February, 2011


10
Feb 11

Google Adds 1-Time Passwords to Gmail, Apps

Stolen or easily-guessed passwords have long been the weakest link in security, leaving many Webmail accounts subject to hijacking by identity thieves, spammers and extortionists. To combat this threat on its platform, Google is announcing that starting today, users of Google’s Gmail service and other applications will have the option to beef up the security around these accounts by adding one-time pass codes sent to their mobile or land line phones.

For several months, Google has been offering this option to business customers and to “hundreds of thousands” of regular users who lost control over their accounts due to password theft, said Nishit Shah, product Manager for Google Security. Today, Google will begin rolling this feature out to all users, although it may be available to all users immediately, Shah said.

“It’s an extra step, but it’s one that significantly improves the security of your Google Account because it requires the powerful combination of both something you know—your username and password—and something that only you should have—your phone,” Shah wrote in a blog post published today. “A hacker would need access to both of these factors to gain access to your account. If you like, you can always choose a ‘Remember verification for this computer for 30 days’ option, and you won’t need to re-enter a code for another 30 days. You can also set up one-time application-specific passwords to sign in to your account from non-browser based applications that are designed to only ask for a password, and cannot prompt for the code.”

I set up the 2-step verification process for my Gmail account, and found the process to be quick and painless, if a little involved. I choose to set it up to call my Skype line and read the code aloud, and the call came in three seconds after I hit the submit button. The setup wizard then gave me 10 backup codes to use in cases when for whatever reason I don’t have access to my Skype account. Another setup page offered the ability to add a secondary backup phone to send the code via SMS/text message, or automated voice message.

Continue reading →


9
Feb 11

Adobe, Microsoft, WordPress Issue Security Fixes

Talk about Patch Tuesday on steroids! Adobe, Microsoft and WordPress all issued security updates for their products yesterday. In addition, security vendor Tipping Point released advisories detailing 21 unpatched vulnerabilities in products made by CA, EMC, HP, Novell and SCO.

Microsoft’s bundle includes a dozen updates addressing at least 22 security flaws in its Windows operating system and other software. Five of the vulnerabilities earned a “critical” rating, Redmond’s most serious. Six of the Windows flaws fixed in today’s release have been public for some time, although security experts at Symantec say they’re only aware of one of the flaws being actively exploited in the wild — a bug in the way Internet Explorer handles cascading style sheets. Updates are available through Windows Update or Automatic Update.

Microsoft also issued an update that changes the default behavior in Windows when users insert a removable storage device, such as a USB or thumb drive. This update effectively disables “autorun,” a feature of Windows that has been a major vector for malware over the years. Microsoft released this same update in February 2009, but it offered it as an optional patch. The only thing different about the update this time is that it is being offered automatically to users who patch through Windows Update or Automatic Update.

Update, Feb. 18, 11:56 a.m. ET: As F-Secure notes in a useful blog post, Microsoft has once again failed to disable auto-run, because this update is not offered by default, as Microsoft previously indicated.

Original story:

Adobe released an update for its Acrobat and free PDF Reader software that that fixes at least 29 security problems with these products. Adobe is urging users of Adobe Reader X (10.0) and earlier versions for Windows and Macintosh to update to Adobe Reader X (10.0.1), available now. Adobe says that an update to fix these flaws in UNIX installations of its products is expected to be available by the week of February 28, 2011.

Continue reading →


7
Feb 11

HBGary Federal Hacked by Anonymous

A company that is helping the federal government track down cyberactivists who have been attacking business which refused to support Wikileaks has itself been hacked by the very same activists.

At the center of the storm is a leaderless and anarchic Internet group called Anonymous, which more recently has been coordinating attacks against Egyptian government Web sites. Late last month, authorities in the U.K. and the U.S. moved against at least 45 suspected Anonymous activists. Then, on Saturday, the Financial Times ran a story quoting Aaron Barr, the head of security services firm HBGary Federal, saying he had uncovered the identities of Anonymous’ leaders using social networking sites. Barr said he planned to release his findings at a security conference in San Francisco next week.

