May, 2011


31
May 11

Apple Update Targets Mac Malware

Apple released a security update today designed to address the recent scourge of scareware targeting Mac users. The update comes as security experts spotted new versions of the rogue application family MacDefender making the rounds via poisoned links on Facebook.

Security Update 2011-003, available for Mac OS X v. 10.6.7 and Mac OS X Server v. 10.6.7, includes a component that checks for the MacDefender malware and its known variants. In its most recent advisory, Apple states: “If MacDefender scareware is found, the system will quit this malware, delete any persistent files, and correct any modifications made to configuration or login files. After MacDefender is identified and removed, the message below will be displayed the next time an administrator account logs in.”

The update also adds malware definitions to warn users away from downloading MacDefender, and sets the computer to check daily for updates to the malware definition list. Mac users who apply this update and later try to download a version of this malware via Safari, iChat or Mail should see a warning similar to the following dialog box: I’m glad that Apple has released this update, although I think they probably waited too long to do so. Some Windows users are no doubt experiencing a twinge of schadenfreude at this development, considering how Apple and many hardcore fans of the Mac platform have held out OS X as an unbreachable fortress. What the defenders of the Myth of Apple Invulnerability have long ignored is that a growing share of their user base is made up of people who are not technically sophisticated, and are just as prone to falling for clever social engineering attacks as their Windows counterparts.

A reader captured this thought nicely in a comment on my post last week about an apparent source of MacDefender scams: “Yes, many Mac users are technically sophisticated. But many others are not. Many bought Macs in hopes of staying safe despite having no computer training, or they may even have been advised to get a Mac by friends and relatives who feared the worse if they were let loose on the internet with a Windows machine. Many users are elementary school children and their teachers, since Mac is strong in educational software. It isn’t necessary for the perpetrators to be able to infect every Mac for this scheme to be profitable.”

As Apple’s share of the marketplace continues to grow, let me remind readers again that the staying-safe advice often posted on KrebsonSecurity applies with equal urgency to the Mac community as it does to users of other OS platforms.


31
May 11

DNS Filtering Bill Riles Tech Experts, Hacktivists

A bill moving through the U.S. Senate that would grant the government greater power to shutter Web sites that host copyright-infringing content is under fire from security researchers, who say the legislation raises “serious technical and security concerns.” Meanwhile, hacktivists protested by attacking the Web site of the industry group that most actively supports the proposal.

Earlier this month, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PDF), a bill offered by committee chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), that would let the Justice Department obtain court orders requiring U.S. Internet service providers to filter customer access to domains found by courts to point to sites that are hosting infringing content. The bill envisions that ISPs would do this by filtering DNS requests for targeted domains. DNS, short for “domain name system,” transforms computer-friendly IP addresses (such as 94.228.133.163) into words that are easier for humans to remember. For example, typing “krebsonsecurity.com” into a browser brings you to 94.228.133.163, and vice versa.

But the idea of blocking piracy by asking ISPs to filter DNS requests has touched a nerve with several prominent security experts, who say it would be “minimally effective and would present technical challenges that could frustrate important security initiatives.” The comments came in a whitepaper sent to Senate leaders this month by DNS experts Steve Crocker, David Dagon, Dan Kaminsky, Danny McPherson and Paul Vixie. For a brief explanation of why these individuals are worth hearing from on this subject, see the “About the Authors” section at the end of their paper.

The Protect IP Act “would promote the development of techniques and software that circumvent use of the DNS,” the experts wrote. “These actions would threaten the DNS’s ability to provide universal naming, a primary source of the Internet’s value as a single, unified, global communications network.”

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27
May 11

ChronoPay Fueling Mac Scareware Scams

Some of the recent scams that used bogus security alerts in a bid to frighten Mac users into purchasing worthless security software appear to have been the brainchild of ChronoPay, Russia’s largest online payment processor and something of a pioneer in the rogue anti-virus business.

Since the beginning of May, security firms have been warning Apple users to be aware of new scareware threats like MacDefender and Mac Security. The attacks began on May 2, spreading through poisoned Google Image Search results. Initially, these attacks required users to provide their passwords to install the rogue programs, but recent variants do not, according to Mac security vendor Intego.

A few days after the first attacks surfaced, experienced Mac users on Apple support forums began reporting that new strains of the Mac malware were directing users to pay for the software via a domain called mac-defence.com. Others spotted fake Mac security software coming from macbookprotection.com. When I first took a look at the registration records for those domains, I was unsurprised to find the distinct fingerprint of ChronoPay, a Russian payment processor that I have written about time and again as the source of bogus security software.

The WHOIS information for both domains includes the contact address of fc@mail-eye.com. Last year, ChronoPay suffered a security breach in which tens of thousands of internal documents and emails were leaked. Those documents show that ChronoPay owns the mail-eye.com domain and pays for the virtual servers in Germany that run it. The records also indicate that the fc@mail-eye.com address belongs to ChronoPay’s financial controller Alexandra Volkova.

