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[ISN] No, You Really Can’t

https://blogs.oracle.com/maryanndavidson/entry/no_you_really_can_t Mary Ann Davidson Blog By User701213-Oracle Aug 10, 2015 I have been doing a lot of writing recently. Some of my writing has been with my sister, with whom I write murder mysteries using the nom-de-plume Maddi Davidson. Recently, we’ve been working on short stories, developing a lot of fun new ideas for dispatching people (literarily speaking, though I think about practical applications occasionally when someone tailgates me). Writing mysteries is a lot more fun than the other type of writing I’ve been doing. Recently, I have seen a large-ish uptick in customers reverse engineering our code to attempt to find security vulnerabilities in it. This is why I’ve been writing a lot of letters to customers that start with “hi, howzit, aloha” but end with “please comply with your license agreement and stop reverse engineering our code, already.” I can understand that in a world where it seems almost every day someone else had a data breach and lost umpteen gazillion records to unnamed intruders who may have been working at the behest of a hostile nation-state, people want to go the extra mile to secure their systems. That said, you would think that before gearing up to run that extra mile, customers would already have ensured they’ve identified their critical systems, encrypted sensitive data, applied all relevant patches, be on a supported product release, use tools to ensure configurations are locked down – in short, the usual security hygiene – before they attempt to find zero day vulnerabilities in the products they are using. And in fact, there are a lot of data breaches that would be prevented by doing all that stuff, as unsexy as it is, instead of hyperventilating that the Big Bad Advanced Persistent Threat using a zero-day is out to get me! Whether you are running your own IT show or a cloud provider is running it for you, there are a host of good security practices that are well worth doing. Even if you want to have reasonable certainty that suppliers take reasonable care in how they build their products – and there is so much more to assurance than running a scanning tool – there are a lot of things a customer can do like, gosh, actually talking to suppliers about their assurance programs or checking certifications for products for which there are Good Housekeeping seals for (or “good code” seals) like Common Criteria certifications or FIPS-140 certifications. Most vendors – at least, most of the large-ish ones I know – have fairly robust assurance programs now (we know this because we all compare notes at conferences). That’s all well and good, is appropriate customer due diligence and stops well short of “hey, I think I will do the vendor’s job for him/her/it and look for problems in source code myself,” even though: A customer can’t analyze the code to see whether there is a control that prevents the attack the scanning tool is screaming about (which is most likely a false positive) A customer can’t produce a patch for the problem – only the vendor can do that A customer is almost certainly violating the license agreement by using a tool that does static analysis (which operates against source code) I should state at the outset that in some cases I think the customers doing reverse engineering are not always aware of what is happening because the actual work is being done by a consultant, who runs a tool that reverse engineers the code, gets a big fat printout, drops it on the customer, who then sends it to us. Now, I should note that we don’t just accept scan reports as “proof that there is a there, there,” in part because whether you are talking static or dynamic analysis, a scan report is not proof of an actual vulnerability. Often, they are not much more than a pile of steaming … FUD. (That is what I planned on saying all along: FUD.) This is why we require customers to log a service request for each alleged issue (not just hand us a report) and provide a proof of concept (which some tools can generate). If we determine as part of our analysis that scan results could only have come from reverse engineering (in at least one case, because the report said, cleverly enough, “static analysis of Oracle XXXXXX”), we send a letter to the sinning customer, and a different letter to the sinning consultant-acting-on-customer’s behalf – reminding them of the terms of the Oracle license agreement that preclude reverse engineering, So Please Stop It Already. (In legalese, of course. The Oracle license agreement has a provision such as: “Customer may not reverse engineer, disassemble, decompile, or otherwise attempt to derive the source code of the Programs…” which we quote in our missive to the customer.) Oh, and we require customers/consultants to destroy the results of such reverse engineering and confirm they have done so. Why am I bringing this up? The main reason is that, when I see a spike in X, I try to get ahead of it. I don’t want more rounds of “you broke the license agreement,” “no, we didn’t,” yes, you did,” “no, we didn’t.” I’d rather spend my time, and my team’s time, working on helping development improve our code than argue with people about where the license agreement lines are. Now is a good time to reiterate that I’m not beating people up over this merely because of the license agreement. More like, “I do not need you to analyze the code since we already do that, it’s our job to do that, we are pretty good at it, we can – unlike a third party or a tool – actually analyze the code to determine what’s happening and at any rate most of these tools have a close to 100% false positive rate so please do not waste