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Security Government United States Technology

DHS Admits Knowledge of Infected Import Tech 59

Posted by Soulskill
from the mal-where? dept.
smitty777 writes "Deputy Undersecretary Schaffer of the DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate confessed to being aware of foreign technology that had been imported with spyware, malware, and other security risks. According to the article, 'More worryingly, the hearing specifically mentioned hardware components as possibly being compromised — which raises the questions of whether, perhaps, something as innocuous as Flash memory or embedded RFID chips could be used by interested foreign parties.' These hearings were held on July 7th to 'examine the nature and extent of the current threat to America's infrastructure.'"
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DHS Admits Knowledge of Infected Import Tech

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  • Hey! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chemicaldave (1776600) on Friday July 08, 2011 @03:55PM (#36699574)
    Spying on Americans is our business!
    • Re:Hey! (Score:5, Funny)

      by liquidweaver (1988660) on Friday July 08, 2011 @04:02PM (#36699644)

      Spying on Americans is our business!

      Spy on us ? Why, that would indicate some amount of distrust. Why would the government distrust us? They are here to serve us, and our opinions are really important to them - we event vote for them for crying out loud. I sure know my vote counts, I see it all the time. Every big decision the government makes (you know, healthcare, civil liberties, where/when we go to war), a vote is called and we only do if the majority are game. I mean, this is a democracy, right? That's what we do. America - full of proud citizens whose relationship with their government is forged with a mutual respect and understanding.

      • Every big decision the government makes (you know, healthcare, civil liberties, where/when we go to war), a vote is called and we only do if the majority are game.

        You're a little behind the times -- about 23 centuries or so.

        It's called Mob Rule, and even the ancient Greeks came to understand that this was a bad idea.

        It was one of the things the American founders were trying to avoid.

        - aj

      • by Rennt (582550)

        I mean, this is a democracy, right?

        Actually, no - it's not. A democratic republic sure, but that's a very different beast. It means you get to choose who rules, but not how they rule.

        I get you were being sarcastic, but in a republic the Government would be fools if they didn't mistrust the People.

    • Re:Hey! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cayenne8 (626475) on Friday July 08, 2011 @04:04PM (#36699672) Homepage Journal
      Geez...who would have ever thought that moving all our manufacturing, especially of IT components offshore would have engendered these types of risks???

      [rolls eyes]

      Seems like now...setting up an expensive chip fabrication plant, all in the US, would be a profitable business venture...market to the US federal govt. only US made electronics, certified not to have foreign malware contained within? Not only would they buy the higher priced components, but would easily pay a premium on top of that for a nice profit.

      It would go down good with politicos too...due to creating new US jobs.

      • Re:Hey! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday July 08, 2011 @04:30PM (#36699904) Journal
        It would be even cheaper to buy a nice, respectable-looking pre-aged shell company [nevada-corporation.com](complete with years of respectable history, in a state with corporate disclosure rules approximately as stiff as Somalia's... Add a lawyer as a corporate officer to gain attorney-client privilege for just a small additional fee!) and then sell counterfeit parts re-marked as True, Blue, All-American ones.

        If you suffer the comparatively unlikely misfortune of getting caught, just fold the shell and buy another one! It's not like you are dealing pot or anything serious, so the risk of having the consequences make it past your corporate person and back to you personally are well worth the profit...
      • by Anonymous Coward

        I think you are correct in assuming that US made government certified tech would not have foreign malware in it. It would only contain US government certified malware put there in place to spy on "the bad guys"

      • The conservatives and libertarians passed laws to give corporations tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas, and they have filibustered every attempt the Democrats made at ending the whole rewarding-companies-for-putting-Americans-out-of-work thing. Not only would this not "go down good with politicos", there's a fair chance that you'll be accused of being a traitor and experience the joy of being flooded with anonymous death threats from freepers and the like.

        The Democrats on the other hand would be too busy

      • Geez...who would have ever thought that moving all our manufacturing, especially of IT components offshore would have engendered these types of risks???

        And you don't think that if we kept IT component fabrication here that the US government wouldn't be putting their spyware inside? At the rate our government is becoming less-transparent, I'd expect the spy agencies to do such a thing. I remember laughing at that old take-off of the Intel logo that said "Big Brother Inside". That's one reason that opensource hardware is such a cool idea.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by arisvega (1414195)

      confessed to being aware of foreign technology that had been imported with spyware

      This is practically treason - mostly because of the position this individual occupies.

      • by Asic Eng (193332)

        I don't quite follow that. As much as I dislike the whole concept of the DHS: of course he is aware of foreign technology being imported with spyware, it's his job to be aware of threats like that. It's not a new threat either [theregister.co.uk].

        It might potentially be treasonous not to do something about it - but he didn't admit to that, quite to the contrary he gave evidence to the actions they are taking and ought to take.

        BTW is "interested foreign parties" our new code for "China"? Just curious.

        • by arisvega (1414195)

          It might potentially be treasonous not to do something about it

          I stand corrected, then - let us see whether he acts as far as his authority allows.

          I do believe, though, that the right word is 'treacherous' =)

        • by thejynxed (831517)

          China, India, and Israel. I've also heard Brazil has been getting caught red-handed at these types of actions lately.

  • Maybe they were looking for new ideas.

    Is your mouse infected?

    http://pentest.snosoft.com/2011/06/24/netragards-hacker-interface-device-hid/ [snosoft.com]

  • The DHS is in on it. Do you really think that the US Federal Government is out to protect its CITIZENS' rights?

