Topic: Computer Security

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Billion laughs attack

Computer Security Computer Security/Computing

In computer security, a billion laughs attack is a type of denial-of-service (DoS) attack which is aimed at parsers of XML documents.

It is also referred to as an XML bomb or as an exponential entity expansion attack.

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How a Buffer Overflow Works

Computing Computer Security Computer Security/Computing Computing/Software

In information security and programming, a buffer overflow, or buffer overrun, is an anomaly where a program, while writing data to a buffer, overruns the buffer's boundary and overwrites adjacent memory locations.

Buffers are areas of memory set aside to hold data, often while moving it from one section of a program to another, or between programs. Buffer overflows can often be triggered by malformed inputs; if one assumes all inputs will be smaller than a certain size and the buffer is created to be that size, then an anomalous transaction that produces more data could cause it to write past the end of the buffer. If this overwrites adjacent data or executable code, this may result in erratic program behavior, including memory access errors, incorrect results, and crashes.

Exploiting the behavior of a buffer overflow is a well-known security exploit. On many systems, the memory layout of a program, or the system as a whole, is well defined. By sending in data designed to cause a buffer overflow, it is possible to write into areas known to hold executable code and replace it with malicious code, or to selectively overwrite data pertaining to the program's state, therefore causing behavior that was not intended by the original programmer. Buffers are widespread in operating system (OS) code, so it is possible to make attacks that perform privilege escalation and gain unlimited access to the computer's resources. The famed Morris worm in 1988 used this as one of its attack techniques.

Programming languages commonly associated with buffer overflows include C and C++, which provide no built-in protection against accessing or overwriting data in any part of memory and do not automatically check that data written to an array (the built-in buffer type) is within the boundaries of that array. Bounds checking can prevent buffer overflows, but requires additional code and processing time. Modern operating systems use a variety of techniques to combat malicious buffer overflows, notably by randomizing the layout of memory, or deliberately leaving space between buffers and looking for actions that write into those areas ("canaries").

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Capability Based Security

Computing Computer Security Computer Security/Computing

Capability-based security is a concept in the design of secure computing systems, one of the existing security models. A capability (known in some systems as a key) is a communicable, unforgeable token of authority. It refers to a value that references an object along with an associated set of access rights. A user program on a capability-based operating system must use a capability to access an object. Capability-based security refers to the principle of designing user programs such that they directly share capabilities with each other according to the principle of least privilege, and to the operating system infrastructure necessary to make such transactions efficient and secure. Capability-based security is to be contrasted with an approach that uses hierarchical protection domains.

Although most operating systems implement a facility which resembles capabilities, they typically do not provide enough support to allow for the exchange of capabilities among possibly mutually untrusting entities to be the primary means of granting and distributing access rights throughout the system. A capability-based system, in contrast, is designed with that goal in mind.

Capabilities as discussed in this article should not be confused with POSIX 1e/2c "Capabilities". The latter are coarse-grained privileges that cannot be transferred between processes.

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Cold Boot Attack

Computer Security Computer Security/Computing Cryptography Cryptography/Computer science

In computer security, a cold boot attack (or to a lesser extent, a platform reset attack) is a type of side channel attack in which an attacker with physical access to a computer performs a memory dump of a computer's random access memory by performing a hard reset of the target machine. Typically, cold boot attacks are used to retrieve encryption keys from a running operating system for malicious or criminal investigative reasons. The attack relies on the data remanence property of DRAM and SRAM to retrieve memory contents that remain readable in the seconds to minutes after power has been removed.

An attacker with physical access to a running computer typically executes a cold boot attack by cold-booting the machine and booting a lightweight operating system from a removable disk to dump the contents of pre-boot physical memory to a file. An attacker is then free to analyze the data dumped from memory to find sensitive data, such as the keys, using various forms of key finding attacks. Since cold boot attacks target random access memory, full disk encryption schemes, even with a trusted platform module installed are ineffective against this kind of attack. This is because the problem is fundamentally a hardware (insecure memory) and not a software issue. However, malicious access can be prevented by limiting physical access and using modern techniques to avoid storing sensitive data in random access memory.

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Host Protected Area

Computing Computer Security Computer Security/Computing

The host protected area (HPA) is an area of a hard drive or solid-state drive that is not normally visible to an operating system. It was first introduced in the ATA-4 standard CXV (T13) in 2001.

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Jonathan James

Biography Law Computer Security Computer Security/Computing Biography/science and academia Florida

Jonathan Joseph James (December 12, 1983 – May 18, 2008) was an American hacker who was the first juvenile incarcerated for cybercrime in the United States. The South Florida native was 15 years old at the time of the first offense and 16 years old on the date of his sentencing. He died at his Pinecrest, Florida home on May 18, 2008, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

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NOBUS (Nobody but Us)

Computing Computing/Computer hardware Military history Military history/North American military history Military history/United States military history Military history/Military science, technology, and theory Computer Security Computer Security/Computing Computing/Software Military history/Intelligence Computing/Computer Security Computing/Networking

NOBUS ("nobody but us") are security vulnerabilities which the United States National Security Agency (NSA) believes that only it can exploit. As such, NSA sometimes chooses to leave such vulnerabilities open if NSA finds them, in order to exploit them against NSA's targets. More broadly, it refers to the notion that some signals intelligence capabilities are so powerful or otherwise inaccessible that only the NSA will be able to deploy them, though recent analyses suggest that this advantage may be under stress.

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Computer Security Computer Security/Computing Microsoft Windows Microsoft Windows/Computing Cryptography Cryptography/Computer science

_NSAKEY was a variable name discovered in an operating system from Microsoft in 1999. The variable contained a 1024-bit public key; such keys are used in cryptography for encryption and authentication. Due to the name it was speculated that the key was owned by the United States National Security Agency (the NSA) which would allow the intelligence agency to subvert any Windows user's security. Microsoft denied the speculation and said that the key's name came from the NSA being the technical review authority for U.S. cryptography export controls.

The key was discovered in a Windows NT 4 Service Pack 5 (which had been released unstripped of its symbolic debugging data) in August 1999 by Andrew D. Fernandes of Cryptonym Corporation.

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PGP released its source code as a book to get around US export law

Computing Computer Security Computer Security/Computing Computing/Software Cryptography Cryptography/Computer science

Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) is an encryption program that provides cryptographic privacy and authentication for data communication. PGP is used for signing, encrypting, and decrypting texts, e-mails, files, directories, and whole disk partitions and to increase the security of e-mail communications. Phil Zimmermann developed PGP in 1991.

PGP and similar software follow the OpenPGP, an open standard of PGP encryption software, standard (RFC 4880) for encrypting and decrypting data.

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The Cuckoo's Egg

Espionage Books Computer Security Computer Security/Computing

The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage is a 1989 book written by Clifford Stoll. It is his first-person account of the hunt for a computer hacker who broke into a computer at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL).

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