writes: A security researcher has developed a method–actually two methods–for defeating the new Chrome Password Alert extension that Google released earlier this week.
The Password Alert extension is designed to warn users when they’re about to enter their Google passwords into a fraudulent site. The extension is meant as a defense against phishing attacks, which remain a serious threat to consumers despite more than a decade of research and warnings about the way the attacks work.
However, Moore then began looking more closely at the code for the extension, and Chrome itself, and discovered another way to get around the extension. He said this one likely will be more difficult to repair.
“The second exploit will prove quite difficult (if not near impossible) to resolve, as it leverages a race condition in Chrome which I doubt any single extension can remedy. The extension works by detecting each key press and comparing it against a stored, hashed version. When you’ve entered the correct password, Password Alert throws a warning advising the user to change their password,” Moore said.
writes: Rarely does anything have a defined turning point in its history, a single day where people can point and say that was the day everything changed.
For OpenSSL, that day was April 7, 2014, the day that Heartbleed became part of the security lexicon. Heartbleed was a critical vulnerability in the venerable crypto library. OpenSSL is everywhere, in tens of thousands of commercial and homespun software projects. And so too, as of last April, was Heartbleed, an Internet-wide bug that leaked enough memory that a determined hacker could piece together anything from credentials to encryption keys.
“Two years ago, it was a night-and-day difference. Two years ago, aside from our loyal user community, we were invisible. No one knew we existed,” says Steve Marquess, cofounder, president and business manager of the OpenSSL Foundation, the corporate entity that handles commercial contracting for OpenSSL. “OpenSSL is used everywhere: hundreds, thousands of vendors use it; every smartphone uses it. Everyone took that for granted; most companies have no clue they even used it.”
To say OpenSSL has been flipped on its head—in a good way—is an understatement.
Heartbleed made the tech world realize that the status quo wasn’t healthy to the security and privacy of ecommerce transactions and communication worldwide. Shortly after Heartbleed, the Core Infrastructure Initiative was created, uniting The Linux Foundation, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Dell, Google and other large technology companies in funding various open source projects. OpenSSL was the first beneficiary, getting enough money to hire Dr. Steve Henson and Andy Polyakov as its first full-timers. Henson, who did not return a request to be interviewed for this article, is universally known as the one steady hand that kept OpenSSL together, an unsung hero of the project who along with other volunteers handled bug reports, code reviews and changes.
writes: Crazy is never in short supply in Washington. Through lean times and boom times, regardless of who is in the White House or which party controls the Congress, the one resource that’s reliably renewable is nuttery.
This is never more true than when that venerable and voluble body takes up a topic with some technical nuance to it. The appearance of words such as “Internet”, “computers” or “technology” in the title of a committee hearing strike fear into the hearts of all who use such things. This is the legislative body, after all, that counted among its members the late Sen. Ted Stevens, who so eloquently described the Internet as a series of tubes.
And so when a panel with the wonderfully Orwellian name of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform announced a hearing titled “Encryption Technology and Potential U.S. Policy Responses”, the expectations in the security and crypto communities were for plenty of crazy. And it delivered in spades, but perhaps not in the way observers had expected.
The committee hearing was a response to the recent conversations in Washington circles about the need for backdoors in encryption technologies to enable lawful access by the FBI and other agencies. Cryptographers have said consistently that such systems simply don’t work, as they inevitably will allow access for attackers as well as law enforcement, never mind the huge technical challenges of implementing them.
That fact that the decisions by Apple and Google are a result of the NSA's actions did not get past Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), a man with computer science and law degrees and a clear grasp of the issue at hand.
“I take great offense to your testimony today,” Lieu said to Conley. “It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem. Why do you think companies like Apple and Google are doing this? It’s not to make less money. It’s because the public is asking for it.
“This is a private sector response to government overreach. Let me make another statement, that somehow these technology companies aren’t credible because they collect private data. Here’s the difference: Apple and Google don’t have coercive powers. District attorneys do. The FBI does. The NSA does. And to me it’s very simple to draw the privacy balance when it comes to law enforcement privacy. Just follow the damn Constitution. And because the NSA and other law enforcement agencies didn’t do that, you’re seeing a vast public reaction to this."
writes: WordPress security issues have for the most part involved a vulnerable plug-in, but a Finnish researcher has disclosed some details on a zero-day vulnerability he discovered in the WordPress 4.2 and earlier core engine that could lead to remote code execution on the webserver.
