Attackers breached a University of Maryland database containing more than 300,000 student, faculty, staff, and other affiliated records on Tuesday, according to an apology issued by the university’s president, Wallace D. Loh.
While it is not clear exactly how many individuals are affected by the breach, the compromised database contained the records of every person issued a university identification at both the College Park and Shady Grove campuses since 1998. In total, the database stored 309,079 records.
The breach exposed Social Security numbers, names, dates-of-birth, and university identification numbers. As is a common motif among data breach notifications, this one also announced some information that was not exposed by the breach. Namely, no phone numbers or addresses or payment, academic, or health information was compromised.
The breach is currently under investigation, and the school – which is claiming it “was the victim of a sophisticated computer security attack” – is not commenting on the technical details of the intrusion.
“Computer forensic investigators are examining the breached files and logs to determine how our sophisticated, multilayered security defenses were bypassed,” Loh said in a statement. “Further, we are initiating steps to ensure there is no repeat of this breach.”
The university is cautioning students and others who may have been affected by the breach to use caution when exchanging personal information online. The university says it will not contact anyone via email and ask them provide personal information regarding the incident. Should anyone be contacted over they phone, they are advised to ask for a call-back number so they can verify they identity of the person attempting to contact them.
“Universities are a focus in today’s global assaults on IT systems. We recently doubled the number of our IT security engineers and analysts. We also doubled our investment in top-end security tools. Obviously, we need to do more and better, and we will.”
The University is offering one year of free credit monitoring services to anyone affected by the breach.
Calls to the University were not returned by the time of publication.
Google Chrome 33 is out, and the new version of the browser includes fixes for 28 security vulnerabilities, including a number of high-severity bugs. The company paid out more than $13,000 in rewards to researchers who reported vulnerabilities that were fixed in this release.
One of the high-priority vulnerabilities Google patched in Chrome 33 is an issue with the sandbox in Window. The company also patched a use-after-free vulnerability in the layout of Chrome. Here’s the full list of the bugs discovered by external security researchers fixed in Chrome 33:
[$2000] High CVE-2013-6652: Issue with relative paths in Windows sandbox named pipe policy. Credit to tyranid.
[$1000] High CVE-2013-6653: Use-after-free related to web contents. Credit to Khalil Zhani.
[$3000] High CVE-2013-6654: Bad cast in SVG. Credit to TheShow3511.
[$3000] High CVE-2013-6655: Use-after-free in layout. Credit to cloudfuzzer.
[$500] High CVE-2013-6656: Information leak in XSS auditor. Credit to NeexEmil.
[$1000] Medium CVE-2013-6657: Information leak in XSS auditor. Credit to NeexEmil.
[$2000] Medium CVE-2013-6658: Use-after-free in layout. Credit to cloudfuzzer.
[$1000] Medium CVE-2013-6659: Issue with certificates validation in TLS handshake. Credit to Antoine Delignat-Lavaud and Karthikeyan Bhargavan from Prosecco, Inria Paris.
 Low CVE-2013-6660: Information leak in drag and drop. Credit to bishopjeffreys.
In addition to these vulnerabilities, Google also fixed more than a dozen bugs that were discovered by the company’s internal security team. That group of bugs includes 15 high-severity flaws and two medium-level vulnerabilities.
Adobe rushed out an unscheduled Flash Player update today to counter exploits of a zero-day vulnerability in the software.
A number of national security, foreign policy and public policy websites are hosting exploits that redirect to espionage malware, including the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics, the American Research Center in Egypt and the Smith Richardson Foundation.
Those three nonprofit sites, researchers at FireEye said, are redirecting visitors to an exploit server hosting variants of the PlugX remote access Trojan. FireEye calls the campaign Operation GreedyWonk.
“This threat actor clearly seeks out and compromises websites of organizations related to international security policy, defense topics, and other non-profit sociocultural issues,” FireEye wrote in an advisory today. “The actor either maintains persistence on these sites for extended periods of time or is able to re-compromise them periodically.”
The hackers behind this campaign have resources that include access to Flash and Java zero-day exploits, FireEye said. They are targeting visitors who use these websites as a resource and those visitors are likely government or embassy employees who are at risk for data loss.
Adobe’s update today is for Flash Player 22.214.171.124 and earlier for Windows and Macintosh, and Flash 126.96.36.1996 for Linux. CVE-2014-0502 has been assigned to this vulnerability. FireEye said that the exploit targets Windows XP users, as well as Windows 7 users running an unsupported version of Java (1.6) or out of date versions of Microsoft Office 2007 or 2010. The vulnerability enables someone to remotely overwrite the vftable pointer of a Flash object to redirect code execution.
The exploit is using the Adobe Flash vulnerability to bypass ASLR and DEP protections native to Windows. It does so by building or using hard-coded return-oriented programming chains in XP and Windows 7 respectively. Upgrading to the latest versions of Java (1.7) or Office will mitigate the threat, but not patch the underlying vulnerability, FireEye said.
“By breaking the exploit’s ASLR-bypass measures, they do prevent the current in-the-wild exploit from functioning,” FireEye said.
The hackers are installing the PlugX/Kaba RAT on infected computers; the sample FireEye reported was found on Feb. 13 and compiled the day before, an indication it was purpose-built for these targets. The RAT calls out to three command and control domains, one of which, wmi.ns01[.]us, has been used in other campaigns involving PlugX and the Poison Ivy RAT. Some of the older Poison Ivy samples were found in attacks involving Flash exploits and similar defense and policy websites, including the Center for Defense Information and another using a Java exploit against the Center for European Policy Studies.
Today’s out of band patch is the second one for Flash this month.
