in Technology , 392 references
Folks, let's make this easy.
Everyone wants to talk about how Podesta's email was penetrated, or the rest of the DNC, or that the RNC, allegedly, was not.
All the screamers are (still) out about "Russia" and similar.
Let me restate -- while Podesta's email was apparently broken into via a "spearfishing" email (one with a reset password link embedded in it that didn't go to the real site, but rather to the person who was trying to steal) and which he was dumb enough to click and then provide his current password the real issue here isn't about this sort of attack at all.
The real issue is about the idiocy of such "email" systems or the use of any other sort of cloud provider for anything secure in the first place.
Let me explain.
I run my own email here. It would be trivial for me to lock it down so that even if you stole my password it would be worthless.
Simple, really. You see on the same network I have a VPN gateway that does not accept passwords at all. It only accepts a certificate. Such a SSL certificate is (nominally) intended to sign and encrypt private emails, and can also be used as a secure identifier for a VPN. It is, effectively, the same thing a server uses to secure web communications but with a different set of "intended use" flags set (client authentication and digital signature rather than SSL server authentication.)
All I'd have to do is change the configuration on the email system slightly so that only accesses that came from connected VPN clients could connect at all.
Now you'd have to steal a device and if you did, it would only work until I knew it was stolen (and revoked the key.) No other means of getting in would work even with the password.
It is literally a 15 second configuration change on my Dovecot and Exchange servers to do this, and it would not impact my ability to exchange email with others one bit.
Modern smartphones (including Android, IOS and BlackBerry 10 handsets) can all use these certificates for an IPSEC/IKEv2 connection. Such a connection can be "nailed" open as well, active even on cellular, or activated "on demand" by the user. Modern commercial and freely available operating systems (Windows 7/8/10, MacOS, Linux and FreeBSD) can also use same. Doing so positively encrypts all traffic coming into or leaving said device.
Such a system is extremely secure because only authorized devices, secured with a cryptographic key loaded on them, can see the service in question. An unknown key is refused by the VPN gateway as is one that has been revoked. Only trusted certificates (which are loaded on the host in a certificate store) can connect. I use this facility with other services here at Ticker Central so I can have my laptop with me and use it "as if I was at home" even from half the world away on an insecure, or even known to be monitored data link.
The only way to get packets onto the "private" network from the outside and thus be able to "see" the email store is to connect to the VPN and establish a tunnel and the only way to do that is to have a trusted certificate on the device in question. No certificate, no connection, no access, password or no password -- period.
This sort of facility is essential if you intend to allow remote access to services that are themselves of questionable security (or worse) such as, for example, Windows file shares.
So why didn't the DNC do this?
Because it takes more than 30 seconds of thought to do it and in addition it means not using email providers like Google -- you have to do it yourself, in-house, or all these security steps are worthless since your certificates and such have to be where someone else, who is unvetted, can get at them.
In other words they were stupid, and so have been the others. They chose the equivalent of an unlocked front door for their house, and then are surprised when someone walks in and takes all the beer out of the fridge.
Oh, and all the guns and money in the house too, along with the nice widescreen TV!
Just remember folks that these are the very same people who claim to be smart enough to run the country.
PS: All the cloud providers are unlocked houses. Always. They have to be in order for a cloud service to work; it's not a choice, it's an inherent part of any public "cloud" architecture. Claims otherwise are like putting a 25 cent TSA lock on your suitcase and calling it "secure." The reason you have not and will not see this discussed in the media, especially the "business media", is that the minute this fact reaches the level of general knowledge all of said "cloud providers" have their stock prices collapse.