The Israeli researchers who last week discovered a VPN bypass bug in Android’s Jelly Bean 4.3 build have done some further testing and said the vulnerability also affects Android’s most recent variety of the operating system, KitKat 4.4.
Like the Jelly Bean bypass bug, this vulnerability allows a malicious app to bypass a VPN configuration to redirect traffic to another network address.
Since KitKat has a modified security implementation the researchers were unable to use the same vulnerability code as they used for Jelly Bean, but were able to find one that worked. The vulnerability relies on getting a malicious app to bypass VPN configuration without needing root permission, to “redirect secure communications to a different network address.”
Dudu Mimran, the CTO of Cyber Security Labs, a division of Ben Gurion University in Be-er Sheva, Israel, initially discussed the Jelly Bean bug last week in a disclosure report.
Just like with that vulnerability, Mimran reports that the communications that pass between the VPN configuration on KitKat are done in clear text and without encryption, unbeknownst to the user.
The researchers have outlined their exploit in a video, first pointing out the build (4.4.2 in this case) before going on to trigger the exploit, connecting to the VPN and demonstrating how to collect sensitive SMTP information via a packet capturing tool.
According to the researchers, the way the KitKat vulnerability works borrows a bit from another vulnerability they found last year in Samsung’s Knox security platform. That vulnerability allowed an attacker to intercept communication between Knox and the outside files on Samsung S4 devices, and in turn, bypass Knox
Samsung and Google dismissed Ben Gurion and Cyber Security Labs’ Knox findings earlier this month claiming the exploit “uses Android network functions in an unintended way” and that the research presented was not a bug or flaw, but a classic man in the middle (MitM) attack. In a public response penned by the two firms, it was stressed that “Android provides built-in VPN and support for third-party VPN solutions to protect data” and that using either of them would “have prevented an attack based on a user-installed local application.” Cyber Security Labs countered Google and Samsung’s opinions with their own response last week.
So far the group has reported both VPN issues to Google via its vulnerability reporting tools but has yet to hear any other than the company is still looking into it. Given Google and Samsung’s response to the group’s Knox discovery, it should be interesting to see what they have to say once the dust settles.
Cyber Security Labs has clarified in the past that follows what it calls a “Responsible Full Disclosure Policy.” In situations like these it notifies the public of each issue it finds, without disclosing critical details that could lead someone to recreate the attack, and updates their blog with the company’s input throughout.
Java-related security issues have remained relatively quiet during the past few months, especially after a rocky start to 2013 seemingly had one Java flaw after another in the news.
Things might be starting to ramp up again with the discovery of a cross-platform Java-based botnet.
Researchers at Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research and Analysis Team reported today their analysis of HEUR:Backdoor.Java.Agent.a, a malicious Java application that infects machines for the purpose of building a DDoS botnet.
The botnet communicates over IRC and can carry out distributed denial of service attacks using either HTTP or UDP flood attacks.
Researcher Anton Ivanov said today that the malicious Java application is capable of running on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X machines, and that the malware exploits a patched Java vulnerability, CVE-2013-2465.
The vulnerability is found in Java 7 u21 and earlier, as well as on different versions of Java 6 and 5. An exploit could allow an attacker to remotely run code on compromised machines through a bypass of the Java sandbox leading to disruption of service and information disclosure. The bug was patched as part of Oracle’s June 2013 Critical Patch Update.
Ivanov said one of the more notable features of the bot sample he analyzed as its use of the PircBot open framework for communication over IRC.
“The malware includes all the [Java] classes needed for the purpose,” Ivanov said. PircBot is a Java-based framework used to write IRC bots.
A passage on the Jibble website which hosts PircBot says: “PircBot allows you to perform a variety of fun tasks on IRC, but it is also used for more serious applications by the US Navy, the US Air Force, the CIA (unconfirmed), several national defence agencies, and inside the Azureus bittorrent client. But don’t let that put you off – it’s still easy to use!”
Once the bot infects a machine and launches, it copies itself into the autostart directories for the various platforms it supports, giving it persistence at startup for each. It then establishes a backdoor connection to the attackers and generates a unique identifier for each machine it compromises. Ivanov said it then connects to an IRC server and joins a channel that is predefined in the bot, awaiting commands.
The attacker uses this channel to specify not only whether it should use an HTTP or UDP flood attack, but also specifies a number of parameters for an attack, including the target’s IP address, port number over which the attack is carried out, attack duration, and how many threads are to be used in the attack, Ivanov said.
Complicating matters for researchers, the botnet uses the Zelix Klassmaster obfuscator.
“In addition to obfuscating bytecode, Zelix encrypts string constants,” Ivanov said. “Zelix generates a different [encryption] key for each class—which means that in order to decrypt all the strings in the application, you have to analyze all the classes in order to find the decryption keys.”
