Monthly Archives: June 2018

Windows 2008 Server End of Life: The best chance to move to the cloud

30 June 2018

Windows 2008 Server End of Life is near. Within the next months many companies are busy with the replacement of Windows 2008 based infrastructure and application servers to avoid the next Wannacry or NotPetya.

It appears to me that this is the best opportunity to migrate at least application servers to the cloud. And, in the best case, to get rid of the servers at all by transforming the application to SAAS. If technical or the organizational limitations do not allow this at least the transformation to PAAS and IAAS should be considered.

What stops us from doing this? Very often it is the fear of loss of access to critical business data or the fear of loss of the data at all. At least in the latter case technical protection measures can be applied to mitigate this issue.

Transparent database encryption

Transparent database encryption (TDE) is often the matter of choice. All encryption is performed transparently by the database service, with no impact on the application and the users because only the database files or critical attributes in tables are encrypted. User interaction is required only during database startup to activate the encryption engine.

Unfortunately, TDE provides only encryption at rest. Thus TDE stops infrastructure admins from using unauthorized copies of a database or a virtual database server because they cannot activate the encryption engine. Once the database is started all users and database administrators have access.

Application level encryption

With Application level encryption (ALE) all encryption is performed by the application. Data is encrypted when entered in or retrieved through the application. Thus data is encrypted during transfer and at rest.

As long as the access is not routed through the application server the data are accessible for no one. Even infrastructure or database admins are barred unless they have access to the encryption key.

The security problem is shifted towards that of operational security of the application server. A solution to this problem could be to encrypt the data in the database with a key that is encrypted against the users access keys. This ensures that the encrypted data cannot be decrypted without access to at least one users key.

The remaining risk is that an attacker reads the keys or the plain text data from the process memory of the application service.

The effort to implement application level encryption is high because the application has to be changed. In addition, a key infrastructure must be set up to avoid data loss in the case a user key is e.g. inaccessible. But the gain in information and operational security is high.

The pros and cons of the encryption concepts in summary.

Table 1: Database Encryption Concepts Summary

Table 1: Database Encryption Concepts Summary

With Application Level Encryption, outsourcing or cloud adoption is made easy.

Have a good weekend.


What can we learn from the latest hack on an U.S. Navy contractor?

17 June 2018

Report “China hacked a Navy contractor and secured a trove of highly sensitive data on submarine warfare” (1) published on 8 June 2018 in the Washington Post is really worth reading.

Attacks on the supply chain have become more common in recent years. Contractors are e.g. used as gateways to the customer network or customer information is exfiltrated from the contractors network.

The latter is the case here. The product development is outsourced. The information required for product development is available only in the contractors network and, in the worst case, remains there after handover to the customer.

Under normal conditions this is not critical. But when it comes to national security matters, e.g. in product development for defense agencies or for critical infrastructures, this may end in a catastrophe.

Picture credits: Wikimedia

In such cases proper classification of the information handed over to and created by the contractor is of crucial need. Since many contractors run an information security management system, the selection of protective measures is based upon the proper classification.

At least 614 GB of data were obviously not properly classified since “highly sensitive data related to undersea warfare” was stolen from the contractor’s unclassified network.

It is always good to remember Aristotle’s proverb “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” when it comes to classification of information.

Have a great week.

1. Nakashima E, Sonne P. China hacked a Navy contractor and secured a trove of highly sensitive data on submarine warfare. Washington Post [Internet]. 2018 Jun 8 [cited 2018 Jun 16]; Available from:

Blockchain unchained?

3 June 2018

Blockchain technology is a digital platform for applications where seamless traceability and full transparency is required.

For example, in pharmaceutical industry blockchain could give full traceability of drugs across the entire supply chain up to the patients.

Another interesting application is mobile voting. From the Brookings publication “How blockchain could improve election transparency” (1) on the use of blockchain for internet voting in the West Virginia primaries in May this year we learn that “all data of the election process can be recorded on a publicly verifiable ledger while maintaining the anonymity of voters, with results available instantly”.

This sounds very promising.

Blockchain Grid

Picture By Davidstankiewicz, for details see below (5)

Unfortunately, every software has bugs. On May 28th, 2018 Swati Khandelwal reported in “The Hacker News” about a remote code execution (RCE) vulnerability in the blockchain-based EOS smart contract system (2).

If an attacker exploits this RCE he could destroy the integrity of the entire system:

“Since the super node system can be controlled, the researchers said the attackers can “do whatever they want,” including, controlling the virtual currency transactions, and acquiring other financial and privacy data in the EOS network participating node systems, such as an exchange Digital currency, the user’s key stored in the wallet, key user profiles, privacy data, and much more.”

Although it is not clear whether the voting system used in West Virginia is based on the Blockchain 3.0 platform there is urgent need for action. EOSIO set up a bug bounty program (3) to improve their code. But should we rely on bug bounty programs for such important issues like elections or patient safety?

From the Qihoo 360 security researchers report (4) we learn that the vulnerability is created by “a buffer out-of-bounds write” error. This means that this vulnerability could have been avoided by performing a static code analysis prior to release.

The big question is: How many errors of this type are still included in the blockchain infrastructure? A bug bounty program is a good approach to improve security, a static code analysis is indispensable in my view. In particular when the outcome of an election can be influenced or patient safety is endangered.

Have a great week.


1. Desouza KC, Somvanshi KK. How blockchain could improve election transparency [Internet]. Brookings. 2018 [cited 2018 Jun 1]. Available from:

2. Khandelwal S. Critical RCE Flaw Discovered in Blockchain-Based EOS Smart Contract System [Internet]. The Hacker News. 2018 [cited 2018 Jun 1]. Available from:

3. eosio. Calling all Devs: The EOSIO Bug Bounty Program is Live [Internet]. Medium. 2018 [cited 2018 Jun 3]. Available from:

4. Chen Y, Peng Z. EOS Node Remote Code Execution Vulnerability — EOS WASM Contract Function Table Array Out of Bounds – 奇虎360技术博客 [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2018 Jun 1]. Available from:

Picture Credits

5. By Davidstankiewicz [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, from Wikimedia Commons