Preparing for the End of SMS Authentication

Over the last several years, wealth management/asset management firms have been integrating their systems with banking, trading and other financial platforms. One of the largest challenges wealth management firms face, from a technology standpoint, is managing multi-factor authentication when connecting to the accounts of their clients. In the coming year to eighteen months, this is likely to get even more challenging as SMS-based authentication is phased out. 

Today, many financial web sites, applications and phone apps require the use of SMS one-time security verification codes to be sent via text to the user. This usually happens once the user has entered their login and password to the system, after which it triggers the credential to be sent to their mobile phone number on record. The user then inputs this code into a form on the system and it is verified, and if correct, allows the user to proceed to access the application. This is called two factor authentication/multi-factor authentication (“MFA”) and is one of the most common mechanisms for performing this type of user authorization.

The problem with this mechanism for regulating sign ins to applications is that the method of sending the code is insecure. Attackers have a variety of means of intercepting SMS text messages and thus defeating this type of authentication. Just do some quick Google searches and you’ll find plenty of examples of this attack being successful. You’ll also find regulatory guidance about ending SMS authentication from a variety of sources like NIST and various financial regulators around the world. 

The likely successor to SMS text message authentication is the authenticator app on user mobile devices and smartphones. These authenticator apps reside in encrypted storage on the user’s phone and when prompted, provide a one-time password (“OTP”) just like the code sent in the text message. The difference is, through a variety of cryptographic techniques, once the application is setup and  the settings configured, it doesn’t need to communicate with the financial platform, and thus is significantly more difficult for attackers to compromise. Indeed, they must actually have the user’s device, or at the very least, access to the data that resides on it. This greatly reduces the risk of interception and mis-use of the codes in question, and increases the security of the user’s account with the financial institution.

This presents a significant problem, and opportunity, for wealth management firms. Transitioning their business processes from integrating with SMS-based authentication to authenticator apps can be a challenge on the technical level. Updates to the user interaction processes, for those firms that handle it manually, usually by calling the user and asking for the code, are also going to be needed. It is especially important, for these manual interactions, that some passphrase or the like is used, as banks, trading platforms and other financial institutions will be training their users to NEVER provide an authenticator app secret to anyone over the phone. Attackers leveraging social engineering are going to be the most prevalent form of danger to this authentication model, so wealth management firms must create controls to help assure their clients that they are who they say they are and train them to resist attackers pretending to be the wealth management firm. 

Technical and manual implementations of this form of authentication will prove to be an ongoing challenge for wealth management firms. We are already working with a variety of our clients, helping them update their processes, policies and controls for these changes. If your organization has been traditionally using SMS message authentication with your own clients, there is even more impetus to get moving on changes to your own processes. 

Let us know if we can be of service. You can reach out and have a no stress, no hassle discussion with our team by completing this web form. You can also give us a call anytime at 614-351-1237. We’d love to help! 

3 Steps To Increase Cyber Security At Your Dealership

Car dealerships and automotive groups are juicy targets for cybercriminals with their wealth of identity and financial information. Cyber security in many dealerships is lax, and many don’t even have full time IT teams, with even fewer having cybersecurity risk management skills in house. While this is changing, for the better, as dealerships become more data-centric and more automated, many are moving to become more proactive against cybersecurity threats. 

In addition to organized criminals seeking to capture and sell personal information,  global threats stemming from phishing, malware, ransomware and social engineering also plague dealerships. Phishing and ransomware are among the leading causes of financial losses tied to cybersecurity in the dealership space. Even as the federal regulators refine their focus on dealerships as financial institutions, more and more attackers have shifted some of their attention in the automotive sales direction.

Additionally, a short walk through social media doesn’t require much effort to identify dealerships as a common target for consumer anger, frustration and threats. Some of the anger shown toward car dealerships has proven to turn into physical security concerns, while it is almost assured that some of the industry’s network breaches and data breaches can also be tied back to this form of “hacktivism”. In fact, spend some time on Twitter or chat rooms, and you can find conversations and a variety of information of hacking dealership wireless networks and WiFi cameras. These types of cybersecurity incidents are proving to be more and more popular. 

With all of this cybersecurity attention to dealerships, are there any quick wins to be had? We asked our MSI team and the folks we work with at the SecureDrive Alliance that very question. Here’s the best 3 tips they could put forth:

1) Perform a yearly cybersecurity risk assessment – this should be a comprehensive view of your network architecture, security posture, defenses, detection tools, incident response plans and disaster recovery/business continuity plan capabilities. It should include a complete inventory of all PII and threats that your dealership faces. Usually this is combined with penetration testing and vulnerability assessment of your information systems to measure network security and computer security, as well as address issues with applications and social engineering. 