Anonymous responded by hacking into HBGary’s networks and posting archives of company executive emails on file-trading networks. The group also hacked the firm’s Web site and replaced it with a message saying it was releasing Barr’s findings on its own because the group was confident Barr’s conclusions were wrong.

“We’ve seen your internal documents, all of them, and do you know what we did? We laughed. Most of the information you’ve ‘extracted’ is publicly available via our IRC networks,” the statement reads. “The personal details of Anonymous ‘members’ you think you’ve acquired are, quite simply, nonsense. So why can’t you sell this information to the FBI like you intended? Because we’re going to give it to them for free.”

I tuned into this conflict late Sunday evening, after HBGary President Penny Leavy had waded into Anonymous’ public chat channel in an attempt to reason with the group. Earlier in the evening, Anonymous sympathizers hijacked several Twitter accounts belonging to HBGary employees, and used them to post offensive comments and personal information about the account holders.

The topic of the IRC channel Leavy joined said it all: “Mission: Aaron Bratt FIRED. His salary donated to Bradley Manning Defense Fund. Simple.” Leavy said the group was planning to publish online the entire email archive belonging to Greg Hoglund, the security researcher in California who co-founded HBGary, which is part owner of HBGary Federal.

A snippet from that conversation:

“[20:06:12] <+Penny> Guys, I can’t fire someone that owns a portion of the company  What i can promise is we will have a meeting to discuss next steps”

In a phone interview late Sunday evening, Hoglund said that unlike the more traditional Web-site attacking activities of Anonymous, the hackers who infiltrated HBGary’s system showed real skills, even social engineering a network administrator into giving them complete control over rootkit.com, a security research site Hoglund has long maintained.

“They broke into one of HBGary’s servers that was used for tech support, and they got emails through compromising an insecure Web server at HBGary Federal,” Hoglund said. “They used that to get the credentials for Aaron, who happened to be an administrator on our email system, which is how they got into everything else. So it’s a case where the hackers break in on a non-important system, which is very common in hacking situations, and leveraged lateral movement to get onto systems of interest over time.”

Hoglund said Anonymous had crossed a line, and that posting the company’s email online would expose internal, proprietary data that would likely cost HBGary millions of dollars. He added that Anonymous activists should be able to see — if they read the email they’ve stolen — that HBGary ultimately decided not to publicly name any of the members it had identified.

“Before this, what these guys were doing was technically illegal, but it was in direct support of a government whistle blower. But now, we have a situation where they’re committing a federal crime, stealing private data and posting it on a torrent,” Hoglund said. “They didn’t just pick on any company, but we try to protect the US government from hackers. They couldn’t have chosen a worse company to pick on.”


4
Feb 11

ZeuS Source Code for Sale. Got $100,000?

Late last year, online crime forums were abuzz with talk that development of the world’s most notorious banking Trojan — ZeuS — was being retired, after its maker handed the malware’s secret blueprints to a rival developer. The recipient of those plans — the author of the SpyEye Trojan– has been hard at work on a malware strain that blends the two malware families. But new evidence suggests that the source code for the latest ZeuS version may have also been given or sold to a third party who is now reselling it to the highest bidder in the criminal underground, a development that could soon guarantee the production of a whole new ZeuS lineage.

Sources say the ZeuS author — known variously as “Slavik” and “Monstr” on criminal forums — gave the SpyEye author Gribodemon stewardship over the ZeuS code base, on the condition that Gribodemon agreed to provide ongoing support for existing ZeuS clients, a sizable user base that demands considerable care and attention. Sources also believe Slavik may have separately sold the code itself, ostensibly to the same individual shown in the screen shot below.

Established crime forums are built upon reputation, which is earned over a period of time by points awarded from other members for positive or negative transactions — much like eBay’s buyer and seller feedback system. The solicitation in the above screen shot is unlikely to be a fake: It indicates that the seller has been a member of this particular vetted crime forum since June 13, 2009, and has 18 positive reputation points and zero negative.

