“Consistent with our security response practices”, the company chose not to make a detailed statement during the initial information gathering process. According to the few information available, a small number of computers, including several machine in the Mac business unit, were infected by malicious software using techniques similar to those documented by other organizations.
This suggests that the company was probably the victim of the exploit injected through the compromising of the iPhoneDevSDK Forum. Apparently there is no evidence of customer data being affected while the investigation is ongoing.
Only the last example of an endless trail of high-profile security breaches.
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.
They are among us! ISACA has just released its Advanced Persistent Threat Awareness Report. The study presents the results of a survey undertaken by ISACA in the fourth quarter of 2012 with a sample of information security professionals including information security managers in different industries and organizations throughout the world (1,551 individuals globally, representing more than 20 industries).
The results of the survey are interesting to measure the level of awareness, but not so encouraging (and in several circumstances also contradictory) for other aspects:
- The survey results reveal that 25.1% of respondents are very familiar with APTs, although (somehow in contradiction with the previous statement), 53.4% of respondents indicated that they do not believe APTs differ from traditional threats.
- 89.7% of respondents believe that the use of social networking sites increases the likelihood of a successful APT attack.
- 87.3% think that BYOD, combined with rooting or jailbreaking makes a successful APT attack more likely.
- The biggest risk for the enterprise is the Loss of Intellectual Property (25.5%) and the Loss of Personal Information (23.6%). Reputational damage is the third biggest risk (20.5%).
- Only 21.6% of respondents reported having been subject to an APT attack, but 63% of them believes that it is only a matter of time before their enterprise is targeted.
- In any case, nearly 60% of respondents believe that they are ready to respond to APT attacks. Of those: 14% responded that they are “very prepared,” which indicated that they have a documented and tested plan in place for APT. Another 49.6% responded that they have an incident management plan although it does not specifically cover APT.
But in my opinion, the most surprising finding is the fact that, from a technological point of view, a very high percentage (above 90%) of surveyed responded that they are using antivirus and anti-malware and/or traditional network perimeter technologies to thwart APTs. Other kinds of technologies (Sandboxing, Event Correlation, Mobile or Traditional Endpoint Control, Remote access), have a much lower impact (below 60%).
Contradictory results that show a high awareness about Advanced Persistent Threats, but maybe more from a marketing point of view than from a substantial perspective. As a matter of fact more than one half of the sample does not consider APTs different from the other threats. This explains the high value of respondents who leverage traditional technologies to (believe to) thwart this class of threats.
Another high-profile security company has been breached. Bit9, a leading provider of application whitelisting technology, has admitted to have been attacked by a malicious external third party who was able to illegally gain access to one of their digital code-signing certificates. The attackers did not waste time and the compromised certificate has immediately been used to sign malware infiltrating, according to the company’s investigation, the network of three customers.
The news was initially revealed by Brian Krebs in a blog post, and later confirmed by the security vendor, which also gave additional (scant) details, including the fact that the malicious attackers were able to infiltrate a portion of their internal network not protected by their product.
“We simply did not follow the best practices we recommend to our customers by making certain our product was on all physical and virtual machines within Bit9.“
At first glance the attack has many points in common with the infamous RSA Breach of 2011, including the fact that maybe the real target of the attack was not the company itself, but the protected network of its customers. On the other hand, if it is true, as the company claims, that Bit9 was the only security company capable to stop both the Flame malware and the RSA breach attack, to achieve their target, the attackers had no other chance than attacking the source of their technology.
The latest demonstration, if necessary, that attacks are becoming more and more aggressive and sophisticated, and the protection is not only a matter of technology but even of good procedures and best practice, and not only for the possible victims…
The period between November and December is particularly interesting for the Infosec community, since nearly all the main security vendors use to unveil their predictions for the next year, trying to anticipate the trends and the issues that will trouble the system administrators’ sleeps.
