[SC-L] Mobile phone OS security changing?

2005-04-06 Thread Kenneth R. van Wyk
Greetings,

I noticed an interesting article about a mobile phone virus affecting 
Symbian-based phones out on Slashdot today.  It's an interesting read:

http://it.slashdot.org/it/05/04/06/0049209.shtml?tid=220tid=100tid=193tid=137

What particularly caught my attention was the sentence, Will mobile OS 
companies, like desktop OS makers, have to start an automatic update system, 
or will the OS creators have to start making their software secure?  Apart 
from the author implying that this is an or situation, it's something that 
many of us have been saying for a very long time.  (See my/Mark Graff's 
related op-ed from over a year ago at: 
http://www.securecoding.org/authors/oped/feb132004.php)

Cheers,

Ken van Wyk
-- 
KRvW Associates, LLC
http://www.KRvW.com


Re: [SC-L] Mobile phone OS security changing?

2005-04-06 Thread Kenneth R. van Wyk
On Wednesday 06 April 2005 09:26, Michael Silk wrote:
 The last thing I want is my mobile phone updating itself. I imagine
 that sort of operation would take up battery power, and possibly cause
 other interruptions ... (can you be on a call and have it update
 itself?)

I vividly remember a lot of similar arguments a few years ago when desktop PCs 
started doing automatic updates of OS and app software.  Now, though, my 
laptop gets its updates when it's connected and when I'm not busy doing other 
things.

My main point, though, is that the status quo is unacceptable in my opinion.  
If a nasty vulnerability is found in most of today's mobile phone software, 
the repair process -- take the phone to the provider/vendor and have them 
burn new firmware -- just won't cut it.  For that matter, a lot of PDAs are 
in the same boat.

Sure, we'd all prefer better software in those devices to begin with, but as 
long as there are bugs and flaws, the users of these devices need a better 
way of getting the problems fixed.

 Personally, I would prefer a phone that doesn't connect to the
 internet at all rather than a so called 'secure' phone.

For the most part, those days are over.

 From reading the article it seems like the application asks to be
 installed, (is that correct?) so it doesn't seem like that big of a
 problem [unless phones start to get into the 'trusted'/'non-trusted'
 application area..]

Fortunately, no one would ever think of removing that query from the worm
or circumventing the mechanism in the OS, so that it copies itself without 
notice in the future.  ;-\

Cheers,

Ken van Wyk
-- 
KRvW Associates, LLC
http://www.KRvW.com


Re: [SC-L] Mobile phone OS security changing?

2005-04-06 Thread Michael Silk
On Apr 7, 2005 3:12 AM, Kenneth R. van Wyk [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:
 On Wednesday 06 April 2005 09:26, Michael Silk wrote:
  The last thing I want is my mobile phone updating itself. I imagine
  that sort of operation would take up battery power, and possibly cause
  other interruptions ... (can you be on a call and have it update
  itself?)
 
 I vividly remember a lot of similar arguments a few years ago when desktop PCs
 started doing automatic updates of OS and app software.  Now, though, my
 laptop gets its updates when it's connected and when I'm not busy doing other
 things.

Hmm, I wasn't around then but I can see what you are saying... Still,
though, a phone seems so simple, and I can completely live without net
access (I guess they said this too) so it just seems wrong, and a
little annoying, to bring security problems to them...

 
 My main point, though, is that the status quo is unacceptable in my opinion.
 If a nasty vulnerability is found in most of today's mobile phone software,
 the repair process -- take the phone to the provider/vendor and have them
 burn new firmware -- just won't cut it.  For that matter, a lot of PDAs are
 in the same boat.

True. But I wonder if an update strategy like that allows them to be
more secure? I.e. perhaps a physical interface can allow more
programming options? Options that aren't available over the HTTP
interface (like installing apps, for example).

This could increase their security.

Corporations giving phones out to employee's, or developing software
for them, could buy these attachments and have policies at work.
Regular people would need to go back to the phone store, or a
speciality Mobile Phone Software Installer store to get it done.

 
 Sure, we'd all prefer better software in those devices to begin with, but as
 long as there are bugs and flaws, the users of these devices need a better
 way of getting the problems fixed.

Fair enough..


  Personally, I would prefer a phone that doesn't connect to the
  internet at all rather than a so called 'secure' phone.
 
 For the most part, those days are over.

I guess I better hold on to my 'non-internet' phone for as long as I
can, then, if I won't be able to replace it :)

-- Michael


 Cheers,
 
 Ken van Wyk
 --
 KRvW Associates, LLC
 http://www.KRvW.com




Re: [SC-L] Mobile phone OS security changing?

2005-04-06 Thread Crispin Cowan
Kenneth R. van Wyk wrote:
Greetings,
I noticed an interesting article about a mobile phone virus affecting 
Symbian-based phones out on Slashdot today.  It's an interesting read:

http://it.slashdot.org/it/05/04/06/0049209.shtml?tid=220tid=100tid=193tid=137
What particularly caught my attention was the sentence, Will mobile OS 
companies, like desktop OS makers, have to start an automatic update system, 
or will the OS creators have to start making their software secure?  Apart 
from the author implying that this is an or situation,

I think it is definitely an or situation: automatic updates are 
expensive to provision and fugly for the user. They are just a kludge 
used when, for some reason, the software canot be made secure.

That the desktop vendor (Microsoft) has not made their software secure 
is manifestly obvious. Whether the can't or won't is subject to 
rampant debate and speculation. The can't view says that legacy 
software and fundamentally broken architecture make securing it 
infeasible. The won't view says that it was not profitable for MS to 
spend the effort, and they are now changing.

That the alternate desktop vendors (all the UNIX and Linux vendors 
including Apple) have made secure desktops is also manifestly obvious 
(no viruses to speak of, and certainly no virus problem). Whether this 
is luck or design is subect to rampant debate and speculation. The 
luck view says that these minority desktops are not a big enough 
target to be interesting to the virus writers. The design view is that 
the virus problem is induced by: 1. running the mail client with 
root/administrator privilege, and 2. a mail client that eagerly trusts 
and executes attached code, and that until UNIX/Linux desktops have both 
of those properties in large numbers, there never will be a virus 
problem on UNIX/Linux desktops.

What the phone set people will do depends on which of the above factors 
you think apply to phone sets. Certainly the WinCE phones with Outlook 
are about to be virus-enabled. I don't know enough about Symbian to 
answer. The Linux hand sets could be designed either way; it would not 
surprise me to see phone set peole architecting a phone so that the 
keyboard is root. It is not exactly intuitive to treat a hand set as a 
multi-user platform.

Crispin
--
Crispin Cowan, Ph.D.  http://immunix.com/~crispin/
CTO, Immunix  http://immunix.com