In accordance with government wishes, Saudi Arabia’s three mobile wireless companies have shut down BlackBerry messaging services to their users. The Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission cited security concerns when it announced on August 3rd that: “the manufacturer of the devices [RIM] couldn’t meet the regulatory requirements of the commission and it is not in accordance with the regulations and conditions of licenses issued to service providers, at its present state.” The AFP reports that any wireless company that does not turn off the encrypted messaging service could face up to a $1.3 million fine. The BlackBerry devices are still able to make and receive phone calls. Services are due to be suspended in the United Arab Emirates beginning on October 11th. More →
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that BlackBerry maker Research In Motion has issued a statement to its customers letting them know just how secure their data is. The handset maker reminded everyone that “no one, including RIM” could access BlackBerry user data as it is encrypted without a master key, and that it would “be unable to accommodate any request” for access to the data. RIM continued, the system is designed “to exclude the capability for RIM or any third party to read encrypted information under any circumstances.” The statement comes on the heels of this weekend’s decision by the United Arab Emirates to suspend BlackBerry data services in the country due to reasons related to national security. RIM has not released an official statement regarding talks with the UAE citing the confidentiality of discussions at the government level. More →
Chatter on the forums suggests that the latest update hitting the DROID X has not fixed the WiFi connectivity problem many users were reporting. Affected DROID X owners report that their handsets have difficulty connecting to a WiFi router and poor network performance once a connection has been established. Several users report that changing the encryption from AES to TKIP has alleviated the problem, while others note that changing your router to 802.11g instead of 802.11n has decreased the number of network disconnects. Anyone with a DROID X currently experiencing this problem?
Thanks, Goreja! More →
A major security flaw has been uncovered in the Apple iPhone 3GS this week after two security experts discovered it was possible to bypass the device’s security and gain nearly full read access using Ubuntu Lucid Lynx. Perhaps even more frightening is the fact that the two believe they’re nearing the ability to write data as well. Said Bernd Marienfeldt, one of the two gentleman responsible for uncovering the flaw:
I uncovered a data protection vulnerability, which I could reproduce on 3 other non jail broken 3GS iPhones (MC 131B, MC132B) with different iPhone OS versions installed (3.1.3-7E18 modem firmware 05.12.01 and version 3.1.2 -7D11, modem 05.11.07), all PIN code protected which means the vulnerability bypasses authentication for various data where people most likely rely on data protection through encryption and do not expect that authentication is not in place. […] This data protection flaw exposes music, photos, videos, podcasts, voice recordings, Google safe browsing database, game contents… by [sic] in my opinion the quickest compromising read/write access discovered so far, without leaving any track record by the attacker. It’s about to imagine how many enterprises (e.g. Fortune 100) actually do rely on the expectation that their iPhone 3GS’s whole content is protected by encryption with an PIN code based authentication in place to unlock it.
Marienfeldt and his partner Jim Herbeck notified Apple of the flaw, and according to then, “Apple could reproduce the described serious issue and believes to understand why this can happen but cannot provide timing or further details on the release of a fix.” Let’s hope the new data protection feature in iPhone OS 4.0 does the trick.
Remember all of the hoopla surrounding RIM’s hostile takeover of Certicom? Well the Ontario Securities Commission sure does, as it’s alleging that former RIM VP Paul Donald personally profited from the deal thanks to some insider trading. The OSC claims that back in August of 2008, Donald was attending a RIM function where RIM top brass informed him that they were actively trying to acquire the software encryption specialists Certicom — a company whose technology is used in every single BlackBerry smartphone. Although Donald was told that Certicom was resisting the takeover, he quickly purchased 200,000 shares in the company after learning it was “dramatically undervalued,” and shortly thereafter RIM announced its intentions to purchase. That announcement also had RIM run afoul of the OSC, as Certicom’s board asked the commission to block the buyout on the grounds that Certicom investors would get a raw deal. Despite this, the aquisition eventually went through which saw Donald net $295,000 in profit. Donald, who the OSC said acted, “with knowledge of material facts about Certicom that had not been generally disclosed,” and whose purchase of the shares were, “contrary to the public interest,” will be front and center as the OSC holds a hearing on June 7th. More →
A five-month old ITC patent dispute between Research In Motion and Omaha-based Prism Technologies has been settled. Back in December of 2009, Prism had asked the ITC to block the importation of BlackBerry smartphones, servers and sofrware into the U.S. on the grounds that RIM was violating one of Prism’s patents. At the heart of the dispute was a Prism patent described as providing an “innovative way of controlling access to protected electronically stored data and information requested by a device using an Internet Protocol network.” The terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but documents filed with the ITC reveal that the companies have entered into a “license and settlement agreement.” More →
