May, 2011


10
May 11

Security Fixes for Microsoft Windows, Office

Microsoft issued just two updates today to fix at least three security flaws in its Windows and Microsoft Office products, a merciful respite following last month’s record-setting patch push. One of the patches issued today earned a critical rating, the company’s most serious.

The critical patch is mainly a concern for enterprises that are running Windows Server 2003 and 2008 server operating systems. The Office update fixes two vulnerabilities in Microsoft Powerpoint, and affects older versions of Office, including Office XP, Office 2003, Office 2007 and 2004 for Mac (Office 2010 for Mac and Windows are not affected).

Updates are available through Windows Update or via Automatic Updates. As always, please leave a note in the comments if you experience any troubles during or after the installation of these patches.


10
May 11

Breach at Michaels Stores Extends Nationwide

Earlier this month, arts & crafts chain Michaels Stores disclosed that crooks had tampered with some point-of-sale devices at store registers in the Chicago area in a scheme to steal credit and debit card numbers and associated PINs. But new information on the investigation shows that many Michaels stores across the country have discovered compromised payment terminals.

Investigators close to the case, but who asked to remain anonymous because they did  not have permission to speak publicly, said that at least 70 compromised POS terminals have been discovered so far in Michaels stores from Washington D.C. to the West Coast.

In an alert (PDF) sent to customers, Irving, Texas based Michaels Stores said it learned of the fraud after being contacted by banking and law enforcement authorities regarding fraudulent debit card transactions traced back to specific stores.  The Beacon-News, a Chicago Sun-Times publication, last week cited local police reports from several victims, describing the typical fraud as multiple unauthorized withdrawals of up to $500 made from ATMs at banks on the West Coast. It remains unclear when affected stores were compromised.

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9
May 11

Security Group Claims to Have Subverted Google Chrome’s Sandbox

A French security research firm boasted today that it has discovered a two-step process for defeating Google Chrome‘s sandbox, the security technology designed to protect the browser from being compromised by previously unknown security flaws. Experts say the discovery, if true, marks the first time hackers have figured out a way around the vaunted security layer, and almost certainly will encourage attackers to devise similar methods of subverting this technology in Chrome and other widely used software.

In an advisory released today, VUPEN Security said: “We are (un)happy to announce that we have official Pwnd Google Chrome and its sandbox.” The post includes a video showing the exploitation of what VUPEN claims is a previously undocumented security hole in Chrome v.11.0.696.65 on Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 (x64).

“While Chrome has one of the most secure sandboxes and has always survived the Pwn2Own contest during the last three years, we have now uncovered a reliable way to execute arbitrary code on any installation of Chrome despite its sandbox, ASLR and DEP,” the advisory notes. ASLR and DEP are two of the key security defenses built into Windows Vista and Windows 7

Google spokesman Jay Nancarrow said the company was unable to verify VUPEN’s claims, because VUPEN hadn’t shared any information about their findings. “Should any modifications become necessary, users will be automatically updated to the latest version of Chrome,” Nancarrow wrote in an email to KrebsOnSecurity.

Chaouki Bekar, VUPEN’s CEO and head of research, confirmed that the company had no plans to share any details about their findings with Google, nor was it aware of any steps users could take to mitigate the threat from this attack.

“No, we did not alert Google as we only share our vulnerability research with our Government customers for defensive and offensive security,” Bekar wrote in response to an emailed request for comment. “Unfortunately, we are not aware of any mitigation to protect against these vulnerabilities.”

Jeremiah Grossman, a Web application security expert and chief technology officer for the security consultancy WhiteHat Security, called the news “quite serious.”

“We have governments competing for 0days, and we’re not even sure who the buyers are, maybe the US government didn’t get the 0day,” Grossman said “One way or the other, consumers are unprotected from an 0day we can’t really verify but probably exists. I think that’s quite serious.”

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6
May 11

Scammers Swap Google Images for Malware

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a single tainted digital image may be worth thousands of dollars for computer crooks who are using weaknesses in Google’s Image Search to foist malicious software on unsuspecting surfers.

