Breached

My blog was hacked over the weekend.  It was apparently a cross-site scripting attack carried out through a vulnerability in WordPress.  WordPress has released a fix (Version 2.3.1) and I've now installed it.

ZDNet broke the news on Monday – I was awakened by PR people.  The headline read, “Microsoft privacy guru's site hacked”.  Fifteen minutes of fame:

IdentityBlog.com, a Web site run by Microsoft’s chief architect of identity and access, has been hacked and defaced.

The site, which is used by Microsoft’s Kim Cameron to promote discussion around privacy, access and security issues, now contains an “owned by me” message and a link to a third-party site (see screenshot).

Naturally there were more than a few congratulatory messages like this one from “Living in Tension” (whose tagline says he has “Christ in one hand, and the world in the other):

Several years of working in the Information Technology world have unintentionally transformed me into a OSS , Linux, security zealot…

… Tasty little tidbits like this are just too good to be true

I wonder if he would have put it this way had he known my blog is run by commercial hosters (TextDrive) using Unix BSD, MySQL, PHP and WordPress – all OSS products.  There is no Microsoft software involved at the server end – just open source.  

The discussion list at ZDNet is amusing and sobering at the same time.  Of course it starts with a nice “ROTFLMAO” from someone called “Beyond the vista, a Leopard is stalking”: 

This one was priceless . How can Microsoft's Security Guru site get hacked ? Oh my all the MS fanboys claim that Microsoft products are so secure .

<NOT!>

But then “ye”, who checks his facts before opening his mouth, has a big ‘aha’:

How can this be? It runs on UNIX!

FreeBSD Apache 29-Jun-2007

Why it's the very same BSD UNIX upon which OS X is based. The very one we've heard makes OS X so ultra secure and hack proof.

This is too much for poor “Stalking Leopard” to bear:

How about explaining as to what a Microsoft employee would be doing using a UNIX server ? I don't think microsoft would be too happy hearing about their employee using… more than their inherently safe IIS server.

Gosh, is the “Stalking Leopard”  caught in a reverse-borg timewarp?

By this point “fredfarkwater” seems to have had enough:

What kind of F-in idiots write in this blog? Apple this or MS that or Linux there….. What difference doesn't it make what OS/platform you choose if it does the job you want it to? A computer is just a computer, a tool, you idiot brainless toads! A system is only as secure as you make it as stated here. You *ucking moron's need a life and to grow up and use these blogs for positive purposes rather than your childish jibbish!

But as passionate as Fred's advice might be, it doesn't seem to be able to save “Linux Geek”, who at this point proclaims:

This is a shining example why you should host on Linux + Apache .

For those who still don't get it, this shows the superiority of Linux and OSS against M$ products.

Back comes a salvo of “It's on Unix”, by mharr; “lol” by toadlife; and “Shut up Fool!” by John E. Wahd.

“Ye” and marksashton are similarly incredulous:

You do realize that you just made an idiot of yourself, right?

Man you are just too much. I'm sure all of the people who use Linux are embarassed by you and people like you who spew such nonsense.

Insults fly fast and furious until “Linux User” tells “Linux Geek”:

I really hope you know  just how idiotic you look with this post! What an ID10T.

It seems the last death rattle of the performance has sounded, but then there's a short “second breath” when “myOSX” has a brainwave:

Maybe he moved the site after it got hacked ???

After that's nixed by “ye”, “Scrat” concludes:

So it appears that dentityblog.com was being hosted by TextDrive, Inc using Apache on FreeBSD.

Bad Microsoft!

The truth of the matter is very simple.  I like WordPress, even if it has had some security problems, and I don't want to give it up.

My site practices Data Rejection, so there is no “honeypot” to protect.  My main interest is in having an application I like to use and being part of the blogosphere conversation.  If I'm breached from time to time, it will raise a few eyebrows, as it has done this week, but hopefully even that can help propagate my main message:  always design systems on the basis they will be breached – and still be safe.

Although in the past I have often hosted operational systems myself, in this project I have wanted to understand all the ins and outs and constraints of using a hosted service.  I'm pretty happy with TextDrive and think they're very professional.

After the breach at St. Francis dam
I accept that I'm a target.  Given the current state of blogging software I expect I'll be breached again (this is the second time my site has been hacked through a WordPress vulnerability). 

