Posts Tagged: RSA


27
Oct 11

Chasing APT: Persistence Pays Off

The IT director for an international hedge fund received the bad news in a phone call from a stranger: Chinese hackers were running amok on the fund’s network. Not seeing evidence of the claimed intrusion, and unsure about the credibility of the caller, the IT director fired off an email to a reporter.

“So do you think this is legit, or is the guy trying to scare us?” the IT director asked in an email to KrebsOnSecurity.com, agreeing to discuss the incident if he and his company were not named. “He has sent me the logs for the connections to the infected server. I checked the firewall and am not seeing any active connections.”

The call, from Hermes Bojaxhi of Columbia, Md. based threat intelligence firm Cyber Engineering Services Inc. (CyberESI), was indeed legit, and a follow-up investigation by the hedge fund revealed that at least 15 PCs within the financial services company were compromised and were sending proprietary information to the attackers.

CyberESI knew about the incident because it was monitoring several hacked, legitimate servers that the attackers were using to siphon data from multiple victims. Bojaxhi said the hedge fund notification was one of several he made that week to Fortune 500 companies that also had been hacked and were communicating with the same compromised servers.

And it wasn’t his first call to the hedge fund.

“On that particular victim, I tried to reach out to them a month prior, but I was handed off to an administrative assistant,” Bojaxhi said. “We had 25 [victim organizations] to call that day. But when they popped back up on the radar a month later, I tried again.”

The hedge fund incident illustrates the complexities of defending against and detecting targeted attacks, even when victims are alerted to the problem by an outside party.

Joe Drissel, founder and CEO for CyberESI, said too many companies think of cyberattacks as automated threats that can be blocked with the proper mix of hardware and software.

“So many firms are stuck in a paradigm of drive-bys, not targeted attacks,” Drissel said. “There seems to be a real disconnect with what’s really happening on a daily basis. We’re trying to fight an asymmetrical war in a symmetrical way, sort of like we’re British soldiers [in Revolutionary War], all walking in line and they’re picking us off one by one. By the time we turn around and aim, they’re already gone.”

None of the first three Trojans installed on the hedge fund’s computers were initially detected by any of the 42 anti-virus products bundled into the scanning tools at Virustotal.com.

Drissel said victims that his company notifies sometimes mistakenly think his firm is involved in the attack, or that they’re somehow joking.

“One guy laughed and said, ‘Thank you for watching out for our company,’ but he didn’t call us back,” Drissel said of a conversation with a victim earlier this year, declining to name the victim. “We watched [the attackers] exfiltrate weapons systems data for the Defense Department out of their systems, and ended up having to text the same guy a file stolen off their servers. Fifteen minutes later, we got a call back from him, and they unplugged their entire corporate network.”

Some say that the attacks CyberESI notifies companies about — often referred to as the advanced persistent threat (APT) –  are over-hyped, and that the malware and exploits used in these incursions usually aren’t that sophisticated. APT attacks also are frequently associated with targets in the U.S. government and companies in the defense industry.

But most APT attackers tend to be only as sophisticated as they need to be, which often isn’t too sophisticated, said Gavin Reid, senior manager of Cisco’s computer security incident response team. Speaking at a conference in Warsaw, Poland this week, Reid said successful APT attacks need not use zero-day software flaws.

“People will say, ‘Well, this attack wasn’t very advanced, so it can’t be APT’, but I will tell you the folks who are behind some of this stuff are not going to use cool zero-day stuff if they can go in the underground economy and say, ‘Hey, I need [access to] an infected machine in this organization,’ and pay $50 in Paypal in order to get that,” Reid said.

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8
Jun 11

Court: Passwords + Secret Questions = ‘Reasonable’ eBanking Security

A closely-watched court battle over how far commercial banks need to go to protect their customers from cyber theft is nearing an end. Experts said the decision recommended by a magistrate last week — if adopted by a U.S. district court in Maine — will make it more difficult for other victim businesses to challenge the effectiveness of security measures employed by their banks.

In May 2009, Sanford, Maine based Patco Construction Co. filed suit against Ocean Bank, a division of Bridgeport, Conn. based People’s United Bank. Pacto used online banking primarily to make weekly payroll payments. Patco said cyber thieves used the ZeuS trojan to steal its online banking credentials, and then heisted $588,000 in batches of fraudulent automated clearing house (ACH) transfers over a period of seven days.

In the weeks following the incident, Ocean Bank managed to block or claw back $243,406 of the fraudulent transfers, leaving Patco with a net loss of $345,445. Because the available funds in Patco’s account were less than the total fraudulent withdrawals, the bank drew $223,237 on Patco’s line of credit to cover the transfers. Patco ended up paying interest on that amount to avoid defaulting on its loans.

Patco sued to recover its losses, arguing in part that Ocean Bank failed to live up to the terms of its contract when it allowed customers to log in to accounts using little more than a user name and password. On May 27, a magistrate recommended that the court make Patco the loser by denying Pacto’s motion for summary judgment and granting the bank’s motion.