Exactly as I did last year, I analyzed the predictions of 7 vendors, choosing the ones that I consider particularly meaningful for the presence of the vendor in the market and for the coverage of their respective solution portfolio. In comparison with the last year, I was not able to find any prediction from Cisco (at least so far). However I was able to include the ones issued by Symantec, that were missing from my initial version. Hence the list of the vendors taken into consideration is the following:
Nearly all the analyzed vendors went through deep transformations during the past year, reflecting the changing trends in the market. Fortinet is considered a vendor focused on UTM Technologies, although it offers a wide portfolio of solutions ranging from endpoint to WAFs. After the acquisition of Astaro, Sophos is expanding its offering from the endpoints to the UTM segment. McAfee covers a wide area: historically focused on the endpoints, the long trail of acquisitions allows the company to be present in all the segments of the security market. Websense went through its historical flagship, the URL filtering, moving its security model to the endpoint. Symantec and Trend Micro have their foundation on the endpoints, but are more and more concentrated on securing the cloud. Kaspersky is still concentrated on the endpoints, although the company has been very active in the last year in the analysis of the cyberwar events, most of all in Middle East.
Yes, the rise of the malware on mobile platforms seems unstoppable, not only it reached unprecedented levels in 2012, but apparently it will be the protagonist even for 2013, at least for 5 vendors on 7. Indeed the vendors are 6 if one considers also the cross-platform malware which is equally a threat for mobile platforms. Furthermore one vendor (Fortinet), considers the role of mobile threats also as a threat vector for APTs in 2013.
Politically motivated attacks rank at number 2, even if with different connotations: Kaspersky and Websense mention explicitly state-sponsored attacks, while Symantec and Trend Micro include also attacks motivated by hacktivism in this category. It is not a coincidence that Kaspersky and Websense include Hacktivism into an explicit prediction.
It is also interesting to notice the ransomware at number 3 with just 3 preferences. Particularly interesting the indication of Sophos that speaks of “Irreversible” malware, since this class of threats is increasingly using encryption to make the compromised content unrecoverable.
The trend is even more visible from the distribution chart, that also emphasizes the role of the cloud, in the double shape of source and target of the cyber attacks.
Two vendors (McAfee and Trend Micro) include the proliferation of embedded systems (for instance Smart TV equipped with Android) as one of the main security issues for 2013. Honestly speaking I would have expected a major impact for this threat.
Last but not least, two vendors (Kaspersky and McAfee) believe that Targeted Attacks and Signed Malware will experience a major rise in 2013.
(But in some cases may remain unknown for up to 2.5 years). A couple of days ago, two Symantec Researchers have published an interesting article (“Before We Knew It: An Empirical Study of Zero-Day Attacks In The Real World”) reporting the study of 0-Day Attacks between 2008 and 2001. They have analyzed 300 million files collected by 11 million hosts (a representative subset of the hosts running Symantec products) between March 2008 and February 2011.
These files were extracted from the the WINE environment (Worldwide Intelligence Network Environment, a platform for repeatable data intensive experiments aimed to share comprehensive field data among the research community) and correlated with three additional sources: the Open Source Vulnerability Database (OSVDB), Symantec’s Threat Explorer (the company database for the known malware samples) and an additional Symantec data set with dynamic analysis results for malware samples.
The purpose of the research was to execute a sort of automatic forensic analysis aimed to go back in time to look for 0-day attacks carried on during the analyzed period. The results are disarming.
The researchers were able to find 18 vulnerabilities exploited before disclosure, among which 11 were not previously known to have been deployed in 0-day attacks. Based on the data, a typical zero-day attack lasts on average 312 days, but in some cases may remain unknown for up to 2.5 years (think to what it means to have the enemy inside the gates for such a long time).
Just to confirm that 0-days are the cradle of targeted attacks, the data show that most zero-day attacks affect few hosts, with the exception of a few high-profile attacks (Do you remember Stuxnet?). Moreover, after vulnerabilities are disclosed, the volume of attacks exploiting them increases by up to 5 orders of magnitude (the number of variants increases “only” by up to 2 orders).
And this is not a mere coincidence since apparently the cyber criminals watch closely the vulnerability landscape, as exploits for 42% of all vulnerabilities employed are detected in field data within 30 days after the disclosure date.
A terribly worrying landscape, even considering a theoretical point of weakness of the research, that is the fact that the sample could be considered self-consistent referring only to malware strains collected by Symantec customers.