But,  I'm happy to work with WordPress and others to solve the problems, because there are no silver bullets when it comes to security, as I hope Linux Geek learns, especially in environments where there is a lot of innovation.

OSIS User-Centric Identity Interop at Catalyst Europe

OSIS conducted the third in our series of User-Centric Identity Interop events last week at the Burton Group Catalyst conference in Barcelona. 

As in San Francisco, the Burton Group hosted and provided support for the event, and in this posting, analyst and cat herder Bob Blakley reports on what was accomplished:

There were a few differences between the Barcelona interop and the earlier event held at Catalyst North America 2007.   The most noticeable difference is that the Barcelona interop has been conducted entirely in public.  You can visit the Interop wiki to see details of the organization, planning, use cases, and participants; if you’re in a hurry, though, I’ll summarize here.

Fourteen projects and organizations participated; you can see the list here.

The participants tested 6 identity selectors, 13 identity providers, and 24 relying parties.  The Barcelona interop added a significant amount of testing of OpenID interoperability; 6 OpenID providers and 5 OpenID relying parties participated.

The participants have posted their results on the wiki, and a few words are in order about these results.  The first thing you’ll notice is that there are a significant number of “failure” and “issue” results.  This is very good news for two reasons.

The first reason it’s good news is that it means enough new test cases were designed for this interop to uncover new problems.  What you don’t see in the matrix is that when testing began, there were even more failures – which means that a lot of the new issues identified during the exercise have already been fixed.

The second reason the “failure” and “issue” results are good news is that they’re outnumbered by the successes.  When you consider that the things tested in Barcelona were all identified as problems at the previous interop, you’ll get an idea of how much work has been done by the OSIS community in only 4 months to improve interoperability and agree on standards of component behavior.

I’d like to call your attention to one more thing.  At the Catalyst North America interop in San Francisco, all the interop participants were onsite, sitting in a room together.

Here in Barcelona, as you can see in the Participant Profile table, about half the participants worked remotely.  What this means in practical terms is that a lot of the components in this interop were accessed over the Internet, in the same configuration you’d use if you deployed them in your business.

I expect that the results table will continue to evolve for a while as additional information from the event is digested and entered into the wiki; I’ll probably post another blog entry with some analysis of the significance of the results after the conference is over and I’ve gotten some sleep.  But my preliminary sense is that this interop continued to demonstrate progress toward an open, deployable, interoperable identity metasystem. Continue reading

That elusive privacy

Craig Burton amused me recently by demonstrating conclusively that my use of a digital birthday for non-disclosure reasons couldn't survive social networking for longer than five digital minutes!  Here's what he says about it in his new wordpress blog (and he's setting up infocard login as we speak)…

Pamela Dingle pointed this post out to me early in Sept. We both decided not to write about it and make fun of Kim and Jackson for violating privacy guidelines so blatantly. But Kim got a good laugh out of my pointing that out so – while late – here it is. Pictures, dates the whole thing. Who cares about privacy anyway eh?

Continue reading

Assurance about what?

I'm facinated by this post by Pamela Dingle at Adventures of an Eternal Optimist:

Paul and Gerry have been talking about levels of assurance for self-asserted vs. managed cards, loosely based on my Let’s talk Turkey entry from awhile back. Paul calls Gerry’s stance hard-line; I’m inclined to agree.

Gerry states:

… as far as the Windows CardSpace identity system is concerned, there are indeed multiple levels of assurance for the RP:

  1. No assurance – self-managed cards, or any managed card where the Issuer is not enforced by the RP
  2. Assurance – managed cards where a particular set of Issuer(s) is required by the R[P]

Gerry also states that it’s ok to have no assurance for “low-value transactions”. This seems like a very strange statement to me. Whether you are a blog or a bank, you still want to have confidence that the the card and the data in it is correctly associated with the right account. Perhaps the bank cares more about the veracity of additional claims — but in my mind, any additional level of confidence in quality of data must first be based on a foundation of accurate identification.

Such thoughts led me to ask & try to answer the following question: Should an RP feel more confident in receiving a managed card from a user compared to a self-issued card?

For the purposes of token validation, the only thing I as an RP get in a managed card that I don’t get in a self-issued card (that I can think of anyway) is a certificate that is chained to a “trusted root certification authority”. This, of course, only gives me more actual assurance if I go to the trouble of verifying that the cert does indeed chain properly, and that it hasn’t been revoked.

