Social networking operators like Facebook and Twitter need toconsider themselves much more vulnerable to attacks not becausethey are more vulnerable or more attractive to criminals thanpreviously, but because of the entry of the state as an actor insecurity threats. According to Phillip Hallam-Barker, vice-president and principalscientist of Comodo Group, The introduction of state actors meansyou now need to be serious about security if you re doing socialnetworking: the Facebooks, the Twitters, need to considerthemselves targets of attack, because what they do is of interestto states. Because of events like the Arab Spring, decisions about theInternet are now being made at the very highest levels ofgovernment, he said reflected not only in state-driven attackson security, but also in the emergence of various international cyber treaties, which only exist because the highest levels ofgovernment consider the issue worth top-level attention. Hallam-Barker told AusCERT delegates, it s clear that stateinterest in the Internet is growing and that includes theincidence of state-based attacks of various kinds. Since June 2010 s Stuxnet, he said, attacks that appear to emanatefrom states have been occurring with increasing frequency. |
It s not that the sky is falling , he said after all, theproblem of professional criminals crafting attacks on the Internetis at least 15 years old. It s just that we have a new threatactor on the horizon, and we need to be aware of them. We don tneed to panic, but we do need to consider state actors as a risk. The two code-signing certificates used in Stuxnet, for example,suggest that the key for the code-signed certificates wascompromised and allows the signing of device drivers. Closer to home for Hallam-Barker, when a breach of one of Comodo sresellers occurred , an attacker was able to request the issue of nine certificates,only one of which the company had been known to have beenretrieved.
However, such incidents and the more-notorious DigiNotardisaster of 2011 has shaken the certificate industry out of thecomplacency that it developed, partly (he said) because it hasworked so well . If the system had been breaking all the time over fifteen years,attacks like DigiNotar would never have succeeded. Comodo is proposing a trust broker that can act as a curator oftrust information (not only certificate information) to helpprovide more dependable information than a browser could collectfor itself. Even though attacks are rare when it is a state, they arevery consequential. And while this means that the Internet strust infrastructure needs revision to cope with this, any newproposal must meet all the requirements of the old , as well asadding the ability to defend the trust infrastructure from stateactors, he said.
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