Symantec and Kaspersky removed from China’s list of security suppliers
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August 4, 2014
It's reported in the blogosphere today that both Symantec and Kaspersky Labs have apparently been removed from China’s list of approved security suppliers for government agencies, as the country continues to tighten up its security against foreign technology companies in the wake of the NSA indiscriminate surveillance revelations in June 2013 by Edward Snowden.
The People’s Daily Newspaper reported first in a tweet that China's procurement agency had ousted Symantec and Kaspersky from its list of suitable antivirus companies.
Instead, the country will only allow government bodies to source security vendors from five approved Chinese companies-- Qihoo 360 Technology, Venustech, CA Jinchen, Beijing Jiangmin and Rising.
Kaspersky Labs didn't return a request for comment, but the company's spokesman in the U.S., Alejandro Arango said-- "We are investigating and engaging in conversations with Chinese authorities about this matter. It's too early for now to go into any additional details at this time."
Overall, in the last year or so, relations between Beijing and Washington have always been a bit tense when it comes to IT security, with the United States frequently accusing Chinese companies of corporate espionage and spying for their government through technology sold in America.
China has never been particularly angry about the allegations but it is even less amused these days after former-NSA-operative-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the extent of the US's data snooping.
In June of this year, China dropped Windows 8 as a viable operating system for government use, although this was also linked to the fact that Microsoft pulled support for Windows XP.
China has also instigated a number of antitrust investigations of foreign firms, including Microsoft and Qualcomm.
But Microsoft was the only foreign company that stayed on the list of approved personal computer suppliers, The People’s Daily reported yesterday.
Since the publication of this story earlier this morning, Symantec contacted us to say-- "While we are investigating this report, we would like to clarify that Symantec continues to bid for and win governments projects in China. We have invested significantly in China and are expanding our product development there."
In other internet security news
Cisco said earlier this morning that it has supplied a security patch for a bug in its Open Shortest Path First (OSPF) routers it says offers exploits that could include traffic blackholing or interception.
This is a critical security issue. As Cisco's advisory notes, the vulnerability could allow an unauthenticated attacker to take full control of the OSPF Autonomous System (AS) domain routing table, blackhole traffic, and intercept traffic.
Overall, crafted OSPF packets can be sent to networking devices running the faulty code, and those packets would make the targeted router flush its routing table.
A crafted OSPF Link State Advertisement (LSA) type 1 update can then be propagated through a targeted domain, Cisco warns.
OSPF is designed for managing traffic within an Autonomous System – think of it as an enterprise routing protocol, rather than for links between service providers.
OSPF looks for the best route between source and destination by building a database of link states, and using that topology for routing decisions, hence speeding up the internet as a whole.
The eavesdropping potential arises because an attacker might be able to inject false routing tables into a network including an instruction that the attacker gets to see the traffic before sending it onwards.
Cisco notes that an attacker must accurately determine certain parameters within the LSA database on the target router. This security vulnerability can only be triggered by sending crafted unicast or multicast LSA type 1 packets.
No other LSA type packets can trigger this vulnerability, Cisco added. The bug affects all unfixed versions of Cisco IOS Software, Cisco IOS XE Software, Cisco ASA Software, Cisco PIX Firewalls and Cisco FWSM Software.
In other internet security news
It sure took a while, but Oracle has finally admitted that there is a bug in its new in-memory database option.
The bug is to be reported by the system as being in use when in fact it's not, although the actual risk it poses still remains unclear at this time. Nevertheless, system admins and DB managers are treating this cautiously.
To be sure, database professional Kevin Closson was the first to notice that executing a simple set of PL/SQL commands can seemingly activate Oracle 12c's In-Memory feature, even when that shouldn't be possible.
Yesterday, Oracle product manager Maria Colgan acknowledged that Closson's results could be reproduced, that he had in fact located a bug, and that it will be patched soon. But what does that really mean for Oracle customers?
Here's a recap of the problem, as briefly as we can put it. With the Oracle 184.108.40.206 patch release installed, the database's INMEMORY_QUERY configuration option is enabled by default, just as all new features since Oracle 11g have been enabled by default.
But the INMEMORY_SIZE parameter is set to zero, meaning that no space has been allocated to store the new in-memory tables.
According to Oracle, when it's configured like that, the In-Memory Option is considered disabled, simply because it's not actually usable.
The in-memory tables can't actually be created because there's nowhere to put them in the first place.
Additionally, changing the INMEMORY_SIZE parameter to anything other than zero requires restarting the database instance, making it extremely unlikely that a database administrator could enable the feature accidentally.
But that's not what Closson found. In his various tests, all he needed to do was to create a new table specifying the INMEMORY property and his database reported that the In-Memory Option had been enabled and was in use, even though INMEMORY_SIZE was still set to the default of zero.
Furthermore, Closson observed that merely setting INMEMORY_SIZE to some amount of memory isn't enough to make the In-Memory feature report as being in use. You have to assign the INMEMORY property to a table – and doing so apparently marks the feature as "in use" regardless of the value of INMEMORY_SIZE.
