5 IT lessons to learn from ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’

Rogue One isn’t just a Star Wars story. It’s an Information Security story.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” isn’t just a tale of scrappy rebels fighting against an evil Empire. With the issues it raises, including device authentication, asset management, and privilege control, it’s also a story about information security. Well, more like a cautionary tale.

The Empire we love to hate has exhaust-port-size holes in the way it conducts its secret affairs. Seriously, it’s no wonder the Empire’s efforts to keep its plans secret were defeated by a bitter ex-convict with daddy issues. We spoke with technologists who identified five of the security flaws in “Rogue One” and offered advice on how to better run a system in the here and now.

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1. The Empire didn’t secure K-2SO

K-2SO, an Imperial battle droid, was captured, reprogrammed to work against the Empire, and turned into a snarky-comeback machine.

So why didn’t this expensive piece of military hardware brick itself like a poorly jailbroken iPhone the moment the Rebellion tampered with it?

It’s for the same reason not every device is bricked in the here and now. As principal network protocol architect Ted Lemon explains, “No hackability means no fixability. What you want is upgradability and verifiability. The basic idea is that you want to make sure that the only updates your droid takes are your updates. And you do that with code signing.” Code signing is a process that authenticates the author of software and certifies that the code hasn’t been tampered with by a third party.

The Empire did not track its assets

Bodhi Rook and the crew of Rogue One fly to Scarif in a cargo shuttle stolen by the Rebellion. When they arrive, the traffic controllers say, “You’re not listed on the arrival schedule.” Bodhi answers, “We were rerouted from Eadu Flight Station.” Had the Empire kept track of its assets, it would have known its previously missing shuttle had appeared as unexpectedly as Obi-Wan Kenobi’s force ghost.

Asset management is so important that the Center for Internet Security made it the first step in a laundry list of priorities. In a secure system, assets come appended with credentials, which restricts users based on their security levels.

If you don’t track your assets, you can’t control the associated policies. Among them: “Don’t use Dropbox or other file-sharing services on your office computer” and “Meet the approach of an unauthorized shuttle with a flight escort, followed by a trip to a debriefing/detainment room.”

The data Jyn and Cassian find is readable

Jyn and Cassian make their way to a massive data vault and grab the right file, which they then upload (more on that, below) to the Rebellion, whose line-of-business staff are immediately able to read it.

Pity the Empire didn’t use encryption utilities such as TrueCrypt, VeraCrypt, BitLocker, or Gnu Privacy Guard. The software is easy to use, difficult to hack, and perfect for users, businesses, and reigns of terror alike. But encryption is not enough; you also need a place to store the decryption keys. To minimize any possibility of codebreaking, that place should not be the same place the encrypted data is stored (for example, on a USB key itself protected by a password).

Jyn could transmit the Death Star plans off-world

In what can only be considered a catastrophic security failure—and let’s not forget Scarif is meant to be tighter than Emperor Palpatine’s fist—Jyn reaches the broadcast antenna to transmit the Death Star plans off-world,

Imperial project managers on Scarif could have blocked Jyn from turning the information free as in beer by requiring simple authentication before she was able to hit “Send.” (Although this is another example of the granular access control problem that got Jyn into the base in the first place, it’s also a question of providing extra protection around the most critical parts of the infrastructure.)

Any broadcast from this secure facility should require multifactor authentication. Using an access card and entering a PIN is a form of two-factor authentication; you need the card (a physical object) and you also need to know the PIN (something you memorized).


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