Tag Archive for HTTPS

Don’t Know Much Security

Don’t Know Much SecurityWith apologies to Otis Redding, Americans don’t know much about security. They don’t know much privacy, or the SPAM they took. A new Pew Research Center survey, “What the Public Knows About Cybersecurity” quizzed 1,055 adults about their understanding of concepts important to online safety and privacy. The results of the Pew survey are unsettling.

questions about cybersecurityThe Pew Research survey asked 13 questions about cybersecurity. The median score was five correct answers. Just 20% answered eight questions correctly. A relatively large percentage of respondents answered “not sure” to questions rather than providing the wrong answer.

Most Americans don’t know how to protect themselves. Only 10% were able to identify one example of multi-factor authentication when presented with four images of online log-in screens.

Most Americans still unknowingly allow themselves to be tracked across the web. 61% of those surveyed were not aware that Internet Service Providers can still see the websites their customer visit even when they’re using “private browsing” on their search engines.

Internet securityA slight majority (52%) of people recognized that just turning off the GPS function on smartphones does not prevent all tracking of the phone’s location. Mobile phones can be tracked via cell towers or Wi-Fi networks.

Only 54% of respondents correctly identified a phishing attack. For cybercriminals, phishing remains a favorite trick for infecting computers with malware. Phishing schemes usually involve an email that directs users to click on a link to an infected website.

phishing attackComputer security software does a good job of blocking most phishing schemes, Stephen Cobb, security researcher for anti-virus software firm ESET told told Phys.org, including many advanced spear phishing attacks targeting people with personalized information.

Retired Rear Adm. Ken Slaght, head of the San Diego Cyber Center of Excellence, a trade group for the region’s cybersecurity industry told KnowB4.

It is probably our No. 1 concern and No. 1 vulnerability … These attackers keep upping their game. It has gone well beyond the jumbled, everything misspelled email.

cybersecurity2/3’s of Americans tested, could not identify what the what the ‘s’ in ‘https‘ meant. The article explains that the ‘s’ stands for secure, with website authentication and encryption of digital traffic. It is used mostly for online payments. Security researchers often suggest computer users check the website addresses – known as the URL – as a first step before they click on a link. ESET’s Cobb said, “You wonder if people know what a URL is … Do they know how to read a URL? So there is plenty of work to be done.”

In the most puzzling finding to me, 75% of participants identified the most secure password from a list of four options. And yet followers of Bach Seat know that year after year passwords suck. Could it be that Americans just don’t care about the online security?

Insecure passwordsFortunately some Americans also recognize that public Wi-Fi hotspots aren’t necessarily safe for online banking or e-commerce. The mixed security results highlights that staying secure online is not a priority for Americans at work or at home.

The Wall Street Journal also covered the Pew findings and quoted Forrester: “The percentage of security and risk professionals citing “security awareness” as a top priority rose to 61% last year, from 56% in 2010.”

In the enterprise,Heidi Shey, a senior analyst at Forrester, told CIO Journal that security awareness training isn’t always effective, since it’s often conducted once a year as a compliance issue and involves lists of dos and don’ts.

The human element is important in safeguarding a firm against cyberattack, since it’s both a first line of defense as well as a weak link. Successful awareness efforts are focused on enabling behavioral change, and typically customized and specific to an organization, its workforce, and relevant risks.


The data from Pew says that enterprise and home users need to be more security aware. Technology can’t solve stupid so users have to be the last line of defense.

Related articles

Ralph Bach has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Security Cam Concerns in Ann Arbor

Security Cam Concerns in Ann ArborNext time you are in Ann Arbor to get a bite to eat at Zingerman’s, or attend a U of M football game at Michigan stadium someone may be watching you. NetworkWorld, says Ann Arbor is one of the top U.S. cities with the most unsecured security cameras. In fact, Ann Arbor ranks seventh nationally.

