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iPhone Location Tracking: Important, Even if it Doesn’t Matter to You

Apple’s iOS mobile device operating system has recently come under fire in the media for tracking user location, recoverable from device backups of a file called consolidated.db. As we discussed in the Cyber Risk Report, even though Apple has disclosed location tracking via their Privacy Policy, significant commentary online suggests that users are surprised to learn how it is accomplished. The researchers whose efforts have brought this location tracking to wide attention were aware that forensics experts knew about it, but developed their tool to bring this to a wider attention. By all accounts, they have succeeded in raising awareness; what remains is to understand what should be done from here.

Update: Apple responded with a press release on April 27, 2011

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IPv6 Security Testing

In the previous installment of our series of IPv6 security posts, we covered some of the basic things you need to consider when securing your IPv6 network. In this post, we’ll talk about some of the things to consider when performing security testing on your IPv6 product or network. This testing is useful whether you are developing an IPv6 application or simply deploying IPv6 on your network.

Increased Setup Time

Start with an IPv6 environment in which most people do not have a lot of experience. Next throw in the typical dual stack configurations, and it is almost guaranteed that any IPv6 security testing that you perform is likely to take longer than it took you in your IPv4 environment. With dual stack configurations, both IPv4 and IPv6 are viable traffic paths. Therefore, just making sure that your test traffic is actually using IPv6 is one of the first hurdles you will face. So when developing your schedules for performing IPv6 security testing, always allow a little extra time to account for those problems that will almost certainly appear.

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NSTIC Strategy Released

Last June, I blogged about a draft of the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) that had been released for public comment. This past April 15, the finalized NSTIC strategy document was released at an event at the US Chamber of Commerce.

For those of you that aren’t already familiar with the NSTIC, it is a US government-facilitated initiative that seeks to simplify and strengthen user authentication and to provide trustable assertions about principals in online transactions through the creation of an ecosystem that includes identity and attribute providers. More information is available at the NIST NSTIC website, particularly the animation video. NSTIC seeks to improve trust in use in the Internet and to enable new uses that depend on trusted attributes and higher assurance transactions.

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Incomplete Reporting of Law Enforcement Electronic Surveillance May Skew Risk Assessments

Risk assessments are the underpinning of all effective security programs. It’s quite difficult to best prioritize defensive efforts without a proper valuation of assets to be protected, consideration of threats against those assets, and some means to establish a probable rate at which those threats will result in a particular impact. Because risk assessments describe the priorities of the organization through the perspective of minimizing impact from security events, they must be regularly reviewed to ensure not only that the assets and activities of the organization are current, but also that the current threats are properly accounted for.

Recent research by Christopher Soghoian, a graduate student at Indiana University, Bloomington’s Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research, suggests that underreporting of US law enforcement surveillance could be creating a blind spot in organizational risk assessments. That is, the current legislative reporting requirements exclude certain information and agencies. In the absence of such requirements, it appears that state and local agencies, for example, are responsible for the vast majority of Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) requests. Unfortunately, the kinds of information excluded from stringent reporting requirements coincides with the current trends in mobile computing and informal electronic communication, namely stored communication (text messages, social networking posts, etc.). At this intersection lies the opportunity for an organization to miss a very real threat to its sensitive communications, as we mentioned in our recent Cyber Risk Report.

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Score One for the Good Guys

With each passing day, security reports – including Cisco’s – describe accounts of computers that are used in botnet attacks. Each computer, unwittingly, is infected with malware and controlled by remote unseen hands, foreign or domestic, and with little to no care for the computer’s owner. Simply put, the computer is no longer exclusively under the owner’s control; nor is the data or the privacy of the owner. Unchecked, botnets grow in variety, frequency, complexity, and capability.

Traditionally, dynamic teams, composed of private citizens and law enforcement, devise ways to contain the effects of a botnet and, if possible, shut it down in some way, such as:

  • Releasing signatures to anti-virus vendors in the hopes that AV will clean some of the infected machines
  • Disrupting the Command and Control channel, so that the infected computers are no longer receiving instructions
  • Just attempting to stay one step ahead of the malware through DNS, detection, or blocking access lists

In nearly each circumstance, new approaches are developed to keep the botnet variants from succeeding.

Add another creative approach to the mix based in the rule of law.

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