SWITCH Security-Blog

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GÉANT and Cyber Security Month with Security awareness at the Paul Scherrer Institute


Cyber Security Month with GÉANT – “Become a cyber hero”

The European data network for the research and education community GÉANT interconnects national research and education networks (NRENs) like SWITCH across Europe, enabling collaboration virtually and accelerate research, drive innovation and enrich education.

Also this year GÉANT joins the European Cyber Security Month, an initiative launched by ENISA, EC DG CONNECT and a variety of partners, to raise security awareness within the European community. With the tagline «Become a cyber hero» GÉANT publishes practical tips, case studies and articles on social engineering, phishing, password security and ransomware throughout October. The content is provided by experts within the community.

SWITCH-CERT is proud to share with you one of the interesting contributions from the Swiss NREN. Read about Björn Abt, IT Security Officer at the Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI), talking about their approach to security awareness:

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The September/October 2020 issue of our SWITCH Security Report is available!

Dear Reader!

A new issue of our bi-monthly SWITCH Security Report is available!

The topics covered in this report are:

  • Ransomware – the new normal of digital extortion
  • A murky supply chain – how hackers profited from Cumulus data
  • Smisherman’s Friends – a new wave of smishing attacks is washing over Europe and Switzerland

The Security Report is available in both English and German.

»»  Download the English report.     »»  Download the German report.


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Growing support for open security standards in Switzerland

Open security standards are essential for a secure and resilient Internet in Switzerland and protect the privacy of Swiss Internet users. The adoption rate for Internet security standards like DNSSEC, DANE and DMARC in Switzerland is still low compared to the leading countries in Europe, but there is more and more support from the Internet industry, authorities and not for profit organizations in Switzerland.

Why are open security standards so important?

The implementation of open security standards that come out of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), reduce the attack surface of the domain/service owner. But even more important, a growing implementation rate reduces the attack surface of the internet as a whole and makes the life of cyber criminals and state actors more challenging. Open security standards provide different mechanisms to secure our communication on the internet, most important encryption and authentication. Encryption keeps our communication on the internet confidential and prevents third parties from reading our emails and tracking on which web sites users spend their time. Authentication allows us to identify and authenticate our communications partners, it makes sure that we are not on a fake website or send emails or our login credentials to a rogue email server. Continue reading


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The July/August 2020 issue of our SWITCH Security Report is available!

Dear Reader!

A new issue of our bi-monthly SWITCH Security Report is available!

The topics covered in this report are:

  • Aimless navigation – Garmin scrambling to regain its bearings after hacking incident
  • Hacking with a heavy hand: German intelligence is making a push to install hardware directly with internet providers and reroute internet traffic
  • A protection shield minus the protection – ECJ declares Privacy Shield unlawful
  • A night(mare) of celebrities – The ‘biggest Twitter hack of all times’ raises questions about the security of the network

The Security Report is available in both English and German.

»»  Download the English report.     »»  Download the German report.


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The Mai/June 2020 issue of our SWITCH Security Report is available!

Dear Reader!

A new issue of our bi-monthly SWITCH Security Report is available!

The topics covered in this report are:

  • The coronavirus: a blessing for some, a curse for others – where is IT security at with contactless payment?
  • You’ve got mail (and malware too) – serious security gap in Apple’s Mail app on iPads and iPhones now closed
  • Everything must go – ‘Shade’ hackers ‘shut down’ and publish hundreds of thousands of decryption keys
  • Swiss users targeted by cybercriminals
  • Elite targets – ETH supercomputers Euler and Leonhard (and more) hacked

The Security Report is available in both English and German.

»»  Download the English report.     »»  Download the German report.


The March/April 2020 issue of our SWITCH Security Report is available!

Dear Reader!

A new issue of our bi-monthly SWITCH Security Report is available!

The topics covered in this report are:

  • The coronavirus has company – a pandemic of computer viruses
  • The ten most important rules for working securely from home
  • Online meetings – how secure are Cisco Webex and Zoom?
  • For real? Ransomware gangs develop a ‘code of honour’ in the coronavirus pandemic

The Security Report is available in both English and German.

»»  Download the English report.     »»  Download the German report.


The Jan/Feb 2020 issue of our SWITCH Security Report is available!

Dear Reader!

A new issue of our bi-monthly SWITCH Security Report is available!

The topics covered in this report are:

  • When backdoors become trapdoors: ‘Crypto Leaks’ hits Switzerland, Crypto Valley – and the entire ecosystem
  • I, Robot, ZigBee and IoT
  • Sure, it’s secure! Are you sure?
  • A different kind of virus: China launches its Close Contact Detector app for smartphones

The Security Report is available in both English and German.

»»  Download the English report.     »»  Download the German report.


100’000 .ch domain names are secured with DNSSEC!

Imagine you want to visit your online banking website «www.example-bank.ch». Now, instead of getting the correct IP address your computer gets manipulated information and connects you to a website that is owned by a criminal. You wouldn’t notice but disclose your online banking credentials to the attacker.

Luckily, DNSSEC is here to help. The extension of DNS protects you from being misled and helps you reach exactly the address you typed into your browser. A complex cryptographic process makes sure, that you’re always at the right place.

