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Posts Tagged ‘Information security’

Exclusive Infographic: All Cyber Attacks on Military Aviation and Aerospace Industry

February 22, 2012 2 comments

Cross Posted from TheAviationist.

2011 has been an annus horribilis for information security, and aviation has not been an exception to this rule: not only in 2011 the corporate networks of several aviation and aerospace industries have been targeted by digital storms (not a surprise in the so-called hackmageddon) but, above all, last year will be probably remembered for the unwelcome record of two alleged hacking events targeting drones (“alleged” because in the RQ-170 Sentinel downed in Iran episode, several doubts surround the theory according to which GPS hacking could have been the real cause of the crash landing).

But, if Information Security professionals are quite familiar with the idea that military contractors could be primary and preferred targets of the current Cyberwar, as the infographic on the left shows, realizing that malware can be used to target a drone is still considered an isolated episode, and even worse, the idea of a malware targeting, for instance, the multirole Joint Strike Fighter is still something hard to accept.

However, things are about change dramatically. And quickly.

The reason is simple: the latest military and civil airplanes are literally full of electronics, which play a primary role in managing avionics, onboard systems, flight surfaces, communcation equipment and armament.

For instance an F-22 Raptor owns about 1.7 millions od line of codes , an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter about 5.7 millions and a Boeing 787 Dreamliner about 6.5 millions. Everything with some built in code may be exploited, therefore, with plenty of code and much current and future vulnerabilities, one may not rule out a priori that these systems will be targeted with specific tailored or generic malware for Cyberwar, Cybercrime, or even hacktivism purposes.

Unfortunately it looks like the latter hypothesis is closer to reality since too often these systems are managed by standard Windows operating systems, and as a matter of fact a generic malware has proven to be capable to infect the most important U.S. robots flying in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and Indian Ocean: Predator and Reaper Drones.

As a consequence, it should not be surprising, nor it is a coincidence, that McAfee, Sophos and Trend Micro, three leading players for Endpoint Security, consider the embedded systems as one of the main security concerns for 2012.

Making networks more secure (and personnel more educated) to prevent the leak of mission critical documents and costly project plans (as happened in at least a couple of circumstances) will not be aviation and aerospace industry’s information security challenge; the real challenge will be to embrace the security-by-design paradigm and make secure and malware-proof products ab initio.

While you wait to see if an endpoint security solution becomes available for an F-35, scroll down the image below and enjoy the list of aviation and aerospace related cyber attacks occurred since the very first hack targeting the F-35 Lightning II in 2009.

Of course aviation and aerospace industries are not the only targets for hackers and cybercriminals. So, 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 (regularly updated) at hackmageddon.com. And follow @pausparrows on Twitter for the latest updates.

As usual the references are after the jump…

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January 2012 Cyber Attacks Timeline (Part 1)

January 15, 2012 2 comments

Click here for part 2.

New year, new Cyber Attacks Timeline. Let us start our Information Security Travel in 2012 with the chart of the attacks occurred in the first fifteen days of January. This month has been characterized so far by the leak of Symantec Source Code and the strange story of alleged Cyber Espionage revolving around it. But this was not the only remarkable event: chronicles tell the endless Cyber-war between Israel and a Saudi Hacker (and more in general the Arab World), but also a revamped activity of the Anonymous against SOPA (with peak in Finland). The end of the month has also reserved several remarkable events (such as the breaches to T-Mobile and Zappos, the latter affecting potentially 24,000,000 of users). In general this has been a very active period. For 2012 this is only the beginning, and if a good beginning makes a good ending, there is little to be quiet…

Browse the chart and follows @paulsparrows to be updated on a biweekly basis. As usual after the jump you will find all the references. Feel free to report wrong/missing links or attacks.

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What Security Vendors Said One Year Ago…

January 10, 2012 2 comments

I did not resist, so after publishing the summary of Security Predictions for 2012, I checked out what security vendors predicted one year ago for 2011. Exactly as I did in my previous post, at the beginning of 2011 I collected the security predictions in a similar post (in Italian). I also published in May an update (in English) since, during the Check Point Experience in Barcelona held in May 2011, the Israeli security firm published its predictions. Even if the latters have been published nearly at the half of 2011, for the sake of completeness, I decided to insert them as well in this year-to-year comparison.

