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German eID card system vulnerable to online identity spoofing

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Image: Bund.de

Security researchers have found a vulnerability in the backbone of the electronic ID (eID) cards system used by the German state. The vulnerability, when exploited, allows an attacker to trick an online website and spoof the identity of another German citizen when using the eID authentication option.

There are some hurdles that an attacker needs to pass before abusing this vulnerability, but the researchers who found it say their eID spoofing hack is more than doable.

The vulnerability doesn’t reside in the radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip embedded in German eID cards, but in the software kit implemented by websites that want to support eID authentication.

The vulnerable component is named the Governikus Autent SDK and is one of the SDKs that German websites, including government portals, have used to add support for eID-based login and registration procedures.

SEC Consult, the German cyber-security firm who discovered the flaw in this SDK, says it already reported the issue to CERT-Bund, (Germany’s Computer Emergency Response Team), who coordinated with Governikus, the vendor, to release a patch –Autent SDK v3.8.1.2– in August this year.

All websites who use the Autent SDK 3.8.1 and earlier are vulnerable to the vulnerability they’ve discovered, SEC Consult said today in a report, advising website owners to update their Autent SDK to the latest version, if they haven’t done so already.

How the vulnerability works

According to the company’s report, the vulnerability resides in the process of how websites deal with the responses they receive from users trying to authenticate via the eID system.

Under normal circumstances, this authentication procedure goes through the following steps:

  • A website sees a user initiating an eID card authentication process and requests a special response from the user.
  • User inserts his eID card into a card reader or places the eID card near a capable mobile phone. User enters his card’s PIN code in the eID client app installed on his PC or smartphone.
  • The eID client app connects to one of the many authorized eID servers to verify the login request and produce a cryptographic verification signature for a response it intends to forward back to the website.
  • The eID client app sends an eID response (the signature and the user’s personal data) to the initial website to complete the eID-based authentication procedure.
  • The website logs the user in or creates a new account if the user is using his electronic card to register on a site.
german-eid-auth-process.png

Image: Bund.de

According to SEC Consult experts, websites using older versions of the Autent SDK accept eID client responses that contain one cryptographic signature, but multiple SAML parameters containing the user’s data.

“The signature is verified against the last occurrence of the parameter, while the SAML response that is processed further, will be taken from the first occurrence,” SEC Consult experts explained.

“To exploit this vulnerability, an attacker requires at least one valid query string signed by the authentication server. It does not matter for which citizen or at which time the signature for the query string has been issued,” they added.

This sounds as an unsurmountable issue… but it actually isn’t. SEC Consult says that multiple eID servers expose logs online [1, 2], and an attacker could just grab an old signed response and insert their spoofed eID data in the middle, like so:

[signature][data of fake user][real user data for signature check]

SEC Consult has published a YouTube video to showcase how an attack exploiting this vulnerability works.

But SEC Consult says this vulnerability doesn’t work against all websites that support eID authentication. Experts say that online portals that have chosen to implement “pseudonyms” (instead of sending the actual user data with each authentication requests) aren’t vulnerable.

Pseudonyms are randomly-looking strings that are used similarly to usernames, stored on both the website and inside the eID card’s RFID chip. Unless attackers are able to guess pseudonyms in a consistent manner, they wouldn’t be able to use this vulnerability to spoof the identity of other users.

Furthermore, because all eID authentication responses are logged, websites can review logs and detect when and if an attacker has ever exploited this vulnerability (by looking at eID responses with multiple repeating parameters). This also means attacks could be detected in real-time, blocking attackers trying to spoof their identity before they log in.

The good news is that SEC Consult privately disclosed this flaw over the summer, and only revealed it to the public today, giving German sites a three months head start to update the vulnerable –and very popular– Autent SDK.

The bad news is that the Autent SDK was used in a demo app that many German websites might have downloaded and used as an example to build their own eID authentication systems, meaning the issue could be quite widespread in the German online space.

Earlier today, ZDNet has put a formal request for comment with the eID group at the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) and have inquired if German government portals –the vast majority of the sites using the eID authentication system– have applied the SDK patch, and if there have been any concerted efforts to review the logs of government-managed websites for attacks that might have exploited the above vulnerability.

