Time Warner – 320,000 passwords compromised

Knock knock! Who’s there? The FBI….

This is never the way you’d like your day to play out. Last week, Time Warner was notified by the FBI that a cache of stolen credentials that appear to belong to Time Warner customers had been discovered.

At this point, the origination of the usernames and passwords is a bit of a mystery. Time Warner states: 

“We have not yet determined how the information was obtained, but there are no indications that TWC’s systems were breached.

The emails and passwords were likely previously stolen either through malware downloaded during phishing attacks or indirectly through data breaches of other companies that stored TWC customer information, including email addresses.

For those customers whose account information was stolen, we are contacting them individually to make them aware and to help them reset their passwords.”

Time Warner customers who have not yet been contacted should still consider changing their  passwords – there is no indication at this point if this is new or previously compromised password data, and a new password is never a bad idea.

Please share with anyone who is using Time Warner systems – friends, co-workers, weird relatives and neighbors as well. Remember that any password that is used twice isn’t a safe password – unique passwords are always the best practice. Password managers (LastPass, KeePass, etc.) are often a good idea to help maintain unique, difficult to decipher passwords.

It’s Tax Time Again: Watch Out for the Fake IRS Phishing Scams!

It seems like every year there is another phishing scam using the name of the Internal Revenue Service. Well, this year is no exception. This version claims to be a refund notification and contains an attachment for the unwary to click on. Don’t do it! For one thing, you should be aware that the IRS never initiates contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information.
This scam and other, similar scams also are perpetrated by telephone. Callers may say you have a refund due and try and get you to disclose private information to them. They may also call, say you owe them money, and demand immediate payment; they may even threaten to send the police to your home! Don’t panic. The more serious and immediate their demands seem, the more likely they are to be fakes. It will never hurt you to take the time to call the IRS and see if the call, text or email you have received is legitimate. Also, if you do happen to lose money to one of these scams, you can file a complaint with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
The IRS website has resources in place to help taxpayers with this problem. This information is not particularly easy to find, but is accessible in a couple of areas of the website. If you click on the “News & Events” tab of the website there is a hyperlink to “Tax Scams”. This will get you started. You can also go to the “Help & Resources” tab. This area has links for reporting suspicious emails and scams, as well as a link to report tax fraud activity. For more information about past scams of this type, there is a page entitled “Phishing and Other Schemes Using the IRS Name.”
The important thing to take away from this is that Phishing and other types of social engineering techniques are becoming more prevalent every day, and are not about to go away. This is because as firewalls, SIEM solutions and other information security mechanism have become more effective, cyber criminals have had to find new ways to worm their way into your networks. So stay wary and avoid being credulous. Never open an attachment or click on a link anywhere without checking it out first. Also, never give unsolicited or suspicious callers any kind of private information. The old adage “Look Before You Leap” has never been more true and appropriate than it is right now!

3 Ways Clients are Benefiting from Our TigerTrax Platform Today

OK, so by now most folks know that we spent the last few years building out our own analytics platform, called TigerTrax™. Some folks know that we have been using it as a way to add impressive value to our traditional security offerings for the last couple of years. If you are a traditional assessment client, for example, you are likely seeing more threat data that is pinpoint accurate in your reports or you have been the beneficiary of some of the benefits of our passive technologies based on the platform, perhaps. If your organization hasn’t been briefed yet on our new capabilities and offerings, please let us know and we will book a time to sit down and walk you through what we believe is a game changing new approach to information security!

But, back to the message at hand. TigerTrax is already benefitting our clients in three very specific ways, and I wanted to take a moment to discuss them.

  • First, as I alluded to above, many clients are now leveraging our Targeted Threat Intelligence (TTI) offerings in a variety of ways. TTI engagements come in two flavors, Comprehensive and Baseline. You can think of this as a passive security assessment that identifies threats against your organization based on a variety of meta data analysis, tracks your brand presence across the online world and identifies where it might be present in a vulnerable state, correlates known and unknown attack campaigns against your online presence, and has been hugely successful in finding significant risks against networks/applications and intellectual property. The capability extends to findings across the spectrum of risks, threats and vulnerabilities – yet does the work without sending a single packet to the target network environments! That makes this offering hugely popular and successful in assisting organizations with supply chain, vendor management security validation and M&A research. In fact, some clients are actively using this technique across vendors on a global scale.
  • Second, TigerTrax has enabled MSI to offer security-focused monitoring of key employees and their online behaviors. From professional sports to futures/stock traders and even banking customer support teams – TigerTrax has been adapted to provide code of conduct monitoring, social media forensics and even customized mitigation training in near-real-time for the humans behind the keyboard. With so much attention to what your organization and your employees do online, how their stories spread and the customer interactions they power – this service has been an amazing benefit to customers. In some cases, our social media forensics have made the difference in reputational attacks and even helped defend a client against false legal allegations!
  • Thirdly, TigerTrax has powered the development of MachineTruth™, a powerful new approach to network mapping and asset discovery. By leaning on the power of analytics and machine learning, this offering has been able to organize thousands of machine configurations and millions of lines of log files and a variety of other data source to re-create a visual map of the environment, an inventory of the hosts on the network, an analysis of the relationships between hosts/network segments/devices and perform security baselining “en masse”. All offline. All without deploying any hardware or software on the network. It’s simply amazing for organizations with complex networks (we’ve done all sizes – from single data centers to continent-level networks), helps new CIOs or network managers understand their environment, closes the gap between “common wisdom” of what your engineers think the network is doing and the “machine truth” of what the devices are actually doing, aids risk assessment or acquisition teams in their work and can empower network segmentation efforts like no other offering we have seen.

