Researchers make their own enzyme pathway to get CO₂ out of the air
Before this century is over, we’re almost certainly going to need to pull massive amounts of carbon dioxide back out of the atmosphere. While we already know how to do carbon capture and storage, it takes a fair amount of energy and equipment, and someone has to pay for all that. It would be far more economical to pull CO2 out of the air if we could convert it to a useful product, like jet fuel. But processes like that also take a lot of energy, plus raw materials like hydrogen that take energy to create.
Plants and a huge range of microbes successfully pull carbon dioxide out of the air and use it to produce all sorts of complicated (and valuable!) chemicals. But the pathways they use to incorporate CO2 aren’t very efficient, so they can’t fix enough of the greenhouse gas or incorporate it into enough product to be especially useful. That has led a lot of people to look into re-engineering an enzyme that’s central to photosynthesis. But a team of European researchers has taken a radically different approach: engineering an entirely new biochemical pathway that incorporates the carbon of CO2 into molecules critical for the cell’s basic metabolism.
Data Security on Mobile Devices: Current State of the Art, Open Problems, and Proposed Solutions
In this work we attempt a full accounting of the current and historical status of smartphone security measures. We focus on several of the most popular device types, and present a complete description of both the available security mechanisms in these devices, as well as a summary of the known public information on the state-of-the-art in bypass techniques for each. Our goal is to provide a single periodically updated guide that serves to detail the public state of data security in modern smartphones.
How to Abuse and Fix Authenticated Encryption Without Key Commitment
Authenticated encryption (AE) is used in a wide variety of applications, potentially in settings for which it was not originally designed. Recent research tries to understand what happens when AE is not used as prescribed by its designers. A question given relatively little attention is whether an AE scheme guarantees “key commitment’’: ciphertext should decrypt to a valid plaintext only under the key that was used to generate the ciphertext. As key commitment is not part of AE’s design goal, AE schemes in general do not satisfy it. Nevertheless, one would not expect this seemingly obscure property to have much impact on the security of actual products. In reality, however, products do rely on key commitment. We discuss three recent applications where missing key commitment is exploitable in practice. We provide proof-of-concept attacks via a tool that constructs AES-GCM ciphertext which can be decrypted to two plaintexts valid under a wide variety of file formats, such as PDF, Windows executables, and DICOM. Finally we discuss two solutions to add key commitment to AE schemes which have not been analyzed in the literature: one is a generic approach that adds an explicit key commitment scheme to the AE scheme, and the other is a simple fix which works for AE schemes like AES-GCM and ChaCha20Poly1305, but requires separate analysis for each scheme.
PLATYPUS With Great Power comes Great Leakage
With classical power side-channel attacks, an adversary typically attaches an oscilloscope to monitor the energy consumption of a device. Since Intel Sandy Bridge CPUs, the Intel Running Average Power Limit (RAPL) interface allows monitoring and controlling the power consumption of the CPU and DRAM in software. Hence, the CPU basically comes with its own power meter. With the current implementation of the Linux driver, every unprivileged user has access to its measurements.
Using PLATYPUS, we demonstrate that we can observe variations in the power consumption to distinguish different instructions and different Hamming weights of operands and memory loads, allowing inference of loaded values. PLATYPUS can further infer intra-cacheline control flow of applications, break KASLR, leak AES-NI keys from Intel SGX enclaves and the Linux kernel, and establish a timing-independent covert channel.
With SGX, Intel released a security feature to create isolated environments, so-called enclaves, that are secure even if the operating system is compromised. In our work, we combine PLATYPUS with precise execution control of SGX-Step. As a result, we overcome the hurdle of the limited measuring capabilities of Intel RAPL by repeatedly executing single instructions inside the SGX enclave. Using this technique, we recover RSA keys processed by mbed TLS from an SGX enclave.
When It Comes to Octopuses, Taste Is for Suckers
Vulnerabilities! We’ve got vulnerabilities here! … See? Nobody cares.
