Posts Tagged: Stuxnet


9
Oct 14

Signed Malware = Expensive “Oops” for HP

Computer and software industry maker HP is in the process of notifying customers about a seemingly harmless security incident in 2010 that nevertheless could prove expensive for the company to fix and present unique support problems for users of its older products.

ProblemsEarlier this week, HP quietly produced several client advisories stating that on Oct. 21, 2014 it plans to revoke a digital certificate the company previously used to cryptographically sign software components that ship with many of its older products. HP said it was taking this step out of an abundance of caution because it discovered that the certificate had mistakenly been used to sign malicious software way back in May 2010.

Code-signing is a practice intended to give computer users and network administrators additional confidence about the integrity and security of a file or program. Consequently, private digital certificates that major software vendors use to sign code are highly prized by attackers, because they allow those attackers to better disguise malware as legitimate software.

For example, the infamous Stuxnet malware – apparently created as a state-sponsored project to delay Iran’s nuclear ambitions — contained several components that were digitally signed with certificates that had been stolen from well-known companies. In previous cases where a company’s private digital certificates have been used to sign malware, the incidents were preceded by highly targeted attacks aimed at stealing the certificates. In Feb. 2013, whitelisting software provider Bit9 discovered that digital certificates stolen from a developer’s system had been used to sign malware that was sent to several customers who used the company’s software.

But according to HP’s Global Chief Information Security Officer Brett Wahlin, nothing quite so sexy or dramatic was involved in HP’s decision to revoke this particular certificate. Wahlin said HP was recently alerted by Symantec about a curious, four-year-old trojan horse program that appeared to have been signed with one of HP’s private certificates and found on a server outside of HP’s network. Further investigation traced the problem back to a malware infection on an HP developer’s computer.

HP investigators believe the trojan on the developer’s PC renamed itself to mimic one of the file names the company typically uses in its software testing, and that the malicious file was inadvertently included in a software package that was later signed with the company’s digital certificate. The company believes the malware got off of HP’s internal network because it contained a mechanism designed to transfer a copy of the file back to its point of origin.

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7
Jan 13

Crimeware Author Funds Exploit Buying Spree

The author of Blackhole, an exploit kit that booby-traps hacked Web sites to serve malware, has done so well for himself renting his creation to miscreants that the software has emerged as perhaps the most notorious and ubiquitous crimeware product in the Underweb. Recently, however, the author has begun buying up custom exploits to bundle into a far more closely-held and expensive exploit pack, one that appears to be fueling a wave of increasingly destructive online extortion schemes.

Cool Exploit Kit.

Cool Exploit Kit.

An exploit pack is a software toolkit that gets injected into hacked or malicious sites, allowing the attacker to foist a kitchen sink full of browser exploits on visitors. Those visiting such sites with outdated browser plugins may have malware silently installed. In early October  2012, security researchers began noticing that a new exploit pack called Cool Exploit Kit was showing up repeatedly in attacks from “ransomware,” malicious software that holds PCs hostage in a bid to extract money from users.

Kafeine,” a French researcher and blogger who has been tracking the ties between ransomware gangs and exploit kits, detailed Cool’s novel use of a critical vulnerability in Windows (CVE-2011-3402) that was first discovered earlier in the year in the Duqu computer worm. Duqu is thought to be related to Stuxnet, a sophisticated cyber weapon that experts believe was designed to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program.

About a week after Kafeine highlighted the Duqu exploit’s use in Cool, the same exploit showed up in Blackhole. As Kafeine documented in another blog post, he witnessed the same thing happen in mid-November after he wrote about a never-before-seen exploit developed for a Java vulnerability (CVE-2012-5076) that Oracle patched in October. Kafeine said this pattern prompted him to guess that Blackhole and Cool were the work of the same author or malware team.

“It seems that as soon as it is publicly known [that Cool Exploit Kit] is using a new exploit, that exploit shows up in Blackhole,” Kafeine said in an interview with KrebsOnSecurity.

As detailed in an excellent analysis by security firm Sophos, Blackhole is typically rented to miscreants who pay for the use of the hosted exploit kit for some period of time. A three-month license to use Blackhole runs $700, while a year-long license costs $1,500. Blackhole customers also can take advantage of a hosting solution provided by the exploit kit’s proprietors, which runs $200 a week or $500 per month.

