Shellshock: Got Inventory?

Im sure youve all heard of Shellshock by now? If not, its a security flaw in Bash that allows attackers to take control of systems. Bash is really an acronym/pun meaning Bourne-again shellthat was written as a free software replacement for the Bourne shell that preceded it. It is a UNIX shell that acts as a command processor and also reads commands from scripts. The problem is that Bash is present in all kinds of things including Web servers and operating systems. This is a very serious flaw! Worse than any other code vulnerability I can name off hand. There are several serious exploits already extant in the wild. Hundreds of millions of devices and credit cards are at immediate risk of compromise across the globe. Institutions are strongly recommending that people not use their credit cards to make Internet purchases for at least the next several days. Imagine the loss in revenue and buyer confidence this is going to cause! Productivity may well go down and prices may well go up as a consequence of this flaw.

Luckily there are good patches already available to combat this glitch, and I’m sure additional fixes and tweaks are in the offing. But to have any level of safety you need to patch everything on your network that is vulnerable, and you need to do it quickly. Do you know exactly what devices are a part of your network and exactly what operating systems, software and firmware versions are installed on them? Specifically, do you know where Bash is running? If you dont, you may install patches furiously over the next few days and still end up being vulnerable without knowing it. Can you in all good conscience assure your Web customers that their transactions and private information are safe?

Shellshock may have one hidden benefit though; it may be the cold dose of reality that causes organizations to finally get serious about information security and adopt best practices security recommendations, especially where inventories of devices and software are concerned. There is a reason why guidance such as the MSI 80/20 Rule of Information Security and the Top 20 Critical Controls for Effective Cyber-Security list making inventories their number one information security project. If you dont know what you have, how can you possibly secure it?!

Right now, if you are among the prescient few who do keep complete dynamic inventories, ensure that input to all available software fields is validated and have configured each device on your network with a unique admin password, you are sitting pretty! You have the knowledge and time necessary to deal with this problem, and will probably earn kudos and market share from you customers. Isnt that kind of assurance worth spending some time and money on America? 

This blog post contributed by John Davis.

Patch for ShellShock ASAP!

If you haven’t paid attention to the Bash Shellshock vulnerability – NOW IS THE TIME!

Source IPs for probes looking for the vulnerability are growing slowly in number and scope of scans. (As of 9/30/14, 10am Eastern).

There are many vulnerable devices and systems available to exploit and a variety of exploitation vectors exist – including web CGIs, DHCP clients, OpenVPN, SSH, etc. It is highly likely that a wide variety of embedded systems are also vulnerable that meet these capabilities. So far, we have seen attack traffic in the HITME coming from a few SOHO routers and a couple of other embedded network devices. Items like printers, some routers & managed switches, home gadgets, cameras, etc. are likely targets as well.

In the industrial control world, there are a variety of embedded devices leveraging Linux at the core, and many with exposed CGI mechanisms for remote management and monitoring. These need to be inspected as well, as they may also prove vulnerable and potentially exploitable via one or more vectors. Patching may require firmware upgrades in some cases. Contact the vendor for more information.

But, no matter what systems you use and manage, NOW IS THE TIME. Pay attention to this issue and get moving on patching, adding compensating controls and rolling forward with enhanced detection mechanisms. GET BUSY!

As always, if we can assist, feel free to give us a call or drop us a line. We have HoneyPoint emulations for HPSS clients that can help identify sources of traffic and we have assessment signatures for up to the moment known attack vectors. Let us know if we can help!

Thanks for reading, and stay safe out there! 

UPDATE: Good news on Shellshock for embedded devices: If it runs BusyBox, it’s likely NOT vulnerable.

Home Depot Data Breach; a Good Argument for Best Practices-Based Infosec

There are two big philosophies of how to implement information security at organizations; standards basedand best practices-basedinfosec programs. The vast majority of Americas companies and agencies follow a standards-based approach, and most of these only strive to achieve a baseline level of standards adherence.