Then, I included Symantec (for which this year I did not find any prediction), McAfee, Trend Micro, Kaspersky, Sophos and Cisco. I included Check Point in a second time and I did not include Fortinet, At that time I missed their five security predictions, which I only discovered later so I decided to provide an addendum for this post including Fortinet as well in order to provide a deeper perspective.

The security predictions for 2011 are summarized in the following chart, which reports what the vendors (with the partial above described exception of Checkpoint) expected for the past year in terms of Information Security trends.

But a strict side-by-side comparison with the 2012 information security predictions (extracted by my previous post) is more helpful and meaningful:

As you may notice mobile threats were on top even among the predictions for 2011. This prediction came easily true most of all for Android which suffered (and keeps on suffering) a huge increase in malware detection samples (even if the overall security risk remains contained). Social Media were on top as well: they have been crucial for the Wind of the Changes blown by the Arab Spring but in the same time Social Media have raised many security concerns for reputation, the so called Social Network Poisoning (who remembers Primoris Era?). Although 2011 was the year of the Anonymous, hacktvism ranked “only” at number 4, behind Advanced Persistent Threats, which however played a crucial role for information security (an APT was deployed for the infamous RSA Breach, but it was not an isolated case).

Also botnets, web threats and application vulnerabilities ranked at the top of Security predictions for last year (and came true). As far as botnets are concerned, fortunately 2011 was a very important year for their shutdown (for instance Hlux/Kelihos, Coreflood, Rustock). In several cases the botnets were taken down thanks to joint operations between private sectors and law enforcement agencies (another prediction came true). On the application side, this prediction came true most of all thanks to the Sony breach, the Liza Moon infection and the huge rate of SQLi based attacks and ASP.NET vulnerabilities. We have also assisted to an hard blow to SSL/TLS and XML Encryption.

But what is more surprising (and amusing) in my opinion is not to emphasize which predictions were correct, but rather to notice  which predictions were dramatically wrong: it looks like that, against the predictions, virtualization threats were snubbed by cybercrookers in 2011 (and nearly do not appear in 2012). But the most amusing fact is that no security vendor (among the ones analyzed) was able to predict the collapse of the Certification Authority model thanks most of all to the Comodo and Diginotar Breaches.

Browsing Security Predictions for 2012

January 8, 2012 4 comments

Update 01/11/2012: Year-to-Tear comparison with 2011 Security Predictions

The new year has just come, vacations are over, and, as usually happens in this period, information security professionals use to wonder what the new year will bring them from an infosec perspective. The last year has been rich of events, whose echo is still resounding, and as a consequence, if RSA and Sony breach were not enough, the main (and somehow obvious) question is: will 2012 stop this trend or rather bring it to unprecedented levels, or, in other words, which threat vectors will disturb the (already troubled) administrators’ sleep?

Unfortunately my divination skills are not so developed (in that case I would not be here), but security firms can give a crucial help since they started to unveil their security predictions for 2012, at least since the half of December, so putting them together, and analyzing them is quite a straightforward and amusing task. Maybe even more amusing will be, in twelve years, to see if they were correct or not.

The security prediction that I take into consideration included, at my sole discretion (and in rigorous alphabetical order):

•    Cisco;
•    Fortinet;
•    Kaspersky;
•    McAfee;
•    Sophos;
•    Trend Micro;
•    Websense;

That is the only leader vendors for which I found predictions issued with original documents (feel free to indicate if I missed someone and I will be very glad to include them in the chart).

In any case, the landscape is quite heterogeneous since it encompasses security vendors covering different areas: one vendor, McAfee, covering all the areas (network, endpoint and content security), two vendors and one half focused on network and content security (Cisco, Fortinet and partially Sophos thanks to the Astaro acquisition), and two vendors focused essentially on endpoint security (Kaspersky and Trend Micro).

The following table summarizes their predictions:

In order to correctly understand the chart a premise is needed: as you will probably have already noticed, in several cases the predictions reflect the specific security focus for the analyzed vendor. For instance, Websense is focused on DLP, and that is the reason why the adoption of DLP is one of its predictions. Analogously McAfee is investing huge resources for Security on Silicon, and this implies that embedded systems and Malware Moving Beyond OS are present among its predictions. Same speech could be applied for Trend Micro and its Cloud Prediction and so on.

