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Posts Tagged ‘SecurID’

Application (In)Security in the Citi

Today some more details about the Citi breach were revealed and it looks like it is not connected with the RSA breach.

The investigation is still in place, but data collected so far show the kind of attack performed is pretty much more “traditional” then a SecureID clonation: the attackers were able to bypass the perimeter security systems by logging on the site reserved for credit card customers (but no one has explained so far how) were they were able to exploit some vulnerabilities on the Home Banking Web Site.

Probably they performed an SQL Injection or XSS attacks, (Interesting the non-technical description by NYT):

Once inside, they leapfrogged between the accounts of different Citi customers by inserting vari-ous account numbers into a string of text located in the browser’s address bar. The hackers’ code systems automatically repeated this exercise tens of thousands of times — allowing them to capture the confidential private data.

It looks like application and database security is a curse and a bless for the infosec arena. Although not fully mature in my opinion, it is one of the most promising sectors (in which there are grand maneuvers under way by the vendors), but in the same way, application in(security) has been the indirect reasons for several events this year: Sony (in some of the suffered breaches) and Epsilon have been victims of SQL Injection, and if for a moment we forget the breaches (real leading actors of this 2011) and pass to consider malware, we must necessarily mention LizaMoon which has flooded an impressive number of databases all over the world with SQL Injection, infecting more than 1,500,000 URLs.

Unfortunately these kinds of attacks are not simple exercises in style but are often the first stage of more complex Cybercrime operations. If the stolen Data immediately usable (such as Credit Card Numbers and corresponding CVV codes), they are sold in the Black Market Bazaar. In other circumstances, when the stole information is not enough to gain immediate profit, the targets become victims of tailored spear-phishing campaigns (which could potentially last for several years) aimed to gain the missing pieces of the puzzle (read information) necessary to perform the malicious actions.

That is the reasons why, if not already done, Enterprises need to make application security a key foundation for the development of secure business application and services: educating the developers with secure development guidelines, implementing adequate countermeasures with Web Application/Database Firewall, periodically probing the security level of the infrastructure with Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Test and, last but not least, performing a constant patching.

This corresponds to implement an application oriented modern form of the Deming Cycle, more poetically summarized by the expression “performing Application Housekeeping”.

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Citigroup Breach and RSA Breach: A Possible Connection?

June 9, 2011 1 comment
Citigroup Center Building - New York

Image via Wikipedia

Today Citigroup revealed that the company has been victim of a breach of its online banking platform, which might have exposed sensitive data belonging to about hundreds of thousands of Citi customers.

Citigroup owns approximately 21 million card customers, which means, in turn, that data of 200.000 cardholders have been impacted.

According to Sean Kevelighan, head of communications and public affairs for Citigroup: “A limited number – roughly 1 percent – of Citi North America bankcard customers’ account information [such as name, account number and contact information, including e-mail address] was viewed, the customer’s Social Security number, date of birth, card expiration date and card security code [CVV] were not compromised. We are contacting customers whose information was impacted.”

Apparently the credit cards and Social Security Numbers are safe, but this will not prevent the Cardholders from the real risk  of scams, phishing and fake phone calls from Citibank or its subsidiaries…

At first glance Citigroup is only the last breach following the notorious similar events occurred to RSA, Sony, Epsilon, so definitively nothing new under the sun of this really troubled (from an infosec perspective) 2012.

However, the more (scant so far) information I read, the stronger the suspicion became that the Citigroup and RSA breaches could somehow be linked.

Of course it is right to emphasize that what follows is a mere personal speculation (I would rather say a personal curiosity) based on the few information unleashed so far.

