A couple of weeks after similar revelations made by Twitter, Facebook has joined the unwelcome list of Social Networks hit by targeted attacks.
This news has shaken this quiet week end of February, as Facebook officials told to Ars Technica they discovered in January several computers belonging to mobile application developers hacked using a zero-day Java attack. According to a consolidated attack schema, the malware installed a collection of previously unseen malware.
The attack occurred within the same timeframe as the hack that hit Twitter and exposed cryptographically hashed passwords of 250,000 users, and apparently targeted other companies completely unaware of the attack, until they were notified by Facebook.
According to the information available the attack showed several interesting (and nowadays common) patterns:
- The attackers used a “watering hole” attack, compromising the server of a popular mobile developer Web forum and using it to spring the zero-day Java exploit on site visitors. The attack was injected into the site’s HTML, affecting any visitor who had Java enabled in his browser, regardless of the level of patching of the machine.
- The exploit was used to download malware to victims’ computers affecting both Windows and Apple computers.
- As usual, I would say, Antivirus software was unable to detect the malware, neither the malware was slowed down by the fact that the machines were patched.
Facebook said it is working with FBI to investigate the attack. Only the latest example of a class of targeted sophisticated threats increasingly common and aggressive against high-profile targets including tech industries, media, and now social networks. As a matter of fact (state sponsored ?) cyber criminals are actively exploiting 0-Day vulnerabilities targeting Java (and Adobe Flash), in this 2013 that, in only two months, is proving to be dramatic for the Infosec Landscape.
The first half of November 2012 has been undoubtedly characterized by Hacktivism. Not only the month has begun with the ProjectBlackStar by the infamous Team Ghostshell (2.5 million accounts leaked belonging to different Russian sectors), but also the long-awaited November 5 has brought an unprecedented wave of Cyber Attacks against organizations all over the world, including Symantec and the UK Ministry Of Defence (more than 3,000 accounts leaked in both cases).
Moreover, after the dramatic event of the 14th of November (the killing of Ahmed Al-Jaabari, the commander of the military wing of Hamas by an Israeli missile and the consequent Operation “Pillar Of Defense”), the Anonymous have started a massive campaign of Cyber Attacks against Israel sites and in support of Palestine. This campaign is still ongoing even if it is really impossible to track all the attacks (nearly 700 defaced web sites so far), and hence, as far as possible, only a general overview is provided.
Of course these events have shadowed the other attacks, including the ones to LG (3,300 accounts leaked in two different cyber attacks) and Adobe (150,000 records allegedly compromised).
The chronicles also report of an alleged cyber attack against Telecom Italia (30,000 accounts allegedly leaked), even if there several doubts about the real authenticity of this attack.
If you want to have an idea of how fragile our data are inside the cyberspace, have a look at the timelines of the main Cyber Attacks in 2011 and 2012 and the related statistics (regularly updated), and follow @paulsparrows on Twitter for the latest updates.
Also, feel free to submit remarkable incidents that in your opinion deserve to be included in the timelines (and charts).
Few Days ago, a Trend Micro Research Paper on the Russian Underground gave a scary landscape of the Underground Black Market showing that every hacking tool and service can be found at dramatically cheap prices in a sort of democratization of Cyber Crime.
Today the news related to the discovery of an unknown 0-day vulnerability targeting Adobe Reader X and XI, confirms that the underground market follows the same rules than the real economy: premium products (read 0-day vulnerabilities) are not for every wallet and if you want a brand new 0-day you must be able to pay up to $50.000.
This is the price at which the previously unidentified Adobe vulnerability is sold according to Malware analysts at Moscow-based forensics firm Group-IB, who have discovered it. The price is justified since this is really a “premium exploit”: in fact beginning with Reader X (June 2011), Adobe introduced a sandbox feature further enhanced in Adobe XI (only three weeks ago). The Sandbox is aimed at blocking the exploitation of previously unidentified security flaws and has proven to be particularly robust: Adobe claimed that since its introduction in Adobe Reader and Acrobat X, they have not seen any exploits in the wild capable of breaking out of it. At least until yesterday.