Those are the 3 key ways that TigerTrax customers are benefiting today. Many many more are on the roadmap, and throughout 2016 we will be bringing new offerings and capability enhancements to our clients – based on the powerful analytics TigerTrax provides. Keep an eye on the blog and our website (which will be updated shortly) for news and information. Better yet, give us a call or touch base via email and schedule a time to sit down and discuss how these new capabilities can best assist you. We look forward to talking with you! 

— info (at) microsolved /dot/ com will get you to an account rep ASAP! Thanks for reading.

GRUB2 Authentication Bypass Vulnerability

A vulnerability has been discovered in the GRUB2 boot loader that affects versions dating back to 2009. GRUB2 is the default boot loader for a variety of popular Linux distributions including Ubuntu, Red Hat and Debian. The vulnerability can be exploited by pressing the backspace button 28 times when the boot loader asks for your username. This sequence of keys places the user into a “rescue shell”. An attacker could leverage this shell to access confidential data or install persistent malware.

It’s worth noting that the vulnerability requires access to the system’s console. Even if your organization has proper physical security controls in place, this issue should still be addressed as soon as possible. Ubuntu, RedHat and Debian have already released patches for this vulnerability.

We’re not a target

One of the most frustrating phrases I’ve heard as an IT professional is, “We’re not a target.”

Using HoneyPoint, I have created “fake companies” and observed how they are attacked. These companies appear to have social media profiles, web pages, email servers and all of the infrastructure you would expect to find within their industry. The companies are in a variety of verticals including but not limited to Financial, Energy, Manufacturing and after analyzing the data collected during this process, I can definitively state that if your company has an internet connection, you’re being targeted by attackers.

Within hours of creating a HoneyPoint company, we typically begin to see low-level attacks against common services. These often involve brute-force attacks against SSH or Telnet. Regardless of the fake company’s industry, we’ve noticed that more complicated attacks begin within days of exposing the services and applications to the internet. These have ranged from the attackers attempting to use complicated exploits to the installation of malware.

During our “fake companies” testing, we even “accidentally” exposed critical services such as MSSQL and LDAP to the internet. The attackers were always vigilant, they often attempted to take advantage of these exposures within hours of the change taking place. One of my favorite moments that occurred during this test was watching how quickly attackers started to use an exploit after it was released. In some cases, we noticed the exploit being used within hours of it becoming public. These are both great examples of why it’s worthwhile to have 3rd parties review your infrastructure for vulnerabilities or misconfigurations on a regular basis.

Even if you don’t think your company has anything to “steal”, you still need to take measures to protect your systems. You might not be protecting PHI or Social Security Numbers but you can’t underestimate the bad guys desire to make money. Even if attackers don’t find any data worth stealing, they’ll always find a way to profit from the exploitation of a system. A great example of this occurred last year when it was discovered that attackers were hacking SANs to install software to mine for cryptocurrency. It’s even been reported that attackers are exploiting MySQL servers just to launch Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. So, even if your bare metal is worth more than the data it hosts, it doesn’t mean that attackers won’t attempt to use it to their advantage.

It’s the Holidays – Make Sure You Keep Monitoring!

It’s the holidays! Everyone is busy shopping, getting ready for parties, meeting folks for a cup of good cheer, and all manner of other fun activities. Yes, it is safe to say that the holidays generally fill people with feelings of warmth and good cheer.

It’s also a great time of year for hackers! The fact that people are busy, distracted and even a little bit tipsy is what fills them with good cheer. What better time to break into a network and get your hands on some private information or to set up a blackmail scheme?

That is why it is most important for you not to neglect your log monitoring and other information security duties during the silly season. Make sure you don’t turn off alerting on your systems, look for activity at odd times of the day, and make sure you are monitoring what leaves the network and where it’s going. If you neglect these tasks now you just might not have any happy holidays at all!