My concern comes from the fact that, according to the original statement, the breach was originated by an unauthorized access to the systems of Citi Account Online discovered during routine monitoring in early May. Citigroup is one of the main RSA customers, and most of all has been one of the first (together with Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo) to immediately ask to replace the tokens as soon as RSA declared the direct involvement of compromised SecurIDs in the Lockheed Martin breach (and consequently offered to replace SecurID tokens). Since I am not a Citigroup Customer, I do not know how the Citi Account Online Service works (in this moment the site is not completely visible, at least from Italy, but from what I have understood OTP is used only for transactions),  so I cannot definitively trace a direct a connection between the unauthorized access and the use of compromised seeds (OK this is the weak point of my theory J), nevertheless if the coincidence of factors appears quite strange. For sure, to compromise data of 200.000 users it is likely (I would say obvious) that the attackers exploited other vulnerabilities.

Also the timeline of the breach is clearly noteworthy: it looks like the Citigroup breach happened at the early May, nevertheless the customers were notified Sunday JUne the 5th : said in few words, a month later. Maybe Citigroup has decided not to warn its customers of too many breaches at the same time (I wonder how many owners of SecurID or PSN members there are between them). Anyway few hours after  the notification to Citigroup customers, RSA would have officially announced the evidence of a direct connection between its breach and the one to Lockheed Martin (and the consequent decision to replace the tokens); equally curiously, according to RSA, this evidence was obtained on June the 2nd, that is approximately three days before the notification by Citigroup to replace the cards to its customers. It is possible (but I repeat this is only a mere personal speculation) that at the moment of notifying its customers, Citigroup was already aware of the direct involvement of the compromised seeds on the Lockheed Martin affair (if I were in RSA’s shoes I would have immediately advised the affected customers), and probably also aware of the RSA offer to replace the compromised tokens. Consequently at that point the Bank realized the true extent of the breach and decided it was the right moment to take adequate countermeasures, first of all notifying the customers, and then finally replacing the tokens, but only after the official RSA statement.

Why Citigroup did not decide to replace the tokens before? The answer is pretty much simple: RSA security breach might cost banks $100 million, so who knows what would have been the cost if Banks should have purchased the new tokens from their own?

In the coming days I will try to follow developments closely, since I am really curious to see it a real involvement of compromised seeds will be identified. For sure we will have to face other similar events in the near future, and I do not exclude other “sons of a (RSA) breach” to come (or better to be unleashed).

Seeds For Free

June 7, 2011 2 comments
An RSA SecurID SID800 token without USB connector

Image via Wikipedia

Another crucial episode in the affair of the RSA Breach. In a letter published yesterday by mean of the Executive Chairman Art Coviello, letter that will probably go into the annals of computer security, RSA has confirmed that information taken in March had been used as an element of an attempted broader attack on Lockheed Martin. This evidence was obtained, according to the company, on June the 2nd, and so far, the Lockeed Martin attack is the only one, among those (alleged) aimed to other contractors, which has been confirmed directly related to the use of compromised seeds.

Finally this letter indirectly confirms that, given the stolen information, SecureID tokens have been comprimised (but this was implicitly said in the original letters as well):

While at this time we are confident that the information extracted does not enable a successful direct attack on any of our RSA SecurID customers, this information could potentially be used to reduce the effectiveness of a current two-factor authentication implementation as part of a broader attack

and moreover, as was quite clear from the beginning, RSA believes that certain characteristics of the original attack indicated that the perpetrator’s most likely motive was to obtain an element of security information to be used to target defense secrets and related IP. For this reason, the Company worked with government agencies and companies in the defense sector to replace their tokens on an accelerated timetable as an additional precautionary measure.

Another interesting (and shareable) point of the letter is the fact that the unprecedented wave of cyber attacks against Epsilon, Sony, Google, PBS, and Nintendo have commanded widespread public attention. Albeit totally unrelated to the breach at RSA, this events, and this is a really important point, delineate a changing threat landscape and hence have heightened public awareness and customer concern: a landscape in which Cybercrime and Cyberwar dangerously overlap.

