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Mexico Senate committees pass controversial security bill

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican Senate committees on Wednesday approved a controversial security bill that human rights groups say risks granting excessive power to the armed forces in their already checkered role in combating organised crime in the country.

Troops take part in a military parade celebrating Independence Day at Zocalo Square in downtown Mexico City, Mexico, September 16, 2017 .

REUTERS/Henry Romero

The bill, which enjoys some cross-party support between conservatives and centrists, will now pass to the floor of the upper house of Congress for discussion and possible approval late on Wednesday or on Thursday morning.

The Law of Internal Security aims to regulate the armed forces role in combating drug cartels, a conflict which has claimed well over 100,000 lives in the last decade.

Senate committees approved the bill on Wednesday, a senate spokesman said .

Lawmakers who support the bill say it will set out clear rules that limit the use of soldiers to fight crime.

Rights groups have strongly attacked the bill, saying it prioritises the military s role in fighting the gangs over improving the police, and could open the door to greater abuses and impunity by the armed forces.

The military has already been embroiled in multiple human rights scandals including extrajudicial killings of gang members and the disappearance of 43 students near one of its bases in 2014.

The United Nations, Amnesty International and Mexican human rights organizations have all criticized the bill.

This law should not be approved quickly, it puts liberties at risk by giving more power to the armed forces without designing controls and counterweights, said Santiago Aguirre from the Miguel Agustin Pro Center for Human Rights.

Last week, President Enrique Pena Nieto asked lawmakers to include civil society s views in their discussion of the bill, which sparked attempts by protesters to bar access to the upper house of Congress when it reached the Senate.

Writing by Christine MurrayEditing by Sandra Maler

Uber ‘paid off’ hackers who stole data from 57 million people

Uber has got rid of its chief security officer and announced that his team paid off hackers who stole data belonging to 57 million users. The ride-hailing app’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, said: “None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it.” Former CSO, Joe Sullivan, presided over a loss of the names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers belonging to Uber drivers and passengers, according to Bloomberg. Mr Sullivan’s team then paid the hackers $100,000 to delete the data instead of notifying the victims. Uber’s former chief executive, Travis Kalanick, learned of the hack in 2016, according to Bloomberg – seven months before a shareholder revolt forced him to quit1 and replaced him with Mr Khosrowshahi. “At the time of the incident, we took immediate steps to secure the data and shut down further unauthorised access by the individuals,” said Mr Khosrowshahi. Uber says it does not believe its customers need to take any action.

Image: ‘None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,’ said Uber’s CEO

“We have seen no evidence of fraud or misuse tied to the incident,” says a help page on its site.

“We are monitoring the affected accounts and have flagged them for additional fraud protection.” Mr Khosrowshahi said the data had been stolen from a “third-party cloud-based service” – understood to be Amazon Web Services, which the attackers accessed using legitimate passwords stolen via coding website Github. “We subsequently identified the individuals and obtained assurances that the downloaded data had been destroyed”.

The chief executive, who joined the company in August, added in his statement: “You may be asking why we are just talking about this now, a year later. “I had the same question, so I immediately asked for a thorough investigation of what happened and how we handled it. “While I can’t erase the past, I can commit on behalf of every Uber employee that we will learn from our mistakes.”

The data breach comes as Uber looks to improve its image after bad publicity during the tenure of Uber’s founder Travis Kalanick, and the decision by transport bosses in London to take away its licence. Mr Kalanick was ousted as chief executive in June after an internal investigation concluded he had built a culture that allowed female workers to be sexually harassed and encouraged employees to push legal limits. Uber’s new boss said the company was now working with regulators on the breach and notifying drivers whose licence numbers were downloaded – as well as giving them credit monitoring and identity theft protection.

A review of its security is also taking place in conjunction with Matt Olsen, a former National Security Agency general counsel and cybersecurity expert.

References

  1. ^ a shareholder revolt forced him to quit (news.sky.com)

Hardware-driven security in the hybrid cloud

Sponsored One of the greatest barriers to broader cloud adoption is security.

However much the big cloud providers insist that their global networks of bit barns are more secure and tightly operated than those of their enterprise customers, it is those same customers who are ultimately liable for protecting the data under their control. For highly regulated industries like healthcare or financial services, the penalties for a data breach make it simply too risky to process sensitive data anywhere else outside their own systems . This means that they are missing out on the advantages of cloud services, such as greater operational flexibility and the potential to save on some of the capital expenditure costs of on-premise IT systems. Public cloud in particular presents a number of challenges for keeping data secure, largely because an organisation is effectively choosing to run workloads on infrastructure that it does not own or control . While an organisation can take steps to lock down its own systems and deploy tools to detect or prevent intrusion, there are limits on what a customer can do to the cloud provider s infrastructure.