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25
May 11

Blocking JavaScript in the Browser

Most Web sites use JavaScript, a powerful scripting language that helps make sites interactive. Unfortunately, a huge percentage of Web-based attacks use JavaScript tricks to foist malicious software and exploits onto site visitors. To protect yourself, it is critically important to have an easy method of selecting which sites should be allowed to run JavaScript in the browser.

It is true that selectively allowing JavaScript on known, “safe” sites won’t block all malicious scripting attacks: Even legitimate sites sometimes end up running malicious code when scammers figure out ways to sneak tainted, bogus ads into the major online ad networks. But disallowing JavaScript by default and selectively enabling it for specific sites remains a much safer option than letting all sites run JavaScript unrestricted all the time.

Firefox has many extensions and add-ons that make surfing the Web a safer experience. One extension that I have found indispensable is NoScript. This extension lets the user decide which sites should be allowed to run JavaScript, including Flash Player content. Users can choose to allow specific exceptions either permanently or for a single browsing session.

The NoScript extension makes it easy to place or remove these restrictions on a site-by-site basis, but a novice user may need some practice to get the hang of doing this smoothly. For instance, it’s not uncommon when you’re shopping online to come across a site that won’t let you submit data without fully allowing JavaScript. Then, when you enable scripting so that you can submit your address and payment information, the page often will reload and clear all of the form data you’ve already supplied, forcing you to start over. Also, many sites host content from multiple third-party sites, and users who prefer to selectively enable scripts may find it challenging to discover which scripts need to be enabled for the site to work properly.

Chrome also includes similar script- and Flash blocking functionality that seems designed to minimize some of these challenges by providing fewer options. If you tell Chrome to block JavaScript on all sites by default, when you browse to a site that uses JavaScript, the upper right corner of the browser displays a box with a red “X” through it. If you click that and select “Always allow JavaScript on [site name]” it will permanently enable JavaScript for that site, but it doesn’t give you the option to block third-party JavaScript content on the site as Noscript does. In my testing, I had to manually refresh the page before Chrome allowed scripting on a site that I’d just whitelisted.

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20
May 11

Krebs’s 3 Basic Rules for Online Safety

Yes, I realize that’s an ambitious title for a blog post about staying secure online, but there are a handful of basic security principles that — if followed religiously — can blunt the majority of malicious threats out there today.

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18
May 11

Point-of-Sale Skimmers: Robbed at the Register

Michaels Stores said this month that it had replaced more than 7,200 credit card terminals from store registers nationwide, after discovering that thieves had somehow modified or replaced machines to include point of sale (POS) technology capable of siphoning customer payment card data and PINs. The specific device used by the criminal intruders has not been made public. But many devices and services are sold on the criminal underground to facilitate the surprisingly common fraud.

POS skimmer component. Bogus PIN pad connector is at left.

POS skimmers typically are marketed and sold in one of three ways: Pre-compromised POS terminals that can be installed at the cash register; Fake POS devices that do not process transactions but are designed to record data from swiped cards and PIN entries; or Do-it-yourself kits that include all parts, wiring and instructions needed to modify an existing POS terminal.

I spoke at length to a POS skimmer seller who has been peddling POS modification devices on an exclusive underground fraud forum for more than a year. From the feedback left on his profile it is clear he had many satisfied customers. Buyers specify the make and model of the POS equipment they want to compromise (this guy specializes in hacking VeriFone devices, but he also advertises kits for devices manufactured by POS makers Ingenico, Xyrun, TechTrex).

The seller’s Bluetooth board (bottom) connected to the PIN pad interface.

His skimmer kit includes a PIN pad skimmer and two small circuit boards; One is a programmable board with specialized software designed to interact with the real card reader and to store purloined data; The other is a Bluetooth-enabled board that allows the thief to wirelessly download the stolen card data from the hacked device using a laptop or smartphone.

The PIN pad skimmer is an ultra-thin membrane that is inserted underneath the original silicon PIN pad. It records every button pressed with a date and time stamp. The thief must also solder the two boards to the existing PIN pad device to hijack the machine’s power and data processing stream.

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16
May 11

Something Old is New Again: Mac RATs, CrimePacks, Sunspots & ZeuS Leaks

New and novel malware appears with enough regularity to keep security researchers and reporters on their toes. But, often enough, there are seemingly new perils that  really are just old threats that have been repackaged or stubbornly lingering reports that are suddenly discovered by a broader audience. One of the biggest challenges faced by  the information security community is trying to decide which threats are worth investigating and addressing.  To illustrate this dilemma, I’ve analyzed several security news headlines that readers forwarded  to me this week, and added a bit more information from my own investigations.

I received more than two dozen emails and tweets from readers calling my attention to news that the source code for the 2.0.8.9 version of the ZeuS crimekit has been leaked online for anyone to download. At one point last year, a new copy of the ZeuS Trojan with all the bells and whistles was fetching at least $10,000. In February, I reported that the source code for the same version was being sold on underground forums. Reasonably enough, news of the source leak was alarming to some because it suggests that even the most indigent hackers can now afford to build their own botnets.

A hacker offering to host and install a control server for a ZeuS botnet.

