Sunday, January 20, 2008

They are playing you for a fool!

I have previously talked about this issue before, but based on a number of conversations I had last week at Cyber Crime, I felt it was worth bringing up again. Every time this issue comes up, it reminds me of one of my favorite blog posts, which talks about the ethical conflict in the rootkit community. I also recently came across this blog post from my former advisor, Spaf, which I found relevant as well.

One of the main reason why I dedicated myself to researching volatile memory analysis was the fact that the offensive communities and projects were flourishing. As a result, the sophistication of methods and accessibility to knowledge was continuing to grow unabated in the offensive community. At the time, I felt we drastically needed to have a similar revolution in the defensive community. A way of bringing together strong systems researchers who were interested in securing our infrastructure.

Based on the research we were doing at the time, I knew that volatile memory analysis would be an important component of securing those systems and had the potential to disrupt much of the offensive research being performed. As a result, members of our project have spent a great deal of time over the last couple of years writing research papers, giving talks, educating, and developing an open source architecture, in order to inspire research and increase the communal knowledge of the investigative community. In the process, we have had over 20 different contributors from multiple countries across the world. This includes contributions from numerous law enforcement and forensic agencies. In fact, I have been contacted by many universities that are now, or soon will be, using Volatility in their digital forensic courses.

It seems that the work being done in the live memory analysis community has also been successful at getting the attention of the offensive community (esp. rootkit). In fact, they have attempted many times in the last couple of years to disrupt the communal aspects of these projects. They began by trying to convince people that volatile memory analysis wouldn't work and was ineffective. Their methods changed last year, when they began trying to deceptively patent techniques that members of the volatile memory analysis community had already presented at conferences. Recently, I have learned that they are now trying to use their companies as real life Trojan horses to undermine and divide the open nature of the volatile memory analysis community. They are now trying to sell the techniques they had previously argued were ineffective. Once again, trying to capitalize on the problem they created.

Let's consider the following analogy:

Sadly, your child has been struggling with drug addiction for a number of years. He was recently busted by the police and mandated by the court to attend drug rehabilitation. Your child's drug dealer was a notorious individual by the name of B.S. Hary. B.S. Hary has never hidden the fact that he sells drugs and, in fact, even wrote a book and teaches classes about advanced drug dealing techniques. Often flaunting his drug dealing in the face of local law enforcement, who are overburdened dealing with the myriad of drug dealing pupils B.S has released on the streets. As a result, B.S. Hary's drugs and drug dealing techniques account for the majority of the drug problem currently faced by your community.

Recently, B.S. became concerned about the popularity of drug rehabilitation in pop culture. On the one hand, he realized that rehabilitation could be bad for business, but he also figured there was a lot money to be made in rehabilitation. As a result, he decided that he could not sit idly by and watch his drug business be swept out from under him, so he formulated a plan. He decided to capitalize on the rehabilitation market while undermining its effectiveness by starting his own rehabilitation company called Addiction Responder. B.S. Hary even had the brazenness to open Addiction Responder right next door to his crack house.

B.S. Hary is hoping to play the community for a fool!

As a parent, would you be willing to send your child to the Addiction Responder clinic? Knowing that Addiction Responder is run by a notorious drug dealer, do you think the court would be willing to trust a report that acknowledges your child's successful completion of its drug rehabilitation program? Knowing that the owner of Addiction Responder has a crack house right next door to the clinic, do you think the court would have faith in the fidelity of Addiction Responder's rehabilitation capabilities? Knowing that B.S. sells manufactured drugs out of the crack house right next door, would you be willing to ingest his magic rehabilitation pills? Knowing that the money you give to Addiction Responder for rehabilitation will be used to further his drug cartel, will you be willing to help fund the problem that is tormenting both your family and your community?

Your child's current drug dealer wants to perform his rehab.
You said, no, no, no!

On that note, it seems utterly absurd to me that anyone would consider buying volatile memory (RAM) forensics tools from an organization that freely admits to having armed and which continues to arm the enemy with "technology being used to evade forensics and response today." As a taxpayer, I'm not happy to see that all the government funding they have received for research and development has contributed to the majority of the rootkits currently found on the Internet today. As a person involved in forensic investigations, I would not want to be the person responsible for presenting those tools or results in court.

Defense Attorney: Is it true that developers of this "investigation" tool are responsible for the techniques found in the majority of rootkits found on the Internet today?
Forensic Examiner: Yes.
Defense Attorney: Is it true that the makers of this tool also sell "undetectable" software agents that allows people to secretly spy on a person/companies computers (similar to malware or spyware)?
Forensic Examiner: Yes.
Defense Attorney: Do the developers of this software also develop tools to exploit software, cheat at online games, and build rootkits?
Forensic Examiner: Yes.

One of the most important things that I have learned from the forensics and digital investigation communities is that the integrity and trust that can be placed in the collected evidence is often the most important standard. I have been confronted with many situations where we have had to forgo certain types of evidence, because it had the potential to compromise the integrity of investigation and/or case. How would you like to walk into court knowing that the evidence you collected and analyzed will immediately be called into question and, as a result, ruin the case? What happens when the malware you are investigating, as part of an incident, was written by the same people who wrote your forensic tool? Can you trust that they weren't involved?

The question is, are you willing to listen to B.S. and be played the fool?

And you wonder why I'm angry.....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It seems that quite a bit of the security community is at least a bit black-hat. Perhaps it's just that being a bit black-hat is fun.

You, however, are one of the most white-hat people I know. :)