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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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