Indian Government “give us access to all email!”, RIM “I’m sorry we can’t do that, would you like some text messages?”

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I have expressed concern in the past with RIMs position that it would explore providing access to communications between it’s devices in some countries.  My concern had usually stemmed from the fact that RIM has a proprietary encryption system and has sold itself to the business community as being the most secure communication medium for cellular devices.

As China, India, and Germany have pushed RIM and demanded access to their communications in order to continue to operate in their regions, I’ve waited to see what the ultimate outcome of this standoff would be.  Would RIM hold it’s line on securing it’s platform and risk loosing the ability to do business in those countries or would it cave to the demands of these governments (and in my opinion risk loosing much more business in many other countries).

Well it appears the answer is BOTH!  Fortunately the communications that go through RIMs network and their communication servers (the BES) will not be opened to these parties.  However RIM has offered that it can, and will provide Blackberry Messenger communications, if the proper local legal procedures have been followed to request those messages.

So what does that mean?

Emails and communications that use RIMs Enterprise services (i.e. the Blackberry Enterprise Server services) remain encrypted with the proprietary encryption and will not be accessible.  These communication services are dependant on the BES server being in place and sending and receiving communications.

What is available is the Blackberry Messenger service which utilizes PIN messaging.  What the key difference is that this is nothing more than a fancy interface into SMS messages that traverse the carriers secondary cellular channel and can provide messages directly from device to device without the need of a BES server.  Because this avoids the enterprise server (and the logging capabilities of the server) many users prefer this method of communication as they know their employer is not able to see/log the messages they send each other (without physically having the device).

Will the Indian gov’t accept this as meeting their initial request?  No, not likely.  However it was a pretty good concession by RIM to provide something without completely jeopardizing their ability to provide service in these regions.  I applaud RIM for not conceding and providing access to their encryption scheme.  I hope they can hold the line on this one…

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Indian Government demands access to Gmail, Skype, and Blackberry data.

From SANS:

The Indian government is seeking to ensure that it will have access to
the content of communications sent over Gmail and the Skype and
BlackBerry networks in a readable format.  The government wants the
power to access communications as a means to combat terrorism.  Skype
and BlackBerry parent company RIM have been given two weeks to comply,
or they could find themselves banned in India.

Quick impressions:

While I’ve expressed concerns before over the decryption of Skype calls in China and Germany by the government, it has mainly been an issue of “is Skype business ready”.  While I’ve been okay with the use of Skype for personal communications, that is it.

Blackberry communications is another story.  A large percentage of the 41 million Blackberry users around the world are “corporate” users.  Which should mean that most of the data between those devices is work data (though we know quite a bit isn’t).  RIM supposedly has a symmetric key system while would mean that only the customer creates their own encryption key.  It would be very bad for RIM for this not to be the case and would cause a lot of issues with their customer base (many of which have chosen them for their secure messaging).

Gmail… again, this shouldn’t be your corporate mail system.  If Google willingly allows this, you can choose to opt out and choose another provider.  So while I’m not keen on the idea, at least you have the option.

http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/200257/reports_blackberry_skype_google_face_india_data_demand.html
http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/govt-may-get-access-to-foreign-firms%5C-networks/400107/
http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/Infotech/Hardware/BlackBerry-has-to-pass-security-muster-in-15-days/articleshow/6112344.cms?curpg=1
http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2010/07/01/stories/2010070153420100.htm
http://asia.cnet.com/blogs/tech-curry/post.htm?id=63019606&scid=rvhm_ms

Does my cell phone have a virus?

Many users aren’t worried about viruses or malware on their cell phones.  However, most companies are.

To date, there isn’t any exploit based malware for the major smartphone OSs (Andriod, Symbian, iPhone, Windows Mobile, Blackberry and… oh yeah.. Palm).  What this means is that, unlike the Windows operating system, there isn’t piece of malware that has been written that takes advantage of a weakness in the code or device which would allow for an exploit to occur (at least not yet).

This means that all attacks on your cell phone require an action by the end user for them to work.  I think alot of people are still hung up on this point, so I’m going to restate it.  I can take advantage of a web server exploit and place malware in an iframe.  When, from your PC, you simply browse to that site, you can become infected assuming you don’t have an AV scanner or content filtering service that would protect you from the redirect and download.  In browsing the website, you have “done” something.

GREAT! Make sure everyone knows not to do anything to allow themselves to be compromised (or pwned)!

Rickrolled iPhone

Rickrolled iPhone

If only it were that easy, right?