Some trends for this year are clearly emphasized: easily predictable Hactivism appears on 6 of the 7 vendors, as mobile (with different connotations) does. Social Media is on the spot as well as are SCADA, Embedded Systems and, quite surprisingly in my opinion, cloud. I would have expected a greater impact for APTs, but for a complete and more accurate analysis one should consider them together with threats targeting embedded systems or ICS. Even because according to several security firms, for instance Kasperky, APT Stuxnet-like will be used for tailored campaigns, whilst more “general purpose malware”, including botnets will be used for massive campaigns (this item is summarized as Mass Targeted Campaigns).

 

Some “old acquaintances” will be with us in 2012: consumerization, at least according to Sophos and Trend Micro (even if consumerization is strictly connected, if not overlapped with mobile) and, if the Comodo and Diginotar affaires were not enough, Rogue Certificates, according to McAfee. Instead some “new entries” are absolutely interesting, such as the threats related to NFC (even if in this case I would have expected a greater impact) or related to Virtual Currency. Besides let us hope that the prediction to adopt DNSSEC be more than a prediction but a consolidated practice.

The most conservative security firm? In my opinion Cisco. The most “visionary”? Maybe Fortinet, I found the “Crime as a Service (CaaS)” absolutely awesome, and most of all not so visionary, since there are already some (even if clumsy) attempts.

In any case with this plenty of Cyber Nightmares is not a surprise the fact the Enterprise security market is going to reach $23 billion worldwide in 2012 with a 8.7% growth year-on-year.

December 2011 Cyber Attacks Timeline (Part II)

December 30, 2011 2 comments

This infamous 2011 is nearly gone and here it is the last post for this year concerning the 2011 Cyber Attacks Timeline. As you will soon see from an infosec perspective this month has been characterized by two main events: the LulzXmas with its terrible Stratfor hack (whose effects are still ongoing with the recent release of 860,000 accounts), and an unprecented wave of breaches in China which led to the dump of nearly 88 million of users for a theoretical cost of nearly $19 million (yes the Sony brech is close). For the rest an endless cyberwar between India and Pakistan, some hactivism and (unfortunately) the usual amounts of “minor” breaches and defacement. After the page break you find all the references.

Last but not least… This post is my very personal way to wish you a happy new infosec year.

Read more…

November 2011 Cyber Attacks Timeline (Part I)

November 17, 2011 5 comments

Update 12/01/2011: November Cyber Attacks Timeline (Part II)

This first half of November has been very hard for Steam. The Valve Online Gaming Platform suffered a security breach putting at risk a potential sample of 37 million of users and hence wins the crown for the Major Breach of the First Half of November.

Also a sportswear giant like Adidas fell among the victims of cybercriminals, with a “sophisticated attack” targeting 500,000 users.

This month was also hot for the Cold Finland which has suffered two security breaches involving more than 30,000 users (a third breach also happened on November, the 16th, affecting 16,000 users but of course will be reported in the next report).

Two other CAs (KPN and Digicert Sdn Bhd Malaysia, not to be confused with Digicert US-based CA) were compromised. Also F-secure discovered a sample of malware signed with a valid certificate stolen from a Malasyan company.

On a larger scale, after 2 years of hunt, FBI uncovered a huge Botnet in Estonia, which stole $14 million from 4 million users worldwide, while on the other side of the Globe, Brazilian ISPS were targeted by a massive DNS Poisoning attack.

Not even Facebook was safe this month, whose (too) many users were targeted with a malware posting pornographic images on their wall exploiting an Internet Explorer Vulnerability.

As far as hactivism is concerned, the political events in the real world had a predictable echo in the Cyber space, with an attack to Palestine the day after the nation was admitted as a full member of UNESCO.

As a retaliation, some Israeli Government web sites were targeted with a wave of DDoS attacks by the infamous Anonymous hacking group. In any case the Anonymous were active also in other Cyberwar fronts acting a couple of defacements and DDoS (in one case they targeted the Muslim Brotherhood) and were also the authors to one of the two attacks in Finland (the one towards a right-wind party).

A group of Hackers called TeaMp0isoN claimed to have hacked more than 150 Email Id’s of International Foreign Governments even if this statement is controversial.

