Dave Bullock / eecue

photographer, director of engineering: crowdrise, photojournalist, hacker, nerd, geek, human


The Black Hole : Los Alamos Laboratory Salvage Yard

The Black Hole

Every teenager dreams of working in a giant warehouse full of discarded nuclear test equipment, well used high-pressure vacuum fittings and an endless assortment of puzzling devices which may or may not have any value in the modern era. Ok, so maybe not every teenager has this dream, I was and still am somewhat of a strange person, but in High School in New Mexico, this particular dream of mine came true.

After tooling around the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Library and the Bradbury Museum for the better part of a day, my father took a break from coding the labs IBM AS/400 systems he was responsible for and took me to The Black Hole, also known as the Los Alamos Sales Company. He introduced me to Ed Grothus (photo below), an eccentric old fellow who had worked for the lab (what the locals call LANL) until being let go after marching in a peace protest in the '60s.

Ed offered me a job, which paid minimum wage, which I believe was about $4.25 in New Mexico. He didn't really tell me what the job would entail, and honestly I didn't care. I had fallen in love with the endless piles of mysterious equipment that filled the former supermarket that had become The Black Hole. As it turned out my job description was quite eclectic and covered everything from taking apart electronic assemblies to recover whatever was valuable inside to helping customers find that centrifuge they were looking for to tearing old lockers out of High Schools.

I worked for Ed for 3 or 4 summers and I really enjoyed my time there. It was an amazing experience and I learned about all types of scientific laboratory equipment, how it worked, and what it was worth second hand. I had been meaning to visit the Black Hole and Ed for almost a decade, and I did just that on my recent vacation to New Mexico. Here are some photos with short captions covering what I saw:

Ed Grothus shows off his Peace Obelisk, one of two identical 3 ton marble obelisks. Ed traveled to China to have the massive monuments hewn from quarried marble and then polished and inscribed. The obelisks will have a message in fifteen languages inscribed in the hematite spheres that the obelisks will rest on. He is still searching for a location to place the monuments, I recommended the Trinity Site.

Ed Grothus and his Peace Obelisks

Except for the rusted sculptures and the "Military Surplus" sign, the front entrance to the Black Hole hasn't changed much in the decade and a half since I worked there. The former supermarket, it's parking lot and the church next door no longer sell groceries or facilitate worship, but instead provide cover to millions of salvaged scientific apparatuses. His frequent customers include LANL employees who are ironically buying back the same equipment the lab sold to salvage for pennies on the dollar over the years.

High Vacuum Equipment

Ultra High vacuum equipment is some of the most high-tech looking hardware in the world. Comprised of thick walled stainless steel and machined with great precision for even greater amounts of money, HVac or UHV fittings are designed to withstand extremely high levels of vacuum. They are used for thin-film and spectroscopy research applications which require insane levels of negative pressure.

Marley High Speed Camera

This large device is a Marley High Speed Camera built in England in 1944. The camera is capable of taking 100,000 photos per second. It was most likely used to photograph nuclear or other explosions.

The Yard

To the left of the parking lot in the photo above you can see the A-frame church. When I worked at the Black Hole, it was filled with especially old, and possibly valuable equipment. The parking lot has been a source of trouble for Ed through the years, after neighbors complained the city of Los Alamos ordered Ed to clean up the lot. He ended up refusing to do so, being arrested, and while he was in jail the city hired a private firm to clean up the Black Hole. Instead of cleaning the parking lot out, they sold most all of Ed's most valuable items and pocketed the profit. As you can clearly see, the yard is still not clean.