Encryption of sensitive data is now routine both in the cloud and on-premise, but this largely protects data only when it is at rest, stored on disk . In order to be processed, it still has to be in the clear while in memory so that any required operation can be performed on it, whereupon it is vulnerable to being accessed by an attacker that may have compromised the system. In any case, industry experts have long realised that software only solutions simply will not cut the mustard, since they can ultimately be compromised or bypassed in some way . Instead, security needs to be rooted in hardware capabilities that cannot be altered or disabled by malicious code.

There have already been attempts at building security into silicon . Intel platforms have had Trusted Execution Technology (TXT) for some time, while chips based on the ARM architecture have had its TrustZone technology for over a decade . Oracle also added Silicon Secured Memory (SSM) into it SPARC processors when the M7 was introduced. The main purpose of Intel TXT was and is to ensure a secure startup, verifying that low-level code such as an operating system kernel or hypervisor has not been compromised . But this is not a complete solution as it does not prevent malware or an attacker from compromising the system once it is up and running.

Oracle s SSM is part of the software-in-silicon capabilities built into newer SPARC chips, and is designed to guard access to blocks of memory by associating them with a version number . Code accessing the memory block must present the same version number, offering some protection against buffer overruns . But this might not prove much protection against a determined attacker that may have compromised the system, as explained by The Register1 at the time. What is required is some mechanism that can prevent access to data while it is being processed, even if an attacker has managed to penetrate the system . This is no trivial task, since a compromise of the software stack at the operating system or hypervisor level would enable an attacker to simply pluck data out of an application s memory space.

Perhaps the most ambitious move to address this problem is Intel s Software Guard Extensions (SGX), one of the new capabilities introduced to the Xeon server platform with the latest chips based on the Skylake architecture. SGX is designed to allow the creation of isolated and protected memory blocks within the server s memory space, inside which code can be placed in order to safely process sensitive data . These memory blocks are known as Trusted Execution Environments (TEEs) or alternatively as enclaves. To enable this, SGX provides a new privileged execution mode and several new instructions .

These are used at runtime to create an enclave and deploy the trusted code into it, before locking it down . Once created, the enclave memory region cannot be accessed by any other code, and functions inside the enclave can only be accessed via carefully controlled entry points. In principle, SGX is somewhat similar to ARM s TrustZone, but the latter simply divides the entire system into secure and non-secure environments, with hardware enforced separation between the two . SGX, in contrast, enables multiple applications to each have their own enclave for any portion of their code that deals with sensitive data . The upshot of this is that applications running on an SGX-enabled system are split into trusted and untrusted code, with the trusted code deployed in the enclave kept as small as possible in order to reduce the possibility of security vulnerabilities being introduced.

But the chief difference in how SGX differs from previous silicon-based security schemes is that the processor itself is the only hardware component that needs to be trusted . It does not require a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) as the root of trust or for attestation of code, for example, as TXT does. Theoretically, this should mean that SGX enclaves should be secure from prying even if the operating system, hypervisor, firmware, and even Intel s Management Engine2 have all been compromised by an attacker . This is a level of security that was not practical to achieve before chips with SGX became available. The first major outing for this technology is going to come from Microsoft .

In September, the firm announced its Azure cloud platform will be the first to support enclaves secured by Intel s SGX, using servers based on the latest Skylake Xeon processors. How this will ultimately be made available to customers has yet to be fully detailed by Redmond, but the firm said it intends to implement encryption-in-use for its Azure SQL Database service and SQL Server . Azure CTO Mark Russinovich also gave a demonstration of what this might look like at the firm s Ignite conference in September. The demo revolved around a sample HR application running queries against a cloud database with two columns – social security number and salary where the stored value was protected using the Always Encrypted feature . A Stored Procedure was deployed into an enclave then passed the encryption key over a secure channel so that it was able to process queries that reference the encrypted columns.

To date, Intel s SGX has had only limited traction, but Microsoft s Azure cloud is widely used by large enterprise firms, and seems likely to drive interest in this method for keeping data secure while it is being processed . If it proves a hit, we can expect to see it implemented in more platforms, both in the cloud and on-premise there is certainly scope for a technology that can keep data secure, even if malware has compromised the server your application is running on. No single security technology can ever be totally bulletproof .

As The Register reported earlier this year, researchers found a way to extract information from an SGX enclave3 using a fiendish side-channel attack .

However, such attacks can be mitigated if the rest of the platform is carefully designed, and SGX means that Intel s latest Xeon chips offer the best foundation currently available for a platform capable of keeping the most sensitive data secure.

Sponsored by Intel

Sponsored: Getting the most value from cloud phone systems4

References

  1. ^ The Register (www.theregister.co.uk)
  2. ^ Intel s Management Engine (www.theregister.co.uk)
  3. ^ extract information from an SGX enclave (www.theregister.co.uk)
  4. ^ Getting the most value from cloud phone systems (go.theregister.com)