In a move to shed light on the vulnerability of GSM wireless networks, encryption expert Karsten Nohl, with the aid of 24 fellow hackers, was able to compile the multitude of algorithms behind the twenty one year old, 64-bit encryption scheme used to encrypt 80% of the world’s cellular GSM phone calls. The algorithm’s code book, comprising 2TB worth of data, has been published by Nohl and is now available on the Internet through BitTorrent. This is not the first time GSM was “cracked”. In 2003, the method by which GSM’s encryption code could be cracked was uncovered by a team of Israeli researchers and in 2008, David Hulton and Steve Muller presented at Black Hat a technique for the successful interception and decryption of a GSM stream using $1,000 of hardware and a half hour of time. Now in 2009, we have the binary code log that could potentially make GSM decryption faster and easier than ever. Before everybody panics, it is important to point out that the GSM algorithm that was cracked was the older and less secure 64-bit A5/1 algorithm, not the newer 128-bit A5/3 algorithm. Unfortunately, GSM carriers have been slow to adopt this new 128-bit encryption standard but Nohl’s disclosure may be the kick in the butt these lazy carriers need to beef up their security. More →
It has been long argued that the A5/1 encryption standard used to secure GSM traffic from eavesdropping is, in fact, insecure, and California based security firm H4RDW4RE is pioneering an effort to hammer that point home by cracking the encryption scheme. The A5/1 cipher is based on a 64-bit key — each cell phone has a 64-bit secret key which is also known by the connected GSM network. When you initiate a call the GSM network uses the secret key to generate a session key and encrypt your phone call. H4RDW4RE’s approach will be to crack this session key using a compressed and custom version of the A5/1’s 128-petabyte code book. Yikes. The aim of the project is to: take the vast code book and compress it down to around 2 or 3 terabytes of data, organize the data into rainbow tables, have these tables searched by a free P2P open-source program (much like SETI@home) in order to cipher session keys. Session keys will, theoretically, provide the ability to decrypt and listen in on GSM phone calls. H4RDW4RE’s goal is to push GSM vendors to finally admit that the technology is flawed and move to the more secure A5/3 code book, which is a 128-bit cipher, and already used by newer cellular technologies such as UTMS. Pretty powerful way to send a message, it sure does beat a letter writing campaign… Hit up the article for more details about the project. More →
So the keynote didn’t deliver what most people were counting on (read: anything exciting for the average consumer) but nonetheless there was still quite a bit of neat stuff to see. After the keynote, a few meetings with RIM VPs and Managers and a few cans of Diet Pepsi in the press room, we made our way out onto the Solutions Showcase floor to take a look at what the best and brightest third parties had to offer. Here’s a quick recap of some of the stuff that excites us the most.
Certicom, whose encryption software is featured in every BlackBerry device on the market as well as countless other handsets, has publicly urged its shareholders to reject a proposed hostile takeover from RIM. RIM has offered $1.50 per share ($66 million CAD) for the Mississauga, Ontario-based company, a figure which the company feels is grossly inadequate. In a full page advertisement published in a nationally syndicated Canadian newspaper, Certicom’s directors asked that its shareholders reject RIMs offer for several reasons including: 1) The offer does not even match cash on hand and assets. 2) Certicom’s new leadership has increased revenue by 54% year-over-year. 3) RIM violated previous confidentially and standstill agreements. Certicom has an appearance scheduled in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on January 9th and has filed for a cease of trade with the Ontario Securities Commission. RIM continues to argue that its offer is not only fair but will greatly benefit Ceritcom and its shareholders.
Wi-Fi is no longer a secure form of wireless communication, so says Global Secure Systems. According to their report, a Russian firm has harnessed the GPU processing power of the latest NVIDIA graphics card to accelerate Wi-Fi password recovery times by 10,000 percent. David Hobson, managing director at GSS elaborates by saying,
“Brute force decryption of the WPA and WPA2 systems using parallel processing has been on the theoretical possibilities horizon for some time – and presumably employed by relevant government agencies in extreme situations – but the use of the latest NVidia cards to speedup decryption on a standard PC is extremely worrying.”
The article unfortunately lacks some key details about the configuration of the WPA/WPA2 encryption that was hacked and the length of time it took for the encryption to be broken; leaving us a little in the dark about the extent of this threat. Nonetheless, individuals and companies that rely on wireless networking may want to follow this report to see if it is confirmed or debunked. Wouldn’t want you to bury your head in the sand and sit complacent while your neighbor’s kid with his uber-gaming rig hacks into your Wi-Fi network and steals Sarah Palin’s email. That could land you up to 5 years in jail. D’oh!