This is not the first time Kaspersky researchers have run into a Java exploit for CVE-2013-2465. A Java exploit called new.jar that as part of the NetTraveler espionage campaign also went after this particular Java vulnerability, dropping a backdoor onto victimized machines.
NetTraveler was publicly disclosed in June and another update was provided in September. The malware targeted diplomats, activists, government agencies and the scientific research community. The first version unveiled by Kaspersky researchers targeted Microsoft Office vulnerabilities; a second wave targeted this Java vulnerability. The NetTraveler attackers used watering hole attacks, compromising Uyghur-related websites to drop malware on machines that steals Office document files, as well as design documents done on Corel Draw or AutoCAD files.
As the noise and drama surrounding the NSA surveillance leaks and its central character, Edward Snowden, have continued to grow in the last few months, many people and organizations involved in the story have taken great pains to line up on either side of the traitor/hero line regarding Snowden’s actions. While the story has continued to evolve and become increasingly complex, the opinions and rhetoric on either side has only grown more strident and inflexible, leaving no room for nuanced opinions or the possibility that Snowden perhaps is neither a traitor nor a hero but something else entirely.
When the first stories based on the documents Snowden stole from the NSA began appearing last June, the reactions from those in the security and privacy community were strong and completely predictable for the most part. Many privacy advocates and people involved in security and civil liberty causes praised Snowden’s actions, saying that he had performed a tremendous service for Americans, as well as other users of the Internet around the world, by revealing the scope of the NSA’s surveillance operations and its alleged abuses of power. That sentiment has gained more supporters along the way, with hugely powerful organizations adding their voices to the pro-Snowden chorus. Earlier this month, the editorial board of The New York Times said that Snowden deserved clemency from criminal prosecution and that his actions were “clearly justified”.
“Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service,” the Times editorial says.
The anti-Snowden camp has been just as loud, however. NSA director Keith Alexander, President Barack Obama and members of Congress have decried Snowden’s actions, saying he has compromised the NSA’s ability to collect foreign intelligence and harmed national security. Some have even gone so far as to say that Snowden had endangered the lives of U.S. troops and probably also had been a mole for a foreign power. Robert Gates, the former secretary of the Defense Department, said in an interview earlier this month with PBS that he considered Snowden to be a traitor who should face severe consequences for his actions.
“I think that the revelations have done a lot of damage,” Gates said in the interview. “I think he’s a traitor.”
In some ways, the people pushing the Snowden-as-traitor narrative have a decided advantage here. This group comprises politicians, intelligence officials, lawmakers and others whose opinions carry the implicit power and weight of their offices. Whatever one thinks of Obama, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Alexander, they are among the more powerful men on earth and their public pronouncements by definition are important. If one of them declares Snowden to be a traitor or says that he should spend the rest of his life in prison for his actions, there is a sizable portion of the population who accepts that as fact.
That is not necessarily the case on the other side of the argument. However, many members of both the hero and traitor crowds formed their opinions reflexively, aligning themselves with the voices they support and then standing pat, regardless of the revelation of any new facts or evidence. They take the bits and pieces of Snowden’s story arc that fit with their own philosophy, use them to bolster their arguments and ignore the things that don’t help. This, of course, is in no way unique to the Snowden melodrama. It is a fact of life in today’s hyper-fragmented and hype-driven media environment, a climate in which strident opinions that fit on the CNN ticker or in a tweet have all but destroyed the possibility of nuanced discourse.
Snowden himself has provided plenty of evidence that things are quite a bit muddier than they may seem. Though he started by revealing NSA collection programs that some judges have now declared illegal, such as the metadata program, more recent leaks have exposed legitimate intelligence operations against foreign adversaries. How do those revelations fit with the hero storyline? And how do acknowledgements from Obama and some lawmakers that the NSA may have overstepped its bounds and needs to be reined in fit with the traitor narrative?
But people aren’t allowed to change their minds anymore. Saying that there may be some middle ground or grey area is seen as a sign of weakness, of moving off the party line. There is no greater crime in American media today than not having an opinion set in stone. You’ll be branded a flip-flopper and forever exiled from the lucrative talking head circuit. And then how will you sell your memoir or your motivational speeches?
The race to label Snowden as either a traitor or a hero has been counterproductive and done absolutely nothing to advance the far more important discussion around reforming intelligence collection or the fact that the Internet itself should now be considered compromised. Few things in life are entirely one thing or another. In the end, whether Snowden wears a black hat or a white one matters far less than what comes from his actions.
Image from Flickr photos of Duncan Hull.
A gag order has been eased that prevented technology and telecommunications companies from reporting requests for customer data made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
The move comes on the heels of announced surveillance reforms by President Obama on Jan. 17. Obama, during an address to the Justice Department, promised changes as to how long requests from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court could be kept secret and how they could be reported. Technology companies such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and others had banded together several times to petition Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder for greater transparency around these types of requests.
