The Underhanded Hardware Challenge

The Polytechnic Institute of NYU is hosting an interesting embedded systems contest. They’ve constructed a solid state cryptographic device that uses a 128-bit private key. Contestants will be tasked with designing and implementing several trojans into the system that will undermine the security. The system is built on a Digilent BASYS Spartan-3 FPGA board. The trojans could do a wide variety of things: transmitting unencrypted, storing and transmitting previously entered plain text, or just shutting down the system entirely. The modified devices still need to pass the factory testing procedure though, which will measure power consumption, code size, and function. After a qualification round, participants will be given the necessary hardware to compete.

[via NYC Resistor (Happy Birthday!)]

Malware alters DNS data on routers


The Zlob trojan, also known as DNSChanger, has been around for a few years, but recent Zlob variants to appear in the wild attempt to log into routers using a list of default admin/password combos. If they succeed, they alter the DNS records on the router to reroute traffic through the attacker’s server.

Our friend [Dan Kaminisky] recently did a presentation warning against vulnerabilities in internet browser plugins that allow attackers to mount DNS rebinding attacks against routers with default passwords.. Though it achieves the same end, Zlob is different because it infects by the tried-and-true method of fooling users into downloading it inside a fake video codec. Once it is running on a client machine, it is free to attempt to use the default admin id and password of the router to log in and alter DNS settings. It even supports the DD-WRT firmware.

Even if a system is wiped clean of Zlob trojans, the router could still be compromised. The good news is that it is easy to fix and even easier to prevent. Fixing it takes no more than wiping all network clients clean, then resetting the router and restoring custom settings. Prevention is a simple matter of changing the router’s password.

[photo: fbz]

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