Products Pre-Infected with Malware

I saw in the intelligence and threat briefing the other day that police body cameras pre-infected with the dangerous Conficker worm had been discovered. Once these cameras were connected to a computer, the worm attempted to spread to other machines on the network and to communicate with a command and control system. Great! Lots of juicy, salable information on a police network to be harvested. How about offering to sell informants to the criminals they are informing on? Bet the bad guys would pay plenty! Or, if you become well entrenched in the network, how about starting an intelligence service? You could keep the bad guys well informed about what the police are up to. Bet the bad guys would pay plenty for that too!
This isn’t the first time something like this has happened by any means. Every now and again we hear stories about phones, networking switches, computers, mother boards and lots of other products that come pre-infected with some kind of Malware. Unfortunately, it seems that this is happening more and more often and shows no signs of slowing down.
The big reason behind this trend is that it works. How many of us ever even think that our new toys may not be safe? After all, they are brand new from the factory, and the boxes they are packed in have never been opened before. And it’s not just cyber-equipment that may be infected. Increasingly, just about everything we buy or use has a computer in it, and many of these products are made to run over a network as well.
So, say you buy a new smart TV and it has come complete with some kind of Malware installed. Chances are you have a wireless network in your home, and all the family’s computers, smart phones and other devices hook up to it. Even people that come to visit probably log onto your wireless network. You do home banking, write emails, chat, do all kinds of private things on this network. But, thanks to your new TV, all that is secret no more!
The point is, it’s time we start paying more attention to this attack vector and begin doing something about it. We should ensure that we have mechanisms in place to test new products before we hook them into our systems. We should also put regulations and processes in place to ensure that manufacturers test their products for computer bugs before they are allowed to ship them.

The Need For 3rd Party Assessments

     I’ve previously written about the fact that I was MicroSolved customer prior to joining the company as an employee in 2014. Despite the fact my team was running our own vulnerability assessments and penetration tests, I felt it was important that I occasionally hired a MSI to perform these services as well. As sharp as my team was, MSI always was able to provide us with actionable intelligence that we could use to improve our risk posture. Now that I have performed these assessments as a consultant, I have seen first-hand the importance of hiring a 3rd party to assess your network.
     When you support a production network, you can inadvertently grow a set of blinders towards certain portions of the infrastructure. This could be something as simple as forgetting about a subnet or inadvertently ignoring a legacy system. When you bring in a 3rd party to assess your network, you’re going to deal with a team that has no preconceived notions about the systems and can truly look at the infrastructure holistically. As funny as it sounds, their lack of institutional knowledge can be an asset.
     Both as a consultant and as an employee, I’ve seen Managers and Executives that are absolutely shocked by the results of a 3rd party assessment. Despite the fact that they were assured that mechanisms were in place to limit the risk and effectiveness of an attack, the 3rd party identified significant areas of concern. This doesn’t necessarily indicate that the employee was intentionally withholding information. It could be something as simple as them being unaware that a certain system or portion of the network exists.
     As an IT Manager or Executive, you’re forced to place a high level of trust in your team. You can’t monitor and oversee everything. You have to take their word that networks are properly segmented and that systems are being patched. I’m not necessarily stating that you can’t trust your employees. However, I do think that it’s worthwhile to occasionally bring in someone to watch the watchers.

Identity Verification – It’s Time to Bite the Bullet!

Every week in our daily threat and intelligence briefings I read about government and business computer systems that are hacked. And many, many times the stated reason is that a user name and password was revealed, hacked or stolen and the cyber criminals were able to use it to log into the system. But I don’t think this is the real reason at all; the real reason is that we are not properly establishing the identity of whoever is trying to access the system.
I know how inconvenient computer security can be for everyone. I not only see it every day in my profession, I also suffer from it myself as an individual. And the last thing most of us want is to make the task even more inconvenient and frustrating. But the fact is that identifying one’s self to a computer system by simply inputting a user name and password is just not good enough. We must increase the reliability of identity verification systems if we are to have any real hope of preventing illicit access.
To establish the identity of any person there are only three factors that can be employed. You can identify a person by something that they know, by something that they have or by something that they are. Obviously, a user name and password is something that a person knows, and we waste all kinds of time and effort in the futile hope that we can keep this special knowledge secret. I say futile because, as we all know, secrets have a frustrating habit of not lasting very long.
Something we have can be a physical object such as an RSA token or smart card, or it can be a “soft token” such as a digital certificate. An example of using something you have and something you know in tandem is a debit card and PIN. Something we are can be a number of things: fingerprints, retinal patterns, DNA, body features, etc.
Every time you add another “factor” to your user identification scheme, you more than double the amount of real security you are adding to the access control system. That is why, despite the inconvenience, I am a big proponent of using all three types of identification factors at once, especially for privileged or high-risk access. As far as I’m concerned, it’s time to bite the bullet, live with the inconvenience and just get the job done!