For several weeks, some readers have complained that clicking on Google Images search results directed them to Web pages that pushed rogue anti-virus scareware via misleading security alerts and warnings. On Wednesday, the SANS Internet Storm Center posted a blog entry saying they, too, were receiving reports of Google Image searches leading to fake anti-virus sites. According to SANS, the attackers have compromised an unknown number of sites with malicious scripts that create Web pages filled with the top search terms from Google Trends. The malicious scripts also fetch images from third-party sites and include them in the junk pages alongside the relevant search terms, so that the automatically generated Web page contains legitimate-looking content.

A Firefox add-on in development shows malicious images in dark red.

Google’s Image Search bots eventually will index this bogus content. If users are searching for words or phrases that rank high in the current top search terms, it is likely that thumbnails from these malicious pages will be displayed beside other legitimate results.

As SANS handler Bojan Zdrnja explains, the exploit happens when a user clicks on one of these tainted thumbnails. “This is where the ‘vulnerability’ is,” Zdrnja wrote. “The user’s browser will automatically send a request to the bad page which runs the attacker’s script. This script checks the request’s referrer field and if it contains Google (meaning this was a click on the results page in Google), the script displays a small JavaScript script…[that] causes the browser to be redirected to another site that is serving FakeAV. Google is doing a relatively good job removing (or at least marking) links leading to malware in normal searches, however, Google’s image search seem to be plagued with malicious links.”

Denis Sinegubko, a Russian malware researcher who has been studying the fake anti-virus campaigns, called this tactic “the most efficient black hat trick ever,” and said it is exceedingly easy to set up. He said he’s received access logs from the owners of several hacked sites, and has used the data to estimate the traffic Google sends to these bogus image search pages. Sinegubko reckons that there are more than 5,000 hacked sites, and that the average site has been injected with about 1,000 of these bogus pages. The average page receives a visitor from Google approximately every 10 days, he said, which means Google is referring about a half million visits to fake anti-virus sites every day, or about 15 million visits each month.

For example, one of the hacked sites Sinegubko said he saw access logs for was in Croatia; It had a Google page rank of zero prior to being compromised with the phony image search scripts. The logs showed that the site had been hacked on Mar. 18, 2011, and that Google began indexing the tainted image pages the next day. “During the next 5 weeks it has indexed 27,200+ doorway pages on this site,” he wrote in a blog post on his findings. “During the same 5 weeks Google Image search has sent 140,000+ visitors to this small site.”

Sinegubko is developing an add-on for Firefox that can flag malicious Google Image search results by placing a red box around images that appear to link to hostile sites; Images with a pale pink box around them are hot-linked and may also be malicious, Sinegubko said. I tested the add-on (which is not ready for public release) searching for the cover art for the album “Kaputt” by the Canadian band Destroyer. As you can see from the image above, most of the images returned link to sites pushing fake anti-virus.

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5
May 11

LastPass Forces Users to Pick Another Password

LastPass.com, a free password management service that lets users unlock access to all of their password protected sites with a single master password, is forcing all of its approximately 1.25 million users to change their master passwords after discovering that intruders may have accessed the company’s user database.

In an alert posted to the company’s blog late Wednesday, LastPass said that on Tuesday morning it spotted a “traffic anomaly” — unexplained transfers of data — from one of the company’s databases. From that blog entry:

“Because we can’t account for this anomaly either, we’re going to be paranoid and assume the worst: that the data we stored in the database was somehow accessed. We know roughly the amount of data transfered [sic] and that it’s big enough to have transfered people’s email addresses, the server salt and their salted password hashes from the database. We also know that the amount of data taken isn’t remotely enough to have pulled many users encrypted data blobs.

If you have a strong, non-dictionary based password or pass phrase, this shouldn’t impact you – the potential threat here is brute forcing your master password using dictionary words, then going to LastPass with that password to get your data.Unfortunately not everyone picks a master password that’s immune to brute forcing.

To counter that potential threat, we’re going to force everyone to change their master passwords.”

LastPass consists of a core software application that sits on user machines, and a browser plug-in. Passwords are stored on the user’s system, so that no one at LastPass can access the information.  What the company does keep is an encrypted blob of gibberish data that is generated by taking the user’s master password and email address and hashing the two. Any sensitive data saved to an account is secured by the encryption key on the user’s system and then sent to LastPass. Since the user’s encryption key is locally created each time users submit their master password and email to LastPass, all that the company stores is users’ encrypted data.