As a result, the Company is expanding its security remediation program including two offers for assuring SecureID users’ confidence:

  • An offer to replace SecurID tokens for customers with concentrated user bases typically focused on protecting intellectual property and corporate networks.
  • An offer to implement risk-based authentication strategies for consumer-focused customers with a large, dispersed user base, typically focused on protecting web-based financial transactions.

Is this a new dawning age for two-factors authentication?

Seeds On Sale?

June 2, 2011 1 comment
A Lockheed Martin building in Bethesda, Maryland

Image via Wikipedia

With the alleged Northrop Grumman Cyber-attack, we have experienced three attempts, unleashed in few days, to leverage the compromised RSA seeds in order to steal data from U.S. Contractors.

Albeit the above mentioned events are characterized by two evident points in common: all the targeted companies are U.S. Defense Contractors, and all of them use RSA tokens; there is a point that seems confusing, and it is the timeline with which the attacks were carried out and subsequently unleashed (we will see that the two are very different and somehow confusing).

Analyzing the timeline: the first attack unleashed was the one led against Martin Lockheed. According to the sources, remote access to internal resources was disabled late on Sunday, May, the 22nd, just immediately after the attack was detected. The first details, although the target was not immediately revealed, were given few days after, on May, the 26th.

The second cyber-attack targeted L-3 and was unleashed few days after , on May, the 31st. According to the information revealed, the event occurred at the beginning of April (more exactly on April, the 6th, that is more than a month and a half before) and described into an e-mail sent by an executive to the 5000 group’s employees belonging to the division affected. Nothing strange apparently: the late disclosure was unintended for the target company and probably a consequence of the huge echo raised after the Lockheed Martin affair which led an anonymous source to reveal details to Wired.

On June, the 2nd, an alleged third attempt to attack a U.S. Defense Contractor using compromised seeds was unleashed, this time against Northrop Grumman. According to the revealed timeline, this attack was held on May, the 26th, that is nearly in contemporary (4 days after) the event of Lockheed Martin.

So definitively although the three attacks were revealed nearly in contemporary, only two of them were (i.e. the ones towards Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman), while the second one, to L-3 happened a couple of weeks after the RSA Breach and almost one month and half before the others. This sounds not clear to me.

If I had been in the attackers’ shoes, I would have attacked all at once in order to prevent the spreading of the information, and definitively to avoid the possibility for the others victims to organize themselves, for instance immediately replacing the tokens as made by Raytheon immediately after the RSA Breach.

Let us suppose (as it seems clear) that the alleged theft of the seeds was only the first step of the “perfect plan” to attack the U.S. Defense contractors, let us also suppose that the attackers took some time to obtain the missing pieces of the puzzle, that is to link the tokens to users, and eventually to obtain the PINs, by mean of keylogger trojans or phishing e-mails as suggested by by Rick Moy, president of NSS Labs. Do you really think that they would have left one month and a half between one attack and the other? Honestly speaking I do not think so. Of course I can imagine that obtaining all the PINs or user to token mappings at once was simply impossible, for reasons of time because it is impossible that all the victims to a specific targeted phishing campaign could reply simultaneously, but also because a massive “vertical” campaign of phishing targeting all the U.S. Contractors (and aimed to obtain information about RSA tokens) would have probably raised too much attention, so that I do not exclude that the necessary information to perform the attack had to be obtained with “evasion” techniques.

Nevertheless, provided the above depicted scenario is real, even if it is unlikely the attackers could attack all the target simultaneously, one month and half between one wave and the other seems actually too much: I doubt they already knew that the information concerning the first alleged attack to L-3 would have been revealed only many days after, of course it is easy to predict that L-3 and the eventual other victims would not have been happy to do it immediately after; but if they really had the perfect plan, relying on a similar occurrence would have been a huge hazard capable to put at risk the entire operation.

