FBI Spy Docs Show G-Men Don't Understand Security, Professor Says

FBI Spy Docs Show G-Men Don't Understand Security, Professor Says
FBI Spy Docs Show G-Men Don't Understand Security, Professor Says 

By Ryan Singel 
August 30, 2007

Computer science professor Steven Bellovin -- one of the most 
knowledgeable outsiders on the government's eavesdropping mandates known 
as CALEA, pored over recently released documents that outline the FBI's 
extensive, eavesdropping architecture [1].

He concludes that they don't bode well for anyone:

    I don't think the FBI really understands computer security. More 
    precisely, while parts of the organization seem to, the overall 
    design of the DCS-3000 system shows that when it comes to building 
    and operating secure systems, they just don't get it.

    The most obvious example is the account management scheme described 
    in the DCS-3000 documents: there are no unprivileged userids. In 
    fact, there are no individual userids; rather, there are two 
    privileged accounts. Each has diferent powers; however, as the 
    documents themselves note, each can change the other's permissions 
    to restore the missing abilities. Where is the per-user 
    accountability? Why should ordinary users run in privileged mode at 
    all? The answers are simple and dismaying.

    Instead of personal userids, the FBI relies on log sheets. This may 
    provide sufficient accountability if everyone follows the rules. It 
    provides no protection against rule-breakers. It is worth noting 
    that Robert Hanssen obtained much of the information he sold to the 
    Soviets by exploiting weak permission mechanisms in the FBI's 
    Automated Case System. The DCS-3000 system doesn't have proper 
    password security mechanisms, either, which brings up another point: 
    why does a high-security system use passwords at all? We've know for 
    years how weak they are. Why not use smart cards for authentication?

The FBI and Computer Security - SMBlog Steven Bellovin's Blog 


Attend HITBSecConf2007 - Malaysia 
Taking place September 3-6 2007 featuring seven tracks of technical 
training and a dual-track security conference with keynote speakers 
Lance Spitzner and Mikko Hypponen!  -  Book your seats today! 

Site design & layout copyright © 1986-2015 CodeGods