Blackhole is the brainchild of a crimeware gang run by a miscreant who uses the nickname “Paunch.” Reached via instant message, Paunch acknowledged being responsible for the Cool kit, and said his new exploit framework costs a whopping $10,000 a month.

At first I thought Paunch might be pulling my leg, but that price tag was confirmed in a discussion by members of a very exclusive underground forum. Not long after Kafeine first wrote about Cool Exploit Kit, an associate of Paunch posted a message to a semi-private cybercrime forum, announcing that his team had been given an initial budget of $100,000 to buy unique Web browser exploits, as well as information on unpatched software flaws. Here is a portion of that post, professionally translated from Russian:

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26
Sep 12

Chinese Hackers Blamed for Intrusion at Energy Industry Giant Telvent

A company whose software and services are used to remotely administer and monitor large sections of the energy industry began warning customers last week that it is investigating a sophisticated hacker attack spanning its operations in the United States, Canada and Spain. Experts say digital fingerprints left behind by attackers point to a Chinese hacking group tied to repeated cyber-espionage campaigns against key Western interests.

The attack comes as U.S. policymakers remain gridlocked over legislation designed to beef up the cybersecurity posture of energy companies and other industries that maintain some of the world’s most vital information networks.

In letters sent to customers last week, Telvent Canada Ltd. said that on Sept. 10, 2012 it learned of a breach of its internal firewall and security systems. Telvent said the attacker(s) installed malicious software and stole project files related to one of its core offerings — OASyS SCADA — a product that helps energy firms mesh older IT assets with more advanced “smart grid” technologies.

The firm said it was still investigating the incident, but that as a precautionary measure, it had disconnected the usual data links between clients and affected portions of its internal networks.

“In order to be able to continue to provide remote support services to our customers in a secure manner, we have established new procedures to be followed until such time as we are sure that there are not further intrusions into the Telvent network and that all virus or malware files have been eliminated,” the company said in a letter mailed to customers this week, a copy of which was obtained by KrebsOnSecurity.com. “Although we do not have any reason to believe that the intruder(s) acquired any information that would enable them to gain access to a customer system or that any of the compromised computers have been connected to a customer system, as a further precautionary measure, we indefinitely terminated any customer system access by Telvent.”

The incident is the latest reminder of problems that can occur when corporate computer systems at critical networks are connected to sensitive control systems that were never designed with security in mind. Security experts have long worried about vulnerabilities being introduced into the systems that regulate the electrical grid as power companies transferred control of generation and distribution equipment from internal networks to so-called “supervisory control and data acquisition,” or SCADA, systems that can be accessed through the Internet or by phone lines. The move to SCADA systems boosts efficiency at utilities because it allows workers to operate equipment remotely, but experts say it also exposes these once-closed systems to cyber attacks.

Telvent did not respond to several requests for comment. But in a series of written communications to clients, the company detailed ongoing efforts to ascertain the scope and duration of the breach. In those communications, Telvent said it was working with law enforcement and a task force of representatives from its parent firm, Schneider Electric, a French energy conglomerate that employs 130,000 and has operations across the Americas, Western Europe and Asia. Telvent reportedly employs about 6,000 people in at least 19 countries around the world.

The disclosure comes just days after Telvent announced it was partnering with Foxborough, Mass. based Industrial Defender to expand its cybersecurity capabilities within Telvent’s key utility and critical infrastructure solutions. A spokesperson for Industrial Defender said the company does not comment about existing customers. Continue reading →


9
Jul 12

How to Break Into Security, Grossman Edition

I recently began publishing a series of advice columns for people who are interested in learning more about security as a craft or profession. For the third installment in this series, I interviewed Jeremiah Grossman, chief technology officer of WhiteHat Security, a Web application security firm.

A frequent speaker on a broad range of security topics, Grossman stressed the importance of coding, networking, and getting your hands dirty (in a clean way, of course).

BK: How did you get started in computer security?

Grossman: For me it was…I could hack stuff and I did it in my spare time and someone offered me a job — which was Yahoo. But before that, I was just a UNIX admin. I was thinking about this question a lot, and what occurred to me is that I don’t know too many people in infosec who chose infosec as a career. Most of the people who I know in this field didn’t go to college to be infosec pros, it just kind of happened. They followed opportunity.

BK: You might have seen that the last two experts I asked had somewhat different opinