Cyber(in)security: systemic risks and responses

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Presented at National Security 2008 in Brussels. Updated for British Computer Society, Deutsche Bank, Oxford University, and University of Southern Denmark.

Presented at National Security 2008 in Brussels. Updated for British Computer Society, Deutsche Bank, Oxford University, and University of Southern Denmark.

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  • Reduce systemic fraud risks
  • Commission work - LAP. ENISA & telecoms consultation.
  • Top 20 Security Risks from SANS Institute and the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) at the FBI
  • Fundamental limit on the powers of the state and protection of autonomy, dignity and minority groups
  • 900-1000 unique phishes


  • 1. Cyber(in)security: systemic risks and responses Dr Ian Brown Oxford University
  • 2. Non-systemic risks  Cyber graffiti: defacement of Web sites for propaganda and bragging  Cyber fraud: so far largely containable within financial system (low $bns)  “Terrorists get better returns from much simpler methods such as car bombs. Cyber terror is too low key: not enough dead bodies result, and attacks are too complex to plan and execute.” (Dr Juliette Bird, NATO)
  • 3. Cybercriminals and “patriots”  Market participants - custom virus writers, bot herders, mafias  Nation state attacks (Estonia, Georgia) – how far were “patriotic hackers” coordinated by state?
  • 4. “Pure” cyber war “The ‘Korean’ cyber incidents … were annoying and for some agencies, embarrassing, but there was no violence or destruction... Cybercrime does not rise to the level of an act of war, even when there is state complicity, nor does espionage – [which] are the activities that currently dominate cyber conflict... Estonia and Georgia … came under limited cyber attack as part of larger conflicts with Russia, but in neither case were there casualties, loss of territory, destruction, or serious disruption of critical services. ” (Lewis, 2009: 2—3). “At best, these operations can confuse and frustrate operators of military systems, and then only temporarily. Thus, cyberwar can only be a support function for other elements of warfare” (Libicki, 2009: xiv—xv)
  • 5. Cyber espionage/sabotage  TITAN RAIN: Incursions into DoD, German chancellory, Whitehall, NASA, Lockheed Martin…  Google attack aimed at “high-tech information to jump-start China's economy and the political information to ensure the survival of the regime” –James Lewis  “[I] listened and lip-synced to Lady Gaga’s ‘Telephone’ while exfiltrating possibly the largest data spillage in American history” -SPC Bradley Manning  Stuxnet/Flame/DuQu
  • 6. US offensive operations  231 offensive ops in 2011 – “to manipulate, disrupt, deny, degrade, or destroy information resident in computers or computer networks, or the computers and networks themselves”  $652m project GENIE to place tens of thousands of “covert implants” each year in computers, routers & firewalls – through equipment interception, access, and hacking (TAO)  TURBINE can manage millions of implants for intelligence gathering and active attack
  • 7. Implants in the supply chain
  • 8. NSA/CIA/FBI/DoD Trusted Partners  Bloomberg 14/6/13: “Thousands of technology, finance and manufacturing companies are working closely with U.S. national security agencies, providing sensitive information and in return receiving benefits that include access to classified intelligence”  “Some U.S. telecommunications companies willingly provide intelligence agencies with access to facilities and data offshore that would require a judge’s order if it were done in the U.S.”
  • 9. NSA partners
  • 10. How can the democracies…  Design and execute strategic responses that carefully target threats, avoiding where possible tactical arms races?  Get the best return on their security investment?  Enhance the soft power potential of the Internet as a platform for democracy?
  • 11. Strategic goals  Availability & integrity of critical services (CNI)  Protection of confidential information  Manageable levels of fraud  …all in cost-effective form, where costs include inconvenience, enhancement of fear, negative economic impacts & reduction of liberties (John Mueller, The quixotic quest for invulnerability, 2008)
  • 12. Counter-terrorism and mass surveillance  ~5000 Americans surveilled under Presidential Surveillance Programme 2001-2005; led to <10 warrants per year  “[T]here is not a consensus within the relevant scientific community nor on the committee regarding whether any behavioral surveillance … techniques are ready for use at all in the counterterrorist context”; –US National Research Council (2008) p.4  “Fifty-four times this and the other program stopped and thwarted terrorist attacks both here and in Europe—saving real lives” -Rep. Mike Rogers  Bulk phone record access “has not played a significant role in preventing any terrorist attacks to this point” -Former Acting CIA Director Mike Morrell to US Senate Judiciary Committee
