Linux

Linux related stories

Backtrack – The Future, The Funding, The Roadmap

Great news, Backtrack now has funding to move ahead with scheduled releases, and a roadmap moving forward up to Backtrack 5. You can view the roadmap here. It seems that the worlds leader in penetration testing training, namely Offensive Security is going to be funding the BackTrack Linux distribution’s development going forward. No need to worry though, BackTrack is still going to remain an Open Source distro.

Other news on this front is that the Exploit Database now has new EDB Research and Development teams that are actively working on vulnerability discovery and development, so watch this space for more news and good things to come. It’s also very worthwhile checking out the Exploit Database Blog.

I am carrier


The swine flu craze in Asia is almost becoming ridiculous. Flying into Beijing a doctor came on board to check everyone’s temperature before they would let us out of the plane. Before passing immigration we were checked again and filled in forms to prove we are all in top health.

Ironically, on the inbound flight to Beijing I caught the flu from the Chinese girl sitting next to me (I’m talking about the regular flu. No need to call an emergency medical team on me). I spent the week gobbling Chinese medicine herbs which did a great job in preventing me from crashing sick. But the problem is that I am about to fly out back to San Francisco through Tokyo, and I’m trying to think how to convince the Narita officials that my germs are pure and genuine Asian bodies and are were not carried with me from any American pigs (political innuendos not intended).

It seems I’m also a carrier of something else, and again it’s not my fault. All I did was connect my USB stick to a computer on the business center in my Beijing hotel. I just wanted to print a document but didn’t bother locking the stick to ‘read only’. Apparently that was enough to have a Trojan infect the USB stick from the malware infested public computer.

Not that it would matter, really, since my machine runs Ubuntu. In fact, I wouldn’t have noticed it unless someone that borrowed the USB stick from me showed me the Virus warning that popped up as they plugged the stick into their Windows machine. I could have infected dozens of machines by the time I found out about it – all those poor Windows machine, Trojaned just for borrowing my USB stick; I really don’t need that on my conscience.

Once I know the Trojan is there, the cleanup is easy, I will ‘rm’ the files and the stick will be healthy again and stop be a carrier for defenseless Windows machines. Now if only it was that easy to recover from this damn flu.

DNSSolutions

evilgrade

The flaw discovered by Dan Kaminsky put a forthright scare into the entire internet community — and it should have. This attack, which is trivial in nature, could make the difference between sending all your private data to the secure server across the ocean, or to a happy hacker filling his/her eye balls with goodies.

But now, since everyone was woken up, there are two mainstream, proposed solutions in hopes of ending the insecurity in DNS: DNSSEC and DNSCurve. Which one should you bet your network’s integrity on? Better hope your patched or you might get bailiwicked. Let the enlightenment begin.

DNSSEC, or Domain Name System Security Extensions, is a suite of IETF specifications for securing certain kinds of information in DNS. Recently, lots of companies have been gearing up to implement DNSSEC, as a means of securing DNS on the Internet. One man, that opposes DNSSEC, has written his own code to provide a nicer, more secure solution, and far better than DNSSEC. He calls it DNSCurve.

DNSCurve uses high-speed, high-security elliptic cryptography to improve and secure DNS. Daniel J. Bernstein, the creator of DNSCurve and many other high security servers such as qmail and djbdns servers, doesn’t want DNSSEC implemented, but DNSCurve instead. And it is no question which one is the better choice after looking at the comparisons Bernstein makes between the two now rivals.

Some huge advantages with DNSCurve vs DNSSEC are encrypting DNS requests and responses, not publishing lists of DNS records, much stronger cryptography for detecting forgeries, (some) protection against denial of service attacks, and other improvements.

There is one quick, unrelated issue that I disagree with Mr. Bernstein about. After offering $500 “to the first person to publish a verifiable security hole in the latest version of qmail”, he states: “My offer still stands. Nobody has found any security holes in qmail”. But in 2005, Georgi Guninski found one and has confirmed exploitability on 64 bit platforms with a lot of memory.

Bernstein denied his claim and then stated “In May 2005, Georgi Guninski claimed that some potential 64-bit portability problems allowed a “remote exploit in qmail-smtpd.” This claim is denied. Nobody gives gigabytes of memory to each qmail-smtpd process, so there is no problem with qmail’s assumption that allocated array lengths fit comfortably into 32 bits.”. Now, to me, and I am sure to many other people as well, an exploitable bug in an exploitable bug. Conditions have to sometimes be met and “can be carried too far”, one might put it, but in this case, it is clear that Guninski found at least one exploitable bug in qmail. Game over. No disrespect to Mr. Bernstein or his code; he does have both great code and concepts. On with my main literature.

So, if I were a betting man (and I am), I would gamble on Bernstein’s all around great approach to making DNS safer, more resilient against attacks, and definatly more secure. Hopefully, people will realize money can’t solve all our problems, but the guys that know what they are doing, can, and might just make some things happen pretty soon.