Juoko Pynnonen of Klikki Oy reported a new and unpatched stored cross-site scripting vulnerability in the platform; a similar bug was patched this week by WordPress developers, but only 14 months after it was reported.
writes: For years, Apple has enjoyed a pretty good reputation among users for the security of its products. That halo has been enhanced by the addition of new security features such as Gatekeeper and XProtect to OS X recently, but one researcher said that all of those protections are simple to bypass and gaining persistence on a Mac as an attacker isn’t much of a challenge at all.
Gatekeeper is one of the key technologies that Apple uses to prevent malware from running on OS X machines. It gives users the ability to restrict which applications can run on their machines by choosiing to only allow apps from the Mac App Store. With that setting in play, only signed, legitimate apps should be able to run on the machine. But Patrick Wardle, director of research at Synack, said that getting around that restriction is trivial.
“Gatekeeper doesn’t verify an extra content in the apps. So if I can find an Apple-approved app and get it to load external content, when the user runs it, it will bypass Gatekeeper,” Wardle said in a talk at the RSA Conference here Thursday. “It only verifies the app bundle.”
“If Macs were totally secure, I wouldn’t be here talking,” Wardle said. “It’s trivial for any attacker to bypass the security tools on Macs.”
writes: There is a serious vulnerability in all supported versions of Windows that can allow an attacker who has control of some portion of a victim’s network traffic to steal users’ credentials for valuable services. The bug is related to the way that Windows and other software handles some HTTP requests, and researchers say it affects a wide range of applications, including iTunes and Adobe Flash.
The vulnerability, disclosed Monday by researchers at Cylance, is an extension of research done by Aaron Spangler nearly 20 years ago, and it’s known as Redirect to SMB. This weakness can enable an attacker to force victims to try to authenticate to an attacker-controlled server.
“This is a novel attack that can be easily abused to significantly increase the exploitability of Windows client systems communicating on untrusted or compromised networks. While tools like KARMA, Metasploit, and Responder.py depend on the user to make a SMB connection back to the attacker, the Cylance research improves on the attack by abusing how HTTP redirects are handled by callers of the URLMon API,” said HD Moore, chief research officer at Rapid 7.
“The Cylance research shows that instead of waiting for the user to open their browser or manually connect to a network share, an attacker can look for automated HTTP requests sent by background applications and redirect these to file:// URLs, triggering a SMB connection and automatic authentication. Given how many applications a typical laptop or tablet has running in the background, this can drastically speed up SMB capture and relay attacks against Windows-based laptops and tablets connecting to insecure wireless networks."
writes: When it was revealed late last month that a Chinese certificate authority had allowed an intermediate CA to issue unauthorized certificates for some Google domains, both Google and Mozilla reacted quickly and dropped trust in CNNIC altogether, Apple has kept the root certificates in its trusted store for both iOS and OSX.
Apple on Wednesday released major security upgrades for both of its operating systems and the root certificate for CNNIC, the Chinese CA at the heart of the controversy, remain in the trusted stores for iOS and OSX. The company has not made any public statements on the incident or the continued inclusion of CNNIC’s certificates in the trusted stores.
writes: Google has taken the unusual step of completely removing trust from Chrome for the Chinese certificate authority CNNIC in the wake of an incident in which certificates issued by the CA were misused.
Google officials announced the severe decision on Wednesday, saying that it was made after an investigation by the company and CNNIC. The decision comes a couple of weeks after Google officials discovered that a certificate issued by CNNIC to MCS Holdings, an intermediate CA, was being used in a man-in-the-middle proxy to intercept traffic to some Google domains. Google and other browser vendors had removed trust from their browsers for the misused certificate, but Google has now taken the further step of dropping CNNIC from the Chrome trust store altogether.
The removal of CNNIC from Chrome’s trust store will have the effect of causing all of the certificates issued by the company to be marked as untrusted by the browser. This could leave users confused about the authenticity of the sites they’re visiting if they’re unaware of the decision by Google.