Security camera may be hackedThe report’s author, security firm Protection 1, analyzed the data from Insecam. Inseacam identifies open security cameras and Protection 1 estimates there are over 11,000 open security cameras on the Internet in the U.S. Protection 1 identified the cities with the most cameras that can be viewed by anyone online. The top 10 cities with unsecured security cameras are:

  1. Walnut Creek, CA – 89.69 / 100,000 residents
  2. Richardson, TX – 72.74 / 100,000 residents
  3. Torrance, CA – 72.55 / 100,000 residents
  4. Newark, NJ – 38.07 / 100,000 residents
  5. Rancho Cucamonga, CA – 36.76 / 100,000 residents
  6. Corvallis, OR – 37.98 / 100,000 residents
  7. Ann Arbor, MI – 34.18 / 100,000 residents
  8. Orlando, FL – 34.05 / 100,000 residents
  9. Eau Claire, WI – 22.21 / 100,000 residents
  10. Albany, NY – 20.32 / 100,000 residents

You are still using the defaul password?Open security cameras connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi or a cable. They have no password protection or are using the manufacturer’s default password.  Malicious people and governments can record or broadcast our lives from unprotected open security cameras. Open cameras are also vulnerable attacks that can turn them into bots.

From a privacy perspective, the most worrisome finding is that 15% of the open cameras are in Americans’ homes. Anyone can watch these cameras if the default password is not changed to a unique password to lock down the camera.

Besides being spied on from the web, open cameras can be exploited by criminals. Cyber-criminals can force the online cameras to attack other things on the Internet as part of a DDoS attack.

Cyber-criminals can force online cameras to attack other things on the Internet as part of a DDoS attackA DDoS attack against a jewelry shop website led to the discovery of a CCTV based botnet. A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is one in which a multitude of compromised systems attack a single target, thereby causing denial of service for users of the targeted system. TargetTech says the flood of incoming messages to the target system essentially forces it to shut down, thereby denying service to the system to legitimate users.

Help Net Security reports that Sucuri researchers discovered the jewelry site was being attached by a CCTV botnet made up of 25,000+ cameras from around the globe. The website was first attacked by a layer 7 attack (HTTP Flood) at 35,000 HTTP requests per second and then, when those efforts were thwarted, with 50,000 HTTP requests per second.

BotnetSucuri researchers discovered that all the attacking IP addresses had a similar default page with the ‘DVR Components’ title. After digging some more, they found that all these devices are BusyBox based. Busybox is a GNU based software that aims to be the smallest and simplest correct implementation of the standard Linux command line tools.

The compromised CCTV cameras were located around the globe:

  • 24% originated from Taiwan,
  • 12% United States,
  • 9% Indonesia,
  • 8% Mexico,
  • and elsewhere.


Unless something is done, security flaws, misconfiguration, and ignorance about the dangers of connecting unsecured devices to the IoT will keep these botnets functioning well into the future.

To protect your website from botnets and DDoS, you need to be able to block or absorb malicious traffic. Firms should talk to their hosting provider about DDoS attack protection. Can they route incoming malicious traffic through distributed caching to help filter out malicious traffic — reducing the strain on existing web servers. If not find a reputable third-party service that can help filter out malicious traffic.

DDoS defense services require a paid subscription, but often cost less than scaling up your own server capacity to deal with a DDoS attack.

Arbor Networks is one firm that provides services and devices to defend against DDoS.

Google has launched Project Shield, to use Google’s infrastructure to support free expression online by helping independent sites mitigate DDoS attack traffic.

Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Independence Day 2016

Independence Day 2016The 4th of July is the time when Americans celebrate freedom from a tyrannical government in the 18th century. While gaining that freedom, the founding fathers used encryption. They used encryption while risking their lives to gain the freedom we celebrate on July 4th. The EFF documents  how many of the Founding Father of the United States used encryption to secure our freedoms.