I seriously fear the truth is different. Of course this is a mere personal speculation, but I am more and more considering the hypothesis that a first wave of attacks was really held at the beginning of April (more or less in contemporary with L-3), that is after a short interval the original breach, short enough to catch the most part of the victims unprepared, most of all in case of very big companies. The consequence could be that many others attacks have not been revealed or simply were not detected at all, since, as I said a couple of days ago:

I wonder if military contractors are really the only targets or if they have been the only ones capable to detect the attempts because of their strict security protocols and policies.

How to explain the alleged second wave of May? It might be that the attackers have tried once, since the result was successful (it is not clear if they were able to steal sensitive data, but for sure the information was not immediately revealed) so they decided to try a second and a third chance (and who knows how many others). Otherwise, it might be that after the first wave they decided to sell the seeds on the black market (probably at a lower price since at that point the seeds would have been considered a good of second choice), and this could explain the late attack to Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman (and who knows who else). In this case I am afraid we will see many other attacks, unless other potential targets (that so far refused to comment the events) will not decide to follow the example of Raytheon and replace the tokens.

Another Breach In The Wall

June 2, 2011 10 comments
Northrop Grumman  RQ-4 Global Hawk

Image by gpjt via Flickr

Hard Times to come for U.S. Defense Contractors: it looks like each new day reveals information of a new cyber-attack to military technology companies using (alleged) compromised SecureID seeds.

This time Fox News reports that Northrop Grumman, another Defense Contractor has been the victims of a Cyber Attack, on On May 26, when the company shut down remote access to its network without warning, catching even senior managers by surprise and leading to speculation that a similar breach had occurred.

Even if there is no evidence so far that the cyber attack could be the consequence of the RSA Breach on March, there are at least two strange coincidences: the fact that this is the third attack to a U.S. Defense Contractor unleashed in less than a week (after Lockheed Martin and L-3), and the fact that Northrop Grumman is an RSA SecureID customer.

If the attack should be confirmed to have been carryed out by mean of compromised seeds, this would undoubtely confirm the RSA Breach was only the first stage of a (vertical) cyber-operation targeted to steal U.S. Military secretes (at this point I would not be surprised if other institutions belonging to different verticals are already under attack without realizing it).

Probably, as David Cenciotti said in a post of ysterday, it is time to rethink Strong Authentication: “something you know and something you have” is revealing to be a too weak paradigm if compared with the strenghts of Ciberweapons (because we are talking of Cyberweapons) who have shown to be capable to subtract any kind of data, sometimes leveraging users’ naivety with old-school techniques).

Morevoer also the users should be educated to face the new shape of cyberwar phishing if it is true, as it supposed to have happened in case of Lockheed Martin, that phishing techniques were used to map users to their token.

Biometrics Reloaded?


May 31, 2011 11 comments

I just finished reading this interesting article that seems to offer a different view for the attack at Lockheed Martin (actually, a lone voice which does not consider the attack related to compromised seeds), that here it is another bolt from the Blue. As a matter of fact Wired reports that a second Defense Contractor, L-3, has been targeted with penetration attacks leveraging information stolen from the infamous RSA Breach. This information was contained into an E-mail, dated April 6, sent to the 5000 group’s employees. t’s not clear from the e-mail whether the hackers were successful in their attack, or how L-3 determined SecurID was involved.

Protecting our network is a top priority and we have a robust set of protocols in place to ensure sensitive information is safeguarded. We have gotten to the bottom of the issue.

Is the only comment of the company.

This revelation occurs few days after the explosive news pertaining the attack led with similar methods to another Defense Contractor, Lockeed Martin.

Maybe all the defense contractors should have followed the wise example of  Raytheon (another Defense Contractor) which declared to have taken immediate companywide actions in March when incident information was initially provided to RSA customers, to prevent a widespread disruption of their network.

If confirmed, this event is a further corroboration of the fact the real target of the Hackers was not RSA but their customers, event if at this point I wonder if military contractors are the only targets or if they have been the only ones capable to detect the attempts because of their strict security protocols and policies.

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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