our time on reporting little green men in our code.” I am not running away from our responsibilities to customers, merely trying to avoid a painful, annoying, and mutually-time wasting exercise. For this reason, I want to explain what Oracle’s purpose is in enforcing our license agreement (as it pertains to reverse engineering) and, in a reasonably precise yet hand-wavy way, explain “where the line is you can’t cross or you will get a strongly-worded letter from us.” Caveat: I am not a lawyer, even if I can use words like stare decisis in random conversations. (Except with my dog, because he only understands Hawaiian, not Latin.) Ergo, when in doubt, refer to your Oracle license agreement, which trumps anything I say herein! With that in mind, a few FAQ-ish explanations: Q. What is reverse engineering? A. Generally, our code is shipped in compiled (executable) form (yes, I know that some code is interpreted). Customers get code that runs, not the code “as written.” That is for multiple reasons such as users generally only need to run code, not understand how it all gets put together, and the fact that our source code is highly valuable intellectual property (which is why we have a lot of restrictions on who accesses it and protections around it). The Oracle license agreement limits what you can do with the as-shipped code and that limitation includes the fact that you aren’t allowed to de-compile, dis-assemble, de-obfuscate or otherwise try to get source code back from executable code. There are a few caveats around that prohibition but there isn’t an “out” for “unless you are looking for security vulnerabilities in which case, no problem-o, mon!” If you are trying to get the code in a different form from the way we shipped it to you – as in, the way we wrote it before we did something to it to get it in the form you are executing, you are probably reverse engineering. Don’t. Just – don’t. Q. What is Oracle’s policy in regards to the submission of security vulnerabilities (found by tools or not)? A. We require customers to open a service request (one per vulnerability) and provide a test case to verify that the alleged vulnerability is exploitable. The purpose of this policy is to try to weed out the very large number of inaccurate findings by security tools (false positives). Q. Why are you going after consultants the customer hired? The consultant didn’t sign the license agreement! A. The customer signed the Oracle license agreement, and the consultant hired by the customer is thus bound by the customer’s signed license agreement. Otherwise everyone would hire a consultant to say (legal terms follow) “Nanny, nanny boo boo, big bad consultant can do X even if the customer can’t!” Q. What does Oracle do if there is an actual security vulnerability? A. I almost hate to answer this question because I want to reiterate that customers Should Not and Must Not reverse engineer our code. However, if there is an actual security vulnerability, we will fix it. We may not like how it was found but we aren’t going to ignore a real problem – that would be a disservice to our customers. We will, however, fix it to protect all our customers, meaning everybody will get the fix at the same time. However, we will not give a customer reporting such an issue (that they found through reverse engineering) a special (one-off) patch for the problem. We will also not provide credit in any advisories we might issue. You can’t really expect us to say “thank you for breaking the license agreement.” Q. But the tools that decompile products are getting better and easier to use, so reverse engineering will be OK in the future, right? A. Ah, no. The point of our prohibition against reverse engineering is intellectual property protection, not “how can we cleverly prevent customers from finding security vulnerabilities – bwahahahaha – so we never have to fix them – bwahahahaha.” Customers are welcome to use tools that operate on executable code but that do not reverse engineer code. To that point, customers using a third party tool or service offering would be well-served by asking questions of the tool (or tool service) provider as to a) how their tool works and b) whether they perform reverse engineering to “do what they do.” An ounce of discussion is worth a pound of “no we didn’t,” “yes you did,” “didn’t,” “did” arguments. * Q. “But I hired a really cool code consultant/third party code scanner/whatever. Why won’t mean old Oracle accept my scan results and analyze all 400 pages of the scan report?” A. Hoo-boy. I think I have repeated this so much it should be a song chorus in a really annoying hip hop piece but here goes: Oracle runs static analysis tools ourselves (heck, we make them), many of these goldurn tools are ridiculously inaccurate (sometimes the false positive rate is 100% or close to it), running a tool is nothing, the ability to analyze results is everything, and so on and so forth. We put the burden on customers or their consultants to prove there is a There, There because otherwise, we waste a boatload of time analyzing – nothing** – when we could be spending those resources, say, fixing actual security vulnerabilities. Q. But one of the issues I found was an actual security vulnerability so that justifies reverse engineering, right? A. Sigh. At the risk of being repetitive, no, it doesn’t, just like you can’t break into a house because someone left a window or door unlocked. I’d like to tell you that we run every tool ever developed against every line of code we ever wrote, but that’s not true. We do require development teams (on premises, cloud and internal development organizations) to use security vulnerability-finding tools, we’ve had a significant uptick in tools usage over the