This makes this 0-day particularly meaningful… And expensive, even if it has some limitations (for example, cannot be fully executed until the user closes his Web browser, or Reader).
Of course cyber criminals did not waste time and Group-IB says the vulnerability is included in a new, custom version of the Blackhole Exploit Kit (apparently it has not been still included in the official version).
And Adobe? So far they have not received any details: “We saw the announcement from Group IB, but we haven’t seen or received any details. Adobe has reached out to Group-IB, but we have not yet heard back. Without additional details, there is nothing we can do, unfortunately—beyond continuing to monitor the threat landscape and working with our partners in the security community, as always.”
It looks like that Christmas approaching is not stopping hackers who targeted a growing number of organizations including several security firms (Kaspersky, Nod 32 and Bitdefender) even if in secondary domains and with “simple” defacements.
Cyber chronicles report of Gemnet, another Certification Authority Breached in Holland (is the 12th security incident targeting CAs in 2011) and several massive data breaches targeting Finland (the fifth this year, affecting 16,000 users), online gambling (UB.com affecting 3.5 million of users), Telco (Telstra, affecting 70,000 users), and gaming, after the well known attacks to Sony, Sega and Nintendo, with Square Enix, which suffered a huge attacks compromising 1,800,000 users (even if it looks like no personal data were affected).
Online Payment services were also targeted by Cybercrookers: a Visa East European processor has been hit by a security breach, but also four Romanian home made hackers have been arrested for a massive credit card fraud affecting 200 restaurants for a total of 80,000 customers who had their data stolen.
As usual, hacktivism was one of the main trends for this first half of the month, which started with a resounding hacking to a Web Server belonging to ACNUR (United Nations Refugees Agency) leaking more than 200 credentials including the one belonging to President Mr. Barack Obama.
But from a mere hactvism perspective, Elections in Russia have been the main trigger as they indirectly generated several cyber events: not only during the election day, in which three web sites (a watchdog and two independent news agencies) were taken down by DDoS attacks, but also in the immediately following days, when a botnet flooded Twitter with Pro Kremlin hashtags, and an independent forum was also taken down by a further DDoS attacks. A trail of events which set a very dangerous precent.
Besides the ACNUR Hack, the Anonymous were also in the spotlight (a quite common occurrence this year) with some sparse attacks targeting several governments including in particular Brazil, inside what is called #OpAmazonia.
Even if not confirmed, it looks like that Anonymous Finland might somehow be related to the above mentioned breach occurred in Finland.
Other interesting events occurred in the first two weeks of December: the 0-day vulnerability affecting Adobe products, immediately exploited by hackers to carry on tailored phishing campaigns and most of hall, a targeted attack to a contractor, Lockheed Martin, but also another occurrence of DNS Cache Poisoning targeting the Republic of Congo domains of Google, Microsoft, Samsung and others.
Last but not least, the controversial GPS Spoofing, which allegedly allowed Iran to capture a U.S. Drone, even the GPS Spoofing on its own does not completely solve the mistery of the capture.
Other victims of the month include Norwich Airport, Coca Cola, and another Law Enforcement Agency (clearusa.org), which is currently unaivalable.
As usual after the page break you find all the references.
Advanced Persistent Threats are probably the most remarkable events for Information Security in 2011 since they are redefining the infosec landscape from both technology and market perspective.
I consider the recent shopping in the SIEM arena made by IBM and McAfee a sign of the times and a demonstration of this trend. This is not a coincidence: as a matter of fact the only way to stop an APT before it reaches its goal (the Organization data), is an accurate analysis and correlation of data collected by security devices. An APT attack deploys different stages with different tactics, different techniques and different timeframes, which moreover affect different portion of the infrastructure. As a consequence an holistic view and an holistic information management are needed in order to correlate pieces of information spread in different pieces of the networks and collected by different, somewhat heterogeneous and apparently unrelated, security devices.
