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Emergent Vulnerabilities And Attacks: A complex threat landscape

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Presentation on theme: "Emergent Vulnerabilities And Attacks: A complex threat landscape"— Presentation transcript:

1 Emergent Vulnerabilities And Attacks: A complex threat landscape
Nathaniel Husted Indiana University

2 Personal Introduction
PhD Candidate at Indiana University Focus in “Security Informatics” from the School of Informatics and Computing Primarily interested in the intersection between Complex Systems and Information Security Other work includes applied cryptography and GPU programming You can find other work by me at: Involved in the Midwest Hacker Scene via Derbycon (http://www.derbycon.com/)

3 Evolutions in devices and the Internet are changing threats.
“Smart” Mobile devices are ubiquitous Smartphones are now the dominant phone device in most developed nations. Their market share is growing rapidly in developing nations. Our Internet usage behavior has changed. No longer primarily “consumption” oriented Far more “production” oriented Our Internet usage has gone from reading news articles, papers, and various informational pages to content creation via social networks and community media distribution sites (like Youtube).

4 Evolutions in devices and the Internet are changing threats.
We now generate far more personal and sensitive information. We now carry all this sensitive information with us in a small box that has a high-speed always-on Internet connection. This small box is (generally) always on our person. Our digital social interactions reflect our physical social interactions far more then they used to. The combination of social interaction, the physical world, and the digital world, create a new threat landscape that involves Emergent Vulnerabilities and Emergent Attacks. Before discussing the new threat landscape I need to clarify what I mean by complexity

5 Discussing Emergent Vulnerabilities and Attacks
I’ll start with definitions. I’ll explain the domain specific vocabulary from the definitions. We’ll return to the definitions after an understanding of the vocabulary. We’ll talk about how emergent vulnerabilities and attacks effect privacy.

6 Emergent Vulnerabilities
An emergent vulnerability is a property of a complex system that causes one or more elements of that complex system, whether they be software, hardware, or individuals, to enter in to a vulnerable state if and only if that complex system is in an appropriate macro- emergent state. This is a modification of Bishop’s original definition of vulnerability [1]

7 Emergent Attacks An emergent attack is one, or both, of the following:
An attack whose outcomes exhibit emergent or self-organizing properties. An attack that relies on self-organized collusion between attackers. This is a modification of Bishop’s original definition of attack [1].

8 Required background vocabulary.
Complex System Emergence and Macro-Emergent Self-Organization

9 What is a Complex System?
The focus of the discipline called Complex Systems. It’s not the same as a “complicated” system. Is known by many names: Complex Adaptive Systems [2] Complex Networks Organized Complexity [3] My focus on defining organized complexity will go from less formal to more formal

10 Organized Complexity according to Warren Weaver.
“What makes an evening primrose open when it does? Why does salt fail to satisfy thirst? Why can one particular genetic strain of microorganisms synthesize within its minute body a certain organic compounds that another strain of the same organism cannot manufacture?”

11 Situating the definition of Organized Complexity.
Best understood when situated between its sibling problem spaces: Organized Simplicity Solutions: Discrete mathematical analysis. Organized Complexity ??? Disorganized Complexity Solutions: Statistical mechanics.

12 A limited working definition for Complex Systems.
Systems have the following: Many agents each with a set of descriptive properties The agents interact with one another It exists in some environment A Complex System is a system that exhibits the properties of Organized Complexity in that it displays one or both of the following: Emergence Self-Organization I’m currently working on a more formal definition of system and complex system and anyone interesting can discuss the work definitions with me offline as they’re a tough out of scope for this talk given time.

13 Examples of Complex Systems
An Ant Colony A Social Network

14 Emergence A phenomenon where the dynamic behavior of a system’s elements allow the system as a whole to exhibit a different and novel behavior. Four rules can create very interesting emergent behaviors.