One historical analog for the CNNIC incident is a similar one in 2012 involving Trustwave, which issued a certificate to a customer that was intended to be used in a DLP system. Google did not completely remove Trustwave from Chrome’s trust store after that incident.
writes: Mozilla has released Firefox 37, and along with the promised addition of the OneCRL certificate revocation list, the company has included a feature that enables opportunistic encryption on connections for servers that don’t support HTTPS.
The new feature gives users a new defense against some forms of monitoring and doesn’t require any setup from users. When Web servers are configured correctly to provide a specific response header, Firefox will begin sending requests to the indicated encrypted port rather than in cleartext to port 80. Opportunistic encryption isn’t a replacement for SSL, as it’s not authenticated, but it can provide a alternative for organizations that can’t migrate fully to HTTPS for one reason or another.
“OE provides unauthenticated encryption over TLS for data that would otherwise be carried via clear text. This creates some confidentiality in the face of passive eavesdropping, and also provides you much better integrity protection for your data than raw TCP does when dealing with random network noise. The server setup for it is trivial,” Patrick McManus of Mozilla wrote in a post explaining the new feature.
writes: A security researcher says there is a bug in the Instagram API that could enable an attacker to post a message with a link to a page he controls that hosts a malicious file, but when the user downloads the file it will appear to come from a legitimate Instagram domain, leading the victim to trust the source.
The issue, a reflected filename download bug, lies in the public API for the Instagram service, which is owned by Facebook. Researcher David Sopas of WebSegura in Portugal found that by using the access token from any user’s account, pasting some code into the bio field in a user’s account and using some other little tricks, he could produce a file download link that seems to be hosted on a legitimate Instagram domain.
The attacker could host any malicious file he chooses at the target location, including malware. Sopas said he has been unable to convince Facebook security engineers that RFD issues are security vulnerabilities. He said they told him the issue was not a priority.
“Many companies still don’t understand that RFD is very dangerous and combined with other attacks like phishing or spam it could lead to massive damage,” Sopas said via email.
writes: Google security engineers, investigating fraudulent certificates issued for several of the company’s domains, discovered that a Chinese certificate authority was using an intermediate CA, MCS Holdings, that issued the unauthorized Google certificates, and could have issued certificates for virtually any domain.
Google’s engineers were able to block the fraudulent certificates in the company’s Chrome browser by pushing an update to the CRLset, which tracks revoked certificates. The company also alerted other browser vendors to the problem, which was discovered on March 20. Google contacted officials at CNNIC, the Chinese registrar who authorized the intermediate CA, and the officials said that they were working with MCS to issue certificates for domains that it registered.
But, instead of simply doing that, and storing the private key for the registrar in a hardware security module, MCS put the key in a proxy device designed to intercept secure traffic.
writes: The federal government is seeking more legal power to step in and shut down botnets through an amendment to the existing criminal law, which would allow the Department of Justice to obtain injunctions to disrupt these malicious networks.
The Obama administration has proposed an amendment to existing United Stated federal law that would give it a more powerful tool to go after botnets such as GameOver Zeus, Asprox and others. In recent years, Justice, along with private security firms and law enforcement agencies in Europe, have taken down various incarnations of a number of major botnets, including GameOver Zeus and Coreflood. These actions have had varying levels of success, with the GOZ takedown being perhaps the most effective, as it also had the effect of disrupting the infrastructure used by the CryptoLocker ransomware.
In order to obtain an injunction in these cases, the government would need to sue the defendants in civil court and show that its suit is likely to succeed on its merits.
“The Administration’s proposed amendment would add activities like the operation of a botnet to the list of offenses eligible for injunctive relief. Specifically, the amendment would permit the department to seek an injunction to prevent ongoing hacking violations in cases where 100 or more victim computers have been hacked. This numerical threshold focuses the injunctive authority on enjoining the creation, maintenance, operation, or use of a botnet, as well as other widespread attacks on computers using malicious software (such as “ransomware” ),” Caldwell wrote.
writes: Spies thrive only when they’re able to quietly infiltrate targets and slither away unnoticed; this principle is the same whether we’re talking about the physical world, or digital.
The recently uncovered Equation APT group is prime example of the investment nation-state sponsored attackers make in stealth. The group, which researchers at Kaspersky Lab speculate has been active since 2001—perhaps as far back as 1996—took great pains to avoid detection with this super valuable espionage platform. It was selective about against whom it was deployed, found unique ways to store stolen data, and developed more than 100 plug-ins, each with a specific function, that are deployed only to certain targets holding certain information.