What is not controversial is the Cyberwar declared against Mexico which was targeted, in November, by a massive waves of Cyber Attacks.

Besides these noticeable events, the month was characterized by many other minor attacks and dumps among which, particularly noticeable are: the attacks to a couple of banks (DDoS and defacements) and Universities (UCLA and Standford hit by data breaches), and the Fox Business Twitter Account Hacking (Oops they did it again!).

The month ends with the first example of malware targeting ambulance.

Please notice that I decided henceforth not to insert attacks targeting a limited amount of users and most of all, claimed without clear evidence: in this month I discovered a claimed fake attack to Italian Police announced recycling old data.

  1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/01/palestinians-hit-cyber-attack-unesco
  2. http://www.cyberwarnews.info/2011/11/02/dump-of-steam-accounts/
  3. http://www.symantec.com/content/en/us/enterprise/media/security_response/whitepapers/the_nitro_attacks.pdf
  4. http://thehackernews.com/2011/11/fraud-communities-owned-and-exposed-by.html
  5. http://www.cyberwarnews.info/2011/11/03/opdarknet-official-and-last-release/
  6. http://www.cyberwarnews.info/2011/11/03/accounts-dumped-from-hiphopinstrumental-net/
  7. http://www.cyberwarnews.info/2011/11/03/peru-government-websites-defaced-by-challenges-hackers/
  8. http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2011/11/03/another-certificate-authority-issues-dangerous-certficates/
  9. http://www.cyberwarnews.info/2011/11/04/bayareaconnection-net-defaced/
  10. http://www.cyberwarnews.info/2011/11/04/yet-another-pointless-account-dump-hundreds-dumped-from-www-jjs2-com/
  11. http://threatpost.com/en_us/blogs/another-dutch-ca-kpn-stops-issuing-certificates-after-finding-ddos-tool-server-110411
  12. http://thehackernews.com/2011/11/capitalone-bank-taken-down-by-anonymous.html
  13. http://www.networkworld.com/news/2011/110411-hacker-selling-access-to-compromised-252771.html?source=nww_rss
  14. http://www.phiprivacy.net/?p=8227
  15. http://thehackernews.com/2011/11/anonymous-attack-on-israeli-government.html
  16. http://www.itworld.com/security/222033/fake-threat-against-facebook-dwarfs-anonymous-real-attacks-israel-finland-portugal
  17. http://pplware.sapo.pt/informacao/site-freeport-pt-foi-atacado-entre-outros/
  18. http://www.databreaches.net/?p=21359
  19. http://www.itworld.com/security/222033/fake-threat-against-facebook-dwarfs-anonymous-real-attacks-israel-finland-portugal
  20. http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T111105002386.htm
  21. http://www.cyberwarnews.info/2011/11/08/massive-amount-of-accounts-dumped-from-adidas-com/
  22. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/11/07/adidas_hack_attack/
  23. http://www.cyberwarnews.info/2011/11/08/massive-amount-of-accounts-dumped-from-adidas-com/
  24. http://thehackernews.com/2011/11/international-foreign-government-e.html
  25. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/11/09/teamp0ison_publishes_stupid_password_list/
  26. http://news.softpedia.com/news/16-000-Finns-Affected-by-Data-Breach-232851.shtml
  27. http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2011/11/08/anonymous-attacks-el-salvadoran-sites/
  28. http://www.smh.com.au/business/privacy-of-millions-at-mercy-of-a-usb-device-20111107-1n3wm.html
  29. http://thehackernews.com/2011/11/ump-french-political-party-got-hacked.html
  30. http://www.cyberwarnews.info/2011/11/08/premierleaguepool-co-uk-accounts-dumped-by-sen/
  31. http://www.cyberwarnews.info/2011/11/08/60k-accounts-dumped-from-ohmedia-by-teamswastika/
  32. http://www.cyberwarnews.info/2011/11/08/dump-of-accounts-from-beachvolley-se/
  33. http://www.cyberwarnews.info/2011/11/08/khadraglass-com-hacked-and-accounts-dumped-by-inj3ct0r/
  34. http://www.cyberwarnews.info/2011/11/09/scamming-email-account-dumpers-are-surfacing-50k-french-accounts-dumped/
  35. http://thehackernews.com/2011/11/possible-credit-card-theft-in-steam.html
  36. http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2011/november/malware_110911/malware_110911
  37. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/11/10/it_manager_charges/
  38. http://thehackernews.com/2011/11/bangladesh-supreme-court-website-hacked.html
  39. https://twitter.com/#!/igetroot/status/134865652543520768
  40. http://thehackernews.com/2011/11/operation-brotherhood-shutdown-by.html
  41. http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2011/11/14/ambulance-service-disrupted-by-computer-virus-infection/
  42. http://www.cyberwarnews.info/2011/11/12/ucla-department-of-psychology-hacked-by-inj3ct0r/
  43. http://www.ehackingnews.com/2011/11/social-network-site-findfriendzcom.html
  44. http://www.cyberwarnews.info/2011/11/13/dump-of-information-by-inj3ct0r/
  45. http://www.f-secure.com/weblog/archives/00002269.html
  46. http://www.cyberwarnews.info/2011/11/14/dump-of-accounts-from-congress-of-sonora/
  47. http://www.cyberwarnews.info/2011/11/14/2-more-government-dumps-by-metalsoft-team/
  48. http://www.cyberwarnews.info/2011/11/14/another-big-dump-of-accounts-from-sec404-mexican-hackers/
  49. http://www.cyberwarnews.info/2011/11/14/another-mexican-government-congress-hacked-canaldelcongreso-gob-mx/
  50. http://www.cyberwarnews.info/2011/11/14/dump-of-data-from-another-mexican-congress-sinaloa-state-congress/
  51. http://www.cyberwarnews.info/2011/11/14/ministry-of-economy-mexico-hacked-by-sec404/
  52. http://www.cyberwarnews.info/2011/11/14/unit-of-transparency-and-access-to-public-information-website-hacked/
  53. http://www.cyberwarnews.info/2011/11/14/national-commission-of-physical-culture-and-sport-hacked-and-accounts-leaked/
  54. http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2011/11/14/hacked-sky-news-twitter-account-james-murdoch-arrested/
  55. http://news.softpedia.com/news/Anonymous-Attacks-Anonymous-For-Being-Trolls-234949.shtml
  56. http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2011/11/16/facebook-explains-pornographic-shock-spam-hints-at-browser-vulnerability/