A Justice Department ruling released last night provided companies with two reporting options, according to a letter from Deputy Attorney General James Cole to the general counsels of Yahoo, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Google and Facebook.
The first option brings FISA reporting in line with reporting of National Security Letters in that companies will be able to report the number of FISA orders for content, non-content, as well as the number of customer accounts affected for each in bands of 1,000 requests. The reporting restrictions around National Security Letters were eased last summer.
Reports may be published every six months, however, reporting on national security orders issued against data collected by new company products and services must be delayed two years.
The second option allows companies to report all national security requests, NSLs or FISA orders, and the number of customer accounts affected with exact numbers up to 250 requests, and thereafter in bands of 250.
CloudFlare, a company that optimizes Web traffic through a cloud-based service, wasted no time in providing its transparency report in accordance with the new order. CloudFlare reported 0-249 National Security Letter orders received impacting 0-249 accounts.
Apple also issued a transparency report on national security orders, reporting 0-249 total orders received affecting 0-249 customer accounts. Apple also reported 927 law enforcement requests on 2,330 accounts. Apple said that it complied with 81 percent of account requests where some data was disclosed.
“This data represents every U.S. national security order for data about our customers regardless of geography,” Apple said in a statement. “We did not receive any orders for bulk data. The number of accounts involved in national security orders is infinitesimal relative to the hundreds of millions of accounts registered with Apple.”
Apple was among the technology companies that on several occasions requested additional leeway in reporting national security orders. The companies argued that the ban violated their respective First Amendment to free speech and harmed their ability to maintain trustworthy relationships with customers. LinkedIn went so far as to call the ban unconstitutional in September.
Companies balked at the government’s initial concession to allow reporting in buckets of 1,000 requests, arguing that it would misrepresent the state of affairs for smaller companies that likely would not receive thousands of requests for national security orders. The companies worried that reporting in bulk would create the impression that the number of orders received would be much higher than reality, i.e., a company that received only 10 requests would have to report that as 0-999.
“The information permitted under these measures would be misleading, would distort the public’s understanding of the actual number of government requests received, would reduce rather than increase transparency, and would deplete rather than enhance trust in the companies, the industry and the government,” LinkedIn wrote in an amicus brief with a California court of appeals in September.
CloudFlare, for example, said that the number of orders it received affects fewer than 0.02 percent of its customers.
“We have long felt that the arguments in support of restricting the disclosure of NSLs to be flawed,” said CloudFlare counsel Kenneth R. Carter in a statement. “We see no threat to national security by acknowledging the program or the number of orders a particular company has received. Further, it is frustrating that most assume the program to be widespread and that tech companies receive NSLs on a daily basis.”
Hasbro[.]com, a leading toy and game distributor in the United States, is infected and serving malware to visitors of the site. Researchers at Barracuda Networks said the site remained infected as of this morning and Hasbro has not responded to an email from the security firm disclosing the issue.
The Java-based attack is similar to one conducted against popular humor website cracked[.]com, which was found in November to also be hosting a drive-by download attack, and as of two weeks ago, was again serving up malware in drive-by attacks.
Like Cracked, Hasbro is a popular website that, based on traffic analysis from Alexa.com from 2013, gets upwards of 215,000 daily visitors. Barracuda estimates that given current Java installations and patching levels, the site could potentially be infecting up to 20,000 visitors a day. While the Cracked and Hasbro attacks don’t seem to be related, Barracuda research scientist Daniel Peck said, the possibility exists that these compromises are recruiting zombie endpoints for a botnet.
“That’s a lot of the motivation for compromising desktop systems for building a botnet, exfiltrating individual data and so forth,” Peck said. “There are a ton of different options [an attacker] can use to monetize a compromised system.”
Barracuda’s automated detection systems said Hasbro[.]com was serving malware on four previous occasions this month: Jan 10, 11, 14 and 20. The site is sending Java-based browser exploits compromising as many as three vulnerabilities dating back to 2012.
“We didn’t see any indicators of it being any known exploit kits,” Peck said. “It seems like it may be a one-off.”
When a visitor lands on Hasbro’s website, the exploits attack the browser and make a backdoor connection to a command and control server. Barracuda made several packet capture files available for analysis of the malware; 27 of 50 vendors were able to detect the malware, according to VirusTotal. The infected browser is sent on several hops, including one that uses HTTPS to obfuscate a redirection to ahnc[.]blockscheine[.]com. Barracuda said on its blog that malicious domain serves a number of Java exploits, which if successful install the malicious payload.
“It’s garden-variety installing arbitrary code on your systems and taking control and doing anything it needs to,” Peck said. “Honestly, I don’t think anything stands out too much. The biggest reason we put the post up about it is because it’s a well-known website. We’ve got our automated systems to find these compromised sites all the time. When we see something that’s common enough that people need to be warned about, it’s worth talking about.”