  • 13. Reducing systemic risk  Isolate critical systems from public Internet and each other, and set much higher security standards  Enhance risk management, robustness and continuity planning in Critical National Infrastructure systems  Use Content Distribution Networks and other load balancing systems to increase performance and resilience of public- facing systems
  • 14. Redistributing liability  ENISA and UK House of Lords S&T Committee: should liability be shifted to some combination of software vendors, ISPs and financial institutions?  Most software licences disclaim all liability  Intended to incentivise much more secure system engineering (e.g. least-privilege processes, enforced by formally verified security kernel)
  • 15. Conclusions  Security interventions need to be carefully targeted to minimise costs and maximise long- term RoI  Reducing vulnerabilities and increasing availability is key long-term security response  Liability redistribution is mechanism to force key actors to internalise external costs  New mechanisms needed for verification of security properties of systems
  • 16. Better security engineering  Least-privilege processes, enforced by formally verified security kernel  Verification of device security before providing network connectivity  Two-factor authentication  Full Disk Encryption esp. for removable media  Perimeter controls to block sensitive data exfiltration  Air-gap most sensitive systems eg SCADA; separate public-facing websites from internal systems
  • 17. Cross-government action  Fund security R&D with INFOSEC agency participation  Use procurement, licensing and standardisation power to require significantly higher security standards in systems and services  Use diplomacy to pressure state actors behind Russian Business Network, DDoS attacks, classified network incursions etc.
  • 18. Costs of cybercrime Ross Anderson, Chris Barton, Rainer Bohme, Richard Clayton, Michel J.G.̈ van Eeten, Michael Levi, Tyler Moore, Stefan Savage (2012) Measuring the Cost of Cybercrime, Workshop on the Economics of Information Security: •“while terrorists try to be annoying as possible, fraudsters are quite the opposite and try to minimise the probability that they will be the targets of effective enforcement action.” (p.26) •“we should perhaps spend less in anticipation of computer crime (on antivirus, firewalls etc.) but we should certainly spend an awful lot more on catching and punishing the perpetrators.” (p.26) •“cybercrime is now the typical volume property crime in the UK, and the case for more vigorous policing is stronger than ever.” (p.26)
  • 19. Strategic impact  Do security systems support or subvert the emergence of democracy in authoritarian states?  Do systems damage the values the “war on terror” is supposed to be defending, e.g. by censoring websites or undertaking warrantless wiretaps?  “Techniques that look at people's behavior to predict terrorist intent are so far from reaching the level of accuracy that's necessary that I see them as nothing but civil liberty infringement engines.” –Jeff Jonas, Chief Scientist, IBM Entity Analytics
  • 20. Techie mumbo-jumbo  Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)  Botnets (Secure Computing estimated 150k new zombies per day Q2 2008)  Phishing (spear, rock), pharming  … generally we already see a strong response from CERTS, vendors, ISPs
  • 21. EU Charter of Fundamental Rights  Art. 7: Everyone has the right to respect for his or her private and family life, home and communications.  Art. 8: Everyone has the right to the protection of personal data concerning him or her.  Art. 10: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.  Art. 11: Everyone has the right to … receive and impart information and ideas  Art. 12: Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association
  • 22. Trapping the bot herders?  Extremely difficult to track and successfully prosecute bot herders  Do we need Louis Freeh’s packet license- plates?  Better alternatives?  Arrest when extortion demands are paid?  Increase bandwidth to and globally replicate key services using Akamai, anycast and related technologies?  Crowdsourced security (StopBadware)?
  • 23. Phishing  Symantec alone blocking 8m e-mails daily in 2006  Similar criminal ecology to DDoS - custom virus writers, botnet herders, site operators, spammers, mules  96.6% of attacks are on financial services insitutions Source: Anti-Phishing Working Group May 2007 report
  • 24. Taking down the phishers?  Targeted financial services institutions can ask hosts to take down sites  Some hosts still unresponsive  Phishers moving to botnet hosts and more sophisticated frauds (escrow, “sales reps”) Source: R. Clayton & T. Moore (2007)