Microsoft last night released a Fix-It tool as a temporary mitigation for a zero-day vulnerability in Internet Explorer 10 being exploited by two hacker groups against the Veterans of Foreign Wars in the U.S. as well as a French aerospace manufacturer.
IE 9 also contains the same use-after free vulnerability enabling remote code execution, but it is not being exploited, Microsoft said. Microsoft has issued Fix-It tools for a number of zero-day vulnerabilities exploited in the wild in lieu of rushing out an out-of-band patch. The company’s next scheduled Patch Tuesday security updates release is March 11, which is likely the earliest an IE update would be released.
Microsoft has been patching its maligned browser almost monthly for more than a year, including a cumulative update on Feb. 11 that patched 24 vulnerabilities, including one that was publicly disclosed.
Researchers at FireEye reported the Veterans of Foreign Wars attack last week and attributed Operation SnowMan to the same groups behind DeputyDog and Ephemeral Hydra, both of which exploited IE zero-days in watering hole attacks to distribute remote access Trojans in order to spy on targets in government, military, manufacturing and other high value industries.
FireEye found an iframe on VFW.org that used a malicious Flash object to trigger the vulnerability in IE 10. Once on a compromised machine the Flash object downloads the RAT from a command server and executes it. As in the previous attacks, a variant of Gh0stRAT, was used in the SnowMan attacks and connected to some of the same IP addresses. The exploit used in the SnowMan attacks, FireEye said, can bypass memory protection features such as Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) and Data Execution Prevention (DEP) built into Windows.
Yesterday, researchers at Seculert reported that a second group of attackers was using the same vulnerability in the Microsoft browser to impersonate the French aerospace firm and compromise visitors to its website and steal credentials. Reuters reported yesterday that the manufacturer was Snecma, an engine manufacturer. The news agency cited a source who said the malware used against Snecma targeted domains belonging to the company.
Microsoft confirmed FireEye’s finding in a technical description of the vulnerability yesterday:
Seculert CTO Aviv Raff said the second group is likely not affiliated with the Operation SnowMan gang. While exploiting the same vulnerability, the group targeting the French manufacturer used different malware. It drops a backdoor and two executables that steal information from browsing sessions; that data is sent to a command and control server, which is hosted in the U.S. Raff said the malware is signed with a valid certificate belonging to Micro Digital Inc.
The malware changes the host files on infected machines and adds several secure domains for French aerospace companies. While some pharming campaigns have gone this route, Raff said this campaign has a different goal.
“The domains that were added to the hosts file by the malware provide remote access to the employees, partners, and 3rd party vendors of a specific multinational aircraft and rocket engine manufacturer,” Raff said. “The IPs added belong to the real remote access web servers and by adding the records to the hosts file the attackers ensured that there would be no DNS connectivity issues. Whenever the infected machines connect to the remote assets, the attackers are able to steal the sensitive credentials. This is the first time we have seen a malware change a hosts file for a purpose other than fraud perpetuated by pharming or for disabling access to specific websites.”
The Internet Bug Bounty program, a cooperative effort among security experts and vendors, paid out its first $10,000 bounty this week for a serious Flash vulnerability. The flaw, which Adobe fixed in December, was a serious one that has been used in targeted attacks.
Started in November, the Internet Bug Bounty is a system set up by security researchers and backed by Microsoft and Facebook to reward researchers who disclose bugs responsibly. Both Microsoft and Facebook have their own bug bounty programs, as do many other vendors, but they cover each company’s specific products. The Internet Bug Bounty program is meant to cover some core Internet technologies such as DNS and SSL, along with widely deployed software such as Flash, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.
The group has been paying out some smaller bounties, but this is the first five-figure payout from the group, and it came for a serious vulnerability. Last week, Citizen Lab researchers reported that the Adobe Flash vulnerability was being used in targeted attacks against journalists. Interestingly, David Rude, the iDefense Labs researcher who received the bounty, didn’t report the bug directly to the IBB, but to Adobe. In fact, he didn’t even discover it himself; he saw attackers using exploits against it. Still, the IBB paid Rude the bounty as a reward for his work.
“The IBB culture is to err on the side of paying. Note that David did not discover the vulnerability himself; he discovered someone else using it. IBB culture is to look mainly at whether a given discovery or piece of research helped make us all safer. Our aim is to motivate and incentivize any high-impact work that leads to a safer internet for all,” Google security engineer Chris Evans, an adviser for the IBB, wrote in a blog post on the bounty payment.
“IBB does not want or need details of unfixed vulnerabilities — that would violate strict need-to-know handling. Once a public advisory and fix is issued, researchers or their friends may file IBB bugs to nominate their bugs for reward. Or, for important categories such as Flash or Windows / Linux kernel bugs, panel members keep an eye out for high impact disclosures and nominate on the researchers’ behalf. Because we care.”
The idea of paying researchers for bugs that they reported to other organizations–or didn’t discover directly–is a rare one in the world of bug bounties. Most companies that have such programs run them in order to get researchers to find vulnerabilities in their software, not in other companies’ software. But because the IBB is not tied to any one vendor, it has the ability to make decisions to pay researchers for work that, in Evans’s words, makes the Internet safer for everyone.
A new report from the SANS Institute warns that the push to digitize all health care records along with the emergence of HealthCare.gov and the general proliferation of electronic protected health information (ePHI) online will only exacerbate the security problems faced by those that store sensitive health care data. In other words, the report says, health care critical information assets are poorly protected and already compromised in many cases.
The “Health Care Cyberthreat Report” suggests that a compliance nightmare looms on the horizon and – more concerning yet – that the health care industry is now facing more exposure to attacks than ever before. The findings are particularly troublesome when you take into consideration that the health care industry has had a sordid history with IT security.