Barracuda has also recently reported on compromises involving php.net as well as Cracked, which Peck said was compromised again after the initial infection was cleaned up after it was reported in November.
“It’s a very similar attack,” Peck said. “It’s not the same payload and it used a different set of compromised servers inside, so it’s possibly a different group, or possibly someone’s gotten in there very deeply and every now and then they’ll turn it on and avoid being rooted out completely and still be able to use that traffic. With a site like Cracked or any of these other sites that get so much [traffic] a day, you can do quite a bit to build up your botnet.”
A group of six Congressmen have asked President Barack Obama to remove James Clapper as director of national intelligence as a result of his misstatements to Congress about the NSA’s dragnet data-collection programs. The group, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), said that Clapper’s role as DNI “is incompatible with the goal of restoring trust in our security programs”.
In March, Clapper, the country’s highest-ranking intelligence official, testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee, and was asked by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) whether the NSA collects information in bulk on Americans. The hearing took place three months before the Edward Snowden leaks began, and Clapper responded that the agency does not collect such information, at least not knowingly.
“No sir,” Clapper said at the time. “Not wittingly.”
In early July, weeks after the Snowden leaks began, Clapper sent a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the intelligence committee, saying that he had made a mistake in his testimony in March. Clapper said that he was confused by Wyden’s question and thought the senator was asking him about a different program.
“That said, I realized later that Senator Wyden was asking about Section 215 metadata collection rather than content collection. Thus my response was clearly erroneous–for which I apologize,” Clapper said.
Clapper is the former head of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and has been DNI since 2010. In their letter to Obama, the group of Congressmen calling for his ouster said that he lied to Congress and should no longer be in office.
“The continued role of James Clapper as Director of National Intelligence is incompatible with the goal of restoring trust in our security programs and ensuring the highest level of transparency. Director Clapper continues to hold his position despite lying to Congress, under oath, about the existence of bulk data collection programs in March 2013. Asking Director Clapper, and other federal intelligence officials who misrepresented programs to Congress and the courts, to report to you on needed reforms and the future role of government surveillance is not a credible solution,” the letter from Issa, Ted Poe, Paul Broun, Doug Collins, Walter Jones and Alan Grayson says.
The Congressmen sent the letter to Obama on Monday, 10 days after the president gave a much-anticipated speech on the NSA’s role and some new limits he wants to place on the scope of its data collection. Security experts and privacy advocates were not enthusiastic about the changes Obama announced, which included a recommendation that a third party hold phone metadata records, which are now stored by the NSA.
One issue that Obama didn’t address in his speech was the agency’s alleged subversion of cryptographic standards and algorithms. In their letter, Issa and his colleagues urged Obama to address this issue.
“While the collection of bulk telephone records (meta-data) under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act has understandably garnered the most significant public debate over government overreach, considerable concern has been raised about the govemment’s exploitation of the Internet through circumvention of encryption. The Review Group recognized the potential hazard created by exposing vulnerabilities in encryption data and recommended that your Administration support, rather than undermine, efforts to protect the integrity of these systems.3 However, your January 17′th speech failed to address the future of encryption related programs. Internet freedom is indispensible, and reports regarding the govemment’s treatment of encryption protocols underscore the need to provide leadership and clarity beyond the collection of telephone records,” the letter says.
Just like it’s done time and time before, the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) broke into yet another media outlet late last week, hacking a handful of social media accounts belonging to CNN, including seven Twitter accounts and two Facebook accounts.
CNN admitted the accounts were compromised in a post Friday morning but insisted that the SEA, a group of pro-Syrian regime hackers, only had access for “minutes” and that the accounts were quickly secured.
Microsoft made a similar admission Friday, acknowledging that some of its employees’ social media and email accounts had recently been hit by phishers.
Twitter accounts for CNN’s Security Clearance blog, along with blogs for Political Ticket, The Lead, Security Clearance, The Situation Room and Crossfire were hacked while the Facebook pages for CNN and Security Clearance were also compromised in the attack.
A report by CNN on Monday that purported industrial scale “systematic torture and killing” by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime drew the ire of the SEA. Officials from Syria’s Justice Ministry shot down the report Wednesday, deeming the attached photos “fake,” leading CNN to print a correction but that didn’t stop the group from carrying out the hack Thursday.
The group called out the news agency following the attack on its official Twitter account, writing that it would “not stop to pursue these liars and will expose them and their methods for the world to see.”
“Tonight, the #SEA decided to retaliate against #CNN’s viciously lying reporting aimed at prolonging the suffering in #Syria,” another tweet said.
Elsewhere on Friday a blog post by Adrienne Hall, the General Manager for Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing Group admitted that a “select number” of the Microsoft employees had fallen victim to phishing attacks that granted hackers access to social media and email accounts.