15 Emergence De Wolf and Holvoet [4] provide 8 characteristics:
The system must exhibit the micro-macro effect. The macro level behavior must be radically novel. The macro-emergent must exhibit coherence. The elements of a system must be able to interact. The system must change over time The system must not be centrally controlled There must be a two-way link between micro and macro behavior. The system must be robust and flexible.

16 Emergence: The Game Of Life
From four simple rules, novel behaviors emerge. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e5/Gospers_glider_gun.gif/220px-Gospers_glider_gun.gif Four rules can create very interesting emergent behaviors.

17 Self-Organization A phenomenon where the dynamic behavior of a system’s elements allow the system to organize itself with no exterior control.

18 Self-Organization Self-Organization must meet five characteristics:
There must be no external control. There must be some “measurable” increase in order over a period of time. The system must be robust to changes. The elements must interact. There must be no global synchronization of signal passing.

19 Self-Organization: A School of Fish
Fish organize based on the position of the nearest fish and potential environment cues.

20 Dissecting the definition of Emergent Vulnerability
An emergent vulnerability is a property of a complex system that causes one or more elements of that complex system, whether they be software, hardware, or individuals, to enter in to a vulnerable state if and only if that complex system is in an appropriate macro- emergent state.

21 Dissecting the definition of Emergent Vulnerability: An Example
Example: A Wireless Tracking Network [6] The Complex System: Individuals and their mobile devices The Environment: A metropolitan area The Interaction: General human mobility ( Commutes, Shopping, etc.) Detecting wireless signals when in range The Vulnerable State: Given enough detectors in an area, individuals can have their movements tracked a majority of the time.

22 Dissecting the definition of Emergent Vulnerability: An Example

23 Dissecting the definition of Emergent Vulnerability: An Example

24 Dissecting the definition of Emergent Attack
An emergent attack is one, or both, of the following: An attack whose outcomes exhibit emergent or self-organizing properties. An attack that relies on self-organized collusion between attackers.

25 Dissecting the definition of Emergent Attack: An Example
Example: The SoundComber prototype malware [5]. Complex System: A set of malicious application each having a very simple behavior Environment: Software ecosystem on a smartphone The Interaction: First application collects and processes audio data Second application exfiltrates the data. The Self-Organizing Behavior: Malware split in to many autonomous parts that organize to exfiltrate private data.

26 Dissecting the definition of Emergent Attack: An Example
Mallory Alice’s Smartphone Android’s Audio Interface Internet Access Send out results Analyze DTFM Tones Side Channel

27 Emergent Vulnerabilities and Attacks as threats to privacy.
The naïve reason: Most modern attacks focus on stealing your PII Their existences relies on social norms and interactions, thus tying them to personal information and actions.

28 Why should we care about Emergent Vulnerabilities and Attacks?
I’m aware of no work done to formalize them. Some work as been done that demonstrates examples, but does not use the terminology. Sound Comber Mobile Epidemiology They are bound to show as mobile devices and constant networked activity become the norm.

29 Conclusion This work is expanded on in my dissertation
Follow my dissertation work in progress I recommend dissertating in the open! Emergent Vulnerabilities and Attacks provide a foundational paradigm in which to discuss threats that we will face in the future. We must work on formalizing a set of techniques to analyze the threat they pose. Agent Based Modeling Epidemiology Provenance

30 Questions? Comments?

31 Citations Bishop, Matt. "Introduction to Computer Security." (2004).
Holland, John H. "Complex adaptive systems." Daedalus (1992): Weaver, Warren. "Science and complexity." American scientist (1948): De Wolf, Tom, and Tom Holvoet. "Emergence versus self-organisation: Different concepts but promising when combined." Engineering self- organising systems. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, Schlegel, Roman, et al. "Soundcomber: A Stealthy and Context-Aware Sound Trojan for Smartphones." NDSS. Vol Husted, Nathaniel, and Steven Myers. "Mobile location tracking in metro areas: malnets and others." Proceedings of the 17th ACM conference on Computer and communications security. ACM, 2010.


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