Sensitive health care information was never really all that secure to begin with. Health care data breaches were commonplace long before President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. In fact, the SANS Institute opens its report with the stark and startling statistic that 94 percent of all healthcare organizations admit they have been the victim of a data breach at some point. That is an incredibly high number and, like all data breach statistics, it fails to account for those companies that have been breached and aren’t fessing up to it or just don’t know about it yet.
The report examined device-based and organizational sources of malicious traffic. Ironically, in terms of devices, most of the malicious traffic either passed through or was transmitted by security devices or applications. More specifically, virtual private networks enabled 33 percent of malicious traffic while 16 percent of malicious packets were sent by firewalls. Routers and enterprise network controllers together accounted for nine percent of such traffic. Other device types vulnerable to compromise included radiology imaging software, video conferencing systems, mail and VOIP servers, digital video systems, call contact software, and networked printers and fax machines.
“Today, almost every network attached device is shipped from its vendor in an insecure configuration with defaults that can be discovered easily through an Internet search,” said Barbara Filkins, a senior SANS analyst and healthcare specialist.
The report went on to note that network administrators are reliably changing easily guessable default credentials for router firewalls but they often overlook other network attached devices such as surveillance cameras, printers, and fax machines. As is so often the case, weak credentials and poorly configured security controls were among the leading causes for security incidents. Attackers can easily daisy-chain access from one poorly secured medical endpoint to more sensitive network devices.
The volume of Internet protocols examined within this targeted sample, the report claims, could be extrapolated to suggest that millions of health care organizations around the globe may already be exchanging malicious information.
“And theoretically,” the report says, “the effects of an ePHI compromise could potentially touch almost every person in the United States if the goal set by President Bush in 2004 that every American have an electronic health record by 2014 comes anywhere close to reality.”
Compliance, the report says, does not equal security. Existing best practices are not keeping up with attack techniques. Not only is patient data at risk, but so too is intellectual property, medical payment and billing information, and systems integrity. The findings showed that once a breach occurred, attackers regularly launched phishing and distributed denial of service attacks.
“This level of compromise and control could easily lead to a wide range of criminal activities that are currently not being detected,” said Filkins. “For example, hackers can engage in widespread theft of patient information that includes everything from medical conditions to social security numbers to home addresses, and they can even manipulate medical devices used to administer critical care.”
The costs incurred after breaches – said to include lawsuits, free credit monitoring services, stock fallout, and other expenses – are increasing as well. One Ponemon study from 2013 found that each exposed record could end up costing an organization some $233.
The report warns that many healthcare-related organizations – including one not named by SANS but described as a top three example of vulnerable medical organizations – believe their existing security controls, such as their firewall, are enough prevent compromise. In other words, organizations that have already been breached believe that they can not be compromised because of their existing security solutions.
The report examined all sorts of players in the healthcare industry, from small providers to research and teaching hospitals to clearinghouses, health plans, and pharmaceutical companies. Among these, the lion’s share of malicious traffic originated from health care providers (72 percent). Health care business associates – essentially businesses providing services that support that industry – followed in a distant second, accounting for 9.9 percent of malicious packets. Health plans (6.1 percent), pharmaceutical companies (2.9 percent), and health care clearing houses (0.5 percent) closed out the list. Other related health care entities accounted for the remaining 8.5 percent of malicious traffic.
The report ultimately says that a completely new approach to security will be needed to address these problems. Considering the explosion of newly connected devices, organizations must know what is on their network and find ways to secure these devices. Part of this assessment necessarily includes replacing older, vulnerable software and networked equipment. The report also urges organizations to think like attackers. A fax machine may seem benign, but an attacker could potentially monitor it to siphon off patient prescription information. Surveillance systems can be remotely monitored to determine ways of physically accessing areas with valuable data. Furthermore, vulnerability assessments and software patch management must be an ongoing process.
The SANS report was based on data collected by the Norse threat intelligence network between September 2012 and October 2013. Norse is a health care-industry focused provider of security and anti-fraud products. Their threat intelligence infrastructure consisted of a global network of sensors and honeypots that processed and analyzed hundreds of terabytes of daily data during the sample period. According the report, collected data included 49,917 unique malicious events, 723 unique malicious source IP addresses, and 375 U.S.-based compromised health care-related organizations.
Hosted two-factor authentication firm Duo Security acknowledged late last week that it discovered a vulnerability in its WordPress plugin (duo_wordpress plugin) that could allow a user to bypass two-factor authentication (2FA) on a multisite network.
Jon Oberheide, one of Duo’s founders, stressed last week that the problem only exists for users who have multisite WordPress setups with 2FA enabled on one of their sites. Users who deploy the plugin universally (and enable it universally) on their sites are not at risk.
If a user has 2FA set up on a site, they’ll be asked for primary credentials (a username and password) and the second factor information. But if there’s another site on the same multisite network, a user from the first site can go to the second site and only be asked for primary credentials. If they have those credentials, they’ll be authenticated, and then redirected back to their first site without being asked for 2FA. It’s bypassed entirely.
Oberheide described the vulnerability’s impact in bullet points in a blog entry last week in order to clarify some misinformation he said was being spread.
- Only WordPress “Multisite” deployments that have chosen to deploy the plugin on an individual site basis are affected.
- Normal WordPress deployments or Multisite deployments with the plugin enabled globally are NOT affected.
- The user must still present correct primary authentication (eg. username and password); only the second factor is bypassed.
Duo discovered the vulnerability and confirmed it internally earlier this month before issuing the advisory for it last week. At this time it affects version 1.8.1 and earlier of the product.
Oberheide writes that Duo is putting together a permanent fix and is working with WordPress but suggests a “core modification” may have to be made to the way the platform handles plugins to fix the issue.
The problem doesn’t solely exist on Duo’s plugins but is also present on those belonging to other two-factor vendors as well. Oberheide and company said they’ve informed vendors who are affected and several of them, like Duo, are working on fixes.