More after the jump, and the whole archive can be found in my gallery


Black Hat 2007 : Day 2 : Chris Paget

Chris Paget stirred up much controversy at Black Hat DC with the release of his RFID cloner. The cloner can be easily built with "a high school level of electronics" and some free time. Unfortunately, due to the threat of a massive patent lawsuit he is unable to release the schematics or source code for the cloner. He demoed his cloner and it was quite effect in cloning RFID cards that operate in the 134 kHz range. He also showed that the RFID tinfoil "shields" are completely ineffective for the 134 kHz RFID cards. Here are some photos of Paget and his cloners:

Chris Paget

Chris Paget RFID Cloner

Chris Paget

And that's it for my Black Hat 2007 live blogging... it's time to meet up with the wife and drink! More to come from Defcon. =]


Black Hat 2007 : Day 2 : Mike Spindel, Eric Schmiedl and Charlie Miller

This is going to be a short post, but here are a few photos from today. Mike Spindel and Eric Schmiedl gave a talk about access control system, read locks, which was interesting and informative, but didn't have much ground breaking information, here are a couple of photos:

Eric Schmiedl

Mike Spindel

Charlie Miller gave a talk about hacking OS X, and talked about the recent root exploit he found on the iPhone. Luckily for the iPhone users out there, Apple released an update that fixed this problem, and it happened to come out the day before Black Hat started. Luckily for Apple, Miller is a white-hat hacker and he disclosed his findings to them several weeks before Black Hat, and let them know he would be talking about it and releasing the exploit code. Here is a photo from his talk:

Charlie Miller


Black Hat 2007 : Day 2 : Adam Laurie

During the first part of his talk, Adam Laurie demonstrated some of his new research on hotel safes in which he opened a hotel safe using only a paperclip and multi tool in under a minute. He had a member from the audience read the marketing hype from the safe manufacturer while he opened the safe and recovered his previously "safe" beer.

Adam Laurie

His talk was actually about RFID chips, which are Radio Frequency IDentification systems. They are passive chips that are activated by a radio signal. There are two types of chips, smart and dumb, the smart ones have circuitry that processes input and return a signal. Dumb chips just respond with a code when lit up with radio frequency. The dumb chips are used in everything from hotel keys to car keys to pet implants. RFID plants are also being implanted in humans for military access control, mental patient tracking, and even as a digital wallet for beach-goers.

The point that the manufactures always drives home is that the chips are unique and can't be duplicated. In actuality, RFID chips can be easily cloned with a device that costs under $20, which you can get plans and parts to build here. There are numerous other kits available to clone RFIDs. The RFID industry's response to the ability to clone chips was they they aren't true clones because they don't have "the same form factor." Laurie took this as a challenge and decided to to clone an RFID chip using the same form factor.

Assorted RFID Cards / Readers / Writers

He researched RFID tag types, and found two that are multi-format configurable and that can be loaded with user selectable data. He happened to be in possession of a Q5 [pdf download] reprogrammable tag from the office where he works. Using a simple keyboard wedge he read the ID of the chip he wanted to clone. He then used a program he wrote in python, called rfidiot, to reprogram the chip with the cloned ID. He demoed the whole thing in about 1 minute and it work as designed, good show.

He then demoed a clone of the animal implant chip, and rewrote the chip in his wrist (watch) to the same chip ID. Verichip uses the same type of chip for identification, but the difference is that they use a 4 digit country code instead of a 3 digit code and being that no commercial software can write a 4 digit country code. Luckily Laurie wrote software that can write any code, no matter how long, to the card, thus defeating the "security" of the Verichip.

Adam Laurie

The next part of his talk focused on "smart" RFID cards, which most notably are being used in passports, including those from the US and UK. These chips can use a combination of a psuedo-random UID, strong authentication (3DES) and content encryption. So far no countries are using encrypted content, mostly because there is no published standard as of yet.

The key happens to be printed on the passport, which to me anyway, defeats most of the benefit of having strong auth. Although the passports have the shared key printed inside the front cover, it is still possibly to brute force the key, as there is no brute force prevention built in to the passport RFID.

Adam Laurie

Although cloning the passport is trivial and just a matter of copying the files, modifying the data should not be possible because of the use of a Certificate Authority and public key infrastructure. The possibility of signing the passport with your own key has recently been avoided due to a public repository of keys, but this only came out in April, so until then it has been possible to modify passports.