The company claimed “documents associated with law enforcement inquiries” – information that it sounds like would be included in one of Microsoft’s semi-annual transparency reports – were at the center of the hack. Hall’s post didn’t elaborate on the attacks, declining to specify both the type of phishing attacks and the ‘validity’ of the stolen emails or documents.
Microsoft’s statement may come off as vague but the admission comes just a few weeks after the SEA hijacked of a handful of social media entities belonging to the company to spread its anti-surveillance agenda, suggesting the two incidents may be related.
Hall claims that Microsoft’s investigation is still continuing but if customer information involving those reports winds up being compromised, the company “will take appropriate action.”
The SEA took over Skype’s Twitter account on New Year’s Day to voice its displeasure over parent company Microsoft and its alleged involvement in NSA’s surveillance activities. The group also took aim at the Twitter and Instagram accounts of Microsoft’s Xbox support, @XBoxSupport, and its official news blog, @MSFTNews, just a week later to spread more or less the same remarks.
The SEA of course has been behind a rash of Twitter takedowns, DDoS attacks and internet vigilantism over the past several years. The group has executed well-publicized attacks on the New York Times, the Washington Post and Harvard University, just to name a few targets.
Espionage malware used in attacks against Israel, as well as Syrian activists, in the last 18 months has been linked to a new attack against Israel’s Civil Administration, the country’s governing body in the West Bank.
Researchers at Seculert reported today that samples of XtremeRAT, a data-stealing remote access Trojan, were found on as many as 15 machines, including some belonging to the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, which is responsible for entry and work permits from West Bank to Israel. Aviv Raff, Seculert CTO, said spear phishing emails from a Gmail account purporting to be the Israeli Shin-Bet, Israel’s Security Agency, were used against the Civil Administration.
The lure was a publicly available Hebrew-language Shin-Bet report on recent terror attacks and an attachment linked to the late prime minister Ariel Sharon, discovered Jan. 15, four days after his death.
“Closer examination of the spear phishing emails revealed that the attackers are not native Hebrew speakers and most likely copied and altered incomplete text to create the subject of the email.” Raff said on the company’s blog. “Evidence shows that the word ‘poisoned’ was then added with incorrect grammar to the end of this phrase as seen below.”
XtremeRAT arrived as a PDF in these attacks; in November 2012, the malware was in a Microsoft Word document in an attack against a politician.
The malware connects to a command and control server in the United States, according to Raff, using HTTP over port 1863 to send stolen data to the attackers. The attackers had remote access to receive data and send more malware to infected machines.
“This isn’t the first and it most definitely won’t be the last time we see Xtreme RAT used by cybercriminals, hacktivists or nation-states. In terms of this particular targeted attack, the nature of the compromised organizations could have implications outside cyberspace,” Raff said.
XtremeRAT is a Trojan commonly used by Middle East attackers, including the Syrian Electronic Army. The SEA has claimed responsibility for a number of high-profile attacks against American media outlets, including the New York Times.
In December, researchers at Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto and the Electronic Frontier Foundation looked at malware campaigns targeting Syrian activists. Groups backing Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, of which the SEA is one, were found to be using not only XtremeRAT but also njRAT to target individuals in the Syrian resistance. The malware not only steals data but can be armed with a keylogger used to steal credentials. The lure in each case was different; one XtremeRAT campaign contained a .zip archive of a video of a man being executed.
Seculert said Palestinian hacktivists were behind the latest XtremeRAT attack on Israel. Guy Inbar, a spokesman for the Civil Administration told Reuters: “We are not commenting on it, we don’t respond to such reports.”
These are not the first targeted attacks against Israeli defense agencies. A joint research effort by Kaspersky and Seculert in 2012 uncovered the Madi malware campaign, used against high value targets with extensive spying features. The malware could be programmed to monitor computer screens, record audio and steal screenshots, keystrokes, documents and e-mail correspondence.
Mozilla has fixed a serious vulnerability in its Thunderbird email application that enables an attacker to bypass the filter in Thunderbird that prevents HTML tags from being used in messages. Exploiting the bug could give an attacker the ability to run code on a user’s machine.
The vulnerability in Thunderbird 17.0.6 can be triggered when an attacker injects HTML tags into an email message and a user then replies to or forwards the message. Once the user takes one of those actions, the attacker has the ability to run persistent scripts on the victim’s machine.
“By default, HTML tags like <script> and <iframe> are blocked in Thunderbird and get filtered immediately upon insertion however, While drafting a new email message, attackers can easily bypass the current input filters by encoding their payloads with base64 encryption and using the <object> tag and insert malicious scripts / code eg. (script / frame) within the emails and send it to the victims. The exploit gets triggered once the victim decides to reply back and clicks on the `Reply` or `Forward` Buttons,” the advisory from Vulnerability Laboratory says.
