Security newsround: June 2018

We round up reporting and research from across the web about the latest security news and developments. This month: help at hand for GDPR laggards, try and efail, biometrics blues, and calls for a router reboot as VPNFilter strikes.

Good data protection resources (see what we did there?)

Despite a very well flagged two-year countdown towards GDPR, the eleventh-hour scramble suggests many organisations were still unprepared. And let’s not forget that May 25 wasn’t a deadline but the start of an ongoing compliance process. Fortunately, there are some excellent resources to help, and we’ve rounded them up here.

This blog from Ireland’s deputy data protection commissioner debunks the widely – and wrongly – held theory of a bedding-in period before enforcement. The post also clarifies how organisations can mitigate the potential consequences of non-compliance with GDPR. Meanwhile the Irish Data Protection Bill passed a vote in the Dail in time for the regulation. You can read the bill in full, if that’s your thing, by clicking here.

In the UK, the Information Commissioner’s Office has produced in-depth guidance on consent for processing information. Specifically, when to apply consent and when to look for alternatives. (Plug: our COO Valerie Lyons wrote a fine blog on the very same subject here.) Together with the National Cyber Security Centre, the ICO also developed guidance to describe a set of technical security outcomes that are considered to represent appropriate measures under the GDPR.

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB), formerly known as the Article 29 Working Party, was quickly into action after 25 May. It published guidelines (PDF) on certification mechanisms under the regulation. This establishes the rules by which certification can take place, as proof of compliance with GDPR.

Finally, for an interesting US perspective on the regulation, here’s AlienVault CISO John McLeod. “Every company should prepare for “Right to be Forgotten” requests, which could present operational and compliance issues,” he said.

Do the hack-a

World Rugby suffered a data breach which saw attackers obtain personal details for thousands of subscribers. The data included the first name, email address and encrypted passwords of thousands of users, including players, coaches and parents worldwide. The Sunday Telegraph broke the story, with an interesting take on the news. The breach may have been a random incident but it’s also possible it was a targeted attack. Potential culprits might be one of the groups that previously leaked information from sporting bodies like WADA and the IAAF. Rugby’s governing body discovered the incident in early May, and took down the affected website to conduct more examinations. World Rugby is based in Dublin, and as a result it informed the Data Protection Commissioner about the breach. How would you handle a breach on that scale? Read our 10 steps to better post-breach incident response.

Efail: an email encryption problem or a vulnerability disclosure problem?

A group of researchers in Germany recently published details of critical flaws in PGP/GPG and S/MIME email encryption. They warned that the vulnerabilities could decrypt previously encrypted emails, including sensitive messages sent in the past. Conforming to the security industry’s love of a catchy name (see also: Heartbleed, Shellshock), the researchers dubbed the flaw Efail.

It was the cue for urgent warnings from EFF.org among others, to stop using email encryption tools. As the researchers put it: “EFAIL abuses active content of HTML emails, for example externally loaded images or styles, to exfiltrate plaintext through requested URLs.” The full technical research paper is here, while there’s a website with a Q&A here.

As the story moved on, it emerged that the problem lay more with how some email clients rendered messages. Motherboard’s snarky but well-informed take quoted Johns Hopkins University cryptography professor Matthew Green. He described the exploit as “an extremely cool attack and kind of a masterpiece in exploiting bad crypto, combined with a whole lot of sloppiness on the part of mail client developers.” ProtonMail, the world’s largest secure email service, was scathing about the news. After performing a deep analysis, it said its own client was not vulnerable, nor was the PGP protocol broken.

So what are the big lessons from this story? Distraction is a risk in security. Some security professionals may have rushed to react to Efail even if they didn’t need to. Curtis Franklin’s summary for Dark Reading observed that many enterprise IT teams have either moved away from PGP and S/MIME, or never used them. Noting the criticism of how the researchers published the vulnerabilities, Brian Honan wrote that ENISA, the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security, published excellent good practice for vulnerability disclosure.

Biometrics blues as police recognition tech loses face

There was bad news for fans of dystopian sci-fi as police facial recognition systems for nabbing bad guys proved unreliable. Big Brother Watch claimed the Metropolitan Police’s automated facial recognition technology misidentified innocent people as wanted criminals more than nine times out of 10. The civil liberties group Big Brother Watch presented a report to the UK parliament about the technology’s shortcomings. Among its findings was the high false positive rate. Police forces have supported facial biometrics as a tool to help them combat crime. Privacy advocates described the technology’s use as “dangerously authoritarian”. As noted on our blog, this isn’t the first time a UK organisation has tried to introduce biometrics.

Router reboot alert

Malware called VPNFilter has infected 500,000 routers worldwide, and the net seems to be widening. Cisco Talos Intelligence researchers first revealed the malware, which hijacked devices in more than 54 countries but primarily in Ukraine. “The VPNFilter malware is a multi-stage, modular platform with versatile capabilities to support both intelligence-collection and destructive cyber attack operations,” the researchers said. VPNFilter can snoop on traffic, steal website credentials, monitor Modbus SCADA protocols, and has the capacity to damage or brick infected devices.

Sophos has a useful plain English summary of VPNFilter and what it can do. The malware affected products from a wide range of manufacturers, including Linksys, Netgear, Mikrotik, Q-Nap and TP-Link. In a later update, Talos said some products from Asus, D-Link, Huawei, Ubiquiti, UPVEL, and ZTE were also at risk. As the malware’s payload became apparent, the FBI advised router owners to reboot their devices. This story shows that it’s always worth checking your organisation’s current risk with a security assessment.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *