A Post-PC BlackHat?

This year’s BlackHat had a particularly wide range of topics. A more diverse range of topics means that more targets are under attack. This should come as no surprise.

On the one hand companies like Microsoft and Google have hardened their software against easy vulnerability exploitation.
On the other hand we’re seeing a plethora of new (types of) devices getting equipped with network connectivity. Those devices come with limited or no built-in security.

This focus on embedded devices is also reflected in the amount of research done on the embedded devices within our phones and personal computers. There was a demonstration of a practical attack against smartphone baseband processors over the OMA DM protocol. The lack of built-in security, or the ability to easily add security controls, again demonstrates this major weakness in today’s defense capabilities.

My colleague Vitaly Kamluk demonstrated, together with Anibal Sacco from Cubica Labs, how Computrace, popular low-jacking software, can be leveraged by attackers to perform remote code execution. Short of disabling the feature, which sometimes isn’t even possible, there’s no easy mitigation.

We’re increasingly relying on more technology that can only be somewhat reliably protected by turning it off. This is not a sustainable path. While I appreciate that our personal operating systems appear to be getting safer, I’m rather pessimistic for the post-PC world.

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