When you hear the word baselineyou should think of the words at leastor at a minimum. For example, you should at leastimplement physical and logical access controls. Or, you should at at a minimumemploy a firewall at your network perimeter. That sort of thing. Because that is what baselinestandards are. They are the minimum level of controls recommended by standards organizations such as NIST and ISO. They were never meant to be ideals. They are only intended to function as starting points.

The problem is that a large number of commercial and public organizations are having trouble reaching even a baseline level of information security. They complain that complying with baseline standards is too expensive; that it takes too much dedicated manpower and interferes with customer service and other business processes. And what they are saying is true in its way; information security is expensive and it does take the cooperation of everyone in the business. But what they are really saying is that infosec is just not a priority and they truly dont care much about it. This seems to me to be what was behind the Home Depot data breach.

Former company employees have stated that Home Depot had told them to only go for a Clevel of information security. They werent to concern themselves with implementing Bor Alevel security at the organization. And Home Depot keeps credit card information! The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) demands about the strongest level of baseline security out there. And Home Depot reputably was handling unencrypted credit card information on their computer networks?! How did they pass their PCI security assessments? I dont understand the particulars here. But however this situation came about, the fact is that once again the private financial information of millions of citizens has been compromised. Shouldnt we be outraged and demanding a higher standard of security for our private information?

That is why everyone should be urging their government agencies and the retailers they do business with to implement information security at the best practices level. Industry standard best practices for information security are just that; they are the best means currently known for protecting IT systems and the information they process. Examples of best practices guidance are the MSI 80/20rule for information security and the Top 20 Critical Controls for Effective Cyber-Security. Sure, it may add 10 cents to the cost of a package of light bulbs to implement best practices, but isnt worth it? I dont hear people complaining about the banks buying a bunch of new physical security systems all the time to better protect their money. And really, what is the difference between the two? 

This blog post was contributed by John Davis.

Computer Security is Your Own Responsibility

All of us know that our homes may be burglarized, and we take steps to help keep that from happening. We lock our doors and windows, we install motion detector lights outside, we put in alarm systems and some of us even install cameras. The same goes for the other stuff we do and own. We lock our cars, we put our valuables in safe deposit boxes and we avoid dangerous areas of the city late at night. We even watch what we say when we are talking on the phone, because we worry someone might be listening in. We all know that we ourselves are responsible for looking after these things. So why do we all seem to think that it is somebody else’s job to make sure we are safe while we are using our computers to surf the net or catch up on Facebook? We do, though. Ive seen it happen and I’ve been guilty of it myself, I’m sorry to say.

For some reason, we don’t think a thing about using our kids name and age as our email password. It doesnt enter our minds that it may not be a good idea to do our home banking while we are sipping a latte at Starbucks. And it doesnt bother us a whit that our home wireless network doesnt require a password theyre a lot of trouble, after all! But when we get hacked, the first thing we do is blame everybody from our ISPs to the companies that built our devices. I think part of the reason is that we think the whole computer thing is too technical and there is really nothing that we can do ourselves. But that simply isnt true. The biggest part of computer security is just mundane, common sense stuff.

The most important thing is to understand what is really going on when you are on the Internet, and it can be summed up in on phrase; you are communicating in public. You might as well be standing in the town square shouting back and forth at each other. One of the only real differences is that a lot of what youre doing is not only public, its being recorded as well! So, thinking with that mindset, how would you go about keeping your privacy?

First, you wouldnt trust anyone to keep quiet and protect your secrets for you, would you? So, when you are on the Internet, always be suspicious. Make sure that that email from your bank or your co-worker is legit, dont just click on the link. Be very suspicious of anything with attachments, and dont just blithely open any document that is sent to you unsolicited. And if you get an urge to go to that neat looking gambling site or you hanker to click on that link that says they will show you your favorite celebrity with their pants down, suppress it! Also, take a look every once and awhile and see what has really been happening on your computer. Your machines are usually keeping really good logs. Look them over and see if anything seems funny to you. You dont have to be an expert, just curious.