    • But would the DHS want a situation where others have backdoors?

      When you have broad legal rights to flash a warrant and a gun(or skip the warrant, if that is too much hassle) and get the access you want within your area of jurisdiction, insecure systems are not in your interest: you want highly secure systems that people are legally obligated to unlock at your request.

      The legal right to demand access to a system is a monopoly. The ability to access a system by exploiting its bugs is a power shared with
      • When you have broad legal rights to flash a warrant and a gun(or skip the warrant, if that is too much hassle) and get the access you want within your area of jurisdiction, insecure systems are not in your interest: you want highly secure systems that people are legally obligated to unlock at your request.

        insightful, in the true sense of the word. (but I wish it wasn't this that you were so insightful about; this isn't exactly good news, really).

  • An attack like this could have a few purposes. The 2 that come to mind for me are: (1) growing a botnet to steal information from unsuspecting users (and other botnet type uses), or (2) having a specific target in-mind and using broad attacks and hope you penetrate the target.

    The virus that hit the nuclear material processing plant in Iran was a piece of Malware that infected thousands and thousands of systems, but its ultimate goal was just a few machines. If these tainted components that enter the US ha

  • Story is misleading (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 08, 2011 @04:10PM (#36699722)
    Go watch the video of the hearing and listen to what Schaffer actually said. All he says is that he is aware of cases in which products have come into the US with vulnerabilities. He doesn't say a thing about it being done intentionally or that China is doing it or anyone else is doing it. The question was crappy and badly worded, too. 52 minute mark. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFlgaJa4UVk [youtube.com]
  • in fact, I think I recognize that. isn't that the computer history museum at the old SGI site in mtn view?

    just seems strange to show a photo of a computer museum. if anything, those old computers would be more trustable now, compared to the complex 'dont know really what is entirely inside' boxes we have now. (I'm half serious).

  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Friday July 08, 2011 @04:25PM (#36699834)

    to me, the telling part was:

    During questioning, Schaffer said that a whole-of-government effort would be required to combat security holes caused by malware and spyware making their way through America's electronics supply chain.

    dunno. doesn't that look a bit like a plea for more (intrusive) government powers?

    • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Friday July 08, 2011 @04:39PM (#36699976)

      sorry, one more followup.

      this also irked me:


      The emergence of new centers for manufacturing, design, and research across the globe raises concerns about the potential for easier subversion of computers and networks through subtle hardware or software manipulations. Counterfeit products have created the most visible supply problems, but few documented examples exist of unambiguous, deliberate subversions.

      conterfeit products.

      ugh.

      first of all, SONY comes to mind as a master rootkit installer. was this counterfeit? hardly! most recognizeable brand name, perhaps, in the world.

      second, I would not trust brand names any more or less than 'counterfeit' brands. this does seem like a 'request' for more powers of search/seizure or whatever.

      tell me I'm wrong. please.

    • On the other side of the coin, it could be his way of saying "Trying to prevent this is sort of thing is futile."
  • This must be their version of operation Fast and Furious, but true to DHS tradition, they got it backward :-)

  • A while ago I bought this neat little toy from a wholesale shopping club, supposed to show the current and forecast local weather. The device was wireless, and came with a wireless broadcast device that plugged into your internet connection. While setting up the device it became clear that the wireless link was bidirectional, with information about the wireless device showing up on the controlling web page. While the company was based in the US, the device was manufactured in China.

    This is exactly the so

    • doesn't this bring up the old notion of 'unknown code' or code that you can't verify?

      systems are so complex, I doubt ANYONE could totally verify the typical desktop pc that we all have. maybe 20 years ago, individuals could actually audit and know everything that goes on inside. today, impossible. even whole teams can't know all that goes on inside, hw and sw, both. add in a network connection and, well, good luck!

      if the DHS really cared about security, they'd be pushing for ALL open soruce hardware and

  • So there are devices that execute code read from RFID?
    I mean usually it is an ID. Not a program.

    • by Big Smirk (692056)

      In fact, passive RFID chips are so small and dense (and designed in USA or Europe) there is no room for extra functionality. At best there would be a dozen or so extra transistors sprinkled around. When you are trying to make millions of devices, the more chips you can pack on a wafer yeilds more profit. Also, every extra transistor affects sensitivity.

      Finally, these RFID tags are read by a reader. So in theory, one attack vector could be SQL injection. ID lengths are like 96 bits. Not a lot of room

  • Also, in today's breaking news:

    The head of the Food and Drug Administration confessed to being aware that there are purveyors of ineffective quackery.

    The head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation admitted that criminals exist in the United States

    The chief of the Secret Service acknowledged that counterfeiters are, as we speak, illegally producing counterfeit copies of the nation's currency.

    The head commissioner of the FTC sheepishly confirmed that there exist online stores that have no intention of delive

  • Pick one.

    Welcome to the wonderful wild world of outsourcing.

  • The problem with compromised hardware wouldn't have existed, or at least not on that scale, if it wasn't for the fact that devices are increasingly connected to the Internet. If it wasn't for that, you would have no way to control your compromised hardware. So at most you could make it defective at some level, or make it become defective after a set period of time. It's the equivalent of remote control bomb vs time bomb - the time bomb is essentially 'dumb', it can't be controlled. The point is you can't us

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