David Navetta, a founding partner of the Information Law Group, said that Patco has about another week to dispute the magistrate’s recommendations, but that it is unlikely that the judge overseeing the case will overturn the magistrate’s findings.

Navetta said the magistrate considered the legal issues and propounded an analysis of what constitutes “commercially reasonable” security.

“Many security law commentators, myself included, have long held that reasonable security does not mean bullet-proof security, and that companies need not be at the cutting edge of security to avoid liability,” Navetta said. “The court explicitly recognizes this concept, and I think that is a good thing.”

But Avivah Litan, a fraud and bank security analyst at Gartner, took strong exception to the way the magistrate arrived at the recommended decision, calling it “an outrage.”

“In my opinion, this is frankly an egregious injustice against small U.S. businesses,” Litan said. “It is also a complete failure of the bank regulatory system in the United States, which should come as no surprise, given the history of the regulators in the 21st century.”

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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<0×8964;inx++). You should know why 0×8964 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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30
Mar 11

Domains Used in RSA Attack Taunted U.S.

Details about the recent cyber attacks against security firm RSA suggest the assailants may have been taunting the industry giant and the United States while they were stealing secrets from a company whose technology is used to secure many banks and government agencies.

Earlier this month, RSA disclosed that “an extremely sophisticated cyber attack” targeting its business unit “resulted in certain information being extracted from RSA’s systems that relates to RSA’s SecurID two-factor authentication products.” The company was careful to caution that while data gleaned did not enable a successful direct attack on any of its SecurID customers, the information “could potentially be used to reduce the effectiveness of a current two-factor authentication implementation as part of a broader attack.”

That disclosure seems to have only fanned the flames of speculation swirling around this story, and a number of bloggers and pundits have sketched out scenarios of what might have happened. Yet, until now, very little data about the attack itself has been made public.

Earlier today, I had a chance to review an unclassified document from the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), which includes a tiny bit of attack data: A list of domains that were used in the intrusion at RSA.

Some of the domain names on that list suggest that the attackers had (or wanted to appear to have) contempt for the United States. Among the domains used in the attack (extra spacing is intentional in the links below, which should be considered hostile):

A partial list of the domains used in the attack on RSA

www usgoodluck .com

obama .servehttp .com

prc .dynamiclink .ddns .us

Note that the last domain listed includes the abbreviation “PRC,” which could be a clever feint, or it could be Chinese attackers rubbing our noses in it, as if to say, “Yes, it was the People’s Republic of China that attacked you: What are you going to do about it?”

Most of the domains trace back to so-called dynamic DNS providers, usually free services that allow users to have Web sites hosted on servers that frequently change their Internet addresses. This type of service is useful for people who want to host a Web site on a home-based Internet address that may change from time to time, because dynamic DNS services can be used to easily map the domain name to the user’s new Internet address whenever it happens to change.

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18
Feb 11

KrebsOnSecurity.com Wins Award

KrebsOnSecurity.com was honored at the annual Social Security Blogger Awards at the RSA security conference in San Francisco this week. Judges and voters picked this blog as the one they thought best represents the security industry today.

Among the four other finalists in this category were some fairly big names (in no particular order):

* Threat Post
* CSO Online Blog
* Threat Level (Wired)
* Schneier On Security

This is the second year in a row KrebsOnSecurity.com was recognized at the blogger awards gathering: Last year, it was named the “Best Non-Technical Security Blog“. Thanks to the judges, voters and to all you readers who make the discussion here so much more interesting, informative and worthwhile!

Sophos’s Naked Security blog won for “Most Educational”; Veracode’s Zero Day Labs won for “Best Corporate Security blog”; “Best Podcast” went to Pauldotcom; the Securosis blog earned the “Most Entertaining” award.

Below is a great video from Chris Eng who won the “The single best security blog post of the year” award, with the following text-to-movie clip on what it takes to be an authentic “thought leader” in the information security space:


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.

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7
May 10

Fun with ATM Skimmers, Part III

ATM skimmers, or devices that thieves secretly attach to cash machines in order to capture and ultimately clone ATM cards, have captured the imagination of many readers. Past posts on this blog about ATM skimmers have focused on their prevalence and stealth in attacking cash machines in the United States, but these devices also are a major problem in Europe as well.

According to the European ATM Security Team (EAST), a not-for-profit payment security organization, ATM crimes in Europe jumped 149 percent form 2007 to 2008, and most of that increase has been linked to a dramatic increase in ATM skimming attacks. During 2008, a total of 10,302 skimming incidents were reported in Europe. Below is a short video authorities in Germany released recently showing two men caught on camera there installing a skimmer and a pinhole camera panel above to record PINs.