2) Ensure that all customer wireless networks and physical security systems are logically and physically segmented from operations networks – all networks should be hardened in accordance with information security best practices and separated from the networks used for normal operations, especially finance and other PII related processes. Network traffic from the customer wireless networks should only be allowed to traverse the firewall to the Internet, and may even have its own Internet connection such as a cable modem or the like. Cameras and physical security systems should be hardened against attacks and all common credentials and default passwords should be changed. Software updates for all systems should be applied on a regular basis.

3) Train your staff to recognize phishing, eliminate password re-use among systems and applications and reportcybersecurity attacks to the proper team members – your staff is your single best means of detecting cyber threats. The more you train them to identify and resist dangerous behaviors, the stronger your cybersecurity maturity will be. Training staff members to recognize, handle, report and resist cyber risks is one of the strongest value propositions in information security today. The more your team members know about your dealership’s security protocols, service providers and threats, the more effective they can be at protecting the company and themselves. Buidling a training resource center, and setting up a single point of contact for reporting issues, along with sending out email blasts about the latest threats are all great ways to keep your team on top of the issues.

There you have it, three quick and easy wins to help your dealership do the due diligence of keeping things cyber secure. These three basic steps will go a long way to protecting the business, meeting the requirements of your regulatory authority and reduce the chances of substantial harm from cyber attacks. As always, remaining vigilant and attentive can turn the tide. 

If you need any assistance with cybersecurity, risk management, penetration testing or training, MicroSolved and the SecureDrive Alliance are here to help. No matter if you’re a small business or a large auto group, our risk management and information security processes based on the cybersecurity framework from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will get you on the road to effective data security. Simply contact MSI via this web form, or the SecureDrive Alliance via our site, and we will be happy to have a no cost, no hassle discussion to see how we can assist you.  

All About Credit Union Credential Stuffing Attacks

Credential stuffing attacks continue to be a grave concern for all organizations worldwide. However, for many Credit Unions and other financial institutions, they represent one of the most significant threats. They are a common cause of data breaches and are involved in some 76% of all security incidents. On average, our honey nets pretending to be Credit Union and other financial services experience targeted credential stuffing attacks several times per week. 

What Is Credential Stuffing?

“Credential stuffing occurs when hackers use stolen information, such as usernames and passwords from database breaches or phishing software from one account, and attempt to gain access to another. The hackers prey on people’s habit of using the same usernames and passwords for multiple sites. Using automated tools, they run large amounts of stolen information across multiple sites looking to find the same usernames and passwords being used elsewhere. Once they find a match, they can monetize the personal and financial information they gather.” (ardentcu.org)

How Common is Credential Stuffing?

Beyond our honey nets, which are completely fake environments used to study attackers, credential stuffing and the damage it causes is quite starteling. Here are some quick facts:

  • It is estimated that automated credential-stuffing attempts makes up 90% of enterprise login traffic in the US. (securityboulevard.com)
  • It’s estimated that credential stuffing costs companies more than $5 billion a year and creates havoc with consumers. (ardentcu.org)

  • According to Akamai’s latest State of the Internet report on credential stuffing, its customers alone were deluged by 30 billion malicious login attempts between November 2017 and June this year, an average of 3.75 billion per month. (theregister.com)

  • Significant credential stuffing attacks are a favorite of professional hacking groups from Russia, India, Asia and Africa. They often gather extensive lists of stolen and leaked credentials through advanced Google hacking techniques, by combing social media for password dumps (so called “credential spills”) and by purchasing lists of exposed credentials from other criminals on the dark web. Lists of member information from compromised online banking, online retailers and business association sites are common. This information often includes names, addresses, bank account numbers/credit card numbers, social security numbers, phone numbers and other sensitive data – enabling credential stuffing and social engineering attacks against victims around the world.

What Can Credit Unions Do About Credential Stuffing?

The key to handling this threat is to be able to prevent, or at the very least, identify illicit login attempts and automate actions in response to failed logins. Cybercriminals use a variety of tools, rented botnets (including specifically built credential stuffing bots) and brute force attacks to pick off less than strong passwords all around the Internet. Then, as we discussed above, they use that stolen information to probe your credit union for the same login credentials. 