As far as data veracity goes — well that has nothing whatsoever to do with the card format. It just as equally easy and possible to lie through a managed card as it is to lie through a self-issued card. The format guarantees nothing. Trusting a managed card because it is a managed card over a self-issued card is the equivalent of trusting hearsay over perjury.

A card issuer that simply parrots back what a user types into it will have certain uses, regardless of the issuing mechanism. A card issuer that adds value to what the user supplies will gain over time a different kind of reputation, and therefore will inspire a different level of confidence in both users and relying parties. Mistakes, abuse, quality of user experience, extra features – all of these things will play into trust decisions for transactions of all kinds, and of all values.  Dividing things into low-value vs. high-value classifications seem like a good way to divide things – but not with respect to identification mechanism. Think of the gmail user who becomes a Google payment user. A relying party in a high-value payment transaction involving a Google user still has to depend on the same identification mechanism used for a low-value google mail transaction. The foundations are the same – it has to work and it has to have some kind of assurance attached, for relying parties and users too.

I would put it this way.

  • Self-issued cards provide high assurance that the subject possesses the key associated with the card.  In other words, the key is itself a claim, and self-issued cards  intrinsically offer high assurance of the validity of this claim.  This may not sound big, but it's a big deal, since it is the essence of interactive authentication.  However, other self-asserted claims require out-of-band verification if certaintly is required.
  • Managed cards can provide various degrees of assurance around a broad set of claims.   In this case, an out-of-band process is required to establish what claims should be accepted from a given identity provider.

Sorry.  As Pam says, assurance isn't binary.

Agenda Setters 2007

Friends have pointed out that the awards panel at Silicon.com ranked me at No. 33 on their Agenda Setters Top 50 List for 2007. Looking at the people on the list, it's a great honor, and one which I think reflects the fact that more and more people are understanding the importance of identity.

Silicon.com writes:

Kim Cameron is the only Microsoft name to appear on the 2007 Agenda Setters list and he's there because the panel felt that the identity management work he oversees is one of the few really innovative areas where Microsoft is active.

As ID and access guru at the software giant, Cameron has driven the development of systems such as the Active Directory, which helps users identify fraudulent activity to combat spam and phishing.

With online crime and fraud on the rise, Microsoft's Vista incorporates a lot of the technology that Cameron has been overseeing and which is being promoted as a major advantage of the new operating system.

Security and ID management will continue to be a big issue and so the work Cameron has been doing will continue to be extremely influential over the next few years.

For the record, I actually think this is quite a good time in terms of innovation at Microsoft. I see the company's support for my work, which would challenge any organization, as a remarkable sign. But this isn't the moment to cast aspersions on the panel's good sense!

So instead, I'd like to thank them for their interest in identity.  In my view the honor really belongs to all those who have been working on identity and security issues and technology, both inside Microsoft and across the industry.

By the way, people actually get to vote to increase or decrease my ranking (see below).   (This may not be ideal since Linus Torvalds and a number of other popular technologists appear below me in the list! )

Massive breach could involve 94 million credit cards

According to Britain's The Register,  the world's largest credit card heist might be twice as large as previously admitted. 

A retailer called TJX was able to create a system so badly conceived, designed and implemented that  94 million accounts could be stolen.  It is thought that the potential cost could reach 1 billion dollars – or even more.  The Register says

The world's largest credit card heist may be bigger than we thought. Much bigger.

According to court documents filed by a group of banks, more than 94 million accounts fell into the hands of criminals as a result of a massive security breach suffered by TJX, the Massachusetts-based retailer.

That's more than double what TJX fessed up to in March, when it estimated some 45.7 million card numbers were stolen during a 17-month span in which criminals had almost unfettered access to the company's back-end systems. Going by the smaller estimate, TJX still presided over the largest data security SNAFU in history. But credit card issuers are accusing TJX of employing fuzzy math in an attempt to contain the damage.

“Unlike other limited data breaches where ‘pastime hackers’ may have accessed data with no intention to commit fraud, in this case it is beyond doubt that there is an extremely high risk that the compromised data will be used for illegal purposes,” read the document, filed Tuesday in US District Court in Boston. “Faced with overwhelming exposure to losses it created, TJX continues to downplay the seriousness of the situation.”

