source: wired.com

Five years ago, the Department of Defense set dozens of security hygiene goals. A new report finds that it has abandoned or lost track of most of them

THE UNITED STATES federal government isn’t known for robust cybersecurity. Even the Department of Defense has its share of known vulnerabilities. Now a new report from the Government Accountability Office is highlighting systemic shortcomings in the Pentagon’s efforts to prioritize cybersecurity at every level and making seven recommendations for shoring up DoD’s digital defenses.

The report isn’t a checklist of what DoD should be doing to improve cybersecurity awareness in the abstract. Instead, GAO looked at three DoD-designed initiatives to see whether the Pentagon is following through on its own goals. In a majority of cases, DoD has not completed the cybersecurity training and awareness tasks it set out to. The status of various efforts is simply unknown because no one has tracked their progress. While an assessment of “cybersecurity hygiene” like this doesn’t directly analyze a network’s hardware and software vulnerabilities, it does underscore the need for people who use digital systems to interact with them in secure ways. Especially when those people work on national defense.

“It’s everyone’s responsibility to understand their part in cybersecurity, but how do you convince everyone to follow the rules they’re supposed to follow and do it consistently enough?” says Joseph Kirschbaum, a director in GAO’s defense capabilities and management team who oversaw the report. “You’re never going to be able to eliminate all the threats, but you can manage them sufficiently, and a lot of DoD’s strategies and plans are good. Our concern is whether they’re doggedly pursuing it enough so they’re able to do the risk management.”

Continue reading “THE PENTAGON HASN’T FIXED BASIC CYBERSECURITY BLIND SPOTS”

source: forbes.com

Video-conferencing startup models recovery plan on a Microsoft push years ago to boost Windows security

The COVID-19 crisis has given video conferencing app Zoom a huge surge in users, but it’s also highlighted multiple security and privacy issues. Amid reports of Zoom bombers andvideos of chats available online, the firm is now feeling the harsh repercussions of that rapid growth. 

This week, schools in New York City were banned from using Zoom for remote teaching, while Google no longer allows employees to use the app on their work-sanctioned laptops.

It’s led to rivals trying to cash in on Zoom’s misfortunes, with Microsoft promoting the secure credentials of its Teams video calling, and Google publishing a blog pushing its Google Meet video conferencing service. 

It is no surprise that people are worried about Zoom’s security, but I have to say the company’s response has so far been impressive. It’s not trying to hide security issues–fixing problems for Mac and Windows users very quickly. 

Continue reading “ZOOM HIRES SECURITY HEAVYWEIGHTS TO FIX FLAWS”

source: fastcompany.com

By making encryption free and easy, Let’s Encrypt solved one of the web’s biggest problems. Its secret? A maniacal focus on automation and efficiency.

Let’s Encrypt issued its one billionth digital certificate a few weeks ago. Run by the nonprofit Internet Security Research Group (ISRG), the service provides these certificates to websites for free, allowing your browser to create a secure and validated connection to a server that’s effectively impenetrable to snooping. The pandemic hasn’t halted the group’s progress: It says it’s now issued over 1,080,000,000 certificates.

That Let’s Encrypt doesn’t charge for this service is a big deal. A digital certificate for a website—also useful for email servers and other client/server systems—used to cost hundreds of dollars a year for a basic version and even more for a more comprehensive one. For smaller sites, that cost alone was a barrier.

While the price had dropped significantly before Let’s Encrypt began issuing its certificates at no cost in 2015, and some commercial issuers had offered free certificates on a limited basis, encrypting a site was no trivial matter. It required technical expertise and the ability to puzzle through command-line configurations. (Though I’ve been running websites since 1994, renewing and installing certificates had remained one of my bugbears before Let’s Encrypt.)

Let’s Encrypt didn’t set out to launch a price war and thereby destroy an existing marketplace. By making encryption free and simple, the organization has been a large part of an industrywide shift to encrypt all web browsing that has doubled the number of secure sites from 40 to 80 percent of all sites since 2016.

As executive director and cofounder of ISRG Josh Aas says, the organization wants everyone to be able to “go out and participate fully in the web without having to pay hundreds of dollars to do something.” Setting the cost at zero benefits each site’s users and the internet as a whole.