The amount of systems that are implementing RFID for "secure" purposes is growing everyday. Clearly this technology has many vulnerabilities and major changes are needed to ensure the security of these systems. I'm glad I recently got a passport last year, and that it doesn't have an RFID chip in it.


Black Hat 2007 : Day 2 : Andrea Barisani & Daniele Bianco

Many modern cars have built in navigation / traffic systems. In North America data is transmitted over FM radio using the Radio Data System (RDS). The system can display station names, time, program type, and news override. The signal piggybacks on standard FM radio signals. RDS Traffic Message Channel (RDS-TMC) transmits traffic data over RDS and was introduced in Germany in 1997. Although it is a 10 year old protocol, it is just now being implemented in modern satellite navigation systems. TMC can also be transmitted over digital radio like DAB and Satellite radio.

Daniele Bianco

RDS is a very simple protocol with each packet consisting of 104 bits. The security issue with RDS is that it has no data authentication built in, which makes is easy to sniff and send fake messages using off the shelf components. The components to make a sniffer cost under $20 and can be easily made with very little technical skill according to the speakers. The specs and code for the PIC can be downloaded from the Inverse Path development website if you want to make your own RDS sniffer / injector.

Andrea Barisani

The injection code is still quite crude, as you have to edit the source and recompile every time you want to change what you are injecting. What's important is that it works, although it does happen to look somewhat like a bomb. When they brought their setup through TSA checkpoint, the TSA officer upon inspecting it, flipped a switch and said "boom". Barsiani said "apparently TSA officers are allowed to make jokes about bombs, which would get anyone else arrested."

RDS-TMC Injector / Sniffer

One of the features of RDS-TMS is the news override which forces your tuner to change stations to a different frequency. Barisani said they tested their system during a Saturday soccer match, which potentially enraged numerous Italians when their match was overridden by their radios tuning to a station with a carrier tone.

Some of the fun things you can do by injecting RDS-TMC messages is show fake road closures, traffic slow downs, dangerous weather, road work. You can also close roads and tunnels. The wacky stuff you can do is to display codes like: Terrorist Incident, Air raid danger, Air Crash, Bomb Alert, and a more generic Security Alert. The best one they showed though was "Bull Fight".

According to Barisani, his father was never impressed with his software and kernel hacking research, but when he showed him the RDS-TMC hacking his father said, "Wow, you have a cool job."

You can download Andrea Barisani and Daniele Bianco's CanSecWest 2007 presentation here [13mb PDF] and all the supporting files and schematics to make your own sniffer / injector here. Their website is Inversepath.com. [A complete list of the codes you can send can be found after the jump.]


Black Hat 2007 : Day 2 : John Heasman

BIOS is the system in your computer that initializes hardware, memory and loads basic user settings then finally loads a bootloader which will start your operating system. For years there have been methods of loading malicious code into a compromised host's BIOS, although physical access may be required.

John Heasman

One popular method of compromising a host through a BIOS is an option ROM rootkit. A rootkit prevents the user of a compromised system from being able to tell their system has been hacked by hiding traces of the malicious code, and thus gives full control of the compromised system to the attacker. A BIOS rootkit has multiple interrupts available to hook to including video, disk, and memory. Detection of this type of rootkit is fairly easy and is just a matter of dumping the content of the BIOS ROM.

Another method of of BIOS rootkitting is through ACPI, which is the hardware that controls power management of your system as well as provides temperature information to your operating system. ACPI has the ability to modify system memory and allow the attacker to deploy a rootkit. ACPI rootkits are independent of the operating system so will work on multiple platforms. ACPI is written in a high level language called AML that makes writing both malicious and non-malicious code easy. Not all operating systems have ACPI device drivers, and some prevent AML from accessing system memory by sandboxing it.

The Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) is the replacement for the legacy BIOS system. EFI reuses existing systems including FAT filesystem and ACPI. EFI is a much more robust system than BIOS and is also backwards compatible with BIOS. The implementation that Intel uses is called "The Framework," it is partially open source and it what is inside the new Intel based Apple OS X systems.

