Just a Quick Thought & Mini Rant…

Today, I ran across this article, and I found it interesting that many folks are discussing how “white hat hackers” could go about helping people by disclosing vulnerabilities before bad things happen. 

There are so many things wrong with this idea, I will just riff on a few here, but I am sure you have your own list….

First off, the idea of a corp of benevolent hackers combing the web for leaks and vulnerabilities is mostly fiction. It’s impractical in terms of scale, scope and legality at best. All 3 of those issues are immediate faults.

But, let’s assume that we have a group of folks doing that. They face a significant issue – what do they do when they discover a leak or vulnerability? For DECADES, the security and hacking communities have been debating and riffing on disclosure mechanisms and notifications. There remains NO SINGLE UNIFIED MECHANISM for this. For example, let’s say you find a vulnerability in a US retail web site. You can try to report it to the site owners (who may not be friendly and may try to prosecute you…), you can try to find a responsible CERT or ISAC for that vertical (who may also not be overly friendly or responsive…) or you can go public with the issue (which is really likely to be unfriendly and may lead to prosecution…). How exactly, do these honorable “white hat hackers” win in this scenario? What is their incentive? What if that web site is outside of the US, say in Thailand, how does the picture change? What if it is in the “dark web”, who exactly do they notify (not likely to be law enforcement, again given the history of unfriendly responses…) and how? What if it is a critical infrastructure site – like let’s say it is an exposed Russian nuclear materials storage center – how do they report and handle that? How can they be assured that the problem will be fixed and not leveraged for some nation-state activity before it is reported or mitigated? 

Sound complicated? IT IS… And, risky for most parties. Engaging in vulnerability hunting has it’s dangers and turning more folks loose on the Internet to hunt bugs and security issues also ups the risks for machines, companies and software already exposed to the Internet, since scan and probe traffic is likely to rise, and the skill sets of those hunting may not be commiserate with the complexity of the applications and deployments online. In other words, bad things may rise in frequency and severity, even as we seek to minimize them. Unintended consequences are certainly likely to emerge. This is a very complex system, so it is highly likely to be fragile in nature…

Another issue is the idea of “before bad things happen”. This is often a fallacy. Just because someone brings a vulnerability to you doesn’t mean they are the only ones who know about it. Proof of this? Many times during our penetration testing, we find severe vulnerabilities exposed to the Internet, and when we exploit them – someone else already has and the box has been pwned for a long long time before us. Usually, completely unknown to the owners of the systems and their monitoring tools. At best, “before bad things happen” is wishful thinking. At worst, it’s another chance for organizations, governments and law enforcement to shoot the messenger. 

Sadly, I don’t have the answers for these scenarios. But, I think it is fair for the community to discuss the questions. It’s not just Ashley Madison, it’s all of the past and future security issues out there. Someday, we are going to have to come up with some mechanism to make it easier for those who know of security issues. We also have to be very careful about calling for “white hat assistance” for the public at large. Like most things, we might simply be biting off more than we can chew… 

Got thoughts on this? Let me know. You can find me on Twitter at @lbhuston.

IoT Privacy Concerns

Lately, I’ve been amazed at how quickly the Internet of Things (IoT) has become a part of my life. Everything from speakers to a Crock-Pot (yes, a Crock-Pot) has been connected to my home wireless network at some point. As much as I enjoy all the conveniences that these devices provide me, I always consider the security implications prior to purchasing an Internet-connected device. It’s worthwhile to weigh the convenience of installing new Internet-connected equipment vs. the privacy issues that can occur if the device is compromised.

There have already been a variety of security issues stemming from the widespread adoption of IoT devices. Last fall, a website published links to over 73,000 unsecured camera throughout the world. These cameras monitored everything from shopping malls to people’s bedrooms. Without implementing proper controls around IoT devices, we will continue to see similar issues arise.

I don’t intend for this blog to scare people away from purchasing IoT devices. In fact, I will provide you with a few simple changes you can make to your IoT configurations that will reduce the privacy issues that can occur by installing an IoT system. These changes won’t necessarily diminish the conveniences you can gain by buying an Internet-connected thermostat or installing the latest IoT security camera. However, they will significantly reduce the risk associated with installing an IoT system.

