Misusing Ethernet To Kill Computer Infrastructure Dead 303

Some attacks on computers and networks are subtle; think Stuxnet. An anonymous reader writes with a report at Net Security of researcher Grigorios Fragkos's much more direct approach to compromising a network: zap the hardware from an unattended ethernet port with a jolt of electricity. Fragkos, noticing that many networks include links to scattered and unattended ethernet ports, started wondering whether those ports could be used to disrupt the active parts of the network. Turns out they can, and not just the ports they connect to directly: with some experimentation, he came up with a easily carried network zapping device powerful enough to send a spark to other attached devices, too, but not so powerful -- at least in his testing -- to set the building on fire. As he explains: I set up a network switch, and over a 5 meters Ethernet cable I connected an old working laptop. Over a 3 meters cable I connected a network HDD and over a 100 meters cable I connected my “deathray” device. I decided to switch on the device and apply current for exactly 2 seconds. The result was scary and interesting as well. The network switch was burned instantly with a little “tsaf” noise. There was also a buzzing noise coming from the devices plugged-in to the network switch, for a less than a second. There was a tiny flash from the network HDD and the laptop stopped working. It is not the cheapest thing in the world to test this, as it took all of my old hardware I had in my attic to run these experiments. I believe the threat from such a high-voltage attack against a computer infrastructure is real and should be dealt with.

Researchers Create Mac "Firmworm" That Spreads Via Thunderbolt Ethernet Adapters 119

BIOS4breakfast writes: Wired reports that later this week at BlackHat and Defcon, Trammell Hudson will show the Thunderstrike 2 update to his Thunderstrike attack on Mac firmware (previously covered on Slashdot). Trammell teamed up with Xeno Kovah and Corey Kallenberg from LegbaCore, who have previously shown numerous exploits for PC firmware. They found multiple vulnerabilities that were already publicly disclosed were still present in Mac firmware. This allows a remote attacker to break into the Mac over the network, and infect its firmware. The infected firmware can then infect Apple Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapters' PCI Option ROM. And then those adapters can infect the firmware of any Mac they are plugged into — hence creating the self-propagating Thunderstrike 2 "firmworm." Unlike worms like Stuxnet, it never exists on the filesystem, it only ever lives in firmware (which no one ever checks.) A video showing the proof of concept attack is posted on YouTube.

Interviews: Ask Brian Krebs About Security and Cybercrime 53

Brian Krebs got his start as a reporter at The Washington Post and after having his entire network taken down by the Lion Worm, crime and cybersecurity became his focus. In 2005, Krebs started the Security Fix blog and Krebs On Security in 2009, which remains one of the most popular sources of cybercrime and security news. Brian is credited with being the first journalist to report on Stuxnet and one of his investigative series on the McColo botnet is estimated to have led to a 40-70% decline in junk e-mail sent worldwide. Unfortunately for Krebs, he's also well known to criminals. In 2013 he became one of the first journalists to be a victim of Swatting and a few months later a package of heroin was delivered to his home. Brian has agreed to give us some of his time and answer any questions you may have about crime and cybersecurity. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.

Eugene Kaspersky: "Our Business Is Saving the World From Computer Villains" 288

blottsie writes: While the nature of Kaspersky's relationship with the Kremlin remains, at the very least, a matter of contention, his company's influence is anything but hazy. On top of their successful antivirus business, Kaspersky Lab researchers have discovered key details about the now-infamous Stuxnet virus, which was deployed by the U.S. and Israel against Iran's nuclear facilities. Kaspersky analysts later uncovered Flame, which the Washington Post found was another American-Israeli cyberweapon against Iran. All of this is on top of building a highly successful antivirus business. In a new interview with the Daily Dot, Kaspersky elaborates on thoughts about his company, his wealth, and the state of modern cybersecurity.

Buggy Win 95 Code Almost Wrecked Stuxnet Campaign 93

mask.of.sanity writes: Super-worm Stuxnet could have blown its cover and failed its sabotage mission due to a bug that allowed it to spread to ancient Windows boxes, malware analysts say. Stuxnet was on the brink of failure thanks to buggy code allowing it to spread to PCs running older and unsupported versions of Windows, and probably causing them to crash as a result. Those blue screens of death would have raised suspicions at the Natanz nuclear lab.