We may see an explosion of sites pushing ZeuS as a consequence of this leak, but it hasn’t happened yet. Roman Hüssy, curator of ZeusTracker, said in an online chat, “I didn’t see any significant increase of new ZeuS command and control networks, and I don’t think this will change things.” I tend to agree. It was already ridiculously easy to start your own ZeuS botnet before the source code was leaked. There are a number of established and relatively inexpensive services in the criminal underground that will sell individual ZeuS binaries to help novice hackers set up and establish ZeuS botnets (some will even sell you the bulletproof hosting and related amenities as part of a package), for a fraction of the price of the full ZeuS kit.

My sense is that the only potential danger from the release of the ZeuS source code  is that more advanced coders could use it to improve their current malware offerings. At the very least, it should encourage malware developers to write more clear and concise user guides. Also, there may be key information about the ZeuS author hidden in the code for people who know enough about programming to extract meaning and patterns from it.

Are RATs Running Rampant?

Last week, the McAfee blog included an interesting post about a cross-platform “remote administration tool” (RAT) called IncognitoRAT that is based on Java and can run on Linux, Mac and Windows systems. The blog post featured some good details on the functionality of this commercial crimeware tool, but I wanted to learn more about how well it worked, what it looks like, and some background on the author.

Those additional details, and much more, were surprisingly easy to find. For starters, this RAT has been around in one form or another since last year. The screen shot below shows an earlier version of IncognitoRAT being used to remotely control a Mac system.

IncognitoRAT used to control a Mac from a Windows machine.

The kit also includes an app that allows customers to control botted systems via jailbroken iPhones.

Incognito ships with an app that lets customers control infected computers from an iPhone

The following video shows this malware in action on a Windows system. This video was re-recorded from IncognitoRAT’s YouTube channel (consequently it’s a little blurry), but if you view it full-screen and watch carefully you’ll see a sequence in the video that shows how the RAT can be used to send e-mail alerts to the attacker. The person making this video is using Gmail; we can see a list of his Gchat contacts on the left; and his IP address at the bottom of the screen.  That IP traces back to a Sympatico broadband customer in Toronto, Canada, which matches the hometown displayed in the YouTube profile where this video was hosted. A Gmail user named “Carlo Saquilayan” is included in the Gchat contacts visible in the video.

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13
May 11

Critical Flash Player Update Plugs 11 Holes

Adobe has released another batch of security updates for its ubiquitous Flash Player software. This “critical” patch fixes at least 11 vulnerabilities, including one that reports suggest is being exploited in targeted email attacks.

In the advisory that accompanies this update, Adobe said “there are reports of malware attempting to exploit one of the vulnerabilities, CVE-2011-0627, in the wild via a Flash (.swf) file embedded in a Microsoft Word (.doc) or Microsoft Excel (.xls) file delivered as an email attachment targeting the Windows platform. However, to date, Adobe has not obtained a sample that successfully completes an attack.”

The vulnerabilities exist in Flash versions 10.2.159.1 and earlier for Windows, Mac, Linux and Solaris. To learn which version of Flash you have, visit this link. The new version for most platforms is 10.3.181.14; Android users should upgrade to Flash Player 10.3.185.21 available by browsing to the Android Marketplace on an Android phone; Google appears to have updated Chrome users automatically with this version of Flash back on May 6 (Chrome versions 11.0.696.68 and later have the newest Flash version).

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12
May 11

Anonymous Splinter Group Implicated in Game Company Hack

The Web sites for computer game giant Eidos Interactive and one of its biggest titles — Deus Ex– were defaced and plundered on Wednesday in what appears to have been an attack from a splinter cell of the hacktivist group Anonymous. The hack comes just days after entertainment giant Sony told Congress that Anonymous members may have been responsible for break-ins that compromised personal information on more than 100 million customers of its PlayStation Network and other services.

The defacement message left on deusex.com.

For several hours early Thursday morning, the Deus Ex Web site, user forum, and Eidos.com were unreachable. For a brief period late Wednesday evening, the sites displayed a defacement banner that read “Owned by Chippy1337″ (click screen shot at right for a larger version), along with several names and hacker handles of those supposedly responsible for the break-in.

KrebsOnSecurity.com obtained an archived copy of the attackers’ online chatter as they were covering their tracks from compromising the sites. A hacker using the alias “ev0″ discusses having defaced the sites and downloading some 9,000 resumes from Eidos. ev0 and other hackers discuss leaking “src,” which may refer to source code for Deus Ex or other Eidos games. In a separate conversation, the hackers also say they have stolen information on at least 80,000 Deus Ex users and that they plan to release the data on file-sharing networks.

Neither Eidos nor its parent company Square Enix Co. could be immediately reached for comment. (This may not be the first time Eidos was breached: In a story I wrote earlier this year, I detailed how hackers on an underground criminal forum claimed to be selling access to Eidos’ customer database).

The attack seems to have been engineered by a faction of the hacker collective that recently seized control over Internet relay chat (IRC) channels previously used by Anonymous to help plan and conduct other, high-profile attacks. According to several news sites which covered that coup, the Anonymous control networks were taken over by a 17-year-old hacker from the United Kingdom who uses the handle “Ryan,” (shown in the chat conversation included below using the nickname “Blackhatcat”).

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