A few recommendations for your new gadget:

  • Change the default password  – A majority of the aforementioned cameras were compromised because the owners did not change the system’s default password. By simply setting the password to something that will be difficult for an attacker to guess, you can reduce the risk of someone compromising your device.
  • Segment – Try to isolate your IoT devices from the rest of your home network. It is very possible that an attacker would use an IoT system as an entry-point to gain access to other systems.
  • Check for software updates – Make a routine to check for software/firmware updates for all of your IoT devices. These updates will often contain a security patch that can protect your system from being exploited.
  • Do not expose the device directly to the Internet – There shouldn’t be a need to expose an IoT device directly to the Internet. This will provide an attacker a much larger surface to attempt to exploit your device. If the system requires that configuration, it is worthwhile to consider another option.

Patch for MS15-034 RIGHT NOW!

If you have exposed IIS servers or internal ones as well, pay attention to MS15-034.

Accelerate this patch to immediate. Don’t wait for patching windows, SLAs or maintenance periods. Test the patch, sure, but get it applied ASAP.

This is a remotely executable vulnerability without authentication. It affects a wide range of Windows systems. It offers trivial denial of service exploitation and the bad guys are hard at work building click and drool tools for remote code execution. The clock is ticking, so please, accelerate this patch if possible.

For any additional information or assistance, please contact your account executive or drop us a line via info@microsolved.com.

Thanks and stay safe out there! 

NanoCore RAT

It’s been discovered that a Remote Access Trojan (RAT) named NanoCore has been cracked again. These cracked copies are being heavily distributed via the deep and dark web. Due to the fact that malicious actors are now able to obtain this RAT for free, there has been a spike of observed NanoCore infections. For example, it was recently reported that the cracked copies are being leveraged in phishing attacks against energy companies. Unfortunately, we anticipate that the attempted use of this RAT will increase over the next few weeks.
However, there is some good news regarding the spread of NanoCore. First, the observed methods for deploying this malware do not seem to be very complicated. The attacks appear to be leveraging basic e-mail phishing which can be prevented by tuning spam filters and performing security awareness training with staff. Second, the attacks appear to be attempting to exploit vulnerabilities that are 2-3 years old. Your organization’s workstations should already have patches installed that will prevent the malware from being deployed. Finally, several commercial IDS/IPS systems are already able to detect this RAT. To ensure that your organization is protected, be sure to verify that your IDS/IPS/AV signatures are up to date.
We are more than happy to answer any questions that you might have about this RAT. Feel free to contact us by emailing <info> at microsolved.com

Lots of PHP Web Shells Still Circulating

Many PHP-based web shells are still making the rounds, and while many of them are based on old code, mutations, customizations and updates abound. They are so common, that new variants and modified versions are often seen at the rate of about 10 a day in our TigerTrax Threat Intelligence systems and honeypots.

Variants exist for a wide variety of platforms and human languages, many with some very nasty features and even some cool ASCII art. There are many variants for attackers to choose from for just about any of the popular PHP-based content management platforms. From WordPress to Joomla and beyond to the far less common apps, there are easily used exploits and shell kits widely available.

If you run a PHP-based site or server, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the file system changes and watch closely for new files being uploaded or added. Pay particular attention to those using the “base64_decode” function, since it is so common among these tools.

Thanks for reading, and until next time, stay safe out there! 

Malware Can Hide in a LOT of Places

This article about research showing how malware could be hidden in Blu-Ray disks should serve as a reminder to us all that a lot of those “smart” and “Internet-enabled” devices we are buying can also be a risk to our information. In the past, malware has used digital picture frames, vendor disks & CD’s, USB keys, smart “dongles” and a wide variety of other things that can plug into a computer or network as a transmission medium.

As the so called, Internet of Things (IoT), continues to grow in both substance and hype, more and more of these devices will be prevalent across homes and businesses everywhere. In a recent neighbor visit, I enumerated (with permission), more than 30 different computers, phones, tablets, smart TV’s and other miscellaneous devices on their home network. This family of 5 has smart radios, smart TVs and even a Wifi-connected set of toys that their kids play with. That’s a LOT of places for malware to hide…

I hope all of us can take a few minutes and just give that some thought. I am sure few of us really have a plan that includes such objects. Most families are lucky if they have a firewall and AV on all of their systems. Let alone a plan for “smart devices” and other network gook.