Incomplete Microsoft Patch Left Machines Exposed To Stuxnet LNK Vulnerability 33

msm1267 writes: A five-year-old Microsoft patch for the .LNK vulnerability exploited by Stuxnet failed to properly protect Windows machines, leaving them exposed to exploits since 2010. Microsoft today is expected to release a security bulletin, MS15-020, patching the vulnerability (CVE-2015-0096). It is unknown whether there have been public exploits of patched machines. The original LNK patch was released Aug. 2, 2010. "That patch didn't completely address the .LNK issue in the Windows shell, and there were weaknesses left behind that have been resolved in this patch," said Brian Gorenc, manager of vulnerability research with HP's Zero Day Initiative. Gorenc said the vulnerability works on Windows machines going back to Windows XP through Windows 8.1, and the proof of concept exploit developed by Heerklotz and tweaked by ZDI evades the validation checks put in place by the original Microsoft security bulletin, CVE-2010-2568.

How "Omnipotent" Hackers Tied To NSA Hid For 14 Years and Were Found At Last 115

Advocatus Diaboli writes The money and time required to develop the Equation Group malware, the technological breakthroughs the operation accomplished, and the interdictions performed against targets leave little doubt that the operation was sponsored by a nation-state with nearly unlimited resources to dedicate to the project. The countries that were and weren't targeted, the ties to Stuxnet and Flame, and the Grok artifact found inside the Equation Group keylogger strongly support the theory the NSA or a related US agency is the responsible party, but so far Kaspersky has declined to name a culprit. NSA officials didn't respond to an e-mail seeking comment for this story. What is safe to say is that the unearthing of the Equation Group is a seminal finding in the fields of computer and national security, as important, or possibly more so, than the revelations about Stuxnet.

Forget Stuxnet: Banking Trojans Attacking Power Plants 34

New submitter PLAR writes: Everyone's worried about the next Stuxnet sabotaging the power grid, but a security researcher says there's been a spike in traditional banking Trojan attacks against plant floor networks. The malware poses as legitimate ICS/SCADA software updates from Siemens, GE and Advantech. Kyle Wilhoit, the researcher who discovered the attacks, says the attackers appear to be after credentials and other financial information, so it looks like pure cybercrime, not nation-state activity.

Regin Malware In EU Attack Linked To US and British Intelligence Agencies 131

Advocatus Diaboli writes The Regin malware, whose existence was first reported by the security firm Symantec on Sunday, is among the most sophisticated ever discovered by researchers. Symantec compared Regin to Stuxnet, a state-sponsored malware program developed by the U.S. and Israel to sabotage computers at an Iranian nuclear facility. Sources familiar with internal investigations at Belgacom and the European Union have confirmed to The Intercept that the Regin malware was found on their systems after they were compromised, linking the spy tool to the secret GCHQ and NSA operations.

Highly Advanced Backdoor Trojan Cased High-Profile Targets For Years 143

An anonymous reader points out this story at Ars about a new trojan on the scene. Researchers have unearthed highly advanced malware they believe was developed by a wealthy nation-state to spy on a wide range of international targets in diverse industries, including hospitality, energy, airline, and research. Backdoor Regin, as researchers at security firm Symantec are referring to the trojan, bears some resemblance to previously discovered state-sponsored malware, including the espionage trojans known as Flame and Duqu, as well as Stuxnet, the computer worm and trojan that was programmed to disrupt Iran's nuclear program. Regin likely required months or years to be completed and contains dozens of individual modules that allowed its operators to tailor the malware to individual targets.