What we have is a combination of a social engineering problem and end user education/awareness.

In many aspects, all malware delivered via email, web, sms, etc. has some context of social engineering to it.  One would either used a compromised account from a friends device and delivered messages to the contact lists, therefore making it seem like a trusted source or falsify the origination of the email to make it appear that it’s coming from a large trusted source (e.g. Microsoft.com).  Either way, they are trying to not raise any red flags and get you to open the email, the attachment, or follow the url.

We try to mitigate this with device control policies and the above mentioned user education/awareness.  By providing our users with examples and scenarios we try to make sure they are as informed as possible so they don’t fall prey to these attacks.

I have written a list of best practices for cell phone use to help protect you and your information.  If you are interested in those recommendations, please check out my post on Cell Phone Security Best Practices – keeping your personal information personal.

Droid

Droid

But wait, there’s another big hole here!  These are smartphones.  It’s not about email, text, and phone anymore.  These things can have applications installed on them!

Yep.

And so we have the app stores.  Each major manufacture has them for their respective OS (see list above).  What we have now is a channel by which a malicious person could deliver their application (aka malware) to your device.  What makes this more interesting is that you are willingly downloading and installing this application (aka malware).

These are supposed to be trusted channels.  Each manufacture has a process by which they test and verify some aspects of the application before they sign the app and publish it to their respective store.  This may range from, does the app start?  Does it crash my phone OS?  Or is it secure?  We can’t really assume they are checking for the security of it’s actions.

And why is that you ask?

Let me give you an example of a published application, that you would very likely not want.  Let’s just call this app “Flex(insert a vowel here)spy” and the vowel rhymes with the word try.  This company writes this application.  Submits it to an app store and says “This is a personal backup app.  It backs up your files, emails, contacts, etc to a website for you”.  Sounds good.  App store tests it and approves for sale.  It was posted in the app store and sold for a period of time.  Until our good friends at F-Secure notified them “um, you guys are selling an app that allows someone to spy on another users phone use”.  What????

What may have been presented to the app store as one thing, was in practice quite something else.  The app could be deployed directly to the phone or just put onto a memory card and slipped inside a phone to be activated.  So if you wanted to track someones usage and get their info, all you needed was 30 seconds of access to their phone.  What’s even more interesting is this is what the company’s website indicated you could do with the product.  If only the app testers had read it…

While not perfect, the app stores do provide a level of protection that should help keep users from putting malicious applications on their phones.  That is, until the users decide they need to “assert their freedoms” and jailbreak their devices so they can do things like install application not reviewed by the manufacturer.  Are you jailbreakers still sure your in the right here?

Even the new and highly touted Droid has seen issues with developers posting “apps” to help you connect to your online banking site.  Seriously though, when I want to connect to Citibank, do I need an app from 09driod that costs $.99 to do so?

Mobile Device Management

Mobile Device Management

Where does that leave us?

  1. Have policies for your device
  2. Use management applications for the device to enforce those policy settings
  3. Educate your users

This should look remarkably like any policy for managing a PC.  Well it is.  Lets take the approach that, as smartphones continue to mature and gain functionality, they will be under attack as much (if not more) than our PCs.  Since we have the perspective of having dealt with PC security issues, let’s try and stay in front of the smartphone security issues.

“Two” many calendars on your BlackBerry?

After a week of having duplicate calendars on my BlackBerry driving me crazy, I did some research to figure out what was going on.  (This is not original information, but is good to have if you find yourself in my situation.)

Background:

In order to update to the most current version of BlackBerry OS on your device, you’re best to install the BlackBerry Desktop Manager.  Having completed this (including the OS update) a second calendar showed up on my device. However there were enough other features to the new OS to keep me occupied so the calendar issue went to the back of my mind for a while.  That was, until I started to get duplicate updates for every event I had.  That got old fast.

After trying the calendar options, finding I could really only change the color for the calendars I had already installed, I found that my answer was not in the device options.

After reading quite a few other web postings on the subject, there were many recommendations about deleting service books for all CICAL entries, etc.  But that too wasn’t the answer.

If you have two calendars, here is the most direct way to consolidate them into a single calendar (assuming that is your goal):

  1. Open the Calendar.
  2. Press the menu key.
  3. Choose Options
  4. Type MOVE on the keypad.
  5. You will be asked to move all appointments in the base system calendar. Choose YES to accept moving all entries in the Device Default calendar to the default active calendar.
  6. Perform a hard reset of the BlackBerry by taking the battery out while the phone is still powered on and placing it back in.

