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DNS DNS over HTTPS DOH google NCTA Policy privacy Security

Why big ISPs aren’t happy about Google’s plans for encrypted DNS

Why big ISPs aren’t happy about Google’s plans for encrypted DNS

Enlarge (credit: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)

When you visit a new website, your computer probably submits a request to the domain name system (DNS) to translate the domain name (like arstechnica.com) to an IP address. Currently, most DNS queries are unencrypted, which raises privacy and security concerns. Google and Mozilla are trying to address these concerns by adding support in their browsers for sending DNS queries over the encrypted HTTPS protocol.

But major Internet service providers have cried foul. In a September 19 letter to Congress, Big Cable and other telecom industry groups warned that Google’s support for DNS over HTTPS (DoH) “could interfere on a mass scale with critical Internet functions, as well as raise data-competition issues.”

On Sunday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the House Judiciary Committee is taking these concerns seriously. In a September 13 letter, the Judiciary Committee asked Google for details about its DoH plans—including whether Google plans to use data collected via the new protocol for commercial purposes.

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Biz & IT hacking russia Security

New clues show how Russia’s grid hackers aimed for physical destruction

Transmission lines.

Enlarge (credit: Joshua Lott/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

For nearly three years, the December 2016 cyberattack on the Ukrainian power grid has presented a menacing puzzle. Two days before Christmas that year, Russian hackers planted a unique specimen of malware in the network of Ukraine’s national grid operator, Ukrenergo. Just before midnight, they used it to open every circuit breaker in a transmission station north of Kyiv. The result was one of the most dramatic attacks in Russia’s years-long cyberwar against its western neighbor, an unprecedented, automated blackout across a broad swath of Ukraine’s capital.

But an hour later, Ukrenergo’s operators were able to simply switch the power back on again. Which raised the question: Why would Russia’s hackers build a sophisticated cyberweapon and plant it in the heart of a nation’s power grid only to trigger a one-hour blackout?

A new theory offers a potential answer. Researchers at the industrial-control system cybersecurity firm Dragos have reconstructed a timeline of the 2016 blackout attack [PDF] based on a reexamination of the malware’s code and network logs pulled from Ukrenergo’s systems. They say that hackers intended not merely to cause a short-lived disruption of the Ukrainian grid but to inflict lasting damage that could have led to power outages for weeks or even months. That distinction would make the blackout malware one of only three pieces of code ever spotted in the wild aimed at not just disrupting physical equipment but destroying it, as Stuxnet did in Iran in 2009 and 2010 and as the malware Triton was designed to do in a Saudi Arabian oil refinery in 2017.

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Biz & IT GPS privacy Security trackers vulnerabilities

600,000 GPS trackers for people and pets are using 123456 as a password

Dog plush toy with tracker attached.

Enlarge (credit: Shenzhen i365 Tech)

An estimated 600,000 GPS trackers for monitoring the location of kids, seniors, and pets contain vulnerabilities that open users up to a host of creepy attacks, researchers from security firm Avast have found.

The $25 to $50 devices are small enough to wear on a necklace or stash in a pocket or car dash compartment. Many also include cameras and microphones. They’re marketed on Amazon and other online stores as inexpensive ways to help keep kids, seniors, and pets safe. Ignoring the ethics of attaching a spying device to the people we love, there’s another reason for skepticism. Vulnerabilities in the T8 Mini GPS Tracker Locator and almost 30 similar model brands from the same manufacturer, Shenzhen i365 Tech, make users vulnerable to eavesdropping, spying, and spoofing attacks that falsify users’ true location.

Researchers at Avast Threat Labs found that ID numbers assigned to each device were based on its International Mobile Equipment Identity, or IMEI. Even worse, during manufacturing, devices were assigned precisely the same default password of 123456. The design allowed the researchers to find more than 600,000 devices actively being used in the wild with that password. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the devices transmitted all data in plaintext using commands that were easy to reverse engineer.

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