Today, researchers at Kaspersky Lab released a deeper analysis of the older attack platform used by the Equation group. EquationDrug is a complete platform that is selectively installed on targets’ computers. It is used to deploy any of 116 modules (Kaspersky says it has found only 30 so far); the modules support a variety of cyberespionage functions ranging from data exfiltration to monitoring a target’s activities local activities and on the Web.
The 30 modules analyzed by Kaspersky represent a wide cut of capabilities present in the EquationDrug platform. Many of the modules perform system-level functions, gathering data specific to the target computer such as operating system versions, time zone details, Windows management instrumentation, and much more. There are also modules that allow the attackers to manage target computers, enabling them to manipulate processes, load drivers and libraries or manage files and directories. Network traffic can be stolen or re-routing; there are modules for tampering with DNS resolution, for example.
Yet other modules keep tabs on user activity, learning what network shares and resources the machine has access to, steal cached passwords, monitor live user activity in web browsers and browser history, monitor removable storage drive usage, log keystrokes and clipboard storage, and run a passive backdoor that runs Equation shellcode from raw traffic.
writes: Software, from web apps, to operating systems to firmware, has been abused and exploited every which way from Sunday for decades by both researchers and attackers. Now, it is hardware’s turn in the spotlight, as researchers have published details of a new method for exploiting a problem with some DRAM memory devices that can allow attackers to get low-level access to target machines.
The problem is being called “rowhammer”, as it’s a method for repeatedly hammering on rows of cells of memory in DRAM devices to induce cells to flip from one state to another. Using a new technique to exploit the rowhammer issue, researchers at Google were able to produce these bit flips in cells and gain kernel-level privileges. Security researchers say the technique is some of the more important work done on exploitation in recent years and could affect a huge number of laptops and desktop machines.
Researcher Mark Seaborn on Monday published a detailed technical explanation of techniques to exploit the rowhammer issue, which was described earlier in an academic paper by researchers from Intel and Carnegie Mellon University. The basic concept behind rowhammer relies on the fact that the cells of memory on DRAM devices have become closer and closer together over time, meaning that it has become more difficult to prevent electrons from jumping from one cell to another. By accessing target cells in DRAM over and over again, an attacker can disturb a cell adjacent to the target cells, causing it to “bit flip” under some circumstances.
“‘Rowhammer’ is a problem with some recent DRAM devices in which repeatedly accessing a row of memory can cause bit flips in adjacent rows. We tested a selection of laptops and found that a subset of them exhibited the problem. We built two working privilege escalation exploits that use this effect. One exploit uses rowhammer-induced bit flips to gain kernel privileges on x86-64 Linux when run as an unprivileged userland process,” Seaborn wrote in his post.
“[It] is a brilliant attack and because it’s a hardware flaw, there are really no ways to patch it,” said Alfredo Ortega, a longtime security researcher and co-founder of Groundworks Technologies.
writes: From the time the first commercials aired during the American pro football championship game last month, CSI: Cyber has been one of the more talked-about and least-anticipated shows in recent memory. At least in tech circles. For normal viewers, it’s one of those shows that you wake up in the middle of at 10:27 after nodding off during Criminal Minds or CSI: Pet Detectives.
The show centers on the Cyber Crime Division at the FBI, a perfectly focus-grouped cast headed by Special Agent Avery Ryan. She is a former behavioral psychiatrist whose practice fell apart when–spoiler alert!–all of her case files were stolen by a hacker who then murdered one of her patients. Now she is on a mission to “turn” hackers one at a time to the path of righteousness. She is aided in this noble quest by the guy who played Dawson, former child rapper Lil Bow Wow, and the two h4x0r caricatures: a bearded, wisecracking guy named Daniel Krumitz who is the “greatest white hat hacker in the world”, and Raven Ramirez, whom we know is a hacker because she has dyed hair. Also, because her name is Raven.
As a public service, the Threatpost team, Mike Mimoso, Dennis Fisher, Brian Donohue and Chris Brook, watched the first episode of CSI: Cyber and kept a running chat log of the “action”.