Information, The Next Battlefield

October 5, 2011 1 comment

Today the Information Security Arena has been shaken by two separate, although similar, events: IBM and McAfee, two giants in this troubled market, have separately decided to make a decisive move into the Security Information And Event Management (SIEM) market by acquiring two privately held leading companies in this sector.

As a matter of fact, nearly in contemporary, today IBM has officially announced to acquire Q1 Labs while McAfee was officially declaring its intent to acquire privately owned company NitroSecurity.

Although part of different tactics, the two moves follow, in my opinion, the same strategy which aims to build a unified and self-consistent security model: a complete security framework must not only provide information but also the intelligence to manage it, Information is power and Security is no exception to this rule.

But in order to be a real power, information must be structured and here comes the key point. Both vendors are leading providers of Network and Host Intrusion Prevention Solutions, heritage of the acquisions of ISS by IBM and Intrushield by McAfee and have hence the ability to capture security events from endpoints and networks: definitively they have the ability to provide the information, but they miss the adequate intelligence to correlate and manage it in order to make it structured.

This is completely true for McAfee that, (at least until today) lacked a SIEM solution in its portfolio and needed to rely on the SIA Certified SIEM Partner (Of course NitroSecurity was certified as a Sales Teaming Partner, the higher level). But in part this is also true for IBM that, despite the Micromuse acquisition and its troubled integration with Tivoli, was never able to became a credible player in this market, confined at the boundaries of the various (magic) quadrants.

Now they can make a decisive change to their positioning and also leverage a powerful trojan horse (the Information Management) to push their technologies to conquer new customers and market segments.

Is maybe a coincidence that another leader provider of SIEM solutions (ArcSight) is part of a company (HP) which also has in its portfolio Tipping Point (as part of the 3Com acquisition) a leader provider of Network IPS?

Event detection and event correlations (and management) are converging in the new Unified Security Model, general SIEM vendors are advised…

The Secret Behind LOIC? Simple!