last few years (our metrics show this) and we do track tools usage as part of Oracle Software Security Assurance program. We beat up – I mean, “require” – development teams to use tools because it is very much in our interests (and customers’ interests) to find and fix problems earlier rather than later. That said, no tool finds everything. No two tools find everything. We don’t claim to find everything. That fact still doesn’t justify a customer reverse engineering our code to attempt to find vulnerabilities, especially when the key to whether a suspected vulnerability is an actual vulnerability is the capability to analyze the actual source code, which – frankly – hardly any third party will be able to do, another reason not to accept random scan reports that resulted from reverse engineering at face value, as if we needed one. Q. Hey, I’ve got an idea, why not do a bug bounty? Pay third parties to find this stuff! A. Bug bounties are the new boy band (nicely alliterative, no?) Many companies are screaming, fainting, and throwing underwear at security researchers**** to find problems in their code and insisting that This Is The Way, Walk In It: if you are not doing bug bounties, your code isn’t secure. Ah, well, we find 87% of security vulnerabilities ourselves, security researchers find about 3% and the rest are found by customers. (Small digression: I was busting my buttons today when I found out that a well-known security researcher in a particular area of technology reported a bunch of alleged security issues to us except – we had already found all of them and we were already working on or had fixes. Woo hoo!) I am not dissing bug bounties, just noting that on a strictly economic basis, why would I throw a lot of money at 3% of the problem (and without learning lessons from what you find, it really is “whack a code mole”) when I could spend that money on better prevention like, oh, hiring another employee to do ethical hacking, who could develop a really good tool we use to automate finding certain types of issues, and so on. This is one of those “full immersion baptism” or “sprinkle water over the forehead” issues – we will allow for different religious traditions and do it OUR way – and others can do it THEIR way. Pax vobiscum. Q. If you don’t let customers reverse engineer code, they won’t buy anything else from you. A. I actually heard this from a customer. It was ironic because in order for them to buy more products from us (or use a cloud service offering), they’d have to sign – a license agreement! With the same terms that the customer had already admitted violating. “Honey, if you won’t let me cheat on you again, our marriage is through.” “Ah, er, you already violated the ‘forsaking all others’ part of the marriage vow so I think the marriage is already over.” The better discussion to have with a customer —and I always offer this — is for us to explain what we do to build assurance into our products, including how we use vulnerability finding tools. I want customers to have confidence in our products and services, not just drop a letter on them. Q. Surely the bad guys and some nations do reverse engineer Oracle’s code and don’t care about your licensing agreement, so why would you try to restrict the behavior of customers with good motives? A. Oracle’s license agreement exists to protect our intellectual property. “Good motives” – and given the errata of third party attempts to scan code the quotation marks are quite apropos – are not an acceptable excuse for violating an agreement willingly entered into. Any more than “but everybody else is cheating on his or her spouse” is an acceptable excuse for violating “forsaking all others” if you said it in front of witnesses. At this point, I think I am beating a dead – or should I say, decompiled – horse. We ask that customers not reverse engineer our code to find suspected security issues: we have source code, we run tools against the source code (as well as against executable code), it’s actually our job to do that, we don’t need or want a customer or random third party to reverse engineer our code to find security vulnerabilities. And last, but really first, the Oracle license agreement prohibits it. Please don’t go there. * I suspect at least part of the anger of customers in these back-and-forth discussions is because the customer had already paid a security consultant to do the work. They are angry with us for having been sold a bill of goods by their consultant (where the consultant broke the license agreement). ** The only analogy I can come up with is – my bookshelf. Someone convinced that I had a prurient interest in pornography could look at the titles on my bookshelf, conclude they are salacious, and demand an explanation from me as to why I have a collection of steamy books. For example (these are all real titles on my shelf): Thunder Below! (“whoo boy, must be hot stuff!”) Naked Economics (“nude Keynesians!”)*** Inferno (“even hotter stuff!”) At Dawn We Slept (“you must be exhausted from your, ah, nighttime activities…”) My response is that I don’t have to explain my book tastes or respond to baseless FUD. (If anybody is interested, the actual book subjects are, in order, 1) the exploits of WWII submarine skipper and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient CAPT Eugene Fluckey, USN 2) a book on economics 3) a book about the European theater in WWII and 4) the definitive work concerning the attack on Pearl Harbor. ) *** Absolutely not, I loathe Keynes. There are more extant dodos than actual Keynesian multipliers. Although “dodos” and “true believers in Keynesian multipliers” are interchangeable terms as far as I am concerned. **** I might be exaggerating here. But maybe not.




