Bombmaking and Cupcakes

When the “bad guys” are in fact the “good guys”

Spies hack al-Qaida's Inspire magazine

Friday, Jun 3, 2011 09:41 ET

Spies hack al-Qaida’s Inspire magazine: British intelligence agents replace bombmaking instructions with cupcake recipe

URL:   – PAISLEY DODDS, Associated Press

I have always been fascinated by the fine line separating good and bad in cyber security. Admittedly we tend to see the security world in black and white. On one side we have the “bad guys” doing any sort of “bad things” such as planting malware or hacking websites. On the other we have the “good guys” trying to stop them from getting away with their wrong doings. Well, as it turns out sometime the “bad guys” are in fact the “good guys” trying to stop the real bad guys from doing really bad things. Confused?Case in point: British intelligence agents hack al-Qaida’s website and replace bombmaking instructions with cupcake recipe. While it is not a surprise that intelligence organizations around the world use cybertools as part of their work, I always wondered how they maintain their leading edge, how they gain knowledge of zero day vulnerabilities and, in the end, at what extent governments are in fact indirectly funding the cybercrime underworld. Knowledge of  Zero day vulnerabilities is worth millions – if not tens of millions – in the black market. What kind of organizations do you think can afford to buy this expensive know-how? Intrigued by the topic? Speak your mind. Leave a comment.

Catching Android Tokens in the Wild

Below is my interview with Shaun Nichols of on the latest Android security flaw:

Unsecured Wi-Fi leaves Android users open to attack


Android logo

18 May 2011, Shaun Nichols  , V3

Experts are warning of the dangers of unsecured Wi-Fi connections after a group of German researchers uncovered a security flaw which could leave Android users’ contact information exposed.

Researchers from Ulm University reported that many Android handsets and tablets are currently vulnerable to attack via an unsecured Wi-Fi connection when used to access authentication tokens for Google’s Calendar, Contacts and Gallery services. The vulnerability lies in the handling of the authToken component. When the user is connected on an open Wi-Fi connection, an attacker could capture and reuse the token to access data on the Google services. “The implications of this vulnerability reach from disclosure to loss of personal information for the Calendar data,” the researchers wrote. “For Contact information, private information of others is also affected, potentially including phone numbers, home addresses and email addresses.” The flaw is found in handsets running Android versions prior to 2.3.4 and tablets running Android versions prior to 3.0. The authorisation is performed over a secure connection on newer versions which prevents harvesting of the tokens. The researchers suggest that, if possible, Android handset owners should update to the newest version for their device.

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