How will you handle this? What plans are you making? Ping us on Twitter (@lbhuston or @microsolved) and let us know your thoughts.

Pay Attention to this Samba Vulnerability

We have a feeling that this recent Samba vulnerability should be at the top of your mind. We are seeing a lot of attention to this across a variety of platforms and we wanted to make sure you saw it. It should be patched as soon as possible, especially on highly sensitive data stores and critical systems.

Let us know if you have any questions.

Keep Your Hands Off My SSL Traffic

Hey, you, get off my digital lawn and put down my binary flamingos!!!!! 

If you have been living under an online rock these last couple of weeks, then you might have missed all of the news and hype about the threats to your SSL traffic. It seems that some folks, like Lenovo and Comodo, for example, have been caught with their hands in your cookie jar. (or at least your certificate jar, but cookie jars seem like more of a thing…) 

First, we had Superfish, then PrivDog. Now researchers are saying that more and more examples of that same code being used are starting to emerge across a plethora of products and software tools.

That’s a LOT of people, organizations and applications playing with my (and your) SSL traffic. What is an aging infosec curmudgeon to do except take to the Twitters to complain? :)

There’s a lot of advice out there, and if you are one of the folks impacted by Superfish and/or PrivDog directly, it is likely a good time to go fix that stuff. It also might be worth keeping an eye on for a while and cleaning up any of the other applications that are starting to be outed for the same bad behaviors.

In the meantime, if you are a privacy or compliance person for a living, feel free to drop us a line on Twitter (@lbhuston, @microsolved) and let us know what your organization is doing about these issues. How is the idea of prevalent man-in-the-middle attacks against your compliance-focused data and applications sitting with your security team? You got this, right? :)

As always, thanks for reading, and we look forward to hearing more about your thoughts on the impacts of SSL tampering on Twitter! 

Telnet!? Really!?

I was recently analyzing data from the HITME project that was collected during the month of January. I noticed a significant spike in the observed attacks against Telnet. I was surprised to see that Telnet was being targeted at such a high rate. After all, there can’t be that many devices left with Telnet exposed to the internet, right?

Wrong. Very wrong. I discovered that there are still MILLIONS of devices with Telnet ports exposed to the internet. Due to Telnet’s lack of security, be sure to use SSH as opposed to Telnet whenever possible. If you absolutely must control a device via Telnet, at least place it behind a firewall. If you need to access the device remotely, leverage the use of a VPN. Finally, be sure to restrict access to the device to the smallest possible IP range.

The map below shows the geographical locations and number of attacks against Telnet that we observed last month. If you need any help isolating Telnet exposures, feel free to contact us by emailing info <at> microsolved.com.

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 11.28.10 AM

 

RansomWeb Attacks Observed in HITME

Unfortunately, the destructive nature of Ransomware has taken a new turn for the worse.  A new technique called RansomWeb is affecting production web-based applications.  I recently analyzed data from the HITME project and observed several RansomWeb attacks against PHP applications.  I can only assume the frequency of these attacks will increase throughout the year.  As a former Systems Administrator, I can definitively say that it would be a nightmare to bring an application back online that was affected by this variant of Ransomware.  Due to RansomWeb’s destructive nature, it is important to ensure that your organization is actively working to prevent RansomWeb from destroying any critical systems.

The attackers begin the RansomWeb process by exploiting a vulnerability within a web server or web-based application.  Once the server or application have been exploited, the attackers slowly begin encrypting key databases and files.  Once the encryption is complete, the hackers shut down the website/application and begin to demand ransom in exchange for the decryption of the corporation’s files.  Unfortunately, the attackers have even perfected using this process to encrypt system-level backups.

To prevent RansomWeb from affecting your organization, please be sure to complete the following steps on a regular basis:

  • Perform regular vulnerability assessments and penetration testing against your critical applications and servers.
  • Audit your application and system logs for any irregular entries.
  • Verify that you are performing regular application and system backups.
  • Be sure to test the backup/ restore process for your applications and systems on a regular basis.  After all, your backup/ DR process is only as effective as your last successful restore.

If you would like to discuss how we can help you prevent RansomWeb from affecting your production applications, do not hesitate to contact us by emailing info <at> microsolved.com