Next, be leery if your machine starts acting funny. Maybe it gets really slow once in a while. Perhaps you turn it on and a message says Download Complete, but you dont remember downloading anything. Lots of different things like that can occur. But when they do, and then your computer starts acting normally again, dont just blow it off; check into it!

And change your passwords! Its easy and fast, and it can save your bacon. If you have been at a hotel or have connected to the Internet from a coffee shop or airport, change your passwords as soon as you get home. If something funny happens or you think you may have done the wrong thing while you were web surfing, change your passwords. Use a password vault so you only have to remember one password. Then if something funny happens, you simply reset all your passwords and change the main one. And make it a good password, too. Make sure that nobody can guess your passwords or security questions just by reading your Facebook page.

Also, if you were out in public and wanted to keep what you are saying private, you could use a code couldnt you? Then, even if you were overheard, what you said wouldnt make any sense to anyone but you and the person you are trying to communicate with. Why not apply that to your computer, as well? Use cryptography to store your private stuff in memory and for sending private communications whenever possible. You dont have to be any kind of computer expert. Disc encryption tools are free and easy to use, and you can buy email certificates very inexpensively. The main thing is, though, take responsibility for your own computer safety like you would anything else you own. Ill bet you can think of plenty of other common sense ways to protect yourselves that I havent touched on here. 

This post by John Davis.

The Big Three Part 4: Awareness

Cyber-attacks are a simply a part of reality now, and are very much like home burglaries. We can install locks and lights, cameras and alarm systems, and despite our best efforts at protection and prevention, a certain number of robberies are still bound to happen. That is the reason we need to steel ourselves to this fact and prepare ourselves to resist cyber-attacks the best way that we can. And the Big Three; incident detection, incident response and user security education and awareness are some of our best tools for meeting this problem.

The importance of user education and awareness to information security cannot be over emphasized. Of all the firewalls, IPS systems and other security sensors available, none can compare to human beings in their ability to detect cyber-attacks and security risks. But to take advantage of this resource, it is necessary that users know how to recognize security problems and it is necessary that they want to be engaged in the security process. To accomplish this, companies need to do several things.

First, they should provide all of their personnel with information security training both as new hires, and then periodically thereafter. This training should include the company information security policies that apply to all, plus information security training that is specific to each users particular role in the organization. Providing extra information security training for individuals such as code developers, system administrators and help desk personnel is particularly beneficial.

Next, it is also very important to provide all company personnel with information security awareness reminders. These serve two purposes. First, they help keep the need for good security practices fresh in usersminds. But more importantly than that, good security awareness tips let your personnel know exactly what kind of attacks are out there and how they take place. Thats why it is important to base your awareness reminders on cutting-edge, real-world information security threats. For example, perhaps your employees gets a perfectly legitimate-looking email message from one of their co-workers that solicit them to check out a certain website and give an opinion on it. So they innocently click on the embedded link and wham! Suddenly their machines have been infected with malware and they dont have a clue that anything is wrong. Awareness reminders can help keep such things from happening.

On top of good information security training and awareness, we think that there is one more element that is needed to really make the process pay off. It is important to engage the interest of your employees and make them feel that they are an essential part of the information security effort. This

isnt really hard or expensive to do either. Explain their importance in the program to your personnel and ask for their help. Most everyone really likes to help out, and it makes them feel good inside. In addition, recognize those that have contributed to the information security cause and give them some kind of reward. This can be as simple as a little praise at the weekly staff meeting, or can include things like days off or preferred parking spaces. It doesnt have to be big, just visible. One thing is sure, it makes better business sense to utilize this free and effective security resource to the hilt than spend a million dollars on a vaunted new IDS/IPS system! 

This post by John Davis.

The Big Three Part 3: Incident Response

Its been a couple of busy months since we posted parts one and two of this series, so Ill recap briefly here. Part one talked about the failure of information security programs to protect private data and systems from compromise. It showed that despite tighter controls and better security applications, there are more data security compromises now than ever. This was the basis for suggesting an increased emphasis on incident detection, incident response and user education and awareness; the Big Three.

