Here’s Why You Don’t Want RDP on the Internet

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the HITME project, it is a set of deployed HoneyPoints that gather real-world, real-time attacker data from around the world. The sensors gather attack sources, frequency, targeting information, vulnerability patterns, exploits, malware and other crucial event data for the technical team at MSI to analyze. We frequently feed these attack signatures into our vulnerability management service to ensure that our customers are tested against the most current forms of attacks being used on the Internet.

It’s also important that we take a step back and look at our HITME data from a bird’s-eye view to find common attack patterns. This allows us to give our customers a preemptive warning in the event that we identify a significant increase in a specific threat activity. We recently analyzed  some of the data that we collected during the month of November. We found that over 47% of the observed attacks in the public data set were against the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)(often also known as Microsoft Terminal Services). This was more than attacks against web servers, telnet servers and FTP servers combined!

Be sure that all recommended security measures are applied to RDP systems. This should include requiring the use of RDP clients that leverage high levels of encryption. If you need any assistance verifying that you are protected against attacks against your terminal servers, feel free to contact us by sending an email to info(at)microsolved(dot)com.

This post by Adam Luck.

ATM Attacks are WEIRD

So this week, while doing some TigerTrax research for a client, I ran into something that was “new to me”, but apparently is old hat for the folks focused on ATM security. The attacks against ATMs run from the comical, like when would-be thieves leave behind cell phones, license plates or get knocked out by their own sledge hammers during their capers to the extremely violent – attacks with explosives, firearms and dangerous chemicals. But, this week, my attention caught on an attack called “Plofkraak”. 

In this attack, which is apparently spreading around the world from its birth in Eastern Europe, an ATM is injected with high levels of flammable gas. The attackers basically tape up all of the areas where the gas could easily leak out, and then fill the empty spaces inside the ATM with a common flammable gas. Once the injection is completed, the gas is fired by the attacker, causing an explosion that emanates from INSIDE the ATM.

The force of the explosion tears the ATM apart, and if the attackers are lucky, cracks open the safe that holds the money, allowing them to make off with the cash and deposits. Not all attackers are lucky though, and some get injured in the blast, fail to open the safe and even torch the money they were seeking. However, the attack is cheap, fast, and if the ATM doesn’t have adequate safeguards, effective.

The collateral damage from an attack of this type can be pretty dangerous. Fires, other explosions and structural damages have been linked to the attack. Here is an example of what one instance looked like upon discovery. 

Some ATM vendors have developed counter measures for the attack, including gas sensors/neutralizing chemical systems, additional controls to prevent injection into the core of the machine, hardening techniques for the safe against explosions and other tricks of the trade. However, given the age of ATM machines in the field and their widespread international deployment, it is obvious that a number of vulnerable systems are likely to be available for the criminals to exploit.

While this is a weird and interesting technique, it did give me some reminders about just how creative and ambitious criminals can be. Even extending that into Information Security, it never ceases to amaze me how creative people will get to steal. Spend some time today thinking about that. What areas of your organization might be vulnerable to novel attacks? Where are the areas that a single failure of a security control could cause immense harm? Make a note of those, and include them in your next risk assessment, pen-test or threat modeling exercise.

Don’t forget, that just like the inventors of Plofkraa”, attackers around the world are working on the odd, novel and unexpected attack vector. Vigilance is a necessary skill, and one we need more of, in infosec. As always, thanks for reading, and stay safe out there! 

Quick Thought on CSRF Attacks

Yesterday, I listened to @Grap3_Ap3 present at the Columbus OWASP local chapter on Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF). While this attack has been around since 2001, it continues to show a strong presence in web applications across a range of platforms. Phil spent a lot of his time talking about content management systems on the public Internet, but we have seen CSRF very widely exploitable on embedded devices.

Embedded devices, often equipped with rather rudimentery web servers and applications for management, have proven to be a searing hot pain point for CSRF in our research. While that isn’t shocking or new, I definitely see an interesting and potentially dangerous collision between the growth of the “Internet of Things” and web vulnerabilities. Today, some of these platforms are toys, or novelty tools built into home appliances – BUT, the future of internetworking of our devices and our physical lives means that these web controls will eventually have larger impacts on our day to day lives.

What happens when a CSRF attack can be used to trick your teenager into clicking on a picture on the web that while they view it, they also execute a command to raise the temperature on your refrigerator to unsafe levels? Or when an embedded link in an email tricks you into a click that turns your oven onto super heat clean mode without your knowledge? Sound like a prank? Maybe. Extend it to thermostats, home automation and consumer control over alternative energy controls like solar panels and such and it might take a new form.

We are on a course of collision. Our inattention to information security and the exploding complexity and technology dependencies will soon come together in ways that may surprise us. Ignore the hyperbole, but think about it rationally. Isn’t it time we worked with organizations who make products to demand an increase in protection from some of these basic known attacks? In the future, consumers and organizations alike will vote with their dollars. How will you spend yours?

Underground Cyber-Crime Economy Continues to Grow

I read two interesting articles today that reinforced how the underground economy associated with cyber-crime is still growing. The first, an article from Breech Security, talked about their analysis of web-hacking from 2007. Not surprisingly,  they found that the majority of web hacking incidents they worked last year were geared towards theft of confidential information.

This has been true for the majority of incident response cases MSI has worked for a number of years now. The majority are aimed at gaining access to the underlying database structures and other corporate data stores of the organization. Clearly, the target is usually client identity information, credit card info or the like.

Then, I also read on darknet this morning that Finjin is saying they have been observing a group that has released a small P2P application for trading/sale of compromised FTP accounts and other credentials. Often, MSI has observed trading and sale of such information on IRC and underground mailing lists/web sites. Prices for the information are pretty affordable, but attackers with a mass amount of the data can make very good incomes from the sale. Often, the information is sold to multiple buyers – making the attacker even more money from their efforts.

Underground economies have been around since the dawn of capitalism. They exist for almost every type of contraband and law enforcement is usually quite unsuccessful at stamping them out. Obviously, they have now become more common around cyber-crime and these events that have “bubbled to the surface” are only glimpses of the real markets.

It is critical that information security teams understand these motivations and the way attackers think, target victims and operate. Without this understanding, they are not likely to succeed in defending their organizations from the modern attacker. If your organization still spends a great deal of time worrying about web page defacements and malware infections or if your security team is primarily focused around being “net cops”, it is pretty likely that they will miss the real threat from today’s cyber-criminals and tomorrow’s versions of organized crime.