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[ISN] Privacy talk at DEF CON canceled under questionable circumstances

http://www.csoonline.com/article/2947377/network-security/privacy-talk-at-def-con-canceled-under-questionable-circumstances.html By Steve Ragan Salted Hash CSO July 12, 2015 Earlier this month, several news outlets reported on a powerful tool in the fight between those seeking anonymity online, versus those who push for surveillance and taking it away. The tool, ProxyHam, is the subject of a recently canceled talk at DEF CON 23 and its creator has been seemingly gagged from speaking about anything related to it. Something’s off, as this doesn’t seem like a typical cancellation. Privacy is important, and if recent events are anything to go by – such as the FBI pushing to limit encryption and force companies to include backdoors into consumer oriented products and services; or the recent Hacking Team incident that exposed the questionable and dangerous world of government surveillance; striking a balance between law enforcement and basic human freedoms is an uphill struggle. Over the last several years, reports from various watchdog organizations have made it clear that anonymity on the Internet is viewed as a bad thing by some governments, and starting to erode worldwide. […]


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[ISN] Tepco’s frugality rapped after 48, 000 PCs found running Windows XP

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/04/21/national/tepcos-frugality-rapped-after-48000-pcs-found-running-windows-xp/ The Japan Times April 21, 2015 Embattled Tokyo Electric Power Co. has been slammed by an independent auditing watchdog for skimping on its computer network, which still uses the Windows XP operating system. Facing multi-billion dollar cleanup and compensation bills from the March 2011 nuclear crisis, Tepco figured it could save a few yen by delaying an upgrade. But the independent watchdog — which usually on the lookout for wasteful spending — warned the nation’s biggest electric utility about its frugality, saying it must replace the outdated computer system because of security concerns. Tepco — effectively nationalized through a government bailout after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011 — was hoping to save ¥3.6 billion ($30 million) by continuing to run about 48,000 computers on Windows XP until 2018. Microsoft stopped providing security updates and technical support for Windows XP last year, aggravating concerns about cybersecurity. […]


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Five steps for an unbelievably green and water efficient lawn during California’s drought

Keep your lawn green this summer!