Google tracks opt-in information from Chrome browser users about the type of connections they make. It shows that secure connections rose from 39 percent (Windows) and 43 percent (Mac) in early 2015 to 88 and 93 percent respectively on April 11, 2020. One source indicates that Let’s Encrypt now supplies 30 percent of all website digital certificates. Two hundred million websites now use its certificates, the organization says.

This dramatic increase in web encryption protects people from some unwanted commercial tracking and snooping by malicious parties and government actors alike. It took Let’s Encrypt as a catalyst to put it within the reach of every website.

BLOCKING UNPRECEDENTED SNOOPING

After the revelation of the scope and nature of wide-scale, routine data collection by U.S. national security agencies added to the already-known and suspected habits of other democracies and repressive countries, tech firms shifted heavily into encrypting connections everywhere they could. That meant more encryption between data centers run by the same company (as Google added starting in 2013), encryption of data at rest stored on servers, and browser makers calling users’ attention to unprotected web sessions.

Continue reading “HOW A NONPROFIT YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF MADE THE WEB SAFER FOR EVERYONE”

source: defenseone.com

 

The U.S. Justice Department and other federal agencies on Thursday called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to revoke China Telecom (Americas) Corp’s (0728.HK) authorization to provide international telecommunications services to and from the United States.

China Telecom is the U.S. subsidiary of a People’s Republic of China (PRC) state-owned telecommunications company. Last year, two U.S. senators asked the FCC to review approvals of China Telecom and China Unicom (0762.HK) to operate in the United States.

The FCC last May voted unanimously to deny another state-owned Chinese telecommunications company, China Mobile Ltd (0941.HK), the right to provide services in the United States, citing risks that the Chinese government could use the approval to conduct espionage against the U.S. government, It said then that it was “looking” at the licenses of China Telecom and China Unicom.

China Telecom (Americas) rejected the allegations and said it has “been extremely cooperative and transparent with regulators.”

“In many instances, we have gone beyond what has been requested to demonstrate how our business operates and serves our customers following the highest international standards,” the company said in a statement. “We look forward to sharing additional details to support our position and addressing any concerns.”

China’s foreign ministry said on Friday that Beijing is “firmly opposed” to any action by the United States against China Telecom.

“We urge the United States to respect market economy principles, to cease its mistaken practices of generalizing national security and politicizing economic issues, and to cease unjustifiable oppression of Chinese companies,” Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters during a daily briefing.

Click here to view video

Continue reading “U.S. AGENCIES BACK REVOKING ABILITY OF CHINA TELECOM TO OPERATE IN U.S.”

source:  CNET.com

When you download an app, the permissions requests and privacy policy are usually the only warnings you’ll get about the data it’s taking. Usually, you just have to take the app’s word that it’s grabbing only the data you’ve agreed to give it.

Often, though, there’s more grabbing going on than you were led to believe, security researchers have determined. More than 1,000 apps have been found to take data even after you’ve denied them permissions. For instance, menstrual tracking apps have shared sensitive info with Facebook, as well as with other companies you might not have expected. Similarly, apps designed to block robocalls have shared your phone data with analytics firms.

Anytime a device sends data, the traffic is captured and logged. Your location is used when you check the weather, but that same information can be sent to advertisers. Researchers have tools to see that log. Then they analyze it to figure out how much data gets sent and where it’s going. 

Typically, that sort of network traffic analysis was used to look outside, providing a window on what was happening on public Wi-Fi networks. In recent years, however, researchers have turned that scope onto their own phones to see what data the apps on their devices send out.

By taking a look under the hood, they’ve found that many apps are sending data that goes beyond what people agree to under privacy policies and permissions requests. 

“In the end, you’re left with a policy that’s essentially meaningless because it doesn’t describe what’s accurately happening,” said Serge Egelman, director of usable security and privacy research at the International Computer Science Institute. “The only way to answer that question is going in and seeing what the app is doing with that data.” 

Sometimes, the data is just headed to advertisers, who think they can use it to sell you products. Phone location data can be a gold mine for advertisers, who tap it to figure out where people are at certain times. But it may also be going to government agencies that leverage the technology to surveil people using data collected by apps that never disclosed what they were doing. Recently, The Wall Street Journal reported that government agencies were using such data to track immigrants.

These researchers are shining a light on a hidden world of data tracking, and raising concerns about how much information people are giving away without knowing it Continue reading “Your phone talks about you behind your back. These researchers are listening in”