The first, and easiest step, in reducing these cybercriminals’ success rate is to teach all of your legitimate users not to use the same password across multiple systems, and NEVER use passwords from public sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter for example, as account credentials at work or on other important sites. Instead, suggest that they use a password manager application to make it simple to have different passwords for every site. Not only does this help make their passwords stronger, but it can even reduce support costs by reducing password reset requests. Ongoing security awareness is the key to helping them understand this issue and the significance their password choices have on the security of their own personal information and that of the company.

Next, the Credit Union should have a complete inventory of every remote login service, across their Internet presence. Every web application, email service, VPN or remote access portal and every single place that a cybercriminal could try or use their stolen credentials to gain an account takeover. Once, the Credit Union knows where login credentials can be used, they should go about preventing abuse and cyberattacks against those attack surfaces. 

The key to prevention should start with eliminating any Internet login capability that is not required. It should then progress to reducing the scope of each login surface by restricting the source IP addresses that can access that service, if possible. Often Credit Unions are able to restrict this access down to specific countries or geographic areas. While this is not an absolute defense, it does help to reduce the impacts of brute force attacks and botnet scans on the login surfaces. 

The single best control for any authentication mechanism, however, is multi factor authentication (MFA) (basically a form of secure access code provided to the user). Wheverever possible, this control should be used. While multi factor authentication can be difficult to implement on some services, it is widely available and a variety of products exist to support nearly every application and platform. Financial services should already be aware of MFA, since it has been widely regulated by FFIEC, NCUA and FDIC guidance for some time.

More and more, however, credential stuffing is being used against web mail, Office 365 and other email systems. This has become so common, that a subset of data breaches called Business Email Compromise now exists and is tracked separately by law enforcement. This form of unauthorized access has been wildly popular across the world and especially against the financial services of the United States. Compromised email addresses and the resulting wire transfer fraud and ACH fraud that stems from this form of credential theft/identity theft are among some of the highest financial impacts today. Additionally, they commonly lead to malware spread and ransomware infections, if the attacker can’t find a way to steal money or has already managed to do so.

No matter what login mechanism is being abused, even when MFA is in place, logging of both legitimate access and unauthorized access attempts is needed. In the event that a security breach does occur, this data is nearly invaluable to the forensics and investigation processes. Do keep in mind, that many default configurations of web services and cloud-based environments (like Office 365) have much of this logging disabled by default. 

While Credit Unions remain prime targets, having good prevention and detection are a key part of strong risk management against credential stuffing. Practicing incident response skills and business recovery via tabletop exercises and the like also go a long way to stengthening your security team’s capabilities.

How Can MicroSolved Help?

Our team (the oldest security firm in the midwest) has extensive experience with a variety of risk management and security controls, including helping Credit Unions inventory their attack surfaces, identify the best multi factor authentication system for their environment, create policies and processes for ensuring safe operations and performing assessments, configuration audits of devices/applications/cloud environments. 

We also scope and run custom tabletop exercises and help Credit Unions build better information security programs. Our team has extensive experience with business email compromise, wire/ACH/credit card fraud prevention, cybercriminal tactics and incident response, in the event that you discover that credential theft has occurred. 

Lastly, our ClawBack data leak detection platform, can help you watch for leaked credentials, find source code and scripts that might contain reuseable account credentials and even hunt down device configurations that can expose the entire network to easy compromise. 

You can learn more about all of our services, and our 28 years of information security thought leadership here.

Lastly, just reach out to us and get in touch here. We’d love to talk with your Credit Union and help you with any and all of these controls for protecting against credential stuffing attacks or any other cybersecurity issue.

Car Dealership Threat Scenario – Wireless Printer Hacking AP Fraud

Today, I wanted to talk about a threat scenario that we have modeled recently. In the scenario, the victim was a car dealership, and the target was to commit accounts payable fraud. The testing scenario is a penetration test against a large group of car dealerships, but our research shows the threat to be valid against any number of organizations. 

Here’s the basics of the scenario:

  • The team found a car dealership with an extensive wireless network. Though the network was encrypted and not available to the public, the team was able to compromise the wireless credentials using a wifi pineapple in a backpack, while pretending to shop for a new car.
  • The team used the credentials to return later, appearing to wait for a service visit and working from the customer lounge. (The coffee and snacks were great! )
  • The team logged into the wireless network and quickly identified many devices, workstations and such available. Rather than focus on the workstations or attempt an attack on the users – the team instead focused on the shared printers.
  • One printer was identified with the name “BackOffice”, and access to the print spool was easily obtained through known default passwords which hadn’t been changed on the device.
  • Our team made notes of attack their recon attack path, and left the dealership.
  • Once away from the dealership a couple of simple social engineering calls were made to the accounts payable folks, pretending to be a vendor that we had observed at work at the facility. Without any real information, the accounts payable team member explained when we could expect payment, because accounts payable checks were processed every Thursday morning. The social engineer thanked them and completed the call.
  • On Thursday morning, the team showed up at the dealership again, pretending to wait for a service appointment. While in the lounge, they accessed the compromised network and printer. This time, taking deeper control of the printer’s file buffer.
  • The team waited for the accounts payable staff to submit their weekly check printing to the printer. Indeed, around 10:45, the printer file showed up in the printer spool, where our penetration testing team intercepted it. 
  • The team quickly edited the file, changing one of the checks in amount (increasing the amount by several thousand dollars) and the payee (making the check payable to a fictional company of our choosing). They also edited the mailing address to come to our office instead of the original vendor. (PS – we alerted the manager to this issue, so that the bill could be paid later — never harm a client while doing testing!!!)
  • The file was then re-sent to the printer and released. The whole process occurred in under 3 minutes, so the AP person never even noticed the issue.
  • One expected control was that perhaps the AP staff would manually reconcile the checks against their expected checks, but this control was not in place and the fake check was mailed to us (we returned it, of course!).

This is a pretty simple attack, against a very commonly exploitable platform. Poor wireless network security and default installs of printer systems are common issues, and often not given much thought in most dealerships. Even when organizations have firewalls and ongoing vulnerability scanning, desktop controls, Anti-Virus, etc. – this type of attack is likely to work. Most organizations ignore their printers – and this is an example of how that can bite you.

These types of threat scenarios are great examples of our services and the threat modeling, fraud testing and penetration testing available. If you’d like to learn more about these kinds of activities, or discuss how to have them performed for your organization – get in touch. You can contact us via web form or give us a call at (614) 351-1237. You can also learn more about our role and services specific to car dealerships here.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions – @lbhuston on Twitter.

BEC #6 – Recovery

A few weeks ago, we published the Business Email Compromise (BEC) Checklist. The question arose – what if you’re new to security, or your security program isn’t very mature?

Since the checklist is based on the NIST model, there’s a lot of information here to help your security program mature, as well as to help you mature as a security practitioner. MSI’s engineers have discussed a few ways to leverage the checklist as a growth mechanism.

Part 1 and Part 2 covered the first checkpoint in the list – Discover. Part 3 covered the next checkpoint – Protect. Part 4 continued the series – Detect. Part 5 addressed how to Respond.

Continue reading

How to Respond – BEC Series #5

A few weeks ago, we published the Business Email Compromise (BEC) Checklist. The question arose – what if you’re new to security, or your security program isn’t very mature?

Since the checklist is based on the NIST model, there’s a lot of information here to help your security program mature, as well as to help you mature as a security practitioner. MSI’s engineers have discussed a few ways to leverage the checklist as a growth mechanism.

Part 1 and Part 2 covered the first checkpoint in the list – Identify. Part 3 covered the next checkpoint – Protect. Part 4 continued the series – Detect.

Now we’ll move along to one of the most important parts of the checklist – Respond.

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Get your magnifying glass – time to detect! BEC Series #4

A few weeks ago, we published the Business Email Compromise (BEC) Checklist. The question arose – what if you’re new to security, or your security program isn’t very mature?

Since the checklist is based on the NIST model, there’s a lot of information here to help your security program mature, as well as to help you mature as a security practitioner. MSI’s engineers have discussed a few ways to leverage the checklist as a growth mechanism.

Part 1 and Part 2 covered the first checkpoint in the list – Discover. Part 3 covered the next checkpoint – Protect. Now we’re going to move on to the next point – Detect.

Continue reading

Time to protect – BEC Series #3

A few weeks ago, we published the Business Email Compromise (BEC) Checklist. The question arose – what if you’re new to security, or your security program isn’t very mature?

Since the checklist is based on the NIST model, there’s a lot of information here to help your security program mature, as well as to help you mature as a security practitioner. MSI’s engineers have discussed a few ways to leverage the checklist as a growth mechanism.

Part 1 and Part 2 covered the first checkpoint in the list – Identify.

Continue reading

How do you “identify”…BEC #2

A few weeks ago, we published the Business Email Compromise (BEC) Checklist. The question arose – what if you’re new to security, or your security program isn’t very mature?

Since the checklist is based on the NIST model, there’s a lot of information here to help your security program mature, as well as to help you mature as a security practitioner. MSI’s engineers have discussed a few ways to leverage the checklist as a growth mechanism.

Continue reading