August 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Everyone dealing with Information Security knows very well that SNMP (which stands for Simple Network Management Protocol and corresponds to the standard UDP protocol used to monitor servers and network elements) is considered insecure. In too many circumstances network administrators forget to change the default community strings (the strings used to “softly” authenticate the manager and the agents) from their default values which are typically “public” for read-only access and “private” for read-and-write access on the monitored device. This happens sometimes for thoughtlessness, or simply because network administrators do not consider changing the default security strings a security issues.

And even if SNMP version 3 is used (which grants encryption and mutual authentication between the manager and the agents -at least the attackers may not spoof the default community strings-) in 12 years of honorable career I never found so far the right combination between manager and agent versions: I mean when you have a network manager supporting version 3, the agents only support version 1 or 2c and vice versa if the agents support version 3 you may be sure that the manager only supports version 1 or 2c.

Now there is a reason more to consider SNMP (and its default configurations) an hazard for Information Security. This reason is four letters long and is called LOIC, the infamous tool used by Anonymous to perpetrate the well known DDoS attacks.

So far the infosec community has been divided into two opposite factions: on one side those who think that Anonymous-perpetrated DDoS attacks are successful even with a small number of “enrolled cannons” since the same Anononymous owns a Botnet which from time to time is unleashed against the target. On the other side those claiming that this kind of attacks may be successful only if a huge number of participants volunteer accomplices is enrolled.

Today an article written by Alex Holden, Cyopsis Director of Enterprise Security, offers an alternative hypothesis. The attack method Holden describes is called a Reflected Denial of Service (RDoS) and just utilizes SNMP, which is UDP-based, exploiting the weaknesses in default configurations which populate many devices composing the Internet, with devastating consequences.

The SNMP paradigm, as the name suggests, is very simple: each device (server, network device or application) which must be monitored provides some status variables to the external world. The variables may be queried by a special application called network manager. The variables are organized in different groups (or leaves), and identified by OIDs (or Obiect IDentifiers). Querying the main OID (1.3.6.1) returns all the variables (this is an operation called snmpwalk).

If the assumption of Holden is correct, suppose you are able to spoof a manager with the same address than the target of the attack, and suppose to generate continuous SNMP queries with that address, querying the main OID from all the Internet devices which are known to have standard community strings. The unaware target will be flooded by SNMP replies from those devices with a lethal amplification effect and consequently an apparently innocent misconfiguration (that is the unchanged default community string) becomes an hazard for the Internet.

Of course this is a mere speculation (I did not verify source code), but this would explain why the Anonymous claimed that LOIC traffic is was hard to detect (but not always): the SNMP protocol is very popular and widespread on the Internet.

The same arrests of LOIC users are the reason why a new tool is in development called #RefRef. Developed with JavaScript, the tool is said to use the target site’s own processing power against itself, causing the target to succumbs to resource exhaustion: looks like a Reflected attack against itself).

(Original link via Infosecisland).

If Phishing Goes Mobile…

May 30, 2011 5 comments

One of the most surprising things I noticed concerning the Lockheed Martin Affair, was the affirmation contained in the Reuters Article, made  by Rick Moy, president of NSS Labs, indicating that the initial RSA attack was followed by malware and phishing campaigns seeking specific data to link tokens to end-users (an indirect evidence of the same authors behind the infamous RSA breach and the Lockheed Martin attack.

My initial surprise only lasted few seconds, since, this year is showing us a brand new role for the phishing attacks which are more and more targeted to steal corporate sensitive data, and constitute the first level of attack for Advanced Persistent Threats.

At first sight could be quite difficult to believe that users are still tricked by old-school phishing techniques, but a deeper analysis could show in my opinion, a possible (in part psychological) explanation relying on the fact that the users themselves are still used to think to phishing as something targeted to steal personal information (often with pages crafted with gross errors), and seems to be unprepared to face the new shape of phishing which targets corporate information with cybercrime purposes and industrial methods, which definitively means to perpetrate the attack with plausible and convincing methods, and most of all leveraging arguments the user hardly doubts about (I could doubt of an E-mail from my bank asking me to provide my account and credit card number, maybe, most of all in case I am not an infosec professional, I could feel more comfortable in providing my username to a (fake) provisioning portal of my Company).