In the meantime Duo is encouraging users who have duo_wordpress deployed on multisite setups to enable the plugin globally, and then disable it for specific user roles until a fix is issued. Users who run a different WordPress two-factor authentication plugin may want to look into seeing if its vendor is planning a patch.
Android devices prior to version 4.2.1 of the operating system—70 percent of the phones and tablets in circulation—have been vulnerable to a serious and simple remote code execution vulnerability in the Android browser for more than 93 weeks.
Metasploit recently added an exploit module that targets the vulnerability, which was patched in 4.2.2 released one year ago. However, with carriers and device makers reticent to be quick with updates and security patches, close to three-quarters of the Android user base is at risk for attack. For some perspective, Android Central reports that KitKat, the latest version of Android, has yet to hit 2 percent adoption.
“I did a quick survey of the phones available today on the no-contract rack at a couple big-box stores, and every one that I saw were vulnerable out of the box,” said Rapid7 senior manager of engineering Tod Beardsley. “And yes, that’s here in the U.S., not some far-away place like Moscow, Russia.”
The exploit module, built by contributors Joe Vennix and Joshua Drake, could enable access to the device camera, location data, information stored on a SD card and even the user’s address book. Drake said he was recently able to get code execution on Google Glass using the exploit.
Rapid7 said an attacker would need to be man-in-the-middle on a device in order to exploit it, something its new exploit module simplifies. The company demonstrates the exploit in a video, which is triggered in this case by a malicious QR code the victim scans with their Android smartphone and opens a command shell for the attacker.
The best mitigation is to update Android to 4.2.2 or higher, but that isn’t always feasible for users. Device manufacturers and carriers control when updates are rolled out, despite the fact that Google is generally prompt with patches and updates.
The carriers and manufacturers have been under fire from privacy and security experts and even the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Last April, the American Civil Liberties Union asked the FTC to investigate four major carriers, accusing them of deceptive business practices and knowingly selling defective phones to consumers that are shy on security updates and patches. The ACLU requested that the FTC force carriers to warn customers about unpatched vulnerabilities, allow customers with vulnerable phones to escape their contracts without early termination penalties, and provide that customers may exchange at no cost their phones for another that receives regular security updates, or return the phone for a full refund.
Last February, the FTC reached a damning settlement with device makers HTC America. The FTC forced HTC to enact expensive security enhancements that included regular security patches for Android devices, establish a security program that focuses on developer security, and submit to security assessments.
Cisco’s UCS Director infrastructure management product contains a set of default credentials that any remote attacker can exploit to take complete control of any vulnerable machine. The flaw is in UCS Director versions 188.8.131.52 and below.
The Cisco UCS Director software is designed to allow administrators to manage a variety of storage, networking, virtualization and other equipment. The company said that its internal security team discovered the vulnerability during testing of the product and isn’t aware of any public exploitation of the bug.
“The vulnerability is due to a default root user account created during installation. An attacker could exploit this vulnerability by accessing the server command-line interface (CLI) remotely using the default account credentials. An exploit could allow the attacker to log in with the default credentials, which provide full administrative rights to the system,” the Cisco advisory says.
The company has released a patch for the bug, pushed out as version 184.108.40.206 HOTFIX.
Cisco also released patches for vulnerabilities in a variety of other products, including the Cisco Unified SIP Phone 3905, Cisco IPS software and the Cisco Firewall Services Module software. The flaw in the SIP Phone 3905 is a vulnerability that allows a remote unauthenticated attacker to get root access to the phone. The issue is the result of an undocumented test interface in the TCP service on the phone, the kind of vulnerability that attackers love to get their hands on.
The flaws in the IPS software are all denial-of-service vulnerabilities and affect a variety of different Cisco products.
“The Cisco IPS Analysis Engine Denial of Service Vulnerability and the Cisco IPS Jumbo Frame Denial of Service Vulnerability could allow an unauthenticated, remote attacker to cause the Analysis Engine process to become unresponsive or crash. When this occurs, the Cisco IPS will stop inspecting traffic,” the advisory says.
“The Cisco IPS Control-Plane MainApp Denial of Service Vulnerability could allow an unauthenticated, remote attacker to cause the MainApp process to become unresponsive and prevent it from executing several tasks including alert notification, event store management, and sensor authentication. The Cisco IPS web server will also be unavailable while the MainApp process is unresponsive, and other processes such as the Analysis Engine process may not work properly.”
The Cisco Firewall Services Module software has a vulnerability that allows a remote, unauthenticated attacker to cause the system to crash and reload.
“The vulnerability is due to a race condition when releasing the memory allocated by the cut-through proxy function. An attacker could exploit this vulnerability by sending traffic to match the condition that triggers cut-through proxy authentication,” the advisory says.
Windows Error Reporting, also known as Dr. Watson reports, are Windows crash reports sent by default unencrypted to Microsoft, which uses them to fix bugs. The reports are rich with system data that Microsoft also uses to enhance user interaction with its products. Since, however, they are sent in clear text back to Redmond, they are also at risk for interception by hackers who can use the system data to blueprint potential vulnerabilities in order to ultimately exploit them.
While it may sound far-fetched, a German publication reported in late December that the U.S. National Security Agency was doing just that—using its XKeyscore tool to collect crash reports and target exploits accordingly.
The only mitigation is that Windows administrators must manually opt-out of sending crash reports back to Microsoft, something that isn’t happening on a large scale; Microsoft receives billions of these reports from 80 percent of its installed user base.