This operation will move all calendar entries existing on the Device Default calendar to the active calendar shown in OptionsAdvanced Options > Default Services.

At this point, I was good.  And in fact this may be all you need to do also.  However if you had this issue because you have two calendars on two separate email addresses, you may need to do the following:

  1. Go to Options > Advanced Options > Default Services.
  2. Verify the correct email address is shown for Calendar [CICAL].
  3. Press the back arrow and save the changes if prompted.
  4. In the Advanced Options menu, choose Service Book.
  5. Highlight the entry for the calendar you do not want. This will appear as email@domain.com [CICAL].
  6. Press the menu key and choose Delete.

When deleting a CICAL, any calendar entries associated with it are moved to a Device Default calendar.

Hopefully this is helpful.

Just say no! BlackBerry + Facebook = Security FAIL

Point 1:

I’m not the biggest fan of any RIM device, though I do utilize one for my job.

Point 2:

I support the development of applications for mobile devices.  Applications are key to driving the adoption and growth of many of the new “smart” (and I use that term loosely) phones on the market.

Point 3:

Applications, regardless of what platform they are developed for, should all be done securely and efficiently.  And in that order.

What the heck does all this have to do with the BlackBerry and Facebook????

Here: http://www.spylogic.net/2010/02/facebook-spam-on-blackberry-devices/

Thanks to the guys that really spend a lot of time reviewing social media stuff (specially Tom Eston and Kevin Johnson), they have noted that specifically crafted SPAM messages will show up as a Facebook notification in your Facebook for Blackberry application.

What makes this troublesome from an information protection standpoint is that, the Facebook application is actively scanning your email inbox.  In the case of many, many Blackberry users, this is not your personal email, but your corporate email.  Of the 13,934,752 monthly active users (according to facebook.com) I’m sure you all read the EULA when you installed the app right?  That’s another post…

To be fair, this is how the application is presented to the end user: “Facebook for BlackBerry smartphones allows BlackBerry smartphone users to connect their friends’ profile pictures, Facebook names, and company names to existing BlackBerry smartphone contacts in the Contacts application. Facebook for BlackBerry smartphones updates the caller ID pictures of your synchronized friends with their latest profile pictures.”

So in order to do this, you have full access to contact names.  So if you’re on a corporate BES, the information contained therein is your corporate email directory?  Uh, yeah.  So corporate BlackBerry users with the Facebook app are willingly providing a valid contact list for their entire company.  My understanding of SPAM and capitalism is that this is quite valuable information and can be sold to email distribution list providers quite readily.  Can someone please point me to the data management policy that protects this information from disclosure?  I’d be ecstatic if it existed.

To all the BlackBerry users:

Rather than send out 14,000,000 apologizes, I put it out there now.  Sorry.  But if you have this app installed on your BlackBerry.  Uninstall it.  NOW! Do not finish reading this post, uninstall the app and come back to finish the post.

To RIM:

I trust (which is always a bad thing) when you provide a singed application that you have performed a review of how the application performs on your device and that it doesn’t do anything we don’t expect.  Like skim our emails and contact information.  Much like an application requests permission to utilize your GPS coordinates (which is another bad thing) why would you not have the same request when an application wants access to your personal information and email?

Let me check here… Options – Security Options – Application Permissions -….  hmmm I’m sure the app is on here, let me look again…

Options – Security Options – Application Permissions -… nothing.  So, when I install Facebook for BlackBerry devices, it doesn’t ask me for any permissions?  NONE?!?  FAIL!

But wait, during the setup there is an option to “allow” access to your messages, calendar, and contacts.  First, the statement that it will send a copy of your contacts to the FaceBook site should be alarming enough.  But worse yet, it seems that turning all these off during the setup did not affect a SPAM’ers ability to inject a properly crafted email.  I infer from this that it still reads emails from your message list.  So can I expect it will also send contacts even if I ask it not to?

To all BES admins (you know who you are):  (updated May2010)

It appears that RIM may be slightly ad odds with the application developers here.  In the 5.0 release of BES, the settings that allow an end user to do this are set to FASLE by default.  Which is what I would expect those settings to be. It is my hope at this point that you are running BES 5.0.  If so, please make certain the IT policy Disable Organizer Data Access for Social Networking Applications is used.  I also understand that this is backwards compatible to BES 4.x installs, so everyone has the opportunity to enable this policy.