CardSpace "hacked"?

I'm definately amongst the last ones to join the crowd blaming German Universities to lag behind international standards with regards to their educational program, especially in the fields of technology and computer sciences. But reading this press release, issued by the Faculty of Network and Data Security at University Bochum (sorry, the English version of their website seems to not work), makes me think.

The press release says, that two students of said faculty "broke" Microsoft's CardSpace through some kind of man-in-the-middle-attack, where they took over an existing session between a user authenticated with an InformationCard and Microsoft's InfoCard sandbox in manipulating a DNS server. Reading through the description of this "attack" shows, that the sophisticated part of their work was to manually change the DNS settings of their client computer in a way, that it resolved webadresses through an internal DNS service within their institute (where they have admin access to) which they had manipulated before in adding a round robin entry for the sandbox server, redirecting every second client request to an evil system, which then stole the session token.

So, what are the learnings from this intended act of creative distruction? Yes, once again we learn (what we have known for decades now), that without a proper client certificate, man-in-the-middle-attacks are possible, independently from the authentication methods and tools used, and that SSL/TLS provide means to avoid the risk of such attacks, as well independently from the authentication methods and tools in place.

It is great that University Bochum is teaching their students how these things work and eventually, we may have a generation of well educated IT experts knowing how to make corporate IT infrastructures and the Internet more secure. Maybe, they should add some HTML training courses to their timetable as well. If you look at this description of a "hacker course" that university is offering, some nice error messages coming from malformed HTML are displayed, like this one:

System Message: WARNING/2 (<string>, line 11) Block quote ends without a blank line; unexpected unindent.

But what is the message behind that press release saying that University Bochum students broke "Microsoft's Identity Metasystem CardSpace"? Just to feed some outdated opinion about Microsoft producing error-prawn and insecure Software? To my opinion, this is not enough for some productive discussion on how to increase security.



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