Category Archives: Blog

All Blog posts

InfoSec SouthWest and other conference

It has been an interesting few months.  Since joining Gardere last November I’ve presented more than I can remember doing so in the past.  Now, in general I don’t really like presenting.  It isn’t one of my greatest fears, but it also isn’t a big deal.

What I do enjoy about the past few months of presentations, though, is the audiences.  I’ve been lucky enough to present to CIOs, clients, college students, and numerous lawyers through internal and external Continuing Legal Education (CLE) events.

Now, I’m a security guy right?  Why not present to security people?  Because it is less important to present to people that already “get it”.

The technology world, and specifically the security world need to be exposed to people outside of security.  The lawyers need to understand how to protect their clients and firms.  CIOs need to hear that security is important from someone other than their CISO.

Normal human beings need to understand how to protect themselves.

It has been very rewarding.

This weekend (in Austin) is the InfoSec SouthWest (ISSW) conference.  This will bring together some amazing security professionals.  I’m not presenting at ISSW but really looking forward to hearing people smarter than me educate me about security philosophy and technology.  There is always room to learn and grow.

Apple increases encryption of iOS devices

As reported by The Register, Apple released iOS 10.3 today.  Included in the update is a new file system designed specifically for iOS devices.  The Apple File System (APFS) is designed for macOS, iOS, tvOS, and watchOS.

APFS brings strong “full-disk encryption” to protect files and metadata from exposure.  The interesting part is that APFS uses a multi-key encryption.  One key protects the data and a separate key protects metadata.  Separating these keys makes the attacker’s job more difficult.

Last year there was a very public debate around the role of encryption and backdoors for law enforcement investigations.  Apple fought FBI requests to decrypt an iPhone used by terrorists in California.  The FBI eventually found a way to decrypt the phone without Apple’s aid.

Doubling down on encryption, Apple is now making the process to gain access to iOS devices even more difficult.  It seems that relevant XKCD is even more relevant for Apple devices.

Bugs in the clouds

Amir Etemadieh (Zenofex) of has a great write up on a series of vulnerabilities in the Western Digital My Cloud storage appliances.  Zenofex is an amazing vulnerability researcher and all around good guy.

I’m not singling out Western Digital.  I think they make some good products.  The types of flaws that Zenofex found in this appliance are the same type that many IoT and personal “cloud” appliances contain.  The devices are made to be super easy for a consumer to setup and they allow the owner to connect to them from anywhere (many times with a smartphone app).

This ease of setup and access, though, means that they really should be hardened and secured like real commercial production system.  Hardening these types of systems should include changing passwords, closing unnecessary ports, validating and testing interfaces, using encryption at rest and in transit, etc.

This type of hardening is well beyond the average consumer and things like validating web applications for injection attacks is beyond many security professionals.

So, again, I’ll harp on manufacturers.  They need to build in security by default.  They need to test and validate their apps.

Folks like Zenofex do all of us a great service by finding these types bugs in consumer products, but it should not be up to a curious researcher.  It is the responsibility of the vendors to sell products that are safe for deployment.

Wikileaks, the CIA, and a secret

The news has been buzzing with news that Wikileaks has released a dump of confidential information on the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence.  The dump looks to provide more raw information than the Snowden disclosure of 2013.

The hysteria seems to be fueled by the wikileaks’ press release.  Liberally sprinkled with zero day, weaponized, arsenal, cyberwar, and the like, they check all the incendiary terms that news outlets will react to.  The extent of the dump and any damage caused by the exposure will likely not be known for some time.

What strikes me more is the cultural implications.  It is hard to tell whether these folks are self-obsessed, selfie-taking, fame seeking millennials or die hard patriots.    Whether geeky Kardashians or digital Thomas Paine, it is clear that “secrets” don’t stay secrets for long.  Snowden at the NSA and this individual at the CIA (either a current or former employee) exemplify that “security by obscurity” (or securing something by hiding it) is no security at all.

A year ago when the Department of Justice attempted to compel Apple to build a backdoor into its iPhone products, the DoJ claimed it would protect the information.  Many in the security community argued, provided amicus briefs, and supported Apple not because the like terrorists, but because it really is impossible to keep secrets hidden for long.

As Benjamin Franklin is quoted: “Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead.”  He was correct in the 1700s.  In the digital age, when anyone can circulate information anonymously in a matter of seconds, maybe we should paraphrase “Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead and the Internet is down.”