Part two in the series discussed information security incident detection and how difficult it is to implement effectively. It related the sad statistic that less than one out of five serious data breaches is detected by the organization affected, and that a disturbing number of breaches go undetected for months before finally being uncovered. Part two also touted a combination of well configured security tools coupled with human monitoring and analysis as one of the best solutions to the problem. In this installment, we’ll discuss the importance of accompanying incident detection with an effective, well-practiced incident response plan.

Say that an ongoing malware attack on your systems is detected, would your staff know just what to do to stop it in its tracks? If they dont do everything quickly, correctly and in the right order, what could happen? I can think of a number of possibilities right off the bat. Perhaps all of your private customer information is compromised instead of just a portion of it. Maybe your customer facing systems will become inoperable instead of just running slow for a while. Possibly your company will face legal and regulatory sanctions instead of just having to clean up and reimage the system. Maybe evidence of the event is not collected and preserved correctly and the perpetrator cant be sued or punished. Horrible consequences like these are the reason effective incident response is increasingly important in todays dangerous computing environment.

Developing and implementing an incident response plan is very much like the fire drills that schools carry out or the lifeboat drills everyone has to go through as part of a holiday cruise. It is really just a way to prepare in case some adverse event occurs. It is deconstructing all the pieces-parts that make up security incidents and making sure you have a way to deal with each one of them.

When constructing your own incident response plan, it is wise to go about it systematically and to tailor it to your own organization and situation. First, consider the threats your business is menaced by. If you have been conducting risk assessments, those threats should already be listed for you. Then pick the threats that seem the most realistic and think about the types of information security incidents they could cause at your organization. These will be the events that you plan for.

Next, look over incident response plans that similar organizations employ and read the guidance that is readily available our there (just plug information security incident response guidelinesinto a web browser and see what you get templates and implementation advice just jump off the page at you!). Once you have a good idea of what a proper incident response plan looks like, pick the parts that fit your situation best and start writing. This process produces the incident response policies needed for your plan.

After your policies are set, the next step I like to tackle is putting together the incident response team. These individuals are the ones that will have most of the responsibility for developing, updating and practicing the incident response procedures that are the meat of any incident response plan. Armed with the written policies that were developed, they should be an integral part of deciding who does what, when it gets done, where they will meet, how evidence is stored, etc. Typically, an incident response team is made up of management personnel, security personnel, IT personnel, representative business unit personnel, legal representatives and sometimes expert consultants (such as computer forensics specialists).

Once all the policies, personnel and procedures are in place, the next (and most overlooked part of the plan) is regular practice sessions. Just like the fire drills mentioned above, if you dont actually practice the plan you have put together and learn from the results, it will never work right when you actually need it. In all my time doing this sort of work, I have never seen an incident response practice exercise that didnt expose flaws in the plan. We recommend picking real-world scenarios when planning your practice exercises and surprising the team with the exercise just as they would be in an actual event.

In the fourth and final installment of this series, we will discuss user education and awareness another vital component in recognizing and fighting data breaches and system security compromises. 

Thanks to John Davis for this post.

Never Store Anything on the Cloud that You Wouldn’t Want Your Mamma to See

It’s great now days, isn’t it?

You carry around devices with you that can do just about anything! You can get on the Internet and check your email, do your banking, find out what is new on Facebook, send a Tweet or a million other things. You can also take a picture, record a conversation, make a movie or store your work papers – and the storage space is virtually unlimited! And all this is just great as long as you understand what kind of risks this freedom poses to your privacy.

Remember that much of this stuff is getting stored on the cloud, and the only thing that separates your stuff from the general public is a user name, password and sometimes a security question. Just recently, a number of celebrities have complained that their photos (some of them explicit) have been stolen by hackers. These photos were stored in iCloud digital vaults, and were really very well defended by Apple security measures. But Apple wasn’t at fault here – it turns out that the celebrities themselves revealed the means to access their private stuff.

