Cloud Security Research at MIT

For several years, computer science researchers at MIT have been reviewing and attempting to address the problem of attacks on data in the cloud. A recent method designed by faculty in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science would thwart attacks by disguising memory-access patterns. The scheme would be implemented in custom-built chips that write multiple data queries at the point where data is accessed, serving as a sort of decoy for attackers who are spying on other people’s data.

Read the full MIT News story.

Anthem Data Breach

If you are on the MIT Health Plan, you may have received an email from MIT Medical and MIT Benefits regarding the Anthem Data Breach. Anthem was the target of a sophisticated cyber attack that exposed personal data on almost 80 million customers. Read the news story here.

Attackers may have been able to access personal information from current and former members of Anthem and Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBSMA) insurance companies, including names, medical IDs, social security numbers, street addresses, email information and employment information, but no financial data.

The message from MIT outlines the impact this breach may have on current or former MIT members or their families who were or are on the MIT Health Plan. Only those who have received care in the fourteen states listed here could be affected.

If Anthem and/or BCBSMA believe you have been affected, they will contact you directly. Further information has been posted on the Anthem website.

The FBI says that it is “close” to identifying the parties responsible for the Anthem breach, but will not disclose the information until it is “absolutely sure.” Read the news story here.

Cambridge v. Cambridge Face-Off

As part of a series of cybersecurity initiatives made public during British Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit with President Barack Obama, the two nations announced that MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) will face off against the University of Cambridge this fall for a special student hackathon dubbed “Cambridge v. Cambridge.”

The multi-day competition is part of continued efforts by the two nations to collaborate on cybersecurity and harness their collective brainpower to help combat global cyberattacks.

Read the full story on the MIT News page.

US Retailers Launch Cyber Intelligence Sharing Center

Major US retailers have come together to launch the Retail Cyber Intelligence Sharing Center (R-CISC) in an effort to prevent incidents like the Target attack. The organization, which counts among its members Target, The Gap, Walgreens, and J.C. Penney, will share real-time threat information with each other and with US agencies, including the Secret Service, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as well as with other public and private stakeholders.

R-CISC will provide training, education, and research resources to its members to help fight “increasingly sophisticated methods of attack.”

Read the full story in the news.

Adobe Network Attacked

Adobe-LogoAdobe’s security team recently discovered sophisticated attacks on their network, involving the illegal access of information for approximately 2.9 million Adobe customers, as well as source code for numerous Adobe products. Adobe believes attacks may be related. They are working diligently, both internally and with partners and law enforcement, to address the incident.


Adobe recommends these steps:

  • Reset your Adobe ID and password.
  • Protect yourself against phishing.

IS&T recommends using the same vigilance as always for safe computing. If you are taking proactive steps to secure your computer, including applying patches immediately after release, and using virus protection software, there is a good chance of avoiding any issues.

Read the full Adobe security alert.

An MIT colleague mentioned to me that the Adobe security alert was also emailed out to Adobe customers. If you did receive one, you might be tempted to ignore it, or assume it is a scam.

As with all emails that might seem fake, be sure to verify that the email came from an Adobe email address and that any links embedded in the message truly link to an web page. Other things to look for in “phishy” emails.

Research Universities Subject to Cyber Attacks

According to the New York Times, leading US research universities have been subject to millions of hacking attempts on a weekly basis. Professors at these universities, including MIT, receive thousands of patents each year in areas such as prescription drugs, computer chips, fuel cells, aircraft, medical devices, food production and more.

Bill Mellon of the University of Wisconsin told the Times they get 90,000 to 100,000 hacking attempts per day, from China alone, to penetrate their system.

Although it is difficult to track where the attacks are coming from, US government officials, security experts and university and corporate officials say that China is clearly the leading source of efforts to steal information. Other countries are Russia and Vietnam.

A growing number of schools no longer allow their professors to take their laptops and smart phones to certain countries. They  fear information will be copied or malware will be planted that will be activated when the device is taken home and connected to a network, allowing the thieves to get in.

Read this story online.

SNMP Amplification Attacks on MIT Network

Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) refers to a standard Internet protocol that allows network managers to monitor and administer devices on IP networks. These devices typically include routers, switches, servers, workstations, printers, etc.

Last week an issue came to the attention of some IT administrators at MIT. The issue affects printers and similar devices on the MIT network, which have SNMP enabled, causing slow or unreliable printing behavior.

It appears that SNMP requests are being spoofed by hosts outside of MIT, targeting these devices on the network.

A way to fix the issue has been documented in the Knowledge Base. If you have any questions or need additional help, please contact the IS&T Help Desk.