A quick Saturday digest of cybersecurity news articles from other sources.
Many of these articles are from Bruce Schneier’s blog
New edition of The Internet Protocol Journal available for download
I’ve been reading this journal since 2002. If you are into networking, this is a must read, and is free of charge and free of advertising.
CISA Insights: Guidance for MSPs and Small- and Mid-sized Businesses
Original release date: July 14, 2021
CISA has released CISA Insights: Guidance for Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and Small- and Mid-sized Businesses, which provides mitigation and hardening guidance to help these organizations strengthen their defenses against cyberattacks. Many small- and mid-sized businesses use MSPs to manage IT systems, store data, or support sensitive processes, making MSPs valuable targets for malicious cyber actors. Compromises of MSPs—such as with the recent Kaseya ransomware attack—can have globally cascading effects and introduce significant risk to MSP customers.
CISA strongly recommends MSPs and small- and mid-sized businesses follow the guidance provided in the CISA Insights and CISA Webpage: Kaseya Ransomware Attack: Guidance for Affected MSPs and their Customers to protect MSP customer network assets and reduce the risk of successful cyberattacks.
VPNs and Trust
[2021.06.16] TorrentFreak surveyed nineteen VPN providers, asking them questions about their privacy practices: what data they keep, how they respond to court order, what country they are incorporated in, and so on.
Most interesting to me is the home countries of these companies. Express VPN is incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. NordVPN is incorporated in Panama. There are VPNs from the Seychelles, Malaysia, and Bulgaria. There are VPNs from more Western and democratic countries like the US, Switzerland, Canada, and Sweden. Presumably all of those companies follow the laws of their home country.
And it matters. I’ve been thinking about this since Trojan Shield was made public. This is the joint US/Australia-run encrypted messaging service that lured criminals to use it, and then spied on everything they did. Or, at least, Australian law enforcement spied on everyone. The FBI wasn’t able to because the US has better privacy laws.
We don’t talk about it a lot, but VPNs are entirely based on trust. As a consumer, you have no idea which company will best protect your privacy. You don’t know the data protection laws of the Seychelles or Panama. You don’t know which countries can put extra-legal pressure on companies operating within their jurisdiction. You don’t know who actually owns and runs the VPNs. You don’t even know which foreign companies the NSA has targeted for mass surveillance. All you can do is make your best guess, and hope you guessed well.
The Future of Machine Learning and Cybersecurity
[2021.06.21] The Center for Security and Emerging Technology has a new report: “Machine Learning and Cybersecurity: Hype and Reality.” Here’s the bottom line:
The report offers four conclusions:
- Machine learning can help defenders more accurately detect and triage potential attacks. However, in many cases these technologies are elaborations on long-standing methods — not fundamentally new approaches — that bring new attack surfaces of their own.
- A wide range of specific tasks could be fully or partially automated with the use of machine learning, including some forms of vulnerability discovery, deception, and attack disruption. But many of the most transformative of these possibilities still require significant machine learning breakthroughs.
- Overall, we anticipate that machine learning will provide incremental advances to cyber defenders, but it is unlikely to fundamentally transform the industry barring additional breakthroughs. Some of the most transformative impacts may come from making previously un- or under-utilized defensive strategies available to more organizations.
- Although machine learning will be neither predominantly offense-biased nor defense-biased, it may subtly alter the threat landscape by making certain types of strategies more appealing to attackers or defenders.
Apple Will Offer Onion Routing for iCloud/Safari Users
[2021.06.22] At this year’s Apple Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple announced something called “iCloud Private Relay.” That’s basically its private version of onion routing, which is what Tor does.
Privacy Relay is built into both the forthcoming iOS and MacOS versions, but it will only work if you’re an iCloud Plus subscriber and you have it enabled from within your iCloud settings.
Once it’s enabled and you open Safari to browse, Private Relay splits up two pieces of information that — when delivered to websites together as normal — could quickly identify you. Those are your IP address (who and exactly where you are) and your DNS request (the address of the website you want, in numeric form).
Once the two pieces of information are split, Private Relay encrypts your DNS request and sends both the IP address and now-encrypted DNS request to an Apple proxy server. This is the first of two stops your traffic will make before you see a website. At this point, Apple has already handed over the encryption keys to the third party running the second of the two stops, so Apple can’t see what website you’re trying to access with your encrypted DNS request. All Apple can see is your IP address.
Although it has received both your IP address and encrypted DNS request, Apple’s server doesn’t send your original IP address to the second stop. Instead, it gives you an anonymous IP address that is approximately associated with your general region or city.
Not available in China, of course — and also Belarus, Colombia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Uganda, and the Philippines.
AI-Piloted Fighter Jets
[2021.06.25] News from Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology:
China Claims Its AI Can Beat Human Pilots in Battle: Chinese state media reported that an AI system had successfully defeated human pilots during simulated dogfights. According to the Global Times report, the system had shot down several PLA pilots during a handful of virtual exercises in recent years. Observers outside China noted that while reports coming out of state-controlled media outlets should be taken with a grain of salt, the capabilities described in the report are not outside the realm of possibility. Last year, for example, an AI agent defeated a U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot five times out of five as part of DARPA’s AlphaDogfight Trial (which we covered at the time). While the Global Times report indicated plans to incorporate AI into future fighter planes, it is not clear how far away the system is from real-world testing. At the moment, the system appears to be used only for training human pilots. DARPA, for its part, is aiming to test dogfights with AI-piloted subscale jets later this year and with full-scale jets in 2023 and 2024.
- More: “AI weapons” in China’s military innovation | AI Could Enable ‘Swarm Warfare’ for Tomorrow’s Fighter Jets
About the Author:I am a cybersecurity and IT instructor, cybersecurity analyst, pen-tester, trainer, and speaker. I am an owner of the WyzCo Group Inc. In addition to consulting on security products and services, I also conduct security audits, compliance audits, vulnerability assessments and penetration tests. I also teach Cybersecurity Awareness Training classes. I work as an information technology and cybersecurity instructor for several training and certification organizations. I have worked in corporate, military, government, and workforce development training environments I am a frequent speaker at professional conferences such as the Minnesota Bloggers Conference, Secure360 Security Conference in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, the (ISC)2 World Congress 2016, and the ISSA International Conference 2017, and many local community organizations, including Chambers of Commerce, SCORE, and several school districts. I have been blogging on cybersecurity since 2006 at http://wyzguyscybersecurity.com