The following five steps will allow you to significantly improve your lawn while saving a tremendous amount of water use throughout the year. The following five steps only take about 30 minutes across the entire year in order to properly improve your specific situation. The simple fact is you do not need to kill off your lawn in order to save significant amounts of water and contribute to the efficiency of water use within California.

By implementing these steps I personally experienced more than 30% reduction in my water use while my neighbors stood in awe of how florescent green my lawn was. When I showed my water bill and the savings to my neighbors they were in complete disbelief because they believed they had to kill off their lawn by reducing their water use to all zero but quite in fact this is not necessary. With proper maintenance, a lawn and your entire yard needs only a fraction of a the water necessary to keep it green and beautiful when you are not properly caring for it.

Step 1. Follow the sun (and the weather).

Often, many of us pay attention to the weather in order to select the right clothing for the day. However many of us ignore the fact that our lawns also need you to adjust your care according to the weather and the amount of sun your lawn will receive. So it is important to note what the weather will be like and the temperature ranges that your lawn will be experiencing along with you during the day.

Step 2. Penetrate your soul (leverage an aerator).

aerator

 

This simple little tool can be used to significantly change the absorption rate of water for your lawn. Imagine that you don’t aerate your lawn, without aeration the water sits on the top layer of soil and if you have a hill or sloped lawn it rolls right off only permeating the very top quarter-inch layer of topsoil. The goal for water efficient lawn is to maintain deep penetration of water into the topsoil and the only way to perform this without overwatering is through aeration. Aeration also has other benefits such as delivering nutrients further into the soil towards the roots of your grass. This is the single most effective way to reduce water usage and it only takes five minutes with this tool found at Home Depot at the following URL: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Hound-Dog-Steel-Spike-Aerator-HDP37/202605484

Step 3. Renew your body (sprinkle some seed).

Re-seeding is an essential step to keeping a quality lawn. Over time and age lawn degrades and the blades of grass simply don’t have the same luster as they once had similar to humans and aging. So it is important to re-seed on a regular basis usually in the springtime. grass-seedThere are many types of seed and you should try and match the type of seed that you already have if at all possible so that you can maintain the look the you desire. For me a simple fescue mix from my local Walmart or Home Depot was sufficient to maintain my own grass in the look that I desired.

Step 4. Take some vitamins (fertilize!).

The next stephandheld-spreader after aeration is to ensure that your grass has quality nutrients delivered directly to its roots, just like our bodies need vitamins so to do grasses and other shrubs we plant our yards. A simple $10-$15 fertilizer sprinkled across your lawn is sufficient to provide nutrients for almost 6 months and significantly improve the health of your lawn and provide for a florescent green and healthy color. This step takes only minutes once every six months. Ideally you can spread fertilizer with the same handheld spreader you use for the seed.

Step 5. Adjust your clocks! (water at the right time of day).

The final step in this process is to adjust your watering habits or your watering system to accommodate our newly renovated lawn. An unhealthy lawn without these maintenance techniques requires 2 to 3 times as much water, leading guidance from common Internet sources to claim watering must be 8 to 10 minutes per day in order for the desired look. However I have found that For my environmental conditions in Northern California,  quite honestly a healthfully maintained lawn only needs one third of the amount of water across to the majority of the year with only exceeding this amount in the highest temperature period of the summer months. The best watering times for grass are during the morning hours between 4 and 5 AM allowing sufficient soak time prior to the sun rising and evaporating the moisture. For my use I also run my water in the afternoon at around 5 PM, ideally you do not want a moist soil all night long to avoid bacteria and moss growth during the evening.