The issue discovered by SEC Consult is nowhere as problematic as the cryptographic issue discovered in over 750,000 Estonian eID cards in 2017. The Estonian government was forced to replace all affected cards to prevent fraudulent operations on government sites. Some eID cards in Slovakia were also affected but to a lesser degree. Estonia sued Gemalto, the eID card maker, this fall.

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Defeating Distributed Denial of Service Attacks

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It seems like every day the news brings new stories of cyberattacks. Whether ransomware, malware, crippling viruses, or more frequently of late—distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. According to Infosec magazine, in the first half of 2020, there was a 151% increase in the number of DDoS attacks compared to the same period the previous year. That same report states experts predict as many as 15.4 million DDoS attacks within the next two years.

These attacks can be difficult to detect until it’s too late, and then they can be challenging to defend against. There are solutions available, but there is no one magic bullet. As Alastair Cooke points out in his recent “GigaOm Radar for DDoS Protection” report, there are different categories of DDoS attacks.

And different types of attacks require different types of defenses. You’ll want to adopt each of these three defense strategies against DDoS attacks to a certain degree, as attackers are never going to limit themselves to a single attack vector:

Network Defense: Attacks targeting the OS and network operate at either Layer 3 or Layer 4 of the OSI stack. These attacks don’t flood the servers with application requests but attempt to exhaust TCP/IP resources on the supporting infrastructure. DDoS protection solutions defending against network attacks identify the attack behavior and absorb it into the platform.

Application Defense: Other DDoS attacks target the actual website itself or the web server application by overwhelming the site with random data and wasting resources. DDoS protection against these attacks might handle SSL decryption with hardware-based cryptography and prevent invalid data from reaching web servers.

Defense by Scale: There have been massive DDoS attacks, and they show no signs of stopping. The key to successfully defending against a DDoS attack is to have a scalable platform capable of deflecting an attack led by a million bots with hundreds of gigabits per second of network throughput.

Table 1. Impact of Features on Metrics
[chart id=”1001387″ show=”table”]

DDoS attacks are growing more frequent and more powerful and sophisticated. Amazon reports mitigating a massive DDoS attack a couple of years ago in which peak traffic volume reached 2.3 Tbps. Deploying DDoS protection across the spectrum of attack vectors is no longer a “nice to have,” but a necessity.

In his report, Cooke concludes that “Any DDoS protection product is only part of an overall strategy, not a silver bullet for denial-of-service hazards.” Evaluate your organization and your needs, read more about each solution evaluated in the Radar report, and carefully match the right DDoS solutions to best suit your needs.

Learn More About the Reports: Gigaom Key Criteria for DDoS, and Gigaom Radar for DDoS

The post Defeating Distributed Denial of Service Attacks appeared first on GigaOm.

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Assessing Providers of Low-Power Wide Area Networks

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Blog Title: Assessing Providers of Low-Power Wide Area Network Technology

Companies are taking note of how Low-Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) can provide long-distance communications for certain use cases. While its slow data transfer rates and high latency aren’t going to be driving any high intensity video streaming or other bandwidth-hungry situations, it can provide inexpensive, low power, long-distance communication.

According to Chris Grundemann and Logan Andrew Green’s recent report “GigaOm Radar for LPWAN Technology Providers (Unlicensed Spectrum) v1.0,” this growing communications technology is suitable for use cases with the following characteristics:

  • Requirement for long-distance transmission—10 km/6 miles or more wireless connectivity from sensor to gateway
  • Low power consumption, with battery life lasting up to 10 years
  • Terrain and building penetration to circumvent line-of-sight issues
  • Low operational costs (device management or connection subscription cost)
  • Low data transfer rate of roughly 20kbps

These use cases could include large-scale IoT deployments within heavy industry, manufacturing, government, and retail. The LPWAN technology providers evaluated in this Radar report are currently filling a gap in the IoT market. They are certainly poised to benefit from the anticipated rapid adoption of LPWAN solutions.

Depending on the use case you’re looking to fulfill, you can select from four basic deployment models from these LPWAN providers:

  • Physical Appliance: This option would require a network server on-premises to receive sensor data from gateways.
  • Virtual Appliance: Network servers could also be deployed as virtual appliances, running either on-premises or in the cloud.
  • Network Stack as a Service: With this option, the LPWAN provider fully manages your network stack and provides you with the service. You only need devices and gateways to satisfy your requirements.
  • Network as a Service: This option is provided by mobile network operators, with the provider operating the network stack and gateways. You would only need to connect to the LPWAN provider.

