From an information security perspective, the second half of June has been characterized by the hacking collective UGNAZI (and its members) and also by an individual hacker: .c0mrade AKA @OfficialComrade.
Both entities have left behind them a long trail of Cyber Attacks against different targets (in several cases the real extent of the attack is uncertain) and with different techniques, although it is likely that the UGNAZI collective will be forced to change the plans after the arrest of the group’s leader, JoshTheGod, nearly at the end of the month (27thof June), effectively they have considerably reduced the rate of their cyber attacks in the second part of the analyzed period.
On the other hand, hospitals, banks, several major airlines are only few examples of the preys fallen under the attacks carried on by .c0mrade. Plese notce that from Cyber Crime perspective, is also interesting to notice the High Roller Operation, a giant fraud against the banking industry, unmasked by McAfee.
Needless to say, the Cyber War front is always hot, most of all in Middle East, were several DDoS attacks targeted some Israeli institutions and, most of all, an alleged unspecified massive Cyber Attack targeted tje Islamic Republic of Iran.
The hacktitic landscape is completely different: maybe hacktivists have chosen to go on vacation since June 2012 has apparently shown a decreasing trend, in sharp contrast with an year ago, when the information security community lived one of its most troubled periods.
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), 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 timeline.
Christmas has just gone and here it is my personal way to wish you a Happy New Year: the second part of my personal chart (first part here) of Main 2011 Cyber Attacks covering the time window from August to November 2011 (December is not yet finished, and featuring remarkable events, so expect an update very soon). This memorable year is nearly over and is time, if you feel nostalgic, to scroll down the second part of the list to review the main Cyber Events that contributed, in my opinion, to change the landscape and the rules of the (information security) game. Many events in this period among whom, IMHO, the most noticeable is the one carried on against Diginotar. Since then our trust in conventional authentication models is not (and will not be) the same anymore.
Of course this is my personal selection. Suggestions are well accepted and if you need more details about the cyber events in 2011, feel free to consult my 2011 Cyber Attacks Master Index. As usual after the page break you find all the references…
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.
In the same hours in which I was writing the original article concerning the growing attention of utilities and security vendors versus SCADA security holes; an anonymous hacker put in practice the lesson and broke into wind turbine systems. He was able to break a 200 megawat wind turbine system owned by NextEra Energy Resources, a subsidiary of Florida Power & Light, claiming revenge for an “illegitimate firing”. Having said that it is not yet known whether or not it is an hoax (Wind power company sees no evidence of reported hack), the data was posted to the Full Disclossure security mailing list Saturday anonymously, by someone using the name “Bgr R.” In the post, the author of the hack wrote:
Here comes my revenge for illegitimate firing from Florida Power & Light Company (FPL)
… ain’t nothing you can do with it, since your electricity is turned off !!!
Secure you SCADA better! Leaked files are attached …
In an e-mail interview, Bgr R said he’s a former employee who discovered a vulnerability in the company’s Cisco security management software. He used that vulnerability to hack into the SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems used to control the turbines.
Even if the screenshots of the Wind Turbine management interface look legitimate, there are some big question marks. In his interview Bigr R didn’t say much about how he broke into the SCADA systems themselves and he didn’t demonstrate much insider knowledge of Florida Power & Light (FPL) systems.
Hoax or not, this event renews the attention on SCADA Security Issues… For my part I promise I will no longer write down Security Predictions
Utilities and Security Vendors are taking very seriously the events of Stuxnet and they’re consequently running for cover. Although due to natural events, the dramatic facts of Fukushima have shown to the entire World (and likely to Cyber-terrorists) how close we are to the abyss of a nuclear meltdown, with the consequent fear that a simil-Stuxnet malware could give the final push (even if according to some urban legends Stuxnet might have played a role in the failure of cooling systems afterward the Tsunami of March 11, 2011).
In a previous post, I identified the Smart Grids (and more in general SCADA systems) as possible targets of Cyber-Attacks. Not only because they constitute one of the means through which the western world is trying to mitigate the effects on the energy bills of the chronic instability of the oil-producing countries and also the dependency from nuclear energy, but also because Smart Grids (and similar technologies based on Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) will be the core of the promising Green Smart City initiatives promoted by several important IT players.