100’000 .ch domain names are signed with DNSSEC

In late December 2019 the .ch zone achieved a milestone with 100’000 DNSSEC secured domains. DNSSEC adds digital signatures to DNS answers and helps to mitigate attacks on DNS name resolution.

The percentage of .ch domain names that are signed is still below 5%, but is rising thanks to a few registrars like Infomaniak, OVH, Firestorm and netzone that sign domain names for their customers by default. The number of DNSSEC signed .ch domain names rose  54% from 1.1.2019 to 1.1.2020.

By January 1st 2020 the .ch zone contained 100’065 domain names that are secured with DNSSEC

Top .ch domain names are just average regarding domain name security

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The July/August 2019 issue of our SWITCH Security Report is available!

Dear Reader!

A new issue of our bi-monthly SWITCH Security Report is available!

The topics covered in this report are:

  • Attacks on PGP key server: is pretty good still good enough?
  • We need to talk! About how virtual assistants are listening in. Privacy at Facebook, part two: when the lawyer contradicts the boss
  • Breaking Binance: the world’s largest Bitcoin trading platform is hacked and blackmailed

The Security Report is available in both English and German.

»»  Download the English report.     »»  Download the German report.


SWITCH Public DNS Resolver

SWITCH operates recursive name servers for its constituency, the Swiss research and education network. Over the last year we have continually added support for transport encryption protocols on our recursive name servers such as DNS over TLS (DoT) and more recently DNS over HTTPS (DoH).

In contrast to default unencrypted DNS which runs over UDP/TCP Port 53 , both of these standards (DoT, DoH) use encrypted protocols which provide privacy for DNS queries between the client (application) and the recursive name server. This eliminates opportunities for eavesdropping and on-path tampering with DNS queries on the network.

Our motivation for enabling encrypted DNS protocols on our recursive name servers have been that some client applications (mostly Android 9) probe for DoT support and use it if available by default. Over the last year, other widely used applications have added support for encrypted DNS protocols. Most notably the web browser Mozilla Firefox which supports DoH but has not turned it on by default.

Opportunistic encryption of DNS queries and responses as it is used by Android 9 by default is one use case of DoT. However, some users want to pin a specific recursive name server regardless in which network they are or also to authenticate the name server. To support this use case, we have opened our recursive name servers over encrypted transport protocols to the Internet. You will find more information about the SWITCH Public DNS service and how to use it on this website:

https://www.switch.ch/security/info/public-dns/

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Attacks on DNS continue, targets are also in Switzerland

Attacks on the domain name system continue

Talos, the intelligence group of CISCO reported in their blog that their monitoring shows that attacks on the domain name system (DNS) by “Sea Turtle” continue.  The attack technique used is similar than before, the actors compromise name server records to take ownership of the domain. They then provide false information to selected parties (e.g certificate authorities, mail users) which leads to the disclosure of email credentials of the targeted organisations. These credentials give initial access to the victims E-mails accounts and other resources and are a starting point for further attacks.

Victims in Switzerland

For the first time, Talos also reported victims in Switzerland.

Geographic Location of Sea Turtle Victims by Talos

While Talos didn’t disclose the targeted organizations they identified these groups as primary targets:

  • Government organizations
  • Energy companies
  • Think tanks
  • International non-governmental organizations
  • At least one airport

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The May/June 2019 issue of our SWITCH Security Report is available!

Dear Reader!

A new issue of our bi-monthly SWITCH Security Report is available!

The topics covered in this report are:

  • Brought to light: Federal Crime Office closes down the world’s second largest illegal dark web marketplace
  • WhatsApp, state trojans? Or, why the city of San Francisco protects privacy better than Mark Zuckerberg’s messenger app
  • Privacy at Facebook, part two: when the lawyer contradicts the boss
  • Symmetry as a fundamental principle: now that we have software as a service, it is only a matter of time before we have cybercrime as a service

The Security Report is available in both English and German.

»»  Download the English report.     »»  Download the German report.

 


The Drama of Awareness – using Aristotle and Brecht to raise awareness: Part II

In the previous article, we were looking for inspiration on how to raise security awareness in Aristotle’s approach to artistic communication between actor and audience. His Theater of Illusion with its catharsis momentum gave us some insights on how to manufacture communications measures in order to achieve a learning process by proxy.

In the present article, we’re going to have a closer look at Brecht’s more modern concept of Epic Theater. The German playwright strives to move away from the Theatre of Illusion, from identification and purification, towards the active re-evaluation of reality by the audience.

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The Drama of Awareness – using Aristotle and Brecht to raise awareness: Part I

There is a lot of drama surrounding the subject of security awareness. Whether it is because of the limited resources available in the face of ever-increasing demand, or the fact that awareness measures are still largely the responsibility of technically trained security experts – one could say that security awareness is surrounded by an air of tragedy.

How can you get users to manage data and devices securely? People have long wondered how to craft a message that moves people (to do something) – since well before the invention of advertising or awareness campaigns. It’s the same problem that lies at the heart of artistic communication between actor and audience. This article is, therefore, not about drama in the proverbial sense, but rather about literary drama as a work of art (of the theatre). Can literary scholarship provide us with insightful answers to this big question? First, we’re going to have a look at Aristotle  and the Classical Drama. Continue reading