Security company Websense, in December, urged administrators to be proactive about these reports and use them as a first step in detecting advanced attacks against an organization since exploits generally cause applications to behave abnormally. The company released a report today that demonstrates exactly how to do that and said it was able to find advanced attacks in progress against a major cellular network operator and a Turkish government website. It also threw back the covers on another campaign targeting point-of-sale systems with a variant of the Zeus Trojan built to infect POS devices and backends.
The key is to differentiate between crashes that are indicative of exploits and those that are merely crashes due to a programming bug. For example, crashes that happen outside of programmable memory space could be an indication of an active exploit that enables remote code execution.
“It goes from a breadcrumb to something interesting,” said Alex Watson, director of security research at Websense.
Watson said his company collected 16 million Dr. Watson reports during a four-month period, looking for system crashes caused by previously unseen exploits against CVE-2013-3893, a use-after-free vulnerability in Internet Explorer 6-11 that was used in the Deputy Dog watering hole attacks against a number of companies in high-profile industries in Asia. Those failed processes leading to system crashes enabled Websense to fingerprint the damage caused by an exploit attempt.
Of the 16 million reports, five crash reports in four organizations matched the fingerprint Websense built that included memory locations where IE might crash if it were attacked using a CVE-2013-3893 exploit. As it turned out, both organizations were hit by the HWorm remote access Trojan used in targeted attacks. The RAT beaconed from both organizations at the same time as the failed exploit happened, Watson said.
“We were able to link the failed exploit attempt to the RAT to get some indicator of common techniques,” Watson said.
Websense said it also collected crash data from point-of-sale applications similar to those compromised in the Target and Neiman Marcus breaches by RAM scraper malware which steals credentials and payment card data from the device before it is encrypted and sent to the payment processor. A majority of the crash reports Websense used were from a clothing retailer in the Eastern United States, it said, which was infected with a variant of Zeus that zeroes in on POS devices and applications. Watson said the malware attempted to connect to command and control servers at the same time the applications crashed.
“Most exploits today force applications to behave in a way they’re not supposed to and they end up executing shell code and things like that,” Watson said. “With Microsoft rolling out advanced stuff like ASLR making it really hard for attackers to successfully execute exploits, there’s a much higher chance they’re going to fail. Once attackers gain a foothold in the network and make it past the perimeter-based security system, there’s a mindset that their content is no longer monitored by IPS systems and you’ll see attackers use the most direct path with exploits toward their target, thinking they’re not going to be monitored. Again, there’s a high chance of crashing applications on the network.”
There are at least two different groups running attacks exploiting the recently published zero day vulnerability in Internet Explorer 10, and researchers say one of the groups used the bug to impersonate a French aerospace manufacturer and compromise victims visiting the spoofed Web page. The attackers also used a special feature of their malware to change portions of the Windows host file to steal credentials when users visit secure sites.
Last week, researchers at FireEye identified a compromised page on the site of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and discovered that it was being used to exploit visitors using the IE zero day. The company said that the attack bore some resemblance to previous operations from a known group that also incorporated zero days. However, researchers at Seculert said that there also appears to have been a second, separate attack by an unaffiliated group of attackers.
“Our analysis reveals that a totally different malware than ZXShell, the culprit as identified by FireEye, was used and has the following capabilities: backdoor (Remote Access Tool), downloader, and information stealer (Figure 2). The malware drops 2 files: MediaCenter.exe – a copy of itself, and MicrosoftSecurityLogin.ocx, which is registered as an ActiveX – used by malware to steal information from browsing sessions. Once installed the malware communicates with a criminal command and control server (C&C). Seculert’s investigation has concluded that the C&C is hosted on the same server as the exploit, located in the United States. Moreover, typical red flags would remain unraised as the malware itself has a valid digital certificate. The certificate belongs to MICRO DIGITAL INC. and is valid since March 21, 2012,” Aviv Raff, CTO of Seculert, wrote in an analysis of the attack.
The attackers are using the malware to change the host files on infected machines and add in several secure domains for French aerospace companies. This kind of behavior has been seen in the past from attackers running so-called pharming campaigns, in which compromised machines are used to send traffic to phishing sites. This attack group is using the host-file modification for a different reason, though.
“But what is disturbing about this attack is that the same behavior accomplished a completely different goal. The domains that were added to the hosts file by the malware provide remote access to the employees, partners, and 3rd party vendors of a specific multinational aircraft and rocket engine manufacturer. The IPs added belong to the real remote access web servers and by adding the records to the hosts file the attackers ensured that there would be no DNS connectivity issues. Whenever the infected machines connect to the remote assets, the attackers are able to steal the sensitive credentials. This is the first time we have seen a malware change a hosts file for a purpose other than fraud perpetuated by pharming or for disabling access to specific websites,” Raff said.
Given the differences in the attack methodology and the malware used, as well as the C&C infrastructure, Raff said the logical conclusion is that there are two different groups using the IE 10 0-day.
“The main differences in this attack lead us to conclude that the group behind the attack is different than previously hypothesized,” Raff said.
Image from Flickr photos of Jeremy Seitz.
More than 300,000 credentials, usernames and passwords, were posted on the clipboard website Pastebin.com in the year 2013 alone according to a recent analysis by a Swiss security firm.
As part of an experiment to determine how big the hacking industry is, High-Tech Bridge, a company until now perhaps better known for spurring the formation of Yahoo’s bug bounty program last fall, scoured through information Pastebin users posted to the site during the last 12 months.
The group found 311,095 username/password pairs in total, a number that translates to about 1,000 user credentials per leak, according to a post on the firm’s site today.
At just shy of 41 percent of the leakages found, credentials belonging to email systems took the largest slice of the pie. In particular Gmail and Yahoo mail users accounted for nearly 50 percent of the compromised credentials. Users still clinging to Hotmail accounts and Russians who use the mail.ru platform followed up with about 8 percent and 5 percent of the compromised email log-ins.