  • Thomas Jefferson, the principal Thomas Jefferson invented an encryption deviceauthor of the Declaration of Independence and the country’s third president, is known to be one of the most prolific users of secret communications methods. He even invented his own cipher system—the “wheel cypher” as named by Jefferson or the “Jefferson disk” as it is now commonly referred. He also presented a special cipher to Meriwether Lewis for use in the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
  • George Washington used encryptionGeorge Washington, the first president of the United States, frequently dealt with encryption and espionage issues as the commander of the Continental Army. He is known to have given his intelligence officers detailed instructions on methods for maintaining the secrecy of messages and for using decryption to uncover British spies.
  • John Adams, the second U.S. president, used a cipher provided by James Lovell—a member of the Continental Congress Committee on Foreign Affairs and an early advocate of cipher systems—for correspondence with his wife, Abigail Adams, while traveling.
  • James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights and the country’s fourth president, was a big user of enciphered communications—and numerous examples from his correspondence prove that. The text of one letter from Madison to Joseph Jones, a member of the Continental Congress from Virginia, dated May 2, 1782, was almost completely encrypted via cipher. And on May 27, 1789, Madison sent a partially encrypted letter to Thomas Jefferson describing his plan to introduce a Bill of Rights.

TechDirt correctly concludes that If encryption was good enough for the Founding Fathers to use in the 18th Century … it’s pretty ridiculous that we’re still having this debate now in this age of constant government monitoring, warrantless searches, corporate data aggregationdata sharing and tools like IBM’s Non-Obvious Relationship Awareness software (NORA). The time is now to fight shortsighted “going dark” claims by theFBI and efforts by clueless politicians like Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) who have plans to ban encryption.


George Bush Mission not accomplishedSeems to me that the biggest threat to America these days is the political ambitions of technically illiterate know nothings in the gooberment. Be like the Founding Fathers and encrypt something start with HTTPS Anywhere from the EFF.


Ralph Bach has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Let’s Encrypt Lives

Let's Encrypt LivesLet’s Encrypt, an initiative to set up a free certificate authority (CA) on the Intertubes has entered its public beta phrase. All major browser makers including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer trust Let’s Encrypt certificates. In their announcement Josh Aas, the executive director of California based Internet Security Research Group (ISRG), which runs the Let’s Encrypt service, wrote:

We’re happy to announce that Let’s Encrypt has entered Public Beta. Invitations are no longer needed in order to get free certificates from Let’s Encrypt … We want to see HTTPS become the default. Let’s Encrypt was built to enable that by making it as easy as possible to get and manage certificates.

Let's Encrypt Let’s Encrypt is overseen by folks from Mozilla, Akamai (AKAM), Cisco (CSCO), Stanford Law School, CoreOS, the EFF and others. Let’s Encrypt was first announced in 2014, (rb- Which I covered here). motivated by a desire to steer organizations towards the use of encryption to protect their communications. A key part of the strategy is offering free digital certificates, which is a radical departure from the very hefty premiums that certificate authorities typically charge.

The Register reports that the free cert is no freebie weakling. Lets Encrypt uses a 2048-bit RSA TLS 1.2 certificate with a SHA-256 signature installed and the server configured to use it. The cert gets an A from Qualys SSL Labs.

Lencrypt data et’s Encrypt plans to distribute free SSL/TLS (Secure Socket Layer/Transport Layer Security) certificates, which encrypt data passed between a website and users. The use of SSL/TLS is signified in most browsers by “https” and a padlock appearing in the URL bar. Unencrypted web traffic poses a security risk. For example, an attacker could collect the web traffic of someone using a public Wi-Fi hotspot, potentially revealing sensitive data.

Besides securing your information going across the Internet from spies and thieves, FierceSecurityIT says another key aspect of Let’s Encrypt is to make it easy to generate and install new digital certificates. The Let’s Encrypt CA uses an open source “automated issuance and renewal protocol” that allows for certificates to be renewed without manual intervention.

automated issuance and renewal protocol The automated issuance and renewal protocol prevents oversights resulting in certificates for live websites expiring, a situation that does happen from time to time. FierceSecurityIT says that short-term certificates also offer better security by reducing exposure in the event that the private keys are stolen.


Major technology companies including Google, Yahoo and Facebook have made a strong push for broader using of encryption in light of government surveillance programs and burgeoning cybercrime.

The point of Let’s Encrypt is that anyone who owns a domain name can use Let’s Encrypt to get a trusted certificate at no cost. This will help HTTPS become the default. This is a big step forward in terms of security and privacy.

Instructions for getting a certificate with the Let’s Encrypt client can be found here.


