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Weekend Reads 042018: Mostly DNS Security Stuff

For many, the conversation about online privacy centers around a few high-profile companies, and rightly so. We consciously engage with their applications and services and want to know who else might access our information and how they might use it. But there are other, less obvious ways that accessing the World Wide Web exposes us. In this post we will look at how one part of the web’s infrastructure, the Domain Name System (DNS), “leaks” your private information and what you can do to better protect your privacy and security. Although DNS has long been a serious compromise in the privacy of the web, we’ll discuss some simple steps you can take to improve your privacy online. —Stan Adams @CDT

Cloudflare, the internet security and performance services company, announced a new service called “Spectrum.” The service gets its name from the fact that Cloudflare aims to offer DDoS protection for the whole “spectrum” of ports and protocols for its enterprise customers. @Tom’s Hardware

Security researchers have been warning about an ongoing malware campaign hijacking Internet routers to distribute Android banking malware that steals users’ sensitive information, login credentials and the secret code for two-factor authentication. In order to trick victims into installing the Android malware, dubbed Roaming Mantis, hackers have been hijacking DNS settings on vulnerable and poorly secured routers. —Swati Khandelwal @Hacker News

In summary, the best lesson one can take from this paper is that publication in a journal or conference proceedings does not guarantee that the paper withstands scrutiny. The paper is linked above for the interested reader to peruse himself, and to investigate the claims. —Rachel Traylor @The Math Citadel

A security researcher has disclosed details of an important vulnerability in Microsoft Outlook for which the company released an incomplete patch this month—almost 18 months after receiving the responsible disclosure report. The Microsoft Outlook vulnerability (CVE-2018-0950) could allow attackers to steal sensitive information, including users’ Windows login credentials, just by convincing victims to preview an email with Microsoft Outlook, without requiring any additional user interaction. —Swati Khandelwal @Hacker News

As Gandhi once said, “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” The same could be said about using “hack back” technology for vengeful purposes, such as security defenders who respond to attackers with the intent to harm their systems. —Dr. Salvatore Stolfo @Deark Reading

So ICANN decided to ask Article 29 for some specific guidance about WHOIS and how ICANN plans to deal with it in light of GDPR. You can read the original letter here. Article 29 were meeting in Brussels this week, and they not only discussed the ICANN request, but issued formal advice in response to ICANN’s letters. —Michele Neylon @CircleID

While performing in-depth analysis of various malware samples, security researchers at Cyberbit found a new code injection technique, dubbed Early Bird, being used by at least three different sophisticated malware that helped attackers evade detection. As its name suggests, Early Bird is a “simple yet powerful” technique that allows attackers to inject malicious code into a legitimate process before its main thread starts, and thereby avoids detection by Windows hook engines used by most anti-malware products. —Mohit Kumar @Hacker News

Worth Reading: DevOps and component chaos

Modern software development is trending more toward a componentized approach because developers would rather assemble something using a variety of well-built pieces of third-party code than reinvent the wheel every time they create something new. The approach has done wonders for speed and agility, but it’s increasing a lot of enterprise attack surfaces because too few organizations are keeping up with the vulnerabilities these components pose. —Ericka Chickowski @Dark Reading

Worth Reading: White box switching

White box switching seems to be all the networking hype. For some in-depth research, check out this podcast from packet pushers about ATT making its move into white box switching. Cisco is also committed to offering a decoupled version of IOS-XR from Cisco hardware to enable running their NOS on OCP (open compute project) compliant hardware aka “white box switching.” Fascinating stuff, but what’s the big deal? Well, I’m going to try and make a comparison. —Javi Isolis

OSPF Topology Transparent Zones

Anyone who has worked with OSPF for any length of time has at least heard of areas—but perhaps before diving into Topology Transparent Zones (TTZs), a short review is in order.

In this diagram, routers A and B are in area 0, routers C and D are Area Border Routers (ABRs), and routers E, F, G, H, and K are all in area 1. The ABRs, C and D, do not advertise the existence of E, F, G, H, or K to the routers in area 0, nor the links to or between any of those routers. Any reachable destinations in area 1 are advertised using a em>summary LSA, or a type 3 LSA, towards A and B. From the perspective of A and B, 100::/64 and 101::/64 would be advertised by C and D as directly connected destinations, using the cost from C and D to each of these two destinations, based on a summary LSA.