The group also discovered something that anyone who’s ever been to the site has likely been able to deduce: There’s a lot of clutter to sift through as well.
The group found and filtered through a lot of what it calls “garbage,” mostly minor information leaks—breaches affecting groups fewer than 100 users, blatantly fake/forged claims of hacks and copies of previously reported hacks.
Administrators on the site regularly remove information, especially when it’s sensitive, so forensics experts at High-Tech used “Google’s cache and other tools” to track information that was previously removed.
Pastebin has long been thought of as a den of iniquity of sorts as far as websites go – the site has served as a treasure trove of secrets, sensitive information and as the folks at High-Tech Bridge have proved, plenty of usernames and passwords. In 2012, the site was a destination for hackers with Anonymous and Lulzsec, so much so the site’s owner said at the time he was planning to hire more staff to patrol the site to erase sensitive information.
While the 300,000 figure pales in comparison to the staggering amount of information stolen from Target in November and December, Ilia Kolochenko, High-Tech Bridge’s CEO, acknowledged that his firm’s research uncovered just a small part of the problem.
“These 300,000 [credentials] are just a small percentage of the stolen information posted publicly by hackers. It’s impossible to make a precise estimate of how many user accounts were really compromised, but I think we can speak about several hundreds of millions at least,” Kolochenko said.
Last October Kolochenko prompted Yahoo to revise its bug bounty program after he famously reported receiving two scant $12.50 company store discount codes for discovering a pair of cross-site scripting (XSS) bugs.
Facing a torrent of bad publicity, Yahoo revamped its policy and claimed going forward it would reward researchers who responsibly report “new, unique and/or high-risk issues” with between $150 to $15,000.
Yang Yu is no stranger to writing mitigation bypasses for Microsoft Windows products.
A year ago at the CanSecWest conference in Vancouver, the 35-year-old security researcher from Beijing did an extensive presentation on bypassing Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) and Data Execution Prevention (DEP) without return-oriented programming. ASLR and DEP are memory protection and code execution mitigations native to the Windows operating system.
Within five months, Microsoft had patched the vulnerability Yu had disclosed during the conference, marking the first time a mitigation bypass was treated as a vulnerability. Less than a year later, Yu’s research had paid off in a bigger way. On Friday, Microsoft announced that it had awarded Yu a $100,000 bounty for his submission of three variants on his bypasses. This was the second $100,000 payout since its program kicked off last summer.
“I do this for three reasons: the passion for technology; the love of challenge; and the bounty,” Yu said.
Microsoft has invested significant resources building exploit mitigations into not only Windows, but Internet Explorer as well. The mitigations target memory-corruption vulnerabilities such as buffer overflows that ultimately give hackers free run on the underlying system to run code of their choosing. The company’s bounty program rolled out in June 2013, challenging coders and defenders to come up with bypasses for mitigations such as ASLR and DEP which are then rolled into the Windows or IE codebase as a security enhancement.
Submissions for the bypass bounty, one of three offered by Microsoft, must demonstrate a new way of exploiting a remote code execution bug in Windows, making use of stack- and heap-corruption mitigations; there are seven criteria the submissions must meet.
Yu, who works for NSFOCUS, a security company in Beijing, said the techniques he submitted to Microsoft completely bypass DEP and ASLR, even under the watch of Microsoft Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET). Ironically, last April, Yu found and reported a critical vulnerability in EMET v4 Beta, which was patched in June.
“[The mitigation bypasses are] Windows version independent, software version independent, even CPU independent in some cases,” Yu said. “I also submitted the relevant mitigation recommendations.”
The mitigation bypass bounty is one of three offered by Microsoft. Microsoft also awards the Blue Hat Bonus for Defense and previously, the Internet Explorer 11 Preview Bug Bounty. The Blue Hat Bonus for Defense pays up to $50,000 for defensive ideas that accompany a mitigation bypass; the IE bounty paid out up to $11,000 for critical vulnerabilities in the beta version of IE 11. The program was closed July 27.
The previous $100,000 winner, James Forshaw, won his prize in October. He collected for a bypass he developed that also eluded Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) and Data Execution Prevention (DEP).
“I think vulnerabilities are like bullets, and mitigation bypass techniques are like guns,” Yu said. “Trying to stop so [many] bullets is never better than destroying the gun.”
Linksys routers sold to consumers as a home or small office networking box are vulnerable to a simple exploit that could give an attacker remote access to the router. The vulnerabilities are wormable, yet are unrelated to the Moon worm reported last week by the SANS Institute.
Linksys, which was acquired by Belkin a year ago, was notified in July but has yet to deliver a fix, according to researcher Kyle Lovett.
Lovett said Linksys EA2700, EA3500, E4200 and EA4500 routers have an innate weakness through which during installation or upgrade, port 8083 is left open. An attacker would need to merely scan Shodan or another search engine for the open port on the respective models and be dropped into the remote administration GUI, bypassing existing authentication, Lovett said. Up to 30,000 routers have been found in scans, Lovett said. He added that port 443, through which HTTPS traffic passes, also shows as open during setup in order to allow non-volatile RAM (NVRAM) to pass data.
An attacker could then upload malicious code or tamper with configuration settings in order to redirect traffic. The vulnerability, though unconfirmed, appears to be with a number of vulnerable CGI scripts that can be exploited.
“What happens is during installation or upgrade, often times one of the CGI script hangs and doesn’t complete,” Lovett said. “The system then just bypasses the rest of the setup and operates as is.”
Four vulnerable scripts have been identified: fw_sys_up.cgi; override.cgi; share_editor.cgi; switch_boot.cgi.
“The port exploit is just a matter of scanning for an open port,” Lovett said. “Then someone could upload malicious code.”
