Security News: From Sarah Palin's E-Mail to Amazon Cloud Computing

A recap of security news for the past week touches security researchers, vendors and attackers alike.

Security vendors, researchers and the Web's bad actors all made the news this past week.

The week closed with news that David Kernell, the man convicted of breaking into Sarah Palin's e-mail account during the 2008 U.S. presidential election, had been sent to prison instead of a halfway house as a judge had recommended. Kernell was convicted in April 2010 and later sentenced to a year and a day. His projected release date is Nov. 30, 2011.

Elsewhere in the world of security, the Rustock botnet was shown to be hard at work once again after a relatively brief respite. Before Christmas, Rustock was responsible for as many as 44 billion spam e-mails per day, Paul Wood, MessageLabs senior intelligence analyst for Symantec Hosted Services, told eWEEK.

"Rustock restarted on Jan. 10, and in 24 hours the spam it was sending accounted for 19 percent of all spam," he said.

A critical security flaw in supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems used in China raised the specter of a possible Stuxnet-like attack. Dillon Beresford, a researcher with NSS Labs, uncovered a heap overflow vulnerability in SCADA software developed by Beijing WellinControl Technology Development that could be used by an attacker to execute code.

According to Threatpost, the hole in WellinControl's Kingview software was patched in December. However, China's Computer Emergency Response Team (CNCERT) admitted to Threatpost that it initially missed an e-mail from Beresford revealing the issue in September. CNCERT reportedly became aware of the bug after the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team notified it.

Also in the area of vulnerabilities, Microsoft issued a small Patch Tuesday update Jan. 11 to start off the year. The company addressed a total of three vulnerabilities in Windows, and added a new workaround for an unpatched vulnerability in Internet Explorer that the company warned users about in December.

eWEEK also highlighted a number of presentations coming at the Black Hat DC conference, which runs from today until Jan. 19. Among the presentations is one dealing with specialized software running over Amazon's cloud services that can be used to crack passwords on wireless networks. According to Thomas Roth, a security consultant with Lanworks AG, WPA-PSK, the most commonly used encryption for wireless networks, can be cracked if the attacker has enough powerful computers testing password combinations.

His password-cracking software uses a "brute force" attack to decipher passwords. Roth has said his aim is to convince network administrators that WPA-PSK is not strong enough, and they should be using stronger encryption algorithms.

"Once you are in, you can do everything you can do if you are connected to the network," he said.

Other Black Hat DC research includes a look at SAP application security and advanced techniques for stealing data.