What if you wanted to place H and K in their own area, with G as an ABR, behind the existing area 1? You cannot do this in OSPF using any form of a standard flooding domain, or area. There is no way to take information about a destination out of a summary LSA and place it in another summary LSA without risking the formation of a routing loop. Once the topology information is lost, which OSPF relies on to prevent the formation of routing loops, there is no way to gain it back.

Why might you want to do this? The primary reasons for stacking multiple areas in this way relate to mobile ad-hoc networks; you cannot control the way routers might be connected together, nor where flooding domain boundaries might be drawn. Assuming you have a requirement, you would be out of luck if the only tool you have is a standard OSPF area.

However, you can stack areas using TTZs. What is a TTZ? It is a flooding domain that does not appear to exist to the routers around it—or rather, connected to either side of the TTZ. In the illustration below, routers C, D, E, F, and G have been configured so they form a TTZ.

Note that when the network is configured this way, routers A, B, H, and K all believe they are in a single flooding domain. From the perspective of these four routers, C, D, and G appear to be directly connected by a set of point-to-point links. Traffic sent from B to 101::/64, for instance, would pass into the TTZ at D, through the TTZ, and back out the other side at G. This traffic would be forwarded normally through the TTZ, as the routers within the TTZ have a full view of the network topology, as well as reachable destinations.

The destination within the TTZ, 100::/64, would be advertised by each TTZ edge router as if it were a directly connected destination. Hence G, C, and D would each advertise 100::/64 as a connected interface in their router LSA, or their type 1 advertisement. This allows routers outside the TTZ to reach destinations within the TTZ, without revealing the internal topology of the TTZ.

Information about the topology within the TTZ is carried in a set of opaque LSAs which are not forwarded outside the TTZ. This allows the TTZ to maintain consistent internal state, without burdening the rest of the network with internal topology information, or topology changes.

TTZ’s are a rather narrowly focused solution; it is not likely you will see these used in an OSPF network near you any time soon. On the other hand, they are an interesting, experimental, addition to OSPF that can be used to solve a set of edge cases.

You can read about TTZs more in RFC8099.

Reaction: DNS Complexity Lessons

Recently, Bert Hubert wrote of a growing problem in the networking world: the complexity of DNS. We have two systems we all use in the Internet, DNS and BGP. Both of these systems appear to be able to handle anything we can throw at them and “keep on ticking.”

this article was crossposted to CircleID

But how far can we drive the complexity of these systems before they ultimately fail? Bert posted this chart to the APNIC blog to illustrate the problem—

I am old enough to remember when the entire Cisco IOS Software (classic) code base was under 150,000 lines; today, I suspect most BGP and DNS implementations are well over this size. Consider this for a moment—a single protocol implementation that is larger than an entire Network Operating System ten to fifteen years back.

What really grabbed my attention, though, was one of the reasons Bert believes we have these complexity problems—

DNS developers frequently see immense complexity not as a problem but as a welcome challenge to be overcome. We say ‘yes’ to things we should say ‘no’ to. Less gifted developer communities would have to say no automatically since they simply would not be able to implement all that new stuff. We do not have this problem. We’re also too proud to say we find something (too) hard.

How often is this the problem in network design and deployment? “Oh, you want a stretched Ethernet link between two data centers 150 miles apart, and you want an eVPN control plane on top of the stretched Ethernet to support MPLS Traffic Engineering, and you want…” All the while the equipment budget is ringing up numbers in our heads, and the realyl cool stuff we will be able to play with is building up on the list we are writing in front of us. Then you hear the ultimate challenge—”if you were a real engineer, you could figure out how to do this all with a pair of routers I can buy down at the local office supply store.”

Some problems just do not need to be solved in the current system. Some problems just need to have their own system built for them, rather than reusing the same old stuff because, well, “we can.”

The real engineer is the one who knows how to say “no.”