“After successfully bypassing the input filters, an attacker can inject persistent script code while writing a new email and send it to victims. Interestingly the payload gets filtered during the initial viewing mode however if the victim clicks on Reply or Forward, the exploit gets executed successfully. For a POC i will be including multiple examples in this advisory for your review. I was able to run multiple scripts generating strange behaviour on the application which can be seen in the debugging errors which I have attached along with this report.”
The vulnerability is fixed in the most recent versions of Thunderbird, and users should upgrade as soon as possible, as the bug doesn’t require much in the way of user interaction for exploitation.
“These sort of vulnerabilities can result in multiple attack vectors on the client end which may eventually result in complete compromise of the end user system. The persistent code injection vulnerability is located within the main application. Exploitation of this persistent application vulnerability requires a low or medium user interaction. Successful exploitation of the vulnerability may result in malicious script code being executed in the victims browser resulting in script code injection, persistent phishing, Client side redirects and similar client side attacks,” the advisory says.
Officials at Michaels, the large craft and home goods retailer, are investigating a potential data breach that has apparently affected an unknown number of cards used in the chain’s stores in the last few weeks. The company has released very little detail about the compromise but said that it is still investigating the incident.
The apparent intrusion at Michaels is the latest in a string of data breaches at large retailers in the last few months, a run that started with the attack on Target in the fall that compromised financial and personal information of as many as 110 million customers. That breach reportedly involves malware being installed on point-of-sale devices in a number of the company’s stores. There also was an intrusion at Neiman Marcus around the same time, beginning in July and lasting through October and resulting in the compromise of data belonging to 1.1 million people.
The scope of the Michaels breach is unknown at this point, and company officials said they’re still not sure whether the attack was on their network or somewhere else in the payment ecosystem.
“We are concerned there may have been a data security attack on Michaels that may have affected our customers’ payment card information and we are taking aggressive action to determine the nature and scope of the issue,” said Chuck Rubin, CEO of Michaels. “While we have not confirmed a compromise to our systems, we believe it is in the best interest of our customers to alert them to this potential issue so they can take steps to protect themselves, for example, by reviewing their payment card account statements for unauthorized charges.”
“Throughout our 40-year history, our customers have always been our number one priority and we deeply regret any inconvenience this may cause. The privacy and security of our customers’ information is of critical importance to us and we are focused on addressing this issue.”
Retailers always have been a prime target for attackers, thanks to their huge databases of customer information and payment-card data. There has been a push in the security industry to shore up the security of retailers’ networks, especially focusing on the use of encryption. But attackers have been able to find ways around these obstacles. One of the interesting aspects of the Target data breach that has attracted a lot of attention is the attackers’ use of malware known as BlackPOS that has the ability to grab payment data from the POS terminals just before it’s encrypted. That capability defeats the protection that end-to-end encryption is meant to offer, allowing attackers to circumvent one of the key defenses retailers employ.
Image from Flickr photos of Aranami.
Dennis Fisher and Mike Mimoso talk about the big security stories of the last couple of weeks, including the developments in the Target data breach, the president’s speech on NSA surveillance reforms and SCADA security woes.http://threatpost.com/files/2014/01/digital_underground_142.mp3
It was only going to be a matter of time before someone figured out a way past Snapchat’s new CAPTCHA verification method. Just one day after the photo sharing application announced its latest security measure, one researcher claimed Wednesday that he was able to hack it with as few as 100 lines of C++ code.
Steven Hickson, a computer engineering grad from Clemson University wrote on his personal blog this week that it only took him about 30 minutes to come up with a way around the company’s new people verification system and that it works “with 100 percent accuracy.”
The system is based on identifying a series of nine illustrations, right – some have a white ghost, the app’s mascots, some don’t. To make sure a new user is human, Snapchat has the user click on however many of the boxes contain a ghost.
“This is an incredibly bad way to verify someone is a person because it is such an easy problem for a computer to solve,” Hickson wrote on his Computer Vision Blog Wednesday.
Hickson used open source code initially developed by Intel, OpenCV (Open Source Computer Vision Library) and a segmentation method known as simple thresholding to get his computer on the right track. OpenCV assists in “real-time computer vision” and thresholding helps the computer differentiate whichever pixels you’re interested in from the rest of them.
Hickson also used algorithms like SURF, an interest point detector and descriptor, and FLANN, a library for performing fast approximate nearest neighbor searches to perform a “uniqueness test to determine that multiple keypoints in the training image weren’t being singularly matched in the testing image.”
Basically Hickson gave his computer an idea of what the Snapchat ghost looks like and it went to work, searching for corresponding points in Snapchat’s puzzle and matching ghosts to ghosts.
“With very little effort, my code was able to ‘find the ghost’ in the above example with 100% accuracy,” Hickson said, calling what he did “one of the easier tasks in computer vision.
Hickson, who posted the code he used on Github, mentions there are several different ways he could have gone about his experiment. Histogram of Oriented Gradients, or HOG, is another form of code used for object detection that lets computers see the world, so to speak.
It’s another security misstep by the much-buzzed about Snapchat.
