Is Apple Pay safe? Are there any known security issues? With this week's release of iOS 8.1, came also the launch of the Apple Pay system – a new NFC payment system that allows users to make purchases in stores, online and through apps with just the press of a finger on the Touch ID. While many users are excited about the ease of payment now available on iPhone 6 and above running iOS 8.1, it does come with some reservations by those within the security community.
When the Internet was still in its infancy in terms of social interaction, there were forums, chat rooms, and message boards. These were the primary means of finding anonymous people with related interests and creating connections. Facebook is aiming to reinvigorate this type of interaction by introducing a new iOS app called Rooms.
The same team who released the kind of sketchy iOS 7 jailbreak has released a jailbreak for iOS 8.1. Currently, it's Windows-only, in Chinese, and doesn't install Cydia by default. You should probably wait to install it.
This jailbreak came as a bit of a surprise and subsequently it's a little rough around the edges. Users have reported that using a passcode crashes the system, a number of problems with Cydia, and a wide number of tweaks don't work. Cydia's been updated, but requires a manual install over SSH.
In the interests of full disclosure: Sourcebooks – the company that on Nov. 18 is publishing my upcoming book about organized cybercrime — disclosed last week that a breach of its Web site shopping cart software may have exposed customer credit card and personal information.
Fortunately, this breach does not affect readers who have pre-ordered Spam Nation through the retailers I’ve been recommending — Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Politics & Prose. I mention this breach mainly to get out in front of it, and because of the irony and timing of this unfortunate incident.
From Sourcebooks’ disclosure (PDF) with the California Attorney General’s office:
“Sourcebooks recently learned that there was a breach of the shopping cart software that supports several of our websites on April 16, 2014 – June 19, 2014 and unauthorized parties were able to gain access to customer credit card information. The credit card information included card number, expiration date, cardholder name and card verification value (CVV2). The billing account information included first name, last name, email address, phone number, and address. In some cases, shipping information was included as first name, last name, phone number, and address. In some cases, account password was obtained too. To our knowledge, the data accessed did not include any Track Data, PIN Number, Printed Card Verification Data (CVD). We are currently in the process of having a third-party forensic audit done to determine the extent of this breach.”
So again, if you have pre-ordered the book from somewhere other than Sourcebook’s site (and that is probably 99.9999 percent of you who have already pre-ordered), you are unaffected.
I think there are some hard but important lessons here about the wisdom of smaller online merchants handling credit card transactions. According to Sourcebooks founder Dominique Raccah, the breach affected approximately 5,100 people who ordered from the company’s Web site between mid-April and mid-June of this year. Raccah said the breach occurred after hackers found a security vulnerability in the site’s shopping cart software.
“Shopping cart software is extremely complicated and tricky to get right from a security perspective,” said Jeremiah Grossman, founder and chief technology officer for WhiteHat Security, a company that gets paid to test the security of Web sites. “In fact, no one in my experience gets it right their first time out. That software must undergo serious battlefield testing.”
Grossman suggests that smaller merchants consider outsourcing the handling of credit cards to a solid and reputable third-party. Sourcebooks’ Raccah said the company is in the process of doing just that.
“Make securing credit cards someone else’s problem,” Grossman said. “Yes, you take a little bit of a margin hit, but in contrast to the effort of do-it-yourself [approaches] and breach costs, it’s worth it.”
What’s more, as an increasing number of banks begin issuing more secure chip-based cards — and by extension more main street merchants in the United States make the switch to requiring chip cards at checkout counters — fraudsters will begin to focus more of their attention on attacking online stores. The United States is the last of the G20 nations to move to chip cards, and in virtually every country that’s made the transition the fraud on credit cards didn’t go away, it just went somewhere else. And that somewhere else in each case manifested itself as increased attacks against e-commerce merchants.
If you haven’t pre-ordered Span Nation yet, remember that all pre-ordered copies will ship signed by Yours Truly. Also, the first 1,000 customers to order two or more copies of the book (including any combination of digital, audio or print editions) will also get a Krebs On Security-branded ZeusGard. So far, approximately 400 readers have taken us up on this offer! Please make sure that if you do pre-order, that you forward a proof-of-purchase (receipt, screen shot of your Kindle order, etc.) to [email protected]
People who use Gmail and other Google services now have an extra layer of security available when logging into Google accounts. The company today incorporated into these services the open Universal 2nd Factor (U2F) standard, a physical USB-based second factor sign-in component that only works after verifying the login site is truly a Google site.
The U2F standard (PDF) is a product of the FIDO (Fast IDentity Online) Alliance, an industry consortium that’s been working to come up with specifications that support a range of more robust authentication technologies, including biometric identifiers and USB security tokens.
The approach announced by Google today essentially offers a more secure way of using the company’s 2-step authentication process. For several years, Google has offered an approach that it calls “2-step verification,” which sends a one-time pass code to the user’s mobile or land line phone.
2-step verification makes it so that even if thieves manage to steal your password, they still need access to your mobile or land line phone if they’re trying to log in with your credentials from a device that Google has not previously seen associated with your account. As Google notes in a support document, security key “offers better protection against this kind of attack, because it uses cryptography instead of verification codes and automatically works only with the website it’s supposed to work with.”
Unlike a one-time token approach, the security key does not rely on mobile phones (so no batteries needed), but the downside is that it doesn’t work for mobile-only users because it requires a USB port. Also, the security key doesn’t work for Google properties on anything other than Chrome.
The move comes a day after Apple launched its Apple Pay platform, a wireless payment system that takes advantage of the near-field communication (NFC) technology built into the new iPhone 6, which allows users to pay for stuff at participating merchants merely by tapping the phone on the store’s payment terminal.
I find it remarkable that Google, Apple and other major tech companies continue to offer more secure and robust authentication options than are currently available to consumers by their financial institutions. I, for one, will be glad to see Apple, Google or any other legitimate player give the entire mag-stripe based payment infrastructure a run for its money. They could hardly do worse.
Soon enough, government Web sites may also offer consumers more authentication options than many financial sites. An Executive Order announced last Friday by The White House requires the National Security Council Staff, the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to submit a plan to ensure that all agencies making personal data accessible to citizens through digital applications implement multiple layers of identity assurance, including multi-factor authentication. Verizon Enterprise has a good post with additional details of this announcement.