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4
May 11

RSA Among Dozens of Firms Breached by Zero-Day Attacks

This is the second installment of a multi-part series examining the tools and tactics used by attackers in the RSA breach and other recent network intrusions characterized as “ultra-sophisticated” and “advanced persistent threats.”  If you missed the first piece, please check out Advanced Persistent Tweets: Zero-Day in 140 Characters.

The recent data breach at security industry giant RSA was disconcerting news to the security community: RSA claims to be “the premier provider of security, risk, and compliance solutions for business acceleration” and the “chosen security partner of more than 90 percent of the Fortune 500.”

The hackers who broke into RSA appear to have leveraged some of the very same Web sites, tools and services used in that attack to infiltrate dozens of other companies during the past year, including some of the Fortune 500 companies protected by RSA, new information suggests. What’s more, the assailants moved their operations from those sites very recently, after their locations were revealed in a report published online by the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

In RSA’s explanation of the attack, it pointed to three domains that it claimed were used to download malicious software and to siphon sensitive data taken from its internal networks: Good[DOT]mincesur[DOT]com, up82673[DOT]hopto[DOT]org and www[DOT]cz88[DOT]net. But according to interviews with several security experts who keep a close eye on these domains, the Web sites in question weren’t merely one-time attack staging grounds: They had earned a reputation as launch pads for the same kind of attacks over at least a 12 month period prior to the RSA breach disclosure.

What’s more, the same domains were sending and receiving Internet connections from dozens of Fortune 500 companies during that time, according to Atlanta-based Damballa, a company that mines data about malware attacks using a network of sensors deployed at Internet service providers and large enterprises around the world. Damballa monitors the domain name system (DNS) servers at those networks, looking for traffic between known good hosts and known or suspected hostile locations.

Gunter Ollmann, Damballa’s vice president of research, said that for more than a year his company has been monitoring the three malicious sites that RSA said were involved in the theft of its intellectual property, and that many other major companies have had extensive communications with those hostile domains during that time. He added that his company is not in a position to name the other companies impacted by the breach, and that Damballa is helping federal authorities with ongoing investigations.

“There is lots of malware that have relied on those domains for command and control,” Ollmann said. “We know who the victims are, roughly how many devices within those victim organizations were compromised, and are still compromised.  RSA was not the only victim of these attacks.”

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3
May 11

Advanced Persistent Tweets: Zero-Day in 140 Characters

The unceasing barrage of targeted email attacks that leverage zero-day software flaws to steal sensitive information from businesses and the U.S. government often are described as being ultra-sophisticated, almost ninja-like in stealth and anonymity. But according to expert analysis of several recent zero-day attacks – including the much publicized break-in at security giant RSA — the Chinese developers of those attack tools left clues aplenty about their identities and locations, with one apparent contender even Tweeting about having newly discovered a vulnerability days in advance of its use in the wild.

Zero-day threats are attacks which exploit security vulnerabilities that a software vendor learns about at the same time as the general public  does;   The vendor has “zero days” to fix the flaw before it gets exploited. RSA and others have labeled recent zero-day attacks as the epitome of the so-called “advanced persistent threat” (APT), a controversial term describing the daily onslaught of digital assaults launched by attackers who are considered highly-skilled, determined and possessed of a long-term perspective on their mission. Because these attacks often result in the theft of sensitive and proprietary information from the government and private industry, the details usually are shrouded in secrecy when law enforcement and national security investigators swoop in.

Open source information available about the tools used in recent attacks labeled APT indicates that some of the actors involved are doing little to cover their tracks: Not only are they potentially identifiable, they don’t seem particularly concerned about suffering any consequences from their actions.

Bragging rights may play a part in the attackers’  lack of duplicity. On Apr. 11, 2011, security experts began publishing information about a new zero-day attack that exploited a previously unknown vulnerability in Adobe‘s Flash Player software, a browser plug-in installed in 96 percent of the world’s Microsoft Windows PCs .  The exploit code was hidden inside a Microsoft Word document titled “Disentangling Industrial Policy and Competition Policy.doc,” and reportedly was emailed to an unknown number of U.S. government employees and contractors.

Four days earlier, on Apr. 7, an individual on Twitter calling himself “Yuange” and adopting the humble motto “No. 1 hacker in China top hacker in the world,” tweeted a small snippet of exploit code, apparently to signal that he had advance knowledge of the attack:

call [0x1111110+0x08].