Taken for granted the many benefits, in terms of flexibility and resilience, deriving from the adoption of an IP-based approach, from a security perspective one must consider that a smart grid is generally composed by IP-Enabled heterogeneous technologies, 15/20 years old (this is the typical life cycle of the components). These technologies, often not even of last generation, unfortunately were not created to ensure the security made necessary by the adoption of an open-world Internet approach. While, on one hand, the IP protocol provides the intelligence that allows the different nodes to think as a single entity, on the other hand, the adoption of such a “single ecosystem model” comes with the price of having to accept (and mitigate) the threats hidden inside the IP packets.
But not only IP: in terms of connectivity, Smart Grids represent a leap into the unknown, since, to further worsen the picture, control systems of Smart Grid are based on the reviled Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, which will have to necessarily reach a meaningful level of complexity to manage the proliferation of smart grids and the huge amount of data collected (the only thought of privacy issues makes me feel a subtle shudder), “old-school that’s SCADA Been Bolted Into Some sort of a newer technology“. Moreover utilities have hundreds of different standards and protocols, and teams that typically operate and maintain the infrastructures own very few IT skills. This also makes it difficult the convergence between different disciplines: the convergence between power distribution and IP-based control technologies is not supported by an analogous convergence between management infrastructures. This is also the outcome of a cultural gap: who manages the utilities does not completely (if not at all) trusts who comes from the IT world because of the hands-on approach of the latter, and hence tends to hide the management details of their closed world.
As a consequence energy utilities are “de facto” building a new Internet, a real parallel universe, as defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which, in the wake of security concerns has promoted appropriate standards and specifications concerning smart grid cyber security of control systems. Analogously further support in this direction will be provided by NERC CIP (North American Electric Reliability Corp. ‘s Critical Infrastructure Protection Plan), recently updated which contains more than 100 standard and establishes requirements for protection of the critical elements of a Smart Grid. Security of Smart Grid Infrastructure is the Starting point and key element of the program.
It is not a coincidence that a recent report by market research firm Pike Research states that Smart grid cybersecurity will increase 62% between 2010 and 2011, and by 2015, the annual worldwide market spending will reach $1.3 billion. According to Pike Research senior analyst Bob Lockhart.
“Smart grid cybersecurity is significantly more complex than the traditional IT security world. It is a common misperception that IT networks and industrial control systems have the same cyber security issues and can be secured with the same countermeasures. They cannot. To successfully secure the electrical grid, utilities and their key suppliers must design solutions that effectively bridge the worlds of information and operations technology.”
Vendors are moving quickly to bulid the bridge and make SCADA premises secure. McAfee has recently announced a strategic partnership with Wind River (another Intel Subsidiary) for embedded devices, with particular focus on industrial control, energy management, automotive, national infrastructure, defense, networking and smartphones as well as emerging segments including smart grid, connected home health care, home gateways and tablets. In the same time, exactly on April, the 13th, the Security Manufacturer of Santa Clara announced a strict joint product certification initiative with Siemens-Division Industry Automation (the manufacturer of Industrial Control Systems hit by Stuxnet). In my opinion the latter press release is not important for the single product involved in the compatibility tests, but rather it states undoubtedly the fact that not only SCADA and IP technologies are converging in Smart Grids, but also security is converging and hence traditional IT focused security vendors are developing new initiatives to face these two sides of the coin. It is likely that similar initiatives will become more and more frequent in the security landscape, and the predictions contained in the Pike Research report will presumably act as a catalyzer.
- Will Energy Facilities Be The Next Targets Of Cyber-War? (paulsparrows.wordpress.com)
- SCADA Security: Bridge the Gap (Updated) (paulsparrows.wordpress.com)
I spent some time in reading the declarations of Comodo Hacker, the alleged author of the fake Certificates issued by mean of the compromising of a couple of (sigh!) Italian Comodo Partners, and I found some very interesting points far beyond the single event.
Actually, it had been clear from the beginning that the attack had been performed from an Iranian ISP, feeding the hypothesis of an Iranian Cyber Army action aimed to intercept emails from dissidents in a quite troubled moment from the Middle East after the winds of change blowing from the Maghreb.