Lovett reported the bug to Linksys last July and did a partial disclosure a month later to alert users after Linksys failed to produce a fix. Lovett said his last email to the company two weeks ago regarding the vulnerability went unanswered.
An advisory on Bugtraq, meanwhile, warns users not to rely on the router’s GUI to show the true status of remote access; the bug is present regardless of whether remote access is disabled by default.
“In the case of this bug, [remote access] gets switched on because of the CGI issue,” Lovett said. “By default, without the bug occurring, remote access is turned off. Honestly, I just don’t see the benefits of turning on remote access unless there is a very specific need. Most consumers don’t understand that turning that feature on, that they are in fact hosting a web site, which is subject to the same attacks and problems as other full websites.”
The Moon worm, reported last week by the SANS Institute, has also been spreading on Linksys routers. However only one of the products vulnerable to Moon overlaps with the vulnerability reported by Lovett–the E4200. Moon does, however, also exploit a vulnerable CGI script that allows remote access to flawed routers.
Moon connects to port 8080 and using the Home Network Administration Protocol (HNAP) used in Cisco devices, calls for a list of router features and firmware versions, Johannes Ullrich of SANS said. Once it learns what type of router it has infected, it exploits a vulnerable CGI script that allows it to access the router without authentication and begins scanning for other vulnerable boxes. SANS CTO Ullrich said researchers had not been able to find a malicious payload and were unsure whether a command and control connection is functional.
“There are about 670 different IP ranges that it scans for other routers. They appear to all belong to different cable modem and DSL ISPs. They are distributed somewhat worldwide,” Ullrich said. “We are still working on analysis what it exactly does. But so far, it looks like all it does is spread (which is why we call it a worm “It may have a ‘call-home’ feature that will report back when it infected new hosts.”
Linksys said its older E-series routers and Wireless-N access points ship with the Remote Management Access feature off by default and customers must enable it to be vulnerable.
“Customers who have enabled the Remote Management Access feature can prevent further vulnerability to their network by disabling the Remote Management Access feature and rebooting their router to remove the installed malware,” Linksys said in a statement. “Linksys will be working on the affected products with a firmware fix that is planned to be posted on our website in the coming weeks.”
AT&T, in its first transparency report, said that it received at least 2,000 National Security Letters and nearly 38,000 requests for location data on its subscribers in 2013.
The new report from AT&T is the latest in a growing list of publications from telecom companies, Web providers and cell phone carriers who have been under pressure from privacy advocates and security experts in the wake of the Edward Snowden NSA surveillance revelations. Telecoms had been resistant to providing such information in the past and it’s really only in the last month or so, since the Department of Justice loosened its restrictions on the way that companies can report NSL and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requests that more companies have come around on the issue.
AT&T’s report shows a higher number of NSLs and subpoenas in 2013 than its most relevant competitor, Verizon. In January, Verizon’s first transparency report showed that the company received between 1,000 and 1,999 NSLs in 2013 and 164,000 subpoenas. AT&T said it got 2,000-2,999 NSLs and 248,343 subpoenas last year. AT&T also received nearly 37,000 court orders and more than 16,000 search warrants.
Interestingly, the number of demands for location information that AT&T received last year is pretty close to what Verizon saw. AT&T got nearly 38,000 requests for location information for its subscribers, including more than 12,500 requests for real time information. Verizon received about 35,000 requests for location data in 2013.
“We take our responsibility to protect your information and privacy very seriously, and we pledge to continue to do so to the fullest extent possible and always in compliance with the law of the country where the relevant service is provided. Like all companies, we must provide information to government and law enforcement agencies to comply with court orders, subpoenas, lawful discovery requests and other legal requirements. We ensure that these requests are valid and that our responses comply with the law and our own policies,” AT&T said in its report. “Interest in this topic has increased in the last year. As you might expect, we may make adjustments to our reporting processes and create ways to track forms of demands in the future.”
Of the more than 301,000 total criminal and civil requests from United States agencies that AT&T received in 2013, the company only rejected or challenged about 3,700 of them and provided partial or no data in about 13,700 cases.
The FISA request data in the AT&T report only covers the first six months of 2013, per the Department of Justice regulations, and it shows that the company received between 0-999 FISA requests for content covering more than 35,000 customer accounts. By contrast, the company got the same range of non-content requests, but they only covered fewer than 1,000 accounts.
Image from Flickr photos of Mike Mozart.
There has been a joke going around the tech industry for years about refrigerators and other home appliances one day being connected to the Internet and being able to order more milk for you or allow you to turn off your lights remotely. That day is today, and those Internet-connected devices–surprise!–have many of the same vulnerabilities that normal software applications and hardware devices have had for decades.
Security researchers who have had an increasingly difficult time in recent years finding major vulnerabilities in browsers or desktop applications are now finding that a little time spent on home-automation products can yield serious results. Researchers at IOActive found a series of vulnerabilities in the WeMo home automation products built by Belkin that enable them to gain remote control of connected devices, provide malicious firmware updates and gain access to the internal LAN.
The WeMo products, which include sockets, light switches, motion sensors and Web cams, allow users to connect to their monitored devices from a mobile device. They can monitor usage and turn various devices on and off. The vulnerabilities that the IOActive researchers uncovered relate to the way that WeMo pushes out firmware updates and implements the GPG encryption scheme.
“WeMo also uses a GPG-based, encrypted firmware distribution scheme to maintain device integrity during updates. Unfortunately, attackers can easily bypass most of these features due to the way they are currently implemented in the WeMo product line. The command for performing firmware updates is initiated over the Internet from a paired device. Also, firmware update notices are delivered through an RSS-like mechanism to the paired device, rather than the WeMo device itself, which is distributed over a non-encrypted channel. As a result, attackers can easily push firmware updates to WeMo users by spoofing the RSS feed with a correctly signed firmware,” IOActive principal research scientist Mike Davis wrote in an advisory on the vulnerabilities.