First Victims of the Stuxnet Worm Revealed 39

An anonymous reader writes: Analyzing more than 2,000 Stuxnet files collected over a two-year period, Kaspersky Lab can identify the first victims of the Stuxnet worm. Initially security researchers had no doubt that the whole attack had a targeted nature. The code of the Stuxnet worm looked professional and exclusive; there was evidence that extremely expensive zero-day vulnerabilities were used. However, it wasn't yet known what kind of organizations were attacked first and how the malware ultimately made it right through to the uranium enrichment centrifuges in the particular top secret facilities. Kaspersky Lab analysis sheds light on these questions.

Book Review: Countdown To Zero Day 58

benrothke writes A word to describe the book Takedown: The Pursuit and Capture of Americas Most Wanted Computer Outlaw was hyperbole. While the general storyline from the 1996 book was accurate, filler was written that created the legend of Kevin Mitnick. This in turn makes the book a near work of historical fiction. Much has changed in nearly 20 years and Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the Worlds First Digital Weapon has certainly upped the ante for accurate computer security journalism. The book is a fascinating read and author Kim Zetters attention to detail and accuracy is superb. In the inside cover of the book, Kevin Mitnick describes this as an ambitious, comprehensive and engrossing book. The irony is not lost in that Mitnick was dogged by misrepresentations in Markoff's book. Keep reading for the rest of Ben's review.

"BadUSB" Exploit Makes Devices Turn "Evil" 205

An anonymous reader writes with a snippet from Ars Technica that should make you (even more) skeptical about plugging in random USB drives, or allowing persons unknown physical access to your computer's USB ports: When creators of the state-sponsored Stuxnet worm used a USB stick to infect air-gapped computers inside Iran's heavily fortified Natanz nuclear facility, trust in the ubiquitous storage medium suffered a devastating blow. Now, white-hat hackers have devised a feat even more seminal—an exploit that transforms keyboards, Web cams, and other types of USB-connected devices into highly programmable attack platforms that can't be detected by today's defenses. Dubbed BadUSB, the hack reprograms embedded firmware to give USB devices new, covert capabilities. In a demonstration scheduled at next week's Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, a USB drive, for instance, will take on the ability to act as a keyboard that surreptitiously types malicious commands into attached computers. A different drive will similarly be reprogrammed to act as a network card that causes connected computers to connect to malicious sites impersonating Google, Facebook or other trusted destinations. The presenters will demonstrate similar hacks that work against Android phones when attached to targeted computers. They say their technique will work on Web cams, keyboards, and most other types of USB-enabled devices.

Western Energy Companies Under Sabotage Threat 86

An anonymous reader writes In a post published Monday, Symantec writes that western countries including the U.S., Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Turkey, and Poland are currently the victims of an ongoing cyberespionage campaign. The group behind the operation, called Dragonfly by Symantec, originally targeted aviation and defense companies as early as 2011, but in early 2013, they shifted their focus to energy firms. They use a variety of malware tools, including remote access trojans (RATs) and operate during Eastern European business hours. Symantec compares them to Stuxnet except that "Dragonfly appears to have a much broader focus with espionage and persistent access as its current objective with sabotage as an optional capability if required."

Is Analog the Fix For Cyber Terrorism? 245

chicksdaddy writes "The Security Ledger has picked up on an opinion piece by noted cyber terrorism and Stuxnet expert Ralph Langner (@langnergroup) who argues in a blog post that critical infrastructure owners should consider implementing what he calls 'analog hard stops' to cyber attacks. Langner cautions against the wholesale embrace of digital systems by stating the obvious: that 'every digital system has a vulnerability,' and that it's nearly impossible to rule out the possibility that potentially harmful vulnerabilities won't be discovered during the design and testing phase of a digital ICS product. ... For example, many nuclear power plants still rely on what is considered 'outdated' analog reactor protection systems. While that is a concern (maintaining those systems and finding engineers to operate them is increasingly difficult), the analog protection systems have one big advantage over their digital successors: they are immune against cyber attacks.