It wasn’t long before malware researchers were extracting that exact string from the innards of a Flash exploit that was landing in email inboxes around the globe.

Tweeting a key snippet of code hidden in a zero-day exploit in advance of its public release may seem like the hacker equivalent of Babe Ruth pointing to the cheap seats right before nailing a home run. But investigators say the Chinese Internet address used to download the malicious files in the early hours of the April Flash zero-day attacks — 123.123.123.123 — was in some ways bolder than most because that address  would appear highly unusual and memorable to any reasonably vigilant network administrator.

This wasn’t the first time Yuange had bragged about advance knowledge of impending zero-day attacks. On Oct. 27, 2010, he boasted of authoring a zero-day exploit targeting a previously unknown vulnerability in Mozilla’s Firefox Web browser:

Wrote the firefox 0day. You may see “for(inx=0’inx<0x8964;inx++). You should know why 0x8964 here.

That same day, experts discovered that the Web site for the Nobel Peace Prize was serving up malicious software that exploited a new vulnerability in Firefox. An analysis of the attack code published by a member of Mozilla’s security team revealed the exact code snippet Yuange had tweeted.

On February 28, 2011, Yuange taunted on Twitter that new zero-day traps were being set:

ready? new flash 0day is on the way.

On Mar. 14, Adobe acknowledged that a new Flash flaw was being exploited via a booby-trapped Flash component tucked inside of Microsoft Excel files. Three days after that, EMC’s security division RSA dropped a bombshell: Secret files related to its widely used SecurID authentication tokens had been stolen in “an extremely sophisticated cyber attack.” A follow-up blog post from RSA’s Uri River two weeks later stated that the break-in was precipitated by the zero-day Adobe had warned about on Mar. 14, and that the lure used in the attack on RSA was an Excel file named “2011 Recruitment Plan.”

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2
May 11

‘Weyland-Yutani’ Crime Kit Targets Macs for Bots

A new crimeware kit for sale on the criminal underground makes it a simple point-and-click exercise to develop malicious software designed to turn Mac OSX computers into remotely controllable zombie bots. According to the vendor of this kit, it is somewhat interchangeable with existing crimeware kits made to attack Windows-based PCs.

The Mac malware builder in action.

KrebsOnSecurity has spilled a great deal of digital ink covering the damage wrought by ZeuS and SpyEye, probably the most popular crimeware kits built for Windows. A crimeware kit is a do-it-yourself package of tools that allow users to create custom versions of a malicious software strain capable of turning machines into bots that can be remotely controlled and harvested of financial and personal data. The bot code, generated by the crimeware kit’s “builder” component, typically is distributed via social engineering attacks in email and social networking sites, or is foisted by an exploit pack like Eleonore or Blackhole, which use hacked Web sites and browser flaws to quietly install the malware. Crimeware kits also come with a Web-based administration panel that allows the customer to manage and harvest data from infected PCs.

Crimekit makers have focused almost exclusively on the Windows platform, but today Danish IT security firm CSIS Security Group blogged about a new kit named the Weyland-Yutani BOT that is being marketed as the first of its kind to attack the Mac OS X platform.

The seller of this crimeware kit claims his product supports form-grabbing in Firefox and Chrome, and says he plans to develop a Linux version and one for the iPad in the months ahead. The price? $1,000, with payment accepted only through virtual currencies Liberty Reserve or WebMoney.

The CSIS blog post contains a single screen shot of this kit’s bot builder, and references a demo video but doesn’t show it. I wanted to learn more about this kit, and so contacted the seller via a Russian language forum where he was advertising his wares.

The author said he is holding off on including Safari form-grabbing capability for now, complaining that there are “too many problems in that browser.” Still, he was kind enough to share a copy of a video that shows the kit’s builder and admin panel in action. Click the video link below to check that out.

ZeuS and SpyEye are popular in part because they support a variety of so-called “Web injects,” third-party plug-ins that let botmasters manipulate the content that victims see in their Web browsers. The most popular Web injects are designed to slightly alter the composition of various online banking Web sites in a bid to trick the victim customer into supplying additional identifying information that can be used later on to more fully compromise or hijack the account. According to the author, Web injects developed for ZeuS and SpyEye also are interchangeable with this Mac crimekit. “They need to be formatted and tagged, but yes, you can use Zeus injects with this bot,” he told me in an instant message conversation.

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