Weekend Reading 041318: GDPR, and the ever deepening pile of security vulnerabilities

I think we are all hoping that when ICANN meets with the DPAs (Digital Protection Authorities) a clear path forward will be illuminated. We are all hoping that the DPAs will provide definitive guidance regarding ICANN’s interim model and that some special allowance will be made so that registrars and registries are provided with additional time to implement a GDPR-compliant WHOIS solution. —Matt Serlin @CircleID

Security researchers at Embedi have disclosed a critical vulnerability in Cisco IOS Software and Cisco IOS XE Software that could allow an unauthenticated, remote attacker to execute arbitrary code, take full control over the vulnerable network equipment and intercept traffic. —Swati Khandelwal @The Hacker News

With the growing presence and sophistication of online threats like viruses, ransomware, and phishing scams, it’s increasingly important to have the right protection and tools to help protect your devices, personal information, and files from being compromised. Microsoft already provides robust security for Office services, including link checking and attachment scanning for known viruses and phishing threats, encryption in transit and at rest, as well as powerful antivirus protection with Windows Defender. Today, we’re announcing new advanced protection capabilities coming to Office 365 Home and Office 365 Personal subscribers to help further protect individuals and families from online threats. —Kirk Koenigsbauer @Microsoft

In September 2017 the proposed roll of the Root Zone Key Signing Key (KSK), scheduled for 11th October 2017 was suspended. I wrote about the reasons for this suspension of the key roll at the time. The grounds for this action was based in the early analysis of data derived from initial deployment of resolvers that supported the trust anchor signal mechanism described in RFC 8145. In the period since then the data shows an increasing proportion of resolvers reporting that they trust KSK-2010 (the old KSK) but not KSK-2017 (the incoming KSK). —Geoff Huston @Potaroo

Security firm Varonis analyzed data risk assessments performed by its engineers on 130 companies and 5.5 petabyes of data through 2017. What concerns Varonis technical evangelist Brian Vecci most is that companies left 21% of all their folders open to everyone in the company. —Sara Peters @Dark Reading

The U.S. Secret Service is warning financial institutions about a new scam involving the temporary theft of chip-based debit cards issued to large corporations. In this scheme, the fraudsters intercept new debit cards in the mail and replace the chips on the cards with chips from old cards. When the unsuspecting business receives and activates the modified card, thieves can start draining funds from the account. @Krebs on Security

Insider mistakes like networked backup incidents and misconfigured cloud servers caused nearly 70% of all compromised records in 2017, according to new data from IBM X-Force. These types of incidents affected 424% more records last year than the year prior, they report. —Kelly Sheridan @Dark Reading

As recent revelations from Grindr and Under Armour remind us, Facebook is hardly alone in its failure to protect user privacy, and we’re glad to see the issue high on the national agenda. At the same time, it’s crucial that we ensure that privacy protections for social media users reinforce, rather than undermine, equally important values like free speech and innovation. We must also be careful not to unintentionally enshrine the current tech powerhouses by making it harder for others to enter those markets. Moreover, we shouldn’t lose sight of the tools we already have for protecting user privacy. —Corynne McSherry @EFF

Your email address is an excellent identifier for tracking you across devices, websites and apps. Even if you clear cookies, use private browsing mode or change devices, your email address will remain the same. Due to privacy concerns, tracking companies including ad networks, marketers, and data brokers use the hash of your email address instead, purporting that hashed emails are “non-personally identifying”, “completely private” and “anonymous”. But this is a misleading argument, as hashed email addresses can be reversed to recover original email addresses. In this post we’ll explain why, and explore companies which reverse hashed email addresses as a service. —Gunes Acar @Freedom to Tinker

I had a teacher who once said, “When the stuff is hitting the fan, there are three questions to ask: What’s important? What’s missing? And what’s next?” Members of Congress will have their day with Mark Zuckerberg this week, but I’m more interested in unpacking these three questions – and moving towards their answers. —Nuala O’Conner @CDT

I recently received an email from Netflix which nearly caused me to add my card details to someone else’s Netflix account. Here I show that this is a new kind of phishing scam which is enabled by an obscure feature of Gmail called “the dots don’t matter”. I then argue that the dots do matter, and that this Gmail feature is in fact a misfeature. —James Fisher

Social media sites are littered with seemingly innocuous little quizzes, games and surveys urging people to reminisce about specific topics, such as “What was your first job,” or “What was your first car?” The problem with participating in these informal surveys is that in doing so you may be inadvertently giving away the answers to “secret questions” that can be used to unlock access to a host of your online identities and accounts. @Krebs on Security

On the ‘web: The Best Decicions

A long time ago, when I worked for a major vendor’s escalation team, I was called into a customer to help them move from one routing protocol to another. We spent some time looking over their network, discussing how best to approach the problems they would probably encounter, how long it would take to make the change, and many other issues involved. Finally, over lunch, I asked why they were planning on changing routing protocols. @ECI