writes: Researchers have uncovered a flaw in the way that some servers handle the Diffie-Hellman key exchange, a bug that’s somewhat similar to the FREAK attack and threatens the security of many Web and mail servers. The bug affects all of the major browsers and any server that supports export-grade 512-bit Diffie-Hellman cryptography.
The most serious threat from this issue likely is from advanced attackers with significant resources, i.e., intelligence agencies and other state-level attackers. The researchers behind the new attack technique say that information contained in the NSA documents stolen and leaked by Edward Snowden shows that the agency may have been able to break the prime numbers used in Diffie-Hellman key exchange. That would give the agency access to the traffic to and from the VPN, HTTPS and SSH servers whose security depends upon those primes.
The vulnerability can be exploited by a technique being called the Logjam attack, which allows an attacker to downgrade a vulnerable server to a weak, 512-bit connection. As in the FREAK attack, this requires the attacker to be in a man-in-the-middle position, but if the attack is successful, it would give the attacker the ability to read any of the supposedly secure traffic on that connection. The vulnerability derives from an issue in the TLS protocol itself.
But the newest discovery may be the most important, given the implications for the security of systems such as VPNs and SSH servers.
“Our calculations suggest that it is plausibly within NSA’s resources to have performed number field sieve precomputa- tions for at least a small number of 1024-bit Diffie-Hellman groups. This would allow them to break any key exchanges made with those groups in close to real time. If true, this would answer one of the major cryptographic questions raised by the Edward Snowden leaks: How is NSA defeating the encryption for widely used VPN protocols?,” the researchers say in their paper.
writes: It’s been a couple of months since we left our heroes on CSI: Cyber, and boy, have they been busy. They have apparently solved many crimes using cyber-sleuthing, acquired some decidedly non-cyber firearms skills, and, in the case of our man Krumitz, taken up running. We wanted to check in and see how our merry band of crime solvers is getting along, so the Threatpost staff, Mike Mimoso, Dennis Fisher, Chris Brook and Brian Donohue, decided to sit down for a running chat during the first part of the two-episode season finale. Because some of us are old and can’t stay up that late, and honestly, who can sit through two straight hours of this?
The cast of characters is still the same. Avery Ryan, the head of the FBI’s Cyber Crime Division, leads her crew of mismatched misfits into the deep web to tackle a cyber theft of some weird imaginary currency called “Bitcoins”. These coins, which apparently are made up of red electricity, were stolen from a laptop at a family owned jewelry store. The laptop was locked in a vault, because of course it was. Our heroes are called in to recover the valuable electrons and save the shop owners’ retirement plans. (This is a little-known service the FBI provides.)
writes: For many years now, the browser has been the most dangerous piece of software on most users’ machines. Attackers love to target browsers and a remote code execution bug in a major browser is gold for them. The browser vendors have been making gradual changes to better protect users in recent years, and now Microsoft is completely revamping the security of its main browser, adding a slew of new protections and exploit mitigations.
The browser included with the upcoming release of Windows 10 will be known as Edge, and it will have a number of security features designed to protect against the most common memory corruption and phishing attacks. And, significantly, Edge will not include support for many of the more dangerous and commonly abused extensions, such as ActiveX and VB Script.
Most of the changes that Microsoft is making with Edge are behind the scenes and won’t be visible to users. That includes the new exploit mitigations and some improvements to the sandbox, which was introduced in Internet Explorer 7 several years ago. Edge will include two features designed to protect against memory corruption attacks, MemGC and Control Flow Guard, that are on by default. The former is a mitigation that will help the browser defend against attacks on use-after-free vulnerabilities, which have become prevalent recently.
“When it comes to protecting the browser itself, Microsoft has been making some pretty big leaps forward in terms of security. We have to continue to applaud them for making the right decisions. For example, the choice to remove support for antiquated and insecure technology like ActiveX is a move long overdue. Better containerization of the application and better memory protections are also much needed and appreciated steps in the right direction,” Andrew Storms, VP of security services at New Context, said.
writes: The idea of needing to disable a computer quickly as the police–or another potential adversary–comes through the door typically has been the concern of criminals. But in today’s climate activists, journalists, and others may find themselves wanting to make their laptops unusable in short order, and that’s where usbkill comes in.
The new tool is a small Python script that users can download and run on any machine. The script then will monitor the machine for any changes in state on the USB ports, like when someone removes or plugs in a USB drive. If a state change is detected, the usbkill script then will disable the machine immediately.
“Usbkill keeps watch on the computer’s usb ports, and if any change is observed it will shut down (kill) the computer. This means that if you add or remove a usb drive, the computer (running usbkill) will immediately crash,” the script's developer, who uses the name Hephaest0s, said.
“For additional security one might attach a usb key to one’s wrist (using a lace) and plug it into the computer, to start the usbkill program ofter the usb is inserted. If your computer is forcefully removed from you, the usb attached to your wrist will likely be removed from your computer, killing it. This essentially means you have a usb-dead-switch for your computer.”
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.