This is a photo of my lawn and my bill usage graph with an over 30% reduction (year over year) in my water use. 

my-grass

water-saved

 

 

 


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[ISN] US watchdog: Anthem snubbed our security audits before and after enormous hack attack

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/03/05/us_watchdog_anthem_audits/ By Shaun Nichols The Register 5 Mar 2015 A year or so before American health insurer Anthem admitted it had been ruthlessly ransacked by hackers, a US federal watchdog had offered to audit the giant’s computer security – but was rebuffed. And, after miscreants looted Anthem’s servers and accessed up to 88.8 million private records, the watchdog again offered to audit the insurer’s systems, and was again turned away. “We do not know why Anthem refuses to cooperate,” government officials told The Register today. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) told us it wanted to audit Anthem’s information security protections back in 2013, but was snubbed by the insurer. According to the agency, Anthem participates in the US Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which requires regular audits from the OIG, audits that Anthem allegedly thwarted. Other health insurers submit to Uncle Sam’s audits “without incident,” we’re told. […]


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[ISN] S. Korea nuclear hack ups aging reactor risks

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/01/13/asia-pacific/s-korea-nuclear-hack-ups-aging-reactor-risks/ Reuters Jan 13, 2015 SEOUL – The hacking of South Korea’s nuclear operator means the country’s second-oldest reactor may be shut permanently due to safety concerns, said several nuclear watchdog commissioners, raising the risk that other aging reactors may also be closed. “The operator failed to prevent it (the hack) and they don’t know how much data has been leaked. If the old reactor is still allowed to continue to run, it will just hike risks,” said Kim Hye-jung, one of nine commissioners who will this month review an application to restart the Wolsong No. 1 reactor. The future of Wolsong No. 1, shut in 2012 after reaching its 30-year life span, is seen as critical to the fate of other reactors, including the oldest, Kori No. 1, which had its life span extended by 10 years to 2017. Nuclear power accounts for about a third of South Korea’s electricity supply. More nuclear closures would boost fuel imports, which had soared since late 2012 after some reactor closures forced Asia’s fourth-largest economy to replace nuclear power with liquefied natural gas and thermal coal. […]


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[ISN] Georgia Tech student indicted for UGA website hack

http://onlineathens.com/breaking-news/2014-12-30/georgia-tech-student-indicted-uga-website-hack By JOE JOHNSON Athens Banner-Herald December 31, 2014 A Clarke County grand jury recently indicted a Georgia Tech student for allegedly hacking into the University of Georgia’s computer network to post a message prior to the annual rivalry football game between the Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets. Ryan Gregory Pickren, 21, was charged with felony computer trespass for making the posting on UGA’s online calendar on Nov. 27, two days before the intrastate gridiron match-up. The illegal calendar entry, which was added below the legitimate entry for the game, read: “Sat., November 29, 2014/ 12:00 pm/ Get Ass Kicked by GT.” Tom Jackson, UGA’s vice president for public affairs, said the calendar hack was discovered shortly after it was posted on Thanksgiving and taken down about an hour after it appeared. […]


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[ISN] Automakers working to prevent vehicle cyber terrorism

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/autos/2014/10/22/automakers-working-prevent-vehicle-cyber-terrorism/17710785/ By Michael Wayland The Detroit News October 22, 2014 Right now is the time for automakers and federal regulators to address potential “acts of terrorism” using connected vehicles, according to former administrator of the government’s vehicle safety watchdog. David Strickland, ex-head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said the industry needs to be proactive rather than reactive regarding cybersecurity issues as more cars and trucks become connected with the Internet, one another and additional third parties. “It is, right now, the industry’s time to get together and figure out countermeasures, before you do have a much more mature threat,” said Strickland, now a partner in consulting and lobbying firm Venable LLP, during the 2014 SAE Convergence conference in Detroit. Strickland’s comments come nearly four months after the industry’s largest trade groups, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers, informed NHTSA that they planned to launch a cybersecurity initiative designed for companies to voluntarily share cybersecurity best practices in an effort to help protect drivers and their personal information. […]


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