But my information security beliefs are falling one after the other, and after reading this really interesting article by Adrienne Porter Felt and David Wagner of the University of California (the marvelous LaTeX layout!)  I can only confirm that mobile devices will be next frontier of phishing.

According to this paper the risk of a success of a phishing attack on mobile devices is dramatically greater than traditional devices due to some intrinsic factors such as the smaller size of the screen, the fact that many applications embed or redirect to web pages (and vice versa some or web pages redirect to applications), the fact that mobile browsers hide the address bar, and most of all the absence of application identity indicators (read the article and discover how easily a fake native application can resemble completely a browser page) which makes very difficult to discover if a certain operation is calling a fake application on the device or it is redirecting the user to a fake application resembling a legitimate login form.

Moreover, the intrinsic factors are worsened by (as usual) the user’s behavior: as a matter of fact (but this is not a peculiarity of mobile devices), users often ignore security indicators, do not check application permissions and are more and more used to legitimate applications continuously asking for passwords with embedded login forms and. Last but not least I would add the fact that they are not still used to think to mobile applications as targets of phishing (Zitmo Docet).

Guess what are the ideal candidates for Mobile Phishing attacks? Easy to say! Facebook and Twitter since they are the most common linked applications used by developers to share their creations (the power of free viral marketing!).

Given the speed with which these devices are spreading in the enterprise (see for instance this GigaOM infographic), there is much to worry about in the near future. An interesting solution could be the operating system to support a trusted password entry mechanism. Will SpoofKiller-like trusted login mechanisms be our salvation as the authors of the paper hope?

More Random Thoughts on the RSA Breach

May 28, 2011 6 comments
The X-35, Joint Strike Fighter from Lockheed M...

Image via Wikipedia

Probably it was a quite easy prediction, however it looks like what I suggested on my random thoughts on the RSA Breach has definitively come true: RSA was not the target, probably its customers were.

On this front, the last two days were quite turbulent, and what seemed initially a simple speculation of an attack using compromised SecureID seeds targeted to “a very large U. S. defense contractor”, is revealing to be one of several attacks towards military contractors of U.S. Defense, using the data stolen during the famous breach of March.

According to a source with direct knowledge of the attacks, quoted in the above linked Reuters article:

The hackers learned how to copy the security keys with data stolen from RSA during a sophisticated attack that EMC disclosed in March, according to the source.

In any case EMC, the parent company of RSA, and the other main U.S. defense contractors possibly involved refused to comment.

I was not surprised by these details, more than one month ago I delineated a possible attack scenario which seems to be very close to what happened, at least for Lockheed Martin. Since the token on its own it is not enough to carry on a successful attack (it must be linked to the owner and very often the real password is also combined with a PIN), other combined actions must be performed to obtain the missing pieces of the puzzle.

I suggested a possible scenario of exploiting the weakness of software tokens, for instance by mean of specific keylogger malware to grab user details and the PIN. It is not exactly what happened in case of Lockheed Martin, but the real attack scenario is quite close since a keylogger was involved as well and used to access the intranet and consequently to get access to the internal network: as a matter of fact, for security reasons many companies use a double layer of authentication for remote access and internal resources. In this case the company forced 100.000 users to reset their passwords.

In reality, as stated by Rick Moy, president of NSS Labs, the initial RSA attack was followed by malware and phishing campaigns seeking specific data that would link tokens to end-users, suggesting that the current attacks may have been carried out by the same hackers. And the game is not over.

Unfortunately the use of phishing to lure the users (and to attack an organization for cybercrime purposes) is not surprising as well. Nowadays this technique, to initially target the users with phishing, leading them to download malware, is the “main engine” of APTs (Advanced Persistent Threats) and it is revealing to be the common denominator of the main breaches and huge scale attacks of this annus horribilis for Information Security. The fact that in this circumstance it was used in combination with the duplicated key of SecureID is only the last unedited variant, and I am afraid it will not be the last.

Fortunately, in any serious situation there is always a flash of humor: according to this article of NYT, the intruders had been detected as they were trying to transfer data by security software provided by NetWitness Corporation, a company that provides network monitoring software. Does NetWitness Corporation sound familiar to you? Of course It does indeed! In April, just after the breach, NetWitness was acquired by RSA’s parent company, EMC.

As Morpheus stated: “Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony”, and this is worthwhile for Information Security as well.

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