TJX officials didn't return a call requesting comment for this story.

The new figures may mean TJX will have to pay more than previously estimated to clean up the mess. According to the document, Visa has incurred fraud losses of $68m to $83m resulting from the theft of 65 million accounts. That calculates to a cost of $1.04 to $1.28 per card. Applying the same rate to the 29 million MasterCard numbers lost, the total fraud losses alone could top more than $120m.

Research firms have estimated the total loss from the breach could reach $1bn once settlements, once legal settlements and lost sales are tallied. But that figure was at least partly based on the belief that fewer than 46 million accounts were intercepted (more…)

Interestingly, the actual court case is not focused on the systems themselves, but on the representations made about the systems to the banks.  According to eWeek, U.S. District Judge William Young told the plaintiffs,

“You're going to have to prove that TJX made negligent misrepresentations. That it was under a duty to speak and didn't speak and knew what its problems were and didn't say to MasterCard and Visa that they weren't encrypting and the like,” Young said. “That's why MasterCard and Visa acted to allow TJX to get into the electronic, plastic monetary exchange upon which the economic health of the nation now rests.

This was a case where the storage architecture was wrong.  The access architecture was wrong.  The security architecture was missing.  Information was collected and stored in a way that made it too easy to gain access to too much. 

Given the losses involved, if the banks lose against TJX, we can expect them to devise contracts strong enought that they can win against the next “TJX”.  So I'm hopeful that one way or the other, this breach, precisely because of its predictability and cost, will help bring the “need to know” principle into many more systems. 

I'd like to see us discussing potential architectures that can help here rather than leaving every retailer to fend for itself.

Long Zheng tweaks Information Card icon

Long Zheng's blog – iStartedSomething.com – is way cool , and though he describes himself as ”technophobic”, he has not only understood the meaning of Information Cards – he has applied his obvious talent to tweaking the icon

A while ago, Microsoft began working on an icon to symbolize Information Cards. The download describes, “this icon is intended to provide a common visual cue that Information Cards can be used to provide information to a site or program, similarly to how the RSS icon is used to indicate the availability of syndicated content.”

If you don’t know what InfoCards are, these are basically virtual cards containing identification information such as your name which can be sent and received by websites and web services. On Windows, this is implemented via the CardSpace technology. Other platforms have their own implementation but theoretically Information Cards are universal. If you’re on Vista, type “CardSpace” into your start menu, make an InfoCard for yourself and use it on the demo site here.

I think the idea of an icon is great, especially in comparison to the RSS icon which not only serves as a symbol but also a promotional message to attract people to subscribe to content. On top of just indicating a website is ‘InfoCards compatible’, it also spreads the word about InfoCards. However I wasn’t too keen on the design. The purple was unique, but it wasn’t very bright or vivid either. The roundness of the outside border didn’t match the squareness of the inside cutout. But I did like the “i”, and how it is shaped like a person.

I had a stab at coming up with my own alternative design. Continue reading

B.C. to test virtual digital ID card

Here's a story by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) on the British Columbia government's IDM project.  Dick Hardt of sxip played the key and even charismatic role in developing a catalytic relationship between industry and government.

British Columbia will test a virtual ID “card” that enables citizens to connect with the government's online services more safely and easily, a top technology official said.

The government plans to begin tests on an “information card” early in the new year, said Ian Bailey, director of application architecture for the province's Office of the Chief Information Officer.

The cards are in the early stages, and “there's going to be some challenges,” Bailey said.

An information card is not a card at all: it's more like a document delivered to users’ computers which they can then use to access government websites.

It's meant to replace the current method of access, which involves logging on to a site with a name and password, and has a digital signature that can't be changed or reproduced, Bailey said.

“It will give us better privacy protection for individuals,” he said.

Among other attributes, Bailey said using an information card means:

  • The government won't know which sites the user visits.
  • The user is in control of shared information.
  • The cards won't have to reveal users’ birthdates or addresses, or a student's school. Instead, it could simply confirm the user is over 19, a B.C. resident or a student.