Late last year researchers divulged the details regarding two privacy bugs in the application’s ‘Find Friends’ functionality that hackers quickly used to leak 4.6 million of the service’s usernames and partial phone numbers. The hackers started a site, SnapchatDB.info, to host the information but that site has since been taken down.
The new verification system was the latest move by the company to shore up the app’s security.
Just a few weeks ago the company apologized for their error and pushed out a new update of the app that requires users to verify their phone number before using the ‘Find Friends’ feature and gave users the ability to opt-out from linking their phone numbers with their usernames.
Perhaps the biggest condemnation of President Obama’s address last Friday announcing reforms to the NSA’s surveillance programs was his failure to mention any of the agency’s alleged involvement in subverting cryptography standards and the impact that has had on the trustworthiness of products built on those baselines.
A long list of the nation’s top cryptographers and security influencers took a stand today against the government’s surveillance activities and subversion of security technology via an open letter. The experts condemn the intelligence community’s practices and point out that tampering with crypto standards via the insertion of backdoors and the tapping of commercial links between data centers belonging to large Internet providers not only damages the privacy and civil liberties of Americans, but opens the door for malicious hackers—criminal and nation-state—to exploit the same holes used by the NSA.
“Indiscriminate collection, storage, and processing of unprecedented amounts of personal information chill free speech and invite many types of abuse, ranging from mission creep to identity theft,” the experts wrote in the letter. “These are not hypothetical problems; they have occurred many times in the past.”
The co-signers of the letter include some security and computing legends such as Steve Bellovin, Niels Ferguson, Ed Felten, Ron Rivest, Bruce Schneier and dozens of others. The letter calls on the government to be transparent about its activities and “resist the deployment of mass surveillance programs in advance of sound technical and social controls,” the letter said. The experts also lent their endorsement to a movement called Reform Government Surveillance, which was unwrapped in December.
A group of eight technology giants, including Facebook, Apple and Google, make up the Reform Government Surveillance coalition, which proposed five principles in an open letter of its own to Obama.
Those principles start with limits on the government’s ability to compel service providers to disclose user data and stop bulk collection of Internet communication. It also calls for intelligence agencies to operate under a clear, transparent legal framework that includes independent reviewing courts, which is currently not the case with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The group asks the government to allow data to cross borders without having to worry about legal loopholes that enable government to access data stored outside the country. They also ask that governments work together to avoid conflicting laws and develop transparent legal frameworks under which governments agree to operate when it comes to requests for user data.
“The choice is not whether to allow the NSA to spy. The choice is between a communications infrastructure that is vulnerable to attack at its core and one that, by default, is intrinsically secure for its users,” the letter said. “Every country, including our own, must give intelligence and law-enforcement authorities the means to pursue terrorists and criminals, but we can do so without fundamentally undermining the security that enables commerce, entertainment, personal communication, and other aspects of 21st-century life.”
Obama’s speech last week called for immediate and longterm reforms to the NSA’s bulk collection of phone call metadata. The program would end as it exists today, but the president stopped short of ending the agency’s collection of data, which it says it uses to map connections between foreigners thought to be involved in terrorism. The dragnet, however, also sweeps up communications to and from Americans who are not terror suspects, something that has outraged privacy advocates.
A class of SCADA vulnerabilities discussed at a recent conference is getting attention not only for the risks they pose to master control systems at electric utilities, but also for illuminating a dangerous gap in important critical infrastructure regulations.
Researchers Adam Crain and Chris Sistrunk demonstrated several weaknesses in vendor implementations of the DNP3 communication protocol in a number of products during the S4 Conference last week. The flaws, many of which have been patched, demonstrate how an attacker could target a non-critical, serial-based piece of field equipment at an electrical substation and knock out visibility over all of a utility’s substations. The vulnerabilities in some DNP3 implementations could allow attacks against master control systems from a field device by sending a malicious frame, or message to the control system.
“What’s different about our research is that most have focused on actual field devices—devices in substations or devices on poles—and 50 percent of our testing was on the master systems, things that communicate to all of the field devices and bring that data back to the operations center,” Crain said. “The difference is, if you had access, here you could knock out visibility to a whole system, hundreds of substations, by affecting one or two servers that are monitoring all of that.”
An attacker would need to be targeting a particular utility and gain physical access to a substation in order to drop code on a serial-based field device. While regulations spelled out by the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) cover TCP/IP communication between devices, the same isn’t true for serial-based communication.
“Where serial lines come into a master station, for instance, they won’t have the same level of protection that a TCP/IP-based connection would have,” said Michael Toecker, an ICS security consultant and engineer at Digital Bond. “There’s a complete regulatory blind spot there in the current version of the NERC standards.”