EAST estimates that European ATM fraud losses in 2008 were nearly 500 million Euros, although roughly 80 percent of those losses resulted from fraud committed outside Europe by criminals using stolen card details. EAST believes this is because some 90 percent of European ATMs now are compliant with the so-called “chip and pin” or EMV (an initialism for Europay, Mastercard and VISA) standard.

ATM cards store account data on magnetic strips on the backs of the cards, and thieves have focused their attention on lifting the data from customer cards — either through handheld skimmers — or via magnetic strip readers on ATM skimmers. The data can then be re-encoded onto blank ATM cards, and used at ATM along with the victim’s PIN to withdraw cash. The EMV approach uses a secret algorithm embedded in the chip planted into each ATM card. The chip encodes the card data, making it harder (but certainly not impossible) for fraudsters to read information from them or clone them. RSA‘s Idan Aharoni wrote an informative post about this technology earlier this year.

Needless to say, U.S. based financial institutions do not require chip-and-PIN, and that may be a contributor to the high fraud rates in the United States. The U.S. Secret Service estimates that annual losses from ATM fraud totaled about $1 billion in 2008, or about $350,000 each day.

While many of the images below are not new, they showcase some of the actual ATM skimmers deployed against European cash machines (click any of the images to view a slideshow).

Have you seen:

All-in-one Skimmers…ATM skimmers come in all shapes and sizes, and most include several components — such as a tiny spy cam hidden in a brochure rack, or fraudulent PIN pad overlay. The problem from the thief’s perspective is that the more components included in the skimmer kit, the greater the chance that he will get busted attaching or removing the devices from ATMs. Thus, the appeal of the all-in-one ATM skimmer: It stores card data using an integrated magnetic stripe reader, and it has a built-in hidden camera designed to record the PIN sequence after an unsuspecting customer slides his bank card into the compromised machine.


17
Mar 10

Researchers Map Multi-Network Cybercrime Infrastructure

Last week, security experts launched a sneak attack to disconnect Troyak, an Internet service provider in Eastern Europe that served as a global gateway to a nest of cyber crime activity. For the past seven days, unnamed members of the security community reportedly have been playing Whac-a-Mole with Troyak, which has bounced from one legitimate ISP to the next in a bid to reconnect to the wider Internet.

But experts say Troyak’s apparent hopscotching is expected behavior from what is in fact a carefully architected, round-robin network of backup and redundant carriers, all designed to keep a massive organized criminal operation online should a disaster like the Troyak disconnection strike.

Security firm RSA believes Troyak is but one of five upstream providers that encircle a nest of eight so-called “bulletproof networks” – Web hosting providers considered impervious to takedown by local law enforcement (pictured in red in the graphic below). RSA said this group of eight hosts some of the Internet’s largest concentrations of malicious software, including password stealing banking Trojans like ZeuS and Gozi, as well as huge repositories of personal and financial data stolen by these Trojans and a notorious Russian phishing operation known as RockPhish.

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9
Mar 10

Cyber Crooks Leave Traditional Bank Robbers in the Dust

Organized cyber criminals stole more than $25 million from small to mid-sized businesses in brazen e-banking heists in the 3rd quarter of 2009 alone, federal regulators said last week. In contrast, traditional stick-up artists hauled less than $9.5 million out of U.S. banks over that same time period last year.

Speaking at the RSA Security Conference in San Francisco last week, David Nelson, an examination specialist with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), said online banking attacks against small businesses of the sort I have chronicled countless times over the past year netted thieves $25 million between July and September of 2009.

I wondered how that stacked up against real-life bank robbers here in the U.S., so I had a look at the FBI‘s published bank crime statistics for that same time period last year. Turns out, traditional bank robbers committed a total of 1,184 bank robberies during those three months, netting slightly more than $9.4 million (including $3,071 in travelers checks).

In fact, real-life bank robbers stole a total of just over $30 million in the first three quarters of 2009, just $5 million more than cyber crooks did in the third quarter of last year alone.

Small wonder that the haul from cyber bank robberies has overtaken that of physical heists:  Cyber thieves take far fewer risks to life, liberty and limb than do real-life bank robbers. In that same three month period last year, the FBI says bank robberies at bricks-and-mortar institutions caused five deaths — all them perpetrators of the crime.

What’s more, the perpetrators of these incessant attacks against small businesses banking online for the most part reside in countries that are traditionally beyond the reach and influence of U.S. law enforcement. Sure, bank robbers occasionally kill people (more often themselves) while they’re stealing your money, instead of silently lifting it out of your bank account from afar like cyber thieves. That alone makes them a more emotional high-value target for the feds. But let’s face it: Traditional stick up artists are a lot easier to collar. For one thing, by necessity they are all here in the United States.

In addition, while traditional bank robbers are limited to the amount of money they can physically carry from the scene of the crime, cyber thieves have a seemingly limitless supply of accomplices to help them haul the loot, by hiring so-called money mules to carry the cash for them.

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