He compared using the card to using a driver's licence for identification since, in both cases, the government does not know what the citizen is doing. Continue reading

MyOpenID.com supports Information Cards

If you use OpenID, you are propably running software developed by the gang of “Internet ninjas” at JanRain (yes, I've been there, and they actually do all wear black silk kung “foo” robes).  Besides writing software, JanRain runs one of the largest independent OpenID services: MyOpenID.com.  Today Jan Rain's Kevin Fox announced they had reached a major milestone:

The JanRain OpenID team is pleased to announce Information Card support has been added to MyOpenID.com

What is an Information Card?

What can I do with it? With a self-issued Information Card you can sign-in to MyOpenID, as well as sign-up and recover your account, without ever having to enter your password. Anywhere on MyOpenID that you can enter a password will now allow you to use an Information Card instead. With the addition of Information Card support MyOpenID is able to offer another solid option for people wanting to protect their OpenID account from phishing attacks and remember fewer passwords.

We were able to work with Microsoft’s Mike Jones and Kim Cameron who have both been long time proponents of OpenID  + Information Card support.

As noted by Kim Cameron “Cardspace is used at the identity provider to keep credentials from being stolen. So the best aspects of OpenID are retained.” While one of the less desirable aspects (confusing user experience) has been improved for someone using an  Information Card to login to their OpenID provider.

Support for Information Cards has been growing as more software projects implement the technology. It is important to note that this technology is being supported by many other organizations besides Microsoft. Information Card support is available for Windows platforms (Vista / XP) as well as Mac OS X and Linux.

Mike Jones beat me to the punch in heaping well-deserved praise on the Jan Rain group:

The JanRain team has done a fantastic job integrating account sign-up, sign-in, and recovery via Information Cards into their OpenID provider. I’m really impressed by how well this fits into the rest of their high-quality offering.

There’s another kind of integration they also did that makes this even more impressive in my mind: connecting their new Information Card support with their existing support for the draft OpenID phishing-resistant authentication specification. This is another significant step in fulfilling the promise of the JanRain/Microsoft/Sxip Identity/VeriSign OpenID/Windows CardSpace collaboration announcement introduced by Bill Gates and Craig Mundie at the RSA Security Conference this year. Because of this work, this sequence is now possible:

  1. A person goes to an OpenID relying party and uses an OpenID from MyOpenID.com.
  2. The OpenID relying party requests that MyOpenID.com use a phishing-resistant authentication method to sign the user in.
  3. The person signs into his MyOpenID.com OpenID with an Information Card.
  4. MyOpenID.com informs the relying party that the user utilized a phishing-resistant authentication method.

This means that MyOpenID users will be able to get both the convenience and anti-phishing benefits of Information Cards at OpenID-enabled sites they visit and those sites can have higher confidence that the user is in control of the OpenID used at the site. That’s truly useful identity convergence if you ask me!

Congratulations to all.

Business, Model, Scenario and Technology

Reading more of the discussion about Identity Oracles, I've come to agree with the importance of having separate names for the business model and the underlying technology that would be used to deliver services.  So I buy Dave Kearns's advice

Drop it while you can, Kim. Bob's right on this one. The “Identity Oracle” is a business model, not a technology feature.

Why was I conflating things?

Well, when we were devising the technology for claims transformers, we were specifically trying to enable the scenario of providing answers to questions without releasing the information on which the answers are based (in other words, support derived claims).  We intended the claims transformer to be the technology component that could supply such answers. 

I saw the name “Identity Oracle” as describing the scenario.

Now I see the advantages of having very precise naming for a number of interrelated things.  It can leave us with this taxonomy: 

Reading Dave Kearn's post on how a service like HealthVault might evolve in the direction of an Identity Oracle, I couldn't help wondering about the problems of liability implied by some of these behaviors.

For example, consider a health-related Identity Oracle that could answer the question, ”Can Kim take drug X without fear of drug interactions?”.  The resultant “yes” or “no” would be a lot more privacy friendly than releasing all of Kim's drug prescriptions and the medical information necessary to adequately answer the question. 

However, the Identity Oracle presumably assumes more liability by “selling” its “yes” or “no” conclusion than it would by releasing simple facts (assuming the right permissions and use restrictions were in place). 

In other words, success of this model will involve a transfer of liability from the party currently making a decision to the oracle.  This liability has to be factored into the cost structure of the identity oracle business model, and the resultant pricing must make sense to the requesting party.