Continue reading →


3
Feb 11

Revisiting the SpyEye/ZeuS Merger

In October 2010, I discovered that the authors of the SpyEye and ZeuS banking Trojans — once competitors in the market for botnet creation and management kits — were planning to kill further development of ZeuS and fuse the two malware families into one supertrojan. Initially, I heard some skepticism from folks in the security community about this. But three months later, security experts are starting to catch glimpses of this new hybrid Trojan in the wild, with the author(s) shipping a series of beta releases that include updated features on a nearly-daily basis.

It probably didn’t help that the first report of a blended version of SpyEye/ZeuS (referred to as SpyZeuS for the remainder of this post) — detailed in a McAfee blog post — turned out to be a scam. But a little more a week ago, Trend Micro spotted snapshots and details of SpyZeuS components, noting that the author appears to have received help from other criminals in polishing this latest release; in particular, an add-on that grabs credit card numbers from hacked PCs, and a plugin designed to attack the anti-Trojan tool Rapport from Trusteer. (Trusteer’s Amit Klein addresses this component in a blog post here).

Seculert, a new threat alert service started by former RSA fraud expert Aviv Raff, includes some screen shots of the administrative panel of SpyZeuS that show the author trying to appeal to users of both Trojans, by allowing customers to control and update their botnets using either the traditional ZeuS or SpyEye Web interface.

The hybrid SpyZeuS Trojan lets users interact with bots via the ZeuS control panel (left) or the SpyEye interface.

Continue reading →


1
Feb 11

Spammers Hijack Internet Space Assigned to Egyptian President’s Wife

Egyptian citizens calling for besieged President Hosni Mubarak to step down may have been cut off from using the Web, but spammers have been busy cutting the government off from its own Internet address space: Earlier this month, junk e-mail artists hijacked a large swath of Internet addresses assigned to Mubarak’s wife.

According to Spamhaus.org, well known spammers commandeered a chunk of more than 4,000 IP addresses that were assigned years ago to Suzanne Mubarak and the Suzanne Mubarak Science Exploration Center. Spamhaus reports that those addresses have been used recently to promote a variety of dodgy Web businesses, and that the hijacked block is under the control of an organization that has ties to alleged spammer Michael Lindsay and iMedia Networks. iMedia did not respond to requests for comment.

The high profile land grab is the latest example of how spammers are becoming more brazen in their quest for non-blacklisted Internet address space from which to send spam, said Rod Rasmussen, president and chief technology officer of Internet Identity.

Rasmussen said Internet address space hijackers tend to target chunks of addresses assigned to governments and defense contractors, because those allocations are less likely to be reported missing, and very few of them are blocked by anti-spam tools.

“The spammers doing this look for chunks of [Internet] space that are dormant, but most of all blocks of IP addresses that are whitelisted,” by anti-spam groups, Rasmussen said. “Their spam gets through anti-spam filters nicely after that, or least until the hijacking is detected.”

Sometimes, the scammers are able to hijack IP space by snatching up expired domain names that were used to register the addresses years earlier. The attackers then send an e-mail from that domain to the regional Internet registry that assigned the block of IP, requesting whatever changes they need to assume control over the addresses.In other cases, spammers use forged letters and bogus corporate fronts to impersonate the rightful owner of the addresses.

Another chunk of addresses that Spamhaus found were recently hijacked by spammers — 255 IPs originally assigned in 1994 to the now defunct Claremont Technology Group — appears to have been stolen sometime after the organization let its domain claretech.com lapse. That domain now redirects to Falls Church, Va. based government contractor Computer Sciences Corp (CSC), which acquired Claremont in 1998.

Rasmussen believes we are likely to see a spike in this type hijacking activity as global supply of unassigned IPv4 addresses continues to dwindle and unallocated blocks become more valuable. Experts disagree on exactly when the pool of IPv4 addresses will be drained: Some says as mid- to late 2011, and others claim it’s only a few more days.

Continue reading →