Toecker said the current NERC standards were developed shortly after the 2003 blackout in parts of the United States and they haven’t been updated according to new threats and vulnerabilities since their full implementation in the 2006 timeframe. And until the Stuxnet attack in 2010, Toecker said, there had been a relative quiet period around electric utility security. Stuxnet, however, has sparked a renewed interest in critical infrastructure cybersecurity.
“I think Stuxnet proved that: 1) there was a case for going after industrial control systems; 2) there was an impact in going after industrial control systems; and 3) showed that the devices and protocols were a valid target,” Toecker said. “And that caused interest in the security research community and they found this place is rife with vulnerabilities, low-hanging fruit.”
Crain and Sistrunk hope their research, which stems from a fuzzing tool developed by Crain called Project Robus, will spark a renewed interest in updating this part of the NERC standards. Plenty of work has been done investigating SCADA and ICS vulnerabilities, including Project SHINE, which is an enumeration of vulnerable control system equipment exposed online and reachable using the Shodan search engine. Those projects, however, don’t necessarily focus on master control systems, rather they concentrate on smaller field devices that could have a Web-enabled interface that is protected with just a default or weak credential.
Some of the non-critical devices Crain and Sistrunk talked about at S4 rely largely on physical security to keep them safe, and are not covered by NERC regulations. Initiatives such as the Smart Grid are all about pushing intelligence away from substations and into areas where it may not be practical to have adequate physical security.
“No camera. No fence. Just a lock pick away from somebody getting at that cabinet and then affecting visibility for a huge subset of the distribution system,” Crain said.
DNP3 is the primary SCADA protocol used for electricity distribution in North America, Crain said. The majority of electric utilities use the protocol for some portion of their SCADA infrastructure, pulling measurements from field devices and the ability to send controls to the field, he said.
“As far as the digital controls on critical assets that communicate to random substations, if it’s done over IP, there’s capability there to put in place protections, things like deep packet inspection,” Toecker said. “The problem exists on the serial side; I’ve yet to see any technology that looks directly at the bare serial protocol and looks for these types of events. There are ways to re-architect systems to look at these things, I’m not sure everyone’s done it.”
Crain and Sistrunk’s research has resulted in 15 advisories being issued by the ICS-CERT, all around DNP3 and all found using Crain’s Project Robus fuzzer; the fuzzer will be released as open source, Crain said, and said that soon it will also be scanning for other protocols beyond DNP3.
“We have not found anything that would suggest there is anything wrong with the specification,” Crain said. “These are all bugs in implementations from various vendors. There were two vendors we tested out of the 30 products where we didn’t find any detectable vulnerabilities. So at this point, it’s possible to implement the standard without a security or robustness defect.”
In the meantime, Toecker said the industry is still in the beginning stages of creating a standard for serial-base network security for electric utilities. NERC, Toecker said, takes its direction from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which has mandated discussions on the topic, but a new set of regs could be as far as a year away.
“We’re in the very beginning stages of addressing these concerns from FERC,” Toecker said. “Stay tuned.”
The attackers who penetrated the Neiman Marcus network last year were on the network for at least three months and made off with credit and debit card data belonging to 1.1 million customers. The company said that the data breach was the result of a compromise that began in mid-July and ran until the end of October.
A company statement said that Visa, MasterCard and Discover cards were affected, including debit cards, and that at least 2,400 cards have been used fraudulently at this point.
“While the forensic and criminal investigations are ongoing, we know that malicious software (malware) was clandestinely installed on our system. It appears that the malware actively collected or “scraped” credit card data from July 16, 2013 to October 30, 2013. During those months, approximately 1,100,000 customer payment cards could have potentially been visible to the malware. To date, Visa, MasterCard and Discover have notified us that approximately 2,400 unique customer payment cards used at Neiman Marcus and Last Call stores were subsequently used fraudulently,” the statement said.
The Neiman Marcus breach is about one-hundredth the magnitude of the Target data breach in terms of the number of cards that were affected, but signs point to similar attack vectors. Target officials have confirmed that malware was found on the company’s point-of-sale systems and the attackers were able to scrape card and PIN data from the terminals just before it was encrypted. Security researchers have said that the malware used in the Target attack appears to be a variant of the BlackPOS malware.
Neiman Marcus did not say specifically that POS malware was used in the intrusion on its network, but its statement points to a similar attack methodology. In an FAQ, the company said “Your PIN was never at risk because we do not use PIN pads in our stores.”
The company said that it is working with law enforcement and a forensics firm to investigate the intrusion on its network.
“We informed federal law enforcement agencies and began working actively with the U.S. Secret Service, the payment brands, our merchant processor, a leading investigations, intelligence and risk management firm, and a leading payment brand-approved forensics firm to investigate the situation. On January 1st, the forensics firm discovered evidence that the company was the victim of a criminal cyber-security intrusion and that some customers’ cards were possibly compromised as a result. At this time, the malicious software we have found has been disabled,” the statement said.
Image from Flickr photos of Becky Mullane.