Consider for instance the typical cycle of an attack carried on by an APT:
Of course the picture does not take into consideration the user, which is the greatest vulnerability (but unfortunately an user does not generate logs except in a verbal format not so easy to analyze for a SIEM). Moreover the model should be multiplied for the numbers of victims since it is “unlikely” that such a similar attack could be performed on a single user at a time.
At the end, however, it is clear that an APT affects different components of the information security infrastructure at different times with different threat vectors:
- Usually stage 1 of an APT attack involves a spear phishing E-mail containing appealing subject and argument, and a malicious payload in form of an attachment or a link. In both cases the Email AV or Antispam are impacted in the ingress stream (and should be supposed to detect the attack, am I naive if I suggest that a DNS lookup could have avoided attacks like this?). The impacted security device produce some logs (even if they are not straightforward to detect if the malicious E-mail has not been detected as a possible threat or also has been detected with a low confidence threshold). In this stage of the attack the time interval between the receipt of the e-mail and its reading can take from few minutes up to several hours.
- The following stage involves user interaction. Unfortunately there is no human firewall so far (it is something we are working on) but user education (a very rare gift). As a consequence the victim is lured to follow the malicious link or click on the malicious attachment. In the first scenario the user is directed to a compromised (or crafted) web site where he downloads and installs a malware (or also insert some credentials which are used to steal his identity for instance for a remote access login). In the second scenario the user clicks on the attached file that exploits a 0-day vulnerability to install a Remote Administration Tool. The interval between reading the malicious email and installing the RAT takes likely several seconds. In any case Endpoint Security Tools may help to avoid surfing to malicious site or, if leveraging behavioral analysis, to detect anomalous pattern from an application (a 0-day is always a 0-day and often they are released after making reasonably sure not to be detected by traditional AV). Hopefully In both cases some suspicious logs are generated by the endpoint.
- RAT Control is the following stage: after installation the malware uses the HTTP protocol to fetch commands from a remote C&C Server. Of course the malicious traffic is forged so that it may be hidden inside legitimate traffic. In any case the traffic pass through Firewalls and NIDS at the perimeter (matching allowed rules on the traffic). In this case both kind of devices should be supposed to produce related logs;
- Once in full control of the Attacker, the compromised machine is used as a hop for the attacker to reach other hosts (now he is inside) or also to sweep the internal network looking for the target data. In this case a NIDS/anomaly detector should be able to detect the attack, monitoring, for instance, the number of attempted authentications or wrong logins: that is the way in which Lockheed Martin prevented an attack perpetrated by mean of compromised RSA seeds, and also, during the infamous breach, RSA detected the attack using a technology of anomaly detection Netwitness, acquired by EMC, its parent company immediately after the event.
At this point should be clear that this lethal blend of threats is pushing the security firms to redefine their product strategies, since they face the double crucial challenge to dramatically improve not only their 0-day detection ability, but also to dramatically improve the capability to manage and correlate the data collected from their security solutions.
As far as 0-day detection ability is concerned, next-gen technologies will include processor assisted endpoint security or also a new class of network devices such as DNS Firewalls (thanks to @nientenomi for reporting the article).
As far data management and correlation are concerned, yes of course a SIEM is beautiful concept… until one needs to face the issue of correlation, which definitively mean that often SIEM projects become useless because of correlation patterns, which are too complex and not straightforward. This is the reason why the leading vendors are rushing to include an integrated SIEM technology in their product portfolio in order to provide an out-of-the-box correlation engine optimized for their products. The price to pay will probably be a segmentation and verticalization of SIEM Market in which lead vendors will have their own solution (not so optimized for competitor technologies) at the expense of generalist SIEM vendors.
On the other hand APT are alive and kicking, keep on targeting US Defense contractors (Raytheon is the latest) and are also learning to fly though the clouds. Moreover they are also well hidden considered that, according to the Security Intelligence Report Volume 11 issued by Microsoft, less than one per cent of exploits in the first half of 2011 were against zero-day vulnerabilities. The 1% makes the difference! And it is a big difference!
- Information, The Next Battlefield (paulsparrows.wordpress.com)