Thursday, September 6, 2007

Daily Highlights

According to the Associated Press, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reversed a three-year secrecy policy and said Tuesday it would release hundreds of documents involving the operations of a Tennessee nuclear fuel processing plant. (See item 11)

Forbes News reports toymaker Mattel announced a global recall, covering 11 types of toys, including 675,000 units of accessories--pet figurines and furniture play sets--sold under the Barbie brand and 98,900 units of Fisher-Price toys. (See item 36)

Information Technology Sector

  1. September 05, BBC News – Cyber crime tool kits go on sale. Malicious hackers are producing easy to use tools that automate attacks to cash in on a boom in hi-tech crime. On sale, say security experts, are everything from individual viruses to comprehensive kits that let budding cyber thieves craft their own attacks. Some of the most expensive tools are sold with 12 months of technical support that ensures they stay armed with the latest vulnerabilities. According to a representative of security company Sana, malicious hackers have evolved over the last few years and are now selling the tools they used to use to the growing numbers of fledgling cyber thieves. He said some hacking groups offer boutique virus writing services that produce malicious programs that security software will not spot. At the top end of the scale, he said, were tools like the notorious MPack, which has proved has proved very popular with criminally minded groups and in late June 2007 managed to subvert more than 10,000 websites in one attack that drew on the tool. An official from Secure Computing said one reason for the growing trend is reduced risk. Many hacking groups were attracted to selling the kits because it meant they took little risk themselves if the malicious software was used to commit crimes, he said.


  1. September 05, AFP – Pentagon says several countries trying to hack into US military systems. Several nations and groups are trying to break into the US military's computer system, the Pentagon said Tuesday after reports China's military had successfully hacked into the network. The Chinese military's cyber-attack was carried out in June following months of efforts, the London-based Financial Times reported Tuesday, citing unnamed current and former US officials. A US Defense Department spokesmen declined to comment on the reported Chinese attack but said the Pentagon “aggressively monitors its networks for intrusions and has appropriate procedures to address” them. “We know that a number of nations and groups are actively developing these capabilities,” he said. “We have seen attempts by a variety of state and non-state sponsored organizations to gain unauthorized access to, or otherwise degrade, DoD information systems.” The spokesman said the department would not comment on any ongoing investigations and would not discuss details of the potential impact to its networks, operations or protection efforts and strategies. Without referring to the Chinese attack, he said that late last spring – around the time the reported Chinese military hacking took place – the email system at Defense Secretary Gates' office was briefly taken off-line due to a “detected penetration.” “All precautionary measures were taken and the system was restored to service soon afterward,” he said, adding that the department had back-up systems in place and there was no damage done to its operations.


  1. September 05, IDG News ServiceBind 8 DNS server retired by serious security flaw. A security researcher has found a serious vulnerability in an aging yet widely used software program used for the Internet's addressing system, prompting the software's maintainers to retire the affected version. The flaw within Berkeley Internet Name Domain 8 (Bind 8) software could misdirect users to a fraudulent Web site even if a user typed in the correct URL (uniform resource locator), wrote the chief technology officer for security vendor Trusteer who discovered the problem. Users are being advised to upgrade to Bind 9.4, the latest version of the software, which underwent an architecture rewrite to improve security. The software, looked after by the Internet Software Consortium (ISC), is free to download. ISC issued an interim patch, but due to other weaknesses in the software, ISC is also ending support for Bind 8. "It's never easy to retire a product," wrote the organization in an advisory. "The security issues of Bind 8 are many, and seven years after the release of Bind 9, ISC must devote our efforts to maintaining and enhancing the current version." About 14 percent of the DNS servers on the Internet in 2006 were still using Bind 8, according to Infoblox, which conducts an annual survey of DNS servers. “Bind 8 is still a very popular DNS server nowadays, thus this attack applies to a big part of Internet users,” wrote the Trusteer officer.


  1. September 04, ComputerWorld – Pharmaceutical company confirms third breach involving employee data since June. Pfizer confirmed today that as many as 34,000 of its employees may be at risk of identity theft after a former employee illegally accessed and download copies of confidential information from a Pfizer computer system without the company's knowledge. The compromised information included, names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, phone numbers and bank and credit card information. The incident occurred sometime late last year but was discovered by Pfizer only on July 10, according to a Pfizer spokeswoman. The company started notifying individuals of the breach on Aug. 24. The spokeswoman did not say when or where exactly the breach occurred or how the company discovered it, but said that so far, at least, the compromised information doesn't appear to have been misused. This is the third time since June that Pfizer has disclosed a data breach. The first incident involved the potential compromise of personally identifiable information belonging to about 17,000 people when the spouse of an employee illegally downloaded and used file-sharing software on a company computer. Then in July, the company reported that two laptops containing confidential employee data as well as proprietary company information were stolen out of the locked car of an employee.


  1. September 04, Infoworld – FBI: Enterprises need counterintelligence. The FBI is asking more companies to join its Counterintelligence Domain Program so that together, they can proactively fight against hacks and data theft. The threat of cyber attacks has forced the FBI to push businesses and academic institutions to better prepare for such attacks. Little publicly-available evidence exists to prove that foreign governments have backed or planned to launch attempts to steal intellectual property from U.S. corporations and researchers, but officials with the FBI claim that the problem is real and that American organizations must begin policing their operations more aggressively today to prevent valuable data from being stolen tomorrow. In October, the FBI's Counterintelligence Domain Program -- which aims to foster cooperation between the agency and private entities to help organizations identify and protect potential intelligence risks -- will mark its first year in existence. The program is already making significant steps in helping to close the gap between businesses and law enforcement to defend intellectual property from being left vulnerable to potential theft, FBI officials maintain. Thus far, the Domain project has materialized primarily in the form of relationships built between the leaders of the agency's 56 individual divisions and the leading corporate entities and research groups identified by those units as organizations that control data that criminals and governments could try to get their hands on.


  1. September 4, PRNewswire – Study: Data in the USA and Germany Not Securely Deleted. In a new study “Data Data Everywhere,” O&O Software purchased around 400 used storage volumes in Germany and the U.S. with the goal of finding out whether the contained files really were securely deleted. The analysis of the recovered files was shocking for the study's authors. With little difficulty they were able to recover private letters, informative resumes or frivolous e-mails that would cause serious damage if they fell into the wrong hands – just the sort of data that cybercriminals on the Internet go through enormous trouble, using Spyware and Trojan viruses, to get their hands on and use against unsuspecting users. U.S. Americans did not behave much better than the Germans in terms of data security. Of the 80 purchased hard disks originating in the USA, 12 were defective and not included further in the analysis. Though 12 of the hard disks purchased in the U.S. were defective, 45 percent of the functional disks revealed reconstructed data to the researchers. "On the hard disks originating in the USA, a large number of explosive findings were made, including photos from soldiers in Iraq and U.S. military information. If data, such as the web access information for the US Air Force we found, were misused the damage would be devastating. Considering that we only purchased 80 hard disks from the USA, this is a surprisingly high quota." The Study Results for "Data Data Everywhere" are available as PDF for immediate download:

Communications Sector

1. September 05, PRNewswire – $50 million investment planned for upstate New York wireless network in 2007. AT&T announced in a press release plans to invest about $50 million this year in the wireless network in the territory spanning from Buffalo to Albany. The plans include 18 new cell sites and approximately 500 new radios to nearly 350 cell sites throughout the state. It also includes 150 new hardware cabinets and power amplifiers to increase capacity.