“The firmware updates are encrypted using GPG, which is intended to prevent this issue. Unfortunately, Belkin misuses the GPG asymmetric encryption functionality, forcing it to distribute the firmware-signing key within the WeMo firmware image. Most likely, Belkin intended to use the symmetric encryption with a signature and a shared public key ring. Attackers could leverage the current implementation to easily sign firmware images.”
Davis reported the vulnerabilities to US-CERT, which tried contacting Belkin, which did not respond. The WeMo devices use a protocol known as STUN to communicate, and was designed to bypass NAT firewalls. The way that WeMo uses the protocol, however, compromises the security of the devices and creates what IOActive called a “darknet” of WeMo devices that attackers can connect to directly.
“As we connect our homes to the Internet, it is increasingly important for Internet-of-Things device vendors to ensure that reasonable security methodologies are adopted early in product development cycles. This mitigates their customer’s exposure and reduces risk. Another concern is that the WeMo devices use motion sensors, which can be used by an attacker to remotely monitor occupancy within the home,” Davis said.
US-CERT also has published an advisory on these issues.
Attackers broke into the network of Kickstarter, the crowdfunding platform, and stole a variety of user data, including usernames, addresses, email addresses and encrypted passwords. Company officials didn’t specify exactly how many users were affected and said that “no credit card data of any kind was accessed by hackers.”
Kickstarter is a popular platform for raising funds for a variety of projects. Supporters pledge various amounts of money in return for certain levels of rewards from the creators of a project. Supporters enter their credit card information when creating an account, and their cards are charged once a specific project they have supported reaches its funding goal. Creators of projects such as Web comics, TV shows, robotic bartenders and books all seek funding on the site.
Officials at Kickstarter said that they were alerted to the intrusion by law-enforcement officials on Wednesday night. This is a common method of detection for data breaches. The Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report, a deep study of breaches at a variety of organizations, shows that 70 percent of breaches are discovered by third parties such as forensics teams, law-enforcement agencies and other security teams. Kickstarter officials were alerted to the compromise earlier this week and published details on the company blog Saturday.
“On Wednesday night, law enforcement officials contacted Kickstarter and alerted us that hackers had sought and gained unauthorized access to some of our customers’ data. Upon learning this, we immediately closed the security breach and began strengthening security measures throughout the Kickstarter system,” Yancey Strickler, CEO of Kickstarter, wrote.
So far, only two customers’ accounts have shown evidence of unauthorized activity. Strickler said that user passwords were encrypted. Older passwords were encrypted using the SHA-1 algorithm, and salted. Newer passwords were encrypted with Bcrypt. SHA-1 is an older hashing algorithm that has long been considered weak, and security experts have been warning organizations away from using it for several years. Bcrypt is a hashing function based on the Blowfish algorithm.
Kickstarter joins a long list of major Web companies that have faced data breaches in recent months, including Snapchat, Evernote, Dropbox and Yahoo. Attackers love to target companies with large user databases, knowing that users are lazy and will often reuse passwords on multiple sites. Attackers grabbing a password database at one company can sometimes lead to cascading problems for users at other sites.
Strickler said in his statement that users should change their passwords immediately.
“We’re incredibly sorry that this happened. We set a very high bar for how we serve our community, and this incident is frustrating and upsetting. We have since improved our security procedures and systems in numerous ways, and we will continue to do so in the weeks and months to come. We are working closely with law enforcement, and we are doing everything in our power to prevent this from happening again,” he said.
Microsoft has paid out another $100,000 bounty as part of its Security Response Center’s bounty program.
A researcher from Asia named Yang Yu was awarded the prize today for three mitigation bypass variants, Microsoft announced.
“This payout reflects the fact that we learned something new that will help us build more robust defenses, but it was built upon known mitigation bypass techniques,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Threatpost. Efforts to reach Yu in time for publication were not successful.
This is the second $100,000 bounty the program has paid out; more than $253,000 has been awarded to date since the program began last June 26.
The mitigation bypass bounty is one of three offered by Microsoft. It pays out up to $100,000 and rewards novel exploitation techniques against mitigations native to the latest version of Windows. Microsoft also awards the Blue Hat Bonus for Defense and previously, the Internet Explorer 11 Preview Bug Bounty.
The Blue Hat Bonus for Defense pays up to $50,000 for defensive ideas that accompany a mitigation bypass; the IE bounty paid out up to $11,000 for critical vulnerabilities in the beta version of IE 11. The program was closed July 27.
Little is known about Yu’s mitigation bypass. The previous $100,000 winner, James Forshaw, won his prize in October. He collected for a bypass he developed that eluded Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) and Data Execution Prevention (DEP), two memory exploit defenses native to Windows.
Last year, Forshaw won the Java portion of the Pwn2Own contest at the CanSecWest conference with an exploit for a vulnerability in a trusted class in the Java framework. The exploit allowed him to bypass the sandbox and execute code remotely. That Java bug was patched in April with the release of Java 7u21 and the researcher explained in a blogpost shortly thereafter that his code allowed him to disable the security manager in Java and run malicious code as trusted.
According to Microsoft, bypass submissions must demonstrate a novel way of exploiting a remote code execution vulnerability in Windows and must be capable of exploiting an application that makes use of stack- and heap-corruption mitigations as well as code-execution mitigations. The bypass must also meet seven criteria: it must be generic in that it’s applicable to more than one memory corruption vulnerability; the exploit must be reliable and have reasonable requirements; it must be applicable to a high-risk application such as a browser or document reader; it must be applicable to user mode applications; it must also target the latest version of a Microsoft product; and it must be novel, Microsoft said.