It’s called Phishing, and there are a million types of bait being used out there to fool or entice you. By clicking on a link in an innocent-looking email or answering a few simple questions, you can give away the keys to the kingdom. And even if you realize your mistake a couple of hours later, it is probably already too late to do anything about it. That naughty movie you made with your spouse during your romantic visit to Niagara Falls is already available from Peking to Panama!

Apple announced that they will soon start sending people alerts when attempts are made to change passwords, restore iCloud data to new devices or when someone logs in for the first time from new Apple devices. These are valuable controls, but really are only detective in nature and won’t actually prevent many data losses. That is why we recommend giving yourselves some real protection.

First, you should ensure that you educate yourself and your family about the dangers hackers and social engineers pose, and the techniques they use to get at your stuff. Second, it is really a lot better to store important or sensitive data on local devices if possible. But, if you must store your private data in the cloud, be sure it is well encrypted. Best of all, use some sort of good multi-part authentication technique to protect your stuff from being accessed easily by hackers. By that I mean something like a digital certificate or an RSA hard token – something you have or something you are, not just something you know.

If you do these things, then it’s a good bet your “special moments” won’t end up in your Momma’s inbox!

Thanks to John Davis for this post.

Touchdown Task for August – Change Management Audit

This month, we urge all infosec teams to engage in a quick 30 minute audit of your change management processes.

Here are some quick win questions to ask of the change management team:

  • How often does the change management team meet & what is the time frame for turning around a change order?
  • What percentage of actual changes to the environment went through the change process in the last 12 months?
  • Where can we locate the documents that specifically describe the change management process and when were they last revised?
  • Please describe how exceptions to the change management process are handled.
  • How are changes to the environment audited against what was provided to the change management team?
  • What happens if a change is identified that did NOT go through the change management process?

There are plenty of online guidance sources for additional questions and audit processes, but these quick wins will get you started. As always, thanks for reading and keep working on your monthly touchdown tasks. Be sure to touch base with us on Twitter (@microsolved) should you have any questions about the work plans.

Do You Browse From a Virtual Machine?

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This article brings to mind an interesting trend we see going on among our financial and highly regulated clients – using a virtual machine for all Internet browsing. Several of our clients have begun using this technique in testing and small production groups. Often they are using ChromeOS images with VirtualBox or some other dedicated browser appliance and a light VM manager. 

Have you or your organization considered, tried or implemented this yet? Give us a shout on Twitter (@lbhuston, @microsolved) and let us know your thoughts. Thanks for reading!

Three Security People You Should Be Following on Twitter

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There are a lot of security people on Twitter. There are a lot of people people on Twitter. That said, finding great people to follow on Twitter is often a difficult task, especially around something as noisy as Information Security.

That said, I wanted to take a quick moment and post three people I think you should be following on Twitter in the Infosec space and might not be.

Here they are, in no particular order:

@sempf – A great person (and a personal friend), his posts rock the mic with content ranging from locksport (lock picking as a sport/hobby), deep coding tips, application security and even parenting advice. It’s fun! 

@abedra – Deep knowledge, deep code advice (ask him about Clojure…we’ll wait…). The inventor of RepSheet and whole bunch of other cool tools. His day gig is pretty fun and he is widely known for embracing the idea of tampering with attackers and their expectations. Check him out for a unique view. Do remind him to change hats occasionally, he often forgets… :)

@NocturnalCM – Hidden deep in the brain of the person behind this account is an incredible wealth of knowledge about cellular infrastructures, mobile code, security, devops and whole lot more. Don’t let the “Code Monkey” name fool you, there’s a LOT of grey matter behind the keyboard. If nothing else, the occasional humor, comic strips and geek culture references make them a worthwhile follow!

So, there you go. 3 amazing people to follow on Twitter. PS – they also know some stuff about infosec. Of course, you can always follow me (@lbhuston) and our team (@microsolved) on Twitter as well. As always, thanks for reading and get back to keeping the inter-tubes safe for all mankind!