November has gone and it’s time to review this month’s cyber landscape.
From a Cyber Crime perspective, November 2012 will be probably remembered for the breach to Nationwide, one of the largest insurance and financial services providers in the US, a breach that has potentially left up to 1 million users exposed. Unfortunately, in terms of massive breaches, this is not the only remarkable event of the month, just at the end Acer India has suffered a massive cyber attack culminated in the leak of nearly 15,000 records. Not comparable with the breach that affected Nationwide, but for sure of big impact.
Also on the cyber-espionage front this month has been interesting: JAXA, the Japan Space agency has been targeted by yet another targeted attack (after January 2012) and Symantec has discovered W32.Narilam, a new destructive malware targeting several nations in Middle East.
The hacktivist front has been characterized by the dramatic events in Gaza, the attacks have reached a peak around the first half of the month (as in the first part, I did not take into consideration the attacks carried on in name of OpIsrael for which I wrote a dedicated timeline), in any case the Anonymous have found another way to mark this month, leaking 1 Gb of documents from the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Last but not least, this month has seen three large-scale DNS Poisoning attacks (against the Pakistani Registrar PKNIC, Inc., GoDaddy, and the Romanian Registrar). A very rare occurrence!
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).
- 1-15 November 2012 Cyber Attacks Statistics (hackmageddon.com)
- Timeline of Opisrael (hackmageddon.com)
Cyber Crime, and in particular botmasters, never cease to amaze. If you were (not so much) surprised in discovering the compromised supply chain behind the Nitol Botnet (that allowed Chinese manufacturers to sell compromised computers pre-installed with the botnet), you’d better have a look at the ZeroAccess Botnet, which has recently been analyzed by Sophos.
ZeroAccess has some impressive “state-of-the-art” features such as:
- Pure User-Mode on 32-bit Windows platforms;
- A Peer-to-peer protocol for communicating with other members of the Botnet to receive updates and downlad plugins;
- A modular architecture (via plugins) that allows to generate revenues for Botnet owners in different ways: Click Fraud or Bitcoin Mining (revenues that the security firms estimates in USD 100,000 per day with the botnet at full power);
- A compromised population of over 9 million of PCs infected.
Really impressive features indeed, even if I must confess they were not the ones that impressed me most.
One of the challenges of a “successful” botnet is the capability to spread as quickly as possible, and infect and insert in the botnet (read enroll) the largest number of hosts in the shortest possible time.
Cyber Criminals are becoming increasingly aware of this, and hence, have developed a lucrative Pay-Per-Install
partnership affiliate scheme to distribute the dropper. This affiliate scheme (I like to call it Partnership program) foresees wall paid revenues for affiliates who are able to execute successful installation of the dropper. This is exactly what happens in case of ZeroAccess and it is the reason of its large-scale extent.
The scheme is typically advertised on underground forums and, in case of ZeroAccess, the revenues are differentiated based on the country (probably US victims are the most lucrative, since US gets paid the most, then UK, Canada and Australia), and also on the access rights of the infected user (Admin gets paid more).
After the discovery of compromised supply chains and programs that foresee revenues for botnet distributors, have you still doubts about the fact that Cyber Crime is really becoming an industry?
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)
This information security week has offered many interesting points: the brand new CRIME attack against SSL/TLS, the release of BlackHole Exploit Kit 2.0 that promises new stealth vectors of Drive-By download infections, the takedown of the emerging Nitol botnet by Microsoft, and, last but not least, the first (?) known example of a new generation of a C&C Server leveraging the anonymization granted by Tor Service.
The latter is in my opinion the news with the most important consequences for the Information Security community, since delineates the next step of Botnets’ evolution, after the common, consolidated, C&C communication schema, and its natural evolution consisting in Peer-to-Peer (P2P) communication.
The first (I wonder if it is really the first) discovery of a Botnet command server hidden in Tor, using IRC protocol to communicates with its zombies, has been announced in a blog post by G-Data. Of course the advantages of such a similar communication schema are quite simple: the Botnet may use the anonymity granted by the Deep Web to prevent the identification and the likely takedown of the server, and the encryption of the Tor protocol to make traffic identification harder by traditional layers of defense. Two advantages that greatly exceed the Tor latency which represents the weakness of this communication schema.
Maybe it was only a matter of time, in any case it is not a coincidence that in the same weeks researchers have discovered BlackHole 2.0 and the first (maybe) C&C infrastructure hidden inside the Deep Web: Cyber Criminals are continuously developing increasingly sophisticated methods to elude law enforcement agencies and to evade the security controls of the traditional bastions, and the botnets are confirming more than ever to be the modern biblical plague for the Web…
And even if every now and then good guys are able to obtain a victory (as the Nitol takedown), the war is far from over.
Targeted attacks exploiting endpoint vulnerabilities are becoming more and more common and increasingly aggressive.
For this reason I could not help but notice the last report from NSS Labs dealing with the capability of 13 consumer grade AV products, to protect against two critical Microsoft vulnerabilities (CVE-2012-1875 and CVE-2012-1889). The successful exploitation of these critical vulnerabilities could result in arbitrary remote code execution by the attacker leading to very harmful consequences for the victim, such as, for instance, to make it become part of a botnet. Unfortunately a very common scenario in these troubled days.
Even if these vulnerabilities are a couple of months old (and patched), the resulting report is not so encouraging, and renews the dramatic question: are endpoint protection technologies, on their own, capable to offer adequate protection in the current cyber-landscape?
Probably not, considering the the findings which are quite frustrating:
- Only 4 of the 13 products blocked all attacks: exploit prevention remains a challenge for most products;
- More than half of the products failed to protect against attacks over HTTPS that were blocked over HTTP, a serious deficiency for a desktop AV / host intrusion prevention system (HIPS.);
- Researchers are not the only ones testing security products – criminal organizations also have sophisticated testing processes in order to determine which product detects which malware, and how the various products can be evaded. Some crimewares
will(already) include various one-click buttons to “Bypass VendorX,” for example.
Ok, you might argue that only consumer-grade AV products were tested, so enterprise organizations are not so exposed against exploit attacks. Mmh… Do not jump to conclusions, as I believe the reality is pretty much different and enterprise organizations are even more exposed for the following reasons:
- More and more organizations are approaching the BYOD
philosophypolicy in which users are free to use their own devices. Even worse, too often these are equipped with outdated EPPs (how many organizations enforce NAC policies to check the integrity of the endpoint?).
- Most of all… If cyber criminals have sophisticated testing processes in place, aimed to test the detection capability of the various products, why should they use them only for consumer products and not (also) for the most appealing enterprise crime market?
Yes, definitively I believe endpoint protection technologies, on their own, do not offer adequate protection for exploit prevention, and the time has come for Advanced Threat Detection/Prevention technologies (like Lastline :-)).