Figure 1. LPWAN Connectivity

The LPWAN providers evaluated in this report are well-positioned from both a business and technical perspective, as they can function as a single point of contact for building IoT solutions. Instead of cobbling together other solutions to satisfy connectivity protocols, these providers can set up your organization with a packaged IoT solution, reducing time to market and virtually eliminating any compatibility issues.

The unlicensed spectrum aspect is also significant. The LPWAN technology providers evaluated in this Radar report use at least one protocol in the unlicensed electromagnetic spectrum bands. There’s no need to buy FCC licenses for specific frequency bands, which also lowers costs.

Learn More: Gigaom Enterprise Radar for LPWAN

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The Benefits of a Price Benchmark for Data Storage

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Why Price Benchmark Data Storage?

Customers, understandably, are highly driven by budget when it comes to data storage solutions. The cost of switching, upkeep and upgrades are high risk factors for businesses, and therefore, decision makers need to look for longevity in their chosen solution. Many factors influence how data needs to be handled within storage, including data that is frequently accessed, or storing rarely-accessed legacy data. 

Storage performance may also be shaped by geographic location, from remote work or global enterprises that need to access and share data instantly, or by the necessity of automation. Each element presents a new price-point that needs to be considered, by customers and by vendors.

A benchmark gives a comparison of system performance based on a key performance indicator, such as latency, capacity, or throughput. Competitor systems are analyzed in like-for-like situations that optimize the solution, allowing a clear representation of the performance. Price benchmarks for data storage are ideal for marketing, showing customers exactly how much value for money a solution has against competitor vendors.

Benchmark tests reinforce marketing collateral and tenders with verifiable evidence of performance capabilities and how the transactional costs relate to them. Customers are more likely to invest in long-term solutions with demonstrable evidence that can be corroborated. Fully disclosed testing environments, processes, and results, give customers the proof they need and help vendors stand out from the crowd.

The Difficulty in Choosing

Storage solutions vary greatly, from cloud options to those that utilize on-premises software. Data warehouses have different focuses which impact the overall performance, and they can vary in their pricing and licensing models. Customers find it difficult to compare vendors when the basic data storage configurations differ and price plans vary. With so many storage structures available, it’s hard to explain to customers how output relates to price, appeal to their budget, and maintain integrity, all at the same time.

Switching storage solutions is also a costly, high-risk decision that requires careful consideration. Vendors need to create compelling and honest arguments that provide reassurance of ROI and high quality performance.

Vendors should begin by pitching their costs at the right level; they need to be profitable but also appealing to the customer. Benchmarking can give an indication of how competitor cost models are calculated, allowing vendors to make judgements on their own price plans to keep ahead of the competition. 

Outshining the Competition

Benchmark testing gives an authentic overview of storage transaction-based price-performance, carrying out the test in environments that imitate real-life. Customers can gain a higher understanding of how the product works in terms of transactions per second, and how competitors process storage data in comparison.

The industry-standard for benchmarking is the TPC Benchmark E (TPC-E), a recognized standard for storage vendors. Tests need to be performed in credible environments; by giving full transparency on their construction, vendors and customers can understand how the results are derived. This can also prove systems have been configured to offer the best performance of each platform.

A step-by-step account allows tests to be recreated by external parties given the information provided. This transparency in reporting provides more trustworthy and reliable outcomes that offer a higher level of insight to vendors. Readers can also examine the testing and results themselves, to draw independent conclusions.

Next Steps

Price is the driving factor for business decisions and the selection for data storage is no different. Businesses often look towards low-cost solutions that offer high capacity, and current trends have pushed customers towards cloud solutions which are often cheaper and flexible. The marketplace is full in regard to options: new start-ups are continually emerging, and long serving vendors are needing to reinvent and upgrade their systems to keep pace. 

Vendors need evidence of price-performance, so customers can be reassured that their choice will offer longevity and functionality at an affordable price point. Industry-standard benchmarking identifies how performance is impacted by price and which vendors are best in the market – the confirmation customers need to invest.

 

The post The Benefits of a Price Benchmark for Data Storage appeared first on GigaOm.

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