Anyway Comodo Hacker was anxious to quickly put the record straight, declaring he was the only author of the attack, and, if one just wanted to involve an army on the event, had to consider that he was the only army, being able to rely on his own experience of 1000 programmers, 1000 project managers, 1000 hackers:
Now, even if the political connotation of the message still makes me think that behind this act there might be a real cyber army (but this is my personal opinion), this is not the real point. The real point is that this attack occurred as a kind of revenge against Stuxnet, and more in general the fact, supported by Comodo Hacker, that the U.S. and Israel where behind it.
Fight fire with fire, fight code with code…
The attack to Comodo Certificates has left a wide impact in the INFOSEC world and probably things will not be the same anymore since in few days all the strongholds, the identity security model relied on, have been miserably compromised (I took the liberty to add the RSA affaire to this event even if there is no evidence so far of a political matrix behind it). But there is another interesting point, and it is the third law of motion (you will not probably know I was a physic in my previous life) which, with not too much imagination, could be applied to infosec as well, if one considers the events that are happening: “the mutual forces of action and reaction between two bodies are equal, opposite and collinear”, which, in few and simple words should sound as: “to every cber-action corresponds an equal and opposite cyber-reaction”. If this is true, this means to me, as an infosec professional, that we will have to get used to similar cyber actions. Also from this point of view things will not be the same anymore…
Armed with this awareness, my mind runs inevitably among the dunes of the Libyan desert, where a civil war is being fought, now sadly familiar to all. Let me fly (but not too much) with my imagination and think that the Civil War will end up with the exile of Mr. Muammar Gaddafi. In this case it is likely to expect that he will find his revenge, not only with real terrorists act, but also with (cyber)terrorist acts, in the wake of the Comodo affaire, which, even if related to Iran, is the first known example of a cyber-terrorist act strictly related not only to the Stuxnet attack, but also to the movements flooding from Maghreb to Middle East, what I called the Mobile Warfare due to the primary role played by the mobile technologies inside these events.
We don’t have privacy in internet, we don’t have security in digital world, just wait and see… These lines can be considered as a kind of Declaration of Cyber-war against everything…
Targets of Cyberwar
Nowadays everything has a stream of bit inside and as a matter of fact is vulnerable to malware. What is happening in Libya (and the consequences on our energy bills), together with the risk of nuclear meltdown in Fukushima is pushing the so called Western world to reconsider its energy policy and accelerate the development of Smart Grids in order to promote a better, wiser use of energy. In these circumstances compromising an energy facility would have a huge practical and symbolic impact (do you remember the Night Dragon APT, tailored specifically for Oil Facilities?), that is the reason why, in my opinion, the first targets of this Cyber-terrorism reaction will be energy utilities. Few weeks ago I wrote an article (in Italian) concerning vulnerabilities and security of Smart Grids, which can be considered the “world of unknown” from a security perspective since they adopt an Internet open model to interconnect old legacy SCADA systems and, to make matters worse, the structures that govern the IT world and the SCADA world have a silo-ed approach being often mutually suspicious against each other. As a dark omen, few days later, a list of 34 0-day SCADA vulnerabilities was released by Luigi Auriemma, an Italian Researcher.
Think about it: compromising a smart grid with a SCADA malware could have potentially devastating consequences and should sound as a kind of dark revenge: imagine an Iranian SCADA malware sabotaging the energy facilities of U.S., and more in general the facilities the Western World is building to cut the umbilical cord that ties him strictly to the Middle East countries (that often are also the hottest as far as the political temperature is concerned).
Moreover, the development of electric vehicles will further complicate the scenario since they will be able to interconnect Directly to Home Area Networks (the borderline of Smart Grids), offering an unexpected (and probably not so complicated) ingress point for Cyber-Terrorists to Smart Grids, if it is true that nowadays a small car owns 30-50 ECU (Electronic Control Units) interconnected by a bidirectional Synchronous bus and governed by something like 100 millions of lines of codes. My dear friend and colleague, ICT Security expert and Aviation Guru, David Cenciotti will be glad to know that an F-22 Raptor owns about one tenth of lines of codes (“only” 1.7 millions), the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter about 5.7 millions and Boeing 787 Dreamliner about 6.5 millions used to manage avionics and on-board systems. Of course one may not exclude a priori that these systems may be target as well of specific tailored malware (do you remember the intrepid Jeff Goldbum injecting on the mother ship of Aliens on Independence Day?)
Prepare ourselves for a Smart Grid Stuxnet? I think there is enough to be worried about for the next years…