Jurassic Park is often (mistakenly) left out of the hacker movie canon. It clearly demonstrated the risk of an insider attack on control systems (Velociraptor rampage, amongst other tragedies…) nearly a decade ahead of the Maroochy sewage incident, it’s the first film I know of with a digital troll (“ah, ah, ah, you didn’t say the magic word!”), and Samuel L. Jackson correctly assesses the possible consequence of a hard reset (namely, everyone dying), resulting in his legendary “Hold on to your butts”. The quotable mayhem is seeded early in the film, when biotech spy Lewis Dodgson gives a sack of money to InGen’s Dennis Nedry to steal some dino DNA. Dodgson’s caricatured OPSEC (complete with trilby and dark glasses) is mocked by Nedry shouting, “Dodgson! Dodgson! We’ve got Dodgson here! See, nobody cares…” Three decades later, this quote still comes to mind* whenever conventional wisdom doesn’t seem to square with observed reality, and today we’re going to apply it to the oft-maligned world of Industrial Control System (ICS) security.
Learning from LadderLeak: Is ECDSA Broken?
The paper authors were able to optimize existing attacks exploiting one-bit leakages against 192-bit and 160-bit elliptic curves. They were further able to exploit leakages of less than one bit in the same curves.
We’re used to discrete quantities in computer science, but you can leak less than one bit of information in the case of side-channels.
If “less than one bit” sounds strange, that’s probably our fault for always rounding up to the nearest bit when we express costs in computer science.
Black yeast symbionts compromise the efficiency of antibiotic defenses in fungus-growing ants
Multiplayer symbioses are common in nature, but our understanding of the ecological dynamics occurring in complex symbioses is limited. The tripartite mutualism between fungus-growing ants, their fungal cultivars, and antibiotic-producing bacteria exemplifies symbiotic complexity. Here we reveal how black yeasts, newly described symbionts of the ant-microbe system, compromise the efficiency of bacteria-derived antibiotic defense in fungus-growing ants. We found that symbiotic black yeasts acquire nutrients from the ants’ bacterial mutualist, and suppress bacterial growth. Experimental manipulation of ant colonies and their symbionts shows that ants infected with black yeasts are significantly less effective at defending their fungus garden from Escovopsis, a prevalent and specialized pathogen. The reduction of mutualistic bacterial biomass on ants, likely caused by black yeast symbionts, apparently reduces the quantity of antibiotics available to inhibit the garden pathogen. Success of the ant-fungal mutualism is directly dependent on fungus garden health. Thus our finding that black yeasts compromise the ants’ ability to deal with the garden parasite indicates that it is an integral component of the symbiosis. This is further evidence that a full understanding of symbiotic associations requires examining the direct and indirect interactions of symbionts in their ecological community context.
IJON: Exploring Deep State Spaces via Fuzzing
In this paper, we propose IJON, an annotation mechanism that a human analyst can use to guide the fuzzer. In contrast to the two aforementioned techniques, this approach allows a more systematic exploration of the program’s behavior based on the data representing the internal state of the program. As a consequence, using only a small (usually one line) annotation, a user can help the fuzzer to solve previously unsolvable challenges. We extended various AFL-based fuzzers with the ability to annotate the source code of the target application with guidance hints. Our evaluation demonstrates that such simple annotations are able to solve problems that—to the best of our knowledge—no other current fuzzer or symbolic execution based tool can overcome. For example, with our extension, a fuzzer is able to play and solve games such as Super Mario Bros. or resolve more complex patterns such as hash map lookups. To further demonstrate the capabilities of our annotations, we use AFL combined with IJON to uncover both novel security issues and issues that previously required a custom and comprehensive grammar to be uncovered. Lastly, we show that using IJON and AFL, one can solve many challenges from the CGC data set that resisted all fully automated and human guided attempts so far.
TRRespass: Exploiting the Many Sides of Target Row Refresh
Well, after two years of rigorous research, looking inside what is implemented inside CPUs and DDR4 chips using novel reverse engineering techniques, we can tell you that we do not live in a Rowhammer-free world. And we will not for the better part of this decade. Turns out while the old hammering techniques no longer work, once we understand the exact nature of these mitigations inside modern DDR4 chips, using new hammering patterns it is trivial to again trigger plenty of new bit flips. Yet again, these results show the perils of lack of transparency and security-by-obscurity. This is especially problematic since unlike software vulnerabilities, we cannot fix these hardware bit flips post-production.