Rather than bowing to the inevitability of the digital revolution, the U.S. Government (and others) could offer support for (or at least openness to) analog components as a backstop to advanced cyber attacks could create the financial incentive for aging systems to be maintained and the engineering talent to run them to be nurtured, Langner suggests."
Or maybe you could isolate control systems from the Internet.
The Military

S. Korea's Cyberwar Against N. Korea's Nukes 57

An anonymous reader writes "Yonhap News Agency reports that South Korea has announced it is developing offensive cyber-capabilities to target North Korea's nuclear facilities. Yonhap speculates the tools will be similar to the Stuxnet computer virus the U.S. used against Iran's uranium enrichment program. A report in The Diplomat questions this assertion, noting that a Stuxnet-like virus would only temporarily disrupt Pyongyang's ability to build more nuclear weapons, while doing nothing to address its existing ones. Instead, The Diplomat suggests Seoul is interested in developing cyber-capabilities that temporarily disable North Korea's ability to launch nuclear missiles, which would be complement Seoul's efforts to develop precision-guided missiles to preemptively destroy Pyongyang's nuclear and missile facilities."

3 Reasons To Hate Mass Surveillance; 3 Ways To Fight It 120

This site's "Your Rights Online" section, sadly, has never suffered for material. The revelations we've seen over the last year-and-change, though, of widespread spying on U.S. citizens, government spying in the E.U. on international conferences, the UK's use of malware against citizens, and the use of modern technology to oppress government protesters in the middle east and elsewhere shows how persistent it is. It's been a banner year on that front, and the banner says "You are being spied on, online and off." A broad coalition of organizations is calling today "The Day We Fight Back" against the growing culture of heads-they-win, tails-you-lose surveillance, but all involved know this is not a one-day struggle. (Read more, below.)

In an Age of Cyber War, Where Are the Cyber Weapons? 94

chicksdaddy writes "MIT Tech Review has an interesting piece that asks an obvious, but intriguing question: if we're living in an age of cyber warfare, where are all the cyber weapons? Like the dawn of the nuclear age that started with the bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the use of the Stuxnet worm reportedly launched a global cyber arms race involving everyone from Syria to Iran and North Korea. But almost four years after it was first publicly identified, Stuxnet is an anomaly: the first and only cyber weapon known to have been deployed. Experts in securing critical infrastructure including industrial control systems are wondering why. If Stuxnet was the world's cyber 'Little Boy,' where is the 'Fat Man'? Speaking at the recent S4 Conference, Ralph Langner, perhaps the world's top authority on the Stuxnet worm, argues that the mere hacking of critical systems is just a kind of 'hooliganism' that doesn't count as cyber warfare. True cyber weapons capable of inflicting cyber-physical damage require extraordinary expertise. Stuxnet, he notes, made headlines for using four exploits for "zero day" (or previously undiscovered) holes in the Windows operating system. Far more impressive was the metallurgic expertise needed to understand the construction of Iran's centrifuges. Those who created and programmed Stuxnet needed to know the exact amount of pressure or torque needed to damage aluminum rotors within them, sabotaging the country's uranium enrichment operation."

Researcher Offers New Perspective On Stuxnet-Wielding Sabotage Program 46

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Help Net Security: "Stuxnet, the malware that rocket the security world and the first recorded cyber weapon, has an older and more complex 'sibling' that was also aimed at disrupting the functioning of Iran's uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, but whose modus operandi was different. The claim was made by well-known German control system security expert and consultant Ralph Langner, who has been analyzing Stuxnet since the moment its existence was first discovered. He pointed out that in order to known how to secure industrial control systems, we need to know what actually happened, and in order to do that, we need to understand all the layers of the attack (IT, ICS, and physical), and be acquainted with the actual situation of all these layers as they were at the time of the attack."

Stuxnet Expert Dismisses NIST Cyber Security Framework, Proposes Alternative 32

An anonymous reader writes "Ralph Langner, the security expert who deciphered how Stuxnet targeted the Siemens PLCs in Iran's Natanz nuclear facility, has come up with a cybersecurity framework for industrial control systems (ICS) that he says is a better fit than the U.S. government's Cyber Security Framework. Langner's Robust ICS Planning and Evaluation, or RIPE, framework takes a different approach to locking down ICS/SCADA plants than the NIST-led one, focusing on security capabilities rather than risk. He hopes it will help influence the final version of the U.S. government's framework."