Probably there’s something more in the Next Step Of Botnets besides BlackHole 2.0 and Tor C&C mentioned in my previous post. I mentioned the takedown of the Nitol Botnet by Microsoft as one of the most important infosec events of the last week, but I forgot to mention one important aspect related to this event: the malware supply chain.
As a matter of fact, in case of Nitol, Microsoft discovered a real botnet factory, that is a compromised supply chain, based in China, that allowed new computers (to be sold to unaware consumers) to come pre-installed with malware embedded with counterfeit version of Microsft OS.
A step forward in the Cyber Crime industry with the advantage for cyber crooks to setup an “army” of zombie machines without enforcing time consuming drive-by attacks or spam campaigns. I used the term army since the main features of Nitol are the capability to execute on-demand DDoS attacks (besides to offer a backdoor to cyber criminals for taking control of the infected machines).
Unfortunately, what’s especially disturbing according to Microsoft, is that the counterfeit software embedded with malware could have infiltrated the chain at any point.
If you still have doubts that Cyber Crime has become a real industry there’s no better example to demonstrate it. Moreover I cannot help but think that, once upon a time, new computers came out with antivirus software embedded, today they are sold directly with malware.
- The Next Step of Botnets (hackmageddon.com)
So Google has acquired Virus Total, the Spanish company which provides the well-known cloud-based free service that analyzes suspicious files and URLs to detect malware, by comparing the results of 42 different antivirus engines and 30 URL scanning services. The news has been given today with a blog post.
Google’s move does not come so unexpected if you consider that Anti-Malware services are moving towards the cloud which is the only way to provide the resources and the holistic perspective needed to analyze the growing number of malware samples (and variants), a task which requires a huge amount of computational resources and a real-time intelligence. To have an idea of the resources needed, try to have a look at the Virus Total Statistics.
On the other hand, the Spanish company has admitted in the blog post that the Virus Total service will undoubtedly benefit from Google’s horsepowers:
- The quality and power of our malware research tools will keep improving, most likely faster; and
- Google’s infrastructure will ensure that our tools are always ready, right when you need them.
Continuing to operate independently, and to maintain the existing partnerships with other antivirus companies and security experts.
And Google? Even if detractors claim that the company will exert a strict control on malware data, the target of the acquisition is a quantum leap in web security, with the possibility to include Virus Total Security Services and Technologies inside the rich service portfolio of Mountain View. Think for instance to real time scanning (with 30 engines) of the URLs in search engine results.
Time will tell who is right, in the meantime keep on submitting malware samples!
Yesterday Bloomberg reported the news of a new cyber attack in Middle East targeting an Oil Company. The latest victim is Ras Laffan Liquefied Natural Gas Co., a Qatari LNG producer that has shut down part of its computer systems targeted by an unidentified malware since Aug. 27.
According to the scant official information available, desktop computers in company offices were the only affected, while operational systems at onshore and offshore installations were immune, with no impact on production or cargoes.
Of course it is impossible to avoid a parallelism with the cyber attack targeting Saudi Aramco a couple of weeks ago, and the 30,000 workstations that the company admitted to have been targeted (and restored only few days ago) by this malware outbreak. It is also impossible not to mention the infamous Shamoon, the brand new malware discovered in Middle East that information security community immediately connected to the Saudi Aramco cyber incident, furthermore stating (by literally quoting Symantec’s blog):
W32.Disttrack is a new threat that is being used in specific targeted attacks against at least one organization in the energy sector.
The Ras Raffan cyber attack maybe provides a partial answer to the question regarding who else might have been affected by Shamoon (I wonder if we will soon learn of other companies targeted) and even if security researchers have not confirmed, so far, the connection between Shamoon and this latest attack, the first speculations on regard have already appeared. According to the WSJ, the RasGas information technology department identified the virus as Shamoon, stating that:
Following the virus attack, some “computers are completely dead”.
The Middle East is considered the Cradle of Civilization, but I am afraid that, in this 21st century, it is becoming the “Cradle of Cyber War”. And even if you consider Shamoon just an amateurish copycat (with no cyberwar intentions), you cannot ignore that the latest research according to which even Wiper is a son of the so-called Tilded Platform (the same malware platform that originated Stuxnet, Duqu and Flame).
This cannot be considered a mere coincidence.