it to be?"

Another topic Kaminsky will cover is a method of bypassing firewall rules in Linux systems by exploiting an old, 1990's-era bug. "You can spoof a connection past an access control list and you might be able to inject into live sessions as well," he says. Linux developers are working on a fix for the flaw, he says.

He also plans to release a tool that uses passwords to generate public/private key pairs -- a stunt that Kaminsky says "is a terrible idea that no one should ever do" except "in all but the most unusual scenarios."

Kaminksy also has built a new tool that exposes whether service providers are filtering some traffic, in a nod to his interest in Net neutrality issues. "You can always tell when a network is biased. Networks might as well be transparent about their biases" and how they allow some Web services to run faster than others, for instance.

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About the Author(s)

Kelly Jackson Higgins, Editor-in-Chief, Dark Reading

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Editor-in-Chief of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise Magazine, Virginia Business magazine, and other major media properties. Jackson Higgins was recently selected as one of the Top 10 Cybersecurity Journalists in the US, and named as one of Folio's 2019 Top Women in Media. She began her career as a sports writer in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, and earned her BA at William & Mary. Follow her on Twitter @kjhiggins.

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