LVI - Hijacking Transient Execution with Load Value Injection
LVI is a new class of transient-execution attacks exploiting microarchitectural flaws in modern processors to inject attacker data into a victim program and steal sensitive data and keys from Intel SGX, a secure vault in Intel processors for your personal data.
LVI turns previous data extraction attacks around, like Meltdown, Foreshadow, ZombieLoad, RIDL and Fallout, and defeats all existing mitigations. Instead of directly leaking data from the victim to the attacker, we proceed in the opposite direction: we smuggle — “inject” — the attacker’s data through hidden processor buffers into a victim program and hijack transient execution to acquire sensitive information, such as the victim’s fingerprints or passwords.
Landmark Computer Science Proof Cascades Through Physics and Math
Computer scientists established a new boundary on computationally verifiable knowledge. In doing so, they solved major open problems in quantum mechanics and pure mathematics.
Take A Way: Exploring the Security Implications of AMD’s Cache Way Predictors
In this paper, we are the first to exploit the cache way predictor. We reverse-engineered AMD’s L1D cache way predictor in microarchitectures from 2011 to 2019, resulting in two new attack techniques. With Collide+Probe, an attacker can monitor a victim’s memory accesses without knowledge of physical addresses or shared memory when time-sharing a logical core. With Load+ Reload, we exploit the way predictor to obtain highly-accurate memory-access traces of victims on the same physical core. While Load+Reload relies on shared memory, it does not invalidate the cache line, allowing stealthier attacks that do not induce any last-level-cache evictions.
Researchers find an animal without mitochondria
Mitochondria, previously found in all animals, is now in all animals but one.
KASLR: Break It, Fix It, Repeat
Big Data+Small Bias
Among experts it’s well understood that “big data” doesn’t solve problems of bias. But how much should one trust an estimate from a big but possibly biased data set compared to a much smaller random sample? In Statistical paradises and paradoxes in big data, Xiao-Li Meng provides some answers which are shocking, even to experts.
Ironies of automation
The central irony (‘combination of circumstances, the result of which is the direct opposite of what might be expected’) referred to in this paper is that the more we automate, and the more sophisticated we make that automation, the more we become dependent on a highly skilled human operator.
DECO - A novel privacy-preserving oracle protocol
DECO is a privacy-preserving oracle protocol. Using cryptographic techniques, it lets users prove facts about their web (TLS) sessions to oracles while hiding privacy-sensitive data.
SHA-1 is a Shambles
We have computed the very first chosen-prefix collision for SHA-1. In a nutshell, this means a complete and practical break of the SHA-1 hash function, with dangerous practical implications if you are still using this hash function. To put it in another way: all attacks that are practical on MD5 are now also practical on SHA-1.
A brief history of liquid computers
A substrate does not have to be solid to compute. It is possible to make a computer purely from a liquid. I demonstrate this using a variety of experimental prototypes where a liquid carries signals, actuates mechanical computing devices and hosts chemical reactions. We show hydraulic mathematical machines that compute functions based on mass transfer analogies. I discuss several prototypes of computing devices that employ fluid flows and jets. They are fluid mappers, where the fluid flow explores a geometrically constrained space to find an optimal way around, e.g. the shortest path in a maze, and fluid logic devices where fluid jet streams interact at the junctions of inlets and results of the computation are represented by fluid jets at selected outlets. Fluid mappers and fluidic logic devices compute continuously valued functions albeit discretized. There is also an opportunity to do discrete operation directly by representing information by droplets and liquid marbles (droplets coated by hydrophobic powder). There, computation is implemented at the sites, in time and space, where droplets collide one with another. The liquid computers mentioned above use liquid as signal carrier or actuator: the exact nature of the liquid is not that important. What is inside the liquid becomes crucial when reaction–diffusion liquid-phase computing devices come into play: there, the liquid hosts families of chemical species that interact with each other in a massive-parallel fashion. I shall illustrate a range of computational tasks, including computational geometry, implementable by excitation wave fronts in nonlinear active chemical medium. The overview will enable scientists and engineers to understand how vast is the variety of liquid computers and will inspire them to design their own experimental laboratory prototypes.