There are many ways to get code into the EFI environment. An attacker can modify the bootlader directly, modify bootloader varibles in NVRAM, modify and reflash firmware or exploit an implementation flaw in the driver. Once the attacher is in, they can shim a boot service, modify an ACPI table like in the tradition BIOS attack, load an SMM driver, or hook interrup handlers. Modifying the boot loader is actually quite simple in Mac OSX as the bootloader binary is located in user disk space: /System/Library/CoreSerbvice.boot.efi. This isn't very stealthy as you are modifying a file on disk which could easily be detected by verifying checksums with an application like tripwire.

System Management Mode (SMM) is a "get out of jail free bard" for system designers. It allows an attacker to execute code that is hidden from the operating system like virtualization rootkits. EFI provides various protocols and a set of services for accessing SMM. SMM is normally used for error logging, enabling/disabling ACPI, power button spport when not using ACPI and various other system workarounds. SMM may be triggered on external events, I/O events, and timed events. SMM has been used in the past to disable BSD securelevel by Loic Duflot [PDF Download].

John Heasman

Detecting an SMM rootkit would be very difficult as hardware breakpoins to SMM and SMM memory access can be blocked. There currently is no SMM malware because bugging SMM code requires a hardware analyzer and the platform may be already using SMM.

The bottom line is that with the added functionality, EFI offers an attacker many more options than BIOS for exploitation. The EFI specification is not very clear with regards to security which will result in various vendors implementing insecure versions of EFI. In the future look out for nasty rootkits based on EFI.

John Heasman

John Heasman is an employee of Next Generation Security Software. The information in this post came from his "Hacking the Extensible Firmware Interface" talk at the Black Hat 2007 Briefings in Las Vegas.


Black Hat 2007 : Day 1 : Assorted

Ok, I'm getting tired, I didn't get much sleep last night after driving from LA to Vegas. Here are some photos I shot at the last group of sessions:

Brad Hill




Black Hat 2007 : Day 1 : Phil Zimmermann

In case you haven't noticed I'm liveblogging Black Hat 2007. I just watched the end of Phil Zimmermann's talk about his new VoIP encryption product / SDK: ZPhone. Z-Phone is an application that allows you to make secure, encrypted phone calls over the internet using standard VoIP protocols. As with Zimmerman's other well known project PGP, the source code and software is given away for free.

During the question and answer session he talked about his disdain for software patents, but added that he had recently applied for a patent for the ZPhone protocol, with an interesting twist. He is using the patent for good, and here is how: Part of the patent states that any time a key is copied and stored (which would allow a party to monitor / wiretap the call) a flag is set on that session that designates the wiretapping. This won't prevent interested parties from not using the flag, but it will prevent them from using the free license for ZPhone and thus force them to disclose that their product is wiretap friendly.

Here are some photos from the talk:

Phil Zimmermann

Phil Zimmermann

Phil Zimmermann

I just heard this random quote in the press pen: "Our experience is to stay off the wireless network at Defcon, we actually got hacked into a few years ago." I bring my own out of band connection with me to all security conventions and even with that I still do all my surfing / blogging / emailing through an ssh tunnel to a trusted server.


Black Hat 2007 : Day 1 : Dan Kaminsky

Dan Kaminsky just gave a talk about the nasty things that service providers are doing to your network traffic, how it relates to network neutrality and how to detect it. Basically nearly all router manufacturers are working on technology to do hostile things to your internet traffic, including slowing certain parts of it, monitoring it, modifying it in real time to do mean things like put their own ads in your web pages or worst of all, storing it and selling it.

Dan stated that this kind of trickery is going to either make web advertising obsolete, or force most if not all web traffic to be encrypted. If ISPs don't wake up and realize that what they're doing is wrong and bad the effect on the current internet ad market will be bad. I never thought of network neutrality as more than just shaping traffic or preferred routing, but Dan opened my eyes to the ugly things that vendors and ISPs are doing to our data.