Ralph Bach has been in IT for over fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Another Hole in Internet Armor

Another hole in our Internet armor has been discovered. The hole is in the Diffie-Hellman key exchange, a popular cryptographic algorithm that allows Internet protocols to agree on a shared key and negotiate a secure connection. It is fundamental to many protocols including HTTPS, SSH, IPsec, SMTPS, and protocols that rely on TLS.

 key exchange Researchers from the University of Michigan, Inria, Microsoft Research, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania have uncovered several weaknesses in how Diffie-Hellman key exchange has been deployed. In what they are calling the Logjam attack the DF flaw allows a man-in-the-middle attacker to downgrade vulnerable TLS connections to 512-bit export-grade cryptography. This allows the attacker to read and change any data passed over the connection.

The problem, according to the researchers, is that millions of HTTPS, SSH, and VPN servers all use the same prime numbers for Diffie-Hellman key exchange. Practitioners believed this was safe as long as new key exchange messages were generated for every connection. However, the first step in the number field sieve—the most efficient algorithm for breaking a Diffie-Hellman connection—is dependent only on this prime. After this first step, an attacker can quickly break individual connections.

Prime numbersTo prove this hypothesis, the researchers carried out this computation against the most common 512-bit prime used for TLS and demonstrated that the Logjam attack can be used to downgrade connections to 80% of TLS servers supporting DHEEXPORT.

They also estimated that an academic team can break a 768-bit prime and that a nation-state can break a 1024-bit prime. Breaking the single, most common 1024-bit prime used by web servers would allow passive eavesdropping on connections to 18% of the Top 1 Million HTTPS domains. A second prime would allow passive decryption of connections to 66% of VPN servers and 26% of SSH servers.

VPNThere is speculation that this “flaw” was being exploited by nation-state bad actors. A close reading of published NSA leaks shows that the agency’s attacks on VPNs are consistent with having created, exploited, harnessed the Logjam vulnerability.

What should you do?

1 – Go to the researchers website https://weakdh.org/ to see if your browser is secure from the Logjam flaw. (It reported that Google Chrome Version 43.0.2357.81 (64-bit) on OSX 10.10.3 was not secure}

2 – Microsoft (MSFT) patched the Logjam flaw on May 12 with security bulletin MS15-055. A Microsoft spokesperson told eWEEK;

Customers who apply the update, or have automatic updates enabled, will be protected. We encourage all customers to apply the update to help stay protected.

3 – Google (GOOG) fixed the issue with the Chrome 42 update, which debuted on April 15. Google engineer Adam Langley wrote;

We disabled TLS False-Start with Diffie-Hellman (DHE) in Chrome 42, which has been the stable version for many weeks now.

Patch4 – Mozilla’s patch for Firefox isn’t out yet, but “we expect it to be published in the next few days,” Richard Barnes, cryptographic engineering manager at Mozilla, told eWEEK.

5 – DarkReading reports that on the server-side, organizations such as Apache, Oracle (ORCL), IBM (IBM), Cisco (CSCO), and various hosting providers have been informed of the issue. There has been no response from these tech titans.

The researchers have also provided guidance:

  1. If you have a web or mail server, they recommend  – disable support for export cipher suites and generate a unique 2048-bit Diffie-Hellman group. They have published a Guide to Deploying Diffie-Hellman for TLS with step-by-step instructions.
  2. If you use SSH, you should upgrade both your server and client installations to the most recent version of OpenSSH, which prefers Elliptic-Curve Diffie-Hellman Key Exchange.
  3. If you’re a sysadmin or developer, make sure any TLS libraries you use are up-to-date, that servers you support use 2048-bit or larger primes, and that clients you maintain reject Diffie-Hellman primes smaller than 1024-bit.


Finally, get involved. Write someone, your representative, senator, your favorite bureaucrat, the president, your candidate and tell them to get out-of-the-way. 

Ars Technica notes that Logjam is partly caused by export restrictions put in place by the US government in the 1990s, to allow government agencies the ability to break encryption used in other countries. “Logjam shows us once again why it’s a terrible idea to deliberately weaken cryptography, as the FBI and some in law enforcement are now calling for,” said Michigan’s J. Alex Halderman to the report. “Today that backdoor is wide open.”


Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.