That's not good, Closson figures, because the In-Memory option isn't free-- far from it in fact. And at a reported $23,000 per Sparc CPU, "enabling" it by accident could be a serious mistake.
Closson's series of blog posts on the subject sparked a real firestorm of online comment over the next few days, with Oracle mostly denying its allegations.
But when another Oracle user managed to reproduce Closson's results, this time with an ALTER TABLE command, Colgan finally admitted that the observed behavior from the Oracle database wasn't normal.
"Recording that the In-Memory option is in use in this case is a bug and we will fix it in the first patchset update coming in October 2014," Colgan wrote in a comment yesterday.
Note, however, that Colgan didn't say that there was a bug that allowed the In-Memory feature to be activated by mistake.
Instead, she simply said that when a DBA performs Closson's series of steps, for the database to record that the In-Memory feature is in use is considered a bug.
That means the In-Memory Option isn't really in use, even when you repeat Closson's procedure. And whether Oracle would really try to charge a customer for the In-Memory Option based on that erroneous reporting is anybody's guess.
Oracle wouldn't respond to our request for clarification on the matter. We will keep you updated.
In other internet security news
The popular Multipath TCP (MPTCP) standard does speed up internet speeds and throughput, but it's now proven that it could also potentially break security solutions including intrusion detection and data leak prevention, says security researcher Catherine Pearce.
To be sure, MPTCP technology is kind of an update to the core communications backbone of the internet that will allow the TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) to use multiple paths and network providers to improve speed, redundancy and resource utilization.
MPTCP was already used by Apple's Siri for iOS but would not be more widely deployed in mobile devices anytime soon since it broke current network designs and could lead to expensive data bills.
So far, no traffic inspection systems has been found that could correlate and reassemble data in the way needed to analyse MPTCP.
With MPTCP, it becomes much harder for a single network provider to undetectably alter or sniff your traffic unless they collaborate with the other providers you are using for that connection.
There is also some uncertainty concerning incoming and outgoing connections meaning MPTCP-confused firewalls may think incoming connections were outbound.
In September of 2013, Cisco noted that MPTCP could create some disruptions of service to protocol inspection products including firewalls and intrusion prevention systems.
And a month earlier, Michigan State University and IBM researchers found inherent side-channel design flaws in MPTCP that could allow internet services providers to infer sensitive data on competitors including traffic congestion, end-to-end TCP throughput, packet loss, and some network latency.
"Specifically, an attacker can infer the throughput of unmonitored paths with up to 90 percent accuracy and within measurements interval of less than two minutes by exploiting coupling among MPTCP subflows," four researchers wrote in the paper Cross-Path Inference Attacks on Multipath TCP.
"These attacks are fundamental to MPTCP and may constitute a barrier to its wide-scale adoption," the paper added.
In other internet security news
Google is trying as best as it possibly can to migrate its Chrome browser away from the buggy OpenSSL cryptography library toward 'Boring SSL', its homegrown solution, but swapping out the crypto code is proving a lot more complex than it would seem at first glance.
And Google isn't alone in trying to patch things up with Open SSL. But Google engineer David Benjamin did post a revision to the Chromium source code version control system this week with a seemingly simple aim: "Switch to BoringSSL."
But in his revision notes, he observed that this wasn't the first time this particular change has been tried.
As it relates to the Heartbleed bug, the first time the BoringSSL code was added to the Chromium tree was on July 16, but it was quickly pulled out again after developers found it broke the build of the WebView component for Android.
The next attempt was on July 17, but that one caused issues with WebRTC on Android, so the Chromium code was reverted to its former state again.
The third time wasn't a charm, either, to say the least. This time, the BoringSSL code was added back in on July 18 but was reverted after just a few hours, again because of build issues.
So yes, Open SSL is buggy, and it appears to be getting worse. Google would like to replace OpenSSL with its own 'BoringSSL' in its Chrome browser for some obvious reasons, not least of which because of Heartbleed and other security vulnerabilities that have recently cropped up in OpenSSL's infamously hard-to-maintain code base.
In response to the Heartbleed debacle, a group of OpenBSD developers created an OpenSSL fork called LibreSSL that's designed to be a drop-in replacement for the OpenSSL library.
However, that project is still in its early phases, and Google says it has long relied on its own, custom patches to the code, many of which are "a little too experimental" to be included in LibreSSL.
So that's why Google developed BoringSSL, a new fork that was announced by the company by one of its developers, Adam Langley.
BoringSSL incorporates the security patches that the Chocolate Factory has been adding to the OpenSSL code for its own use, while drawing from the latest clean-up work the LibreSSL crew has been doing to make the source code tree more manageable.
But unfortunately, it seems that even Google's own custom code base can be difficult to incorporate into other projects – which just goes to illustrate how hard it can be for developers to work with the original OpenSSL code.Tweet Share on Twitter.
Source: The People’s Daily News.
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