Here are some photos from his talk:

Dan Kaminsky

Dan Kaminsky

His grandma is in the audience, and he was giving away some of her cookies to people who asked good questions:

Dan Kaminsky

Dan Kaminsky


Black Hat 2007 : Day 1 : Richard Clarke + Swag Bag

I'm attending the Black Hat Briefings in Las Vegas. I just caught the tail end of Richard Clarke's keynote speech. One thing he said in a final question that I thought was really cool and spot on is that the government should be monitoring terrorists and hacking in to their computers, but should not be monitoring everyday citizens. I wish more government (or former government) officials felt this way as well.

This Black Hat is the largest ever with over 4,000 attendants. They completely streamlined the registration process and it is operating much more smoothly than last year.

Here are some photos from his talk:

Richard Clarke

Richard Clarke

Richard Clarke

And here is what came in the swag bag:

Black Hat Swag Bag

Black Hat Swag Bag

Metro Red Line Station in Black and White

North Bound Metro Train

I love the metro stations. I got hassled taking these photos, according to the engineer tripods are not allowed in metro stations.


Breaking AJAX Web Applications - Black Hat 2006 Day 2

Alex Stamos

Alex Stamos and Zane Lackey gave a talk at Black Hat called "Breaking AJAX Web Applications: Vulns 2.0 in Web 2.0". As AJAX evolves from a toy used by teenyboppers to a serious tool used by banks, hospitals and uncle same, it becomes more and more important to ensure bug free code. AJAX has changed web attacks by exposing the use of frameworks used by the applications via included .js files which expose supported calls. Cross site scripting becomes more complicated as you can inject script into the javascript stream. Injection attacks are also more dangerous due to front ends that are exposed in the client side code. Business logic in applications has become more complex so parameter manipulation vulnerabilities are still excellent attacks.

XSS becomes more complicated and more interesting because you can just put javascript right into a running javascript engine, which becomes harder to escape as you're no longer looking for brackets and tags.

Because your browser is running a javascript application, if an attacker sends you rogue code, in say link form in your cool AJAX email app, your browser will run the code sent in the webmail application instead of loading it in a new page and then the attacker would be sent your authentication cookie. The attacker would then have access to your web mail. The speakers used the fictitious company Webmail.com in this example, and when asked about gmail they responded that they have more lawyers than webmail.com, but it was pretty clear the attack they were talking about was possibly on gmail.

Dynamic script nodes allow attackers to embed malicious javascript in a website that would allow a cookie from any site to be pulled because browsers allow cross domain XmlHttpRequests, this is very bad!

The guys from Flexilis a little bird told me... Shawn Embleton Ryan Cunningham Sherri Sparks Dan Kaminsky Ofir Arkin physical mail forwarders Dan Larkin Dan Larkin Jeff Moss and Dan Larkin Jeff Moss aka Dark Tangent Jeff Moss aka Dark Tangent Jeff Moss aka Dark Tangent black hat swag

Black Hat 2006 Day 1 - Sidewinder

Shawn Embleton

Frequently you find a speaker who is covering a very interesting topic, but may not quite have a firm grasp on keeping a crowd interested. Public speaking is not a skill that I have mastered, and I feel that the folks that were talking about Sidewinder are in the same boat. Sidewinder is a promising piece of software that Shawn Embleton, Sherri Sparks and Ryan Cunningham are working on. Sidewinder is a fuzzer that uses genetic algorithms to evolve the fuzzed input in order to get the funky data to the place in the code where you want it. The next logical step of their application is to add some software to create exploits once you get to the place in the code where you suspect a vulnerability may exist. Keep an eye on these three, I see big things coming from their collective intelligence in the next few years.

Update I had a chance to speak with Shawn about the Sidewinder application and he told me it was all coded in just a few months. He isn't sure if he will have time to continue development on the application, but I encouraged him to as I feel it is a great concept and could grow to be one of the best fuzzers out there.


Black Hat 2006 - Opening Intro and Fighting Organized Crime Keynote

Jeff Moss and Dan Larkin

I just caught the opening intro from Jeff Moss aka Dark Tangent. He dispelled rumors that Microsoft had attempted to buy a track at the convention, explaining that he was hoping to have some of the Vista engineers at the con to talk about their work that would hopefully coincide with the imminent release of the new OS. As it turned out the Vista release date has been pushed back, so that didn't work out as planned.

The opening keynote was given by Dan Larkin, FBIU Unit Chief of Cyber Initiative & Resource Fusion Unit Cirf-U, a spinoff of IC3. He started out with some bad jokes about how far computers have come which elicited a sum total of zero laughs from the audience. His talk became more interesting when he talked about strides the feds had made in past years working with academia, industry and experts in the field. The FBI is actively investigating all types of cybercrime ranging from phishing to spamming to bank fraud and are uncovering vast organized crime organizations that span the globe.

I had a chance to talk to Dan Larkin more after his talk and I asked him about what percentage of the crime the investigate involves music, movie and software piracy and he said that the organized criminals involved really have their hands in anything and everything illegal that can make them money. He said 30% of the bad guys crime involves When it comes to music, software and music.

I am torn between three of the next talks scheduled, of which I will try and catch a few minutes of each: Bypassing NAC by Ofir Arkin, Black Ops 2006 by Dan Kaminsky and Trusted Computing Revolution by Bruce Potter. Dan's talks are always great and I've enjoyed Ofir's in the past as well. I am pulling the shots from the keynote off my CF card right now and will upload them as soon as they are done.

Jeff Moss aka Dark Tangent


Black Hat Day 1 - Registration

black hat swag

I am attending a 2 day security convention in Las Vegas called Black Hat. The flight in from LAX was short, although I did get the old TSA hassle, for the first time ever I was directed to stand in the little search corral and the frisked me, then swapped my bags and fed that to the spectrometer, I heard from another attendee that people all over the country are getting extra hassles.

I showed up at Caesar's Palace right at 8am to get my credentials and everything went smoothly. The line for the general credentials was insanely long, but luckily there was a press line that was only a dozen or so people deep. Jeff Moss will be giving his intro in a few minutes and then the keynote: "Fighting Organized Cyber Crime", which should be interesting. I'll get some photos of the speakers and try and upload them and give an update between talks. The photo above is of the free swag you get upon registration... a pretty good haul.


FBI Raids Los Alamos Sales Co. (the Black Hole)

I used to work at a place in Los Alamos called the Black Hole. I had read recently that they were raided by the FBI who took a bunch of joke items that Ed Grothus had on display for years. The man is always trying to hold Ed Grothus down!

This is from the Santa Fe New Mexican (bugmenot reg. required):


I forgot about this picture of Jack Black and I

Jack Black and eecue I took this a couple of years ago in front of a 7/11 on Sunset in Hollywood. He looks really excited as you can tell. I'm sure he really enjoyed big annoying tourists wanting to take a picture with him.


Once you go black...

Jaguar X-Type is giving away special edition black iPods... cool.[mac minute]


Los Alamos Sales Company AKA The Black Hole

When I first moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1992 my dad worked for Los Alamos National Labratory in the ADP-4 dept coding old mainframes. He told me about, then took me to the most wonderful place I'd ever been...

I instantly fell in love as I am an avid junk collector. The black hole is an old supermarket, it's parking lot and the church next door along with it's parking lot (plus a house or tow a few miles away... which we once found a nice little disk (about 1 or 2 grams of weapons grade uranium! ) all filled up with piles of Lab suprlus.

See every first friday (or some day it's been a while) the Lab does somthing it calls salvage. Salvage is a silent auction where everybody gets a chance to inspect pallets of wonderful junk the lab no longer feels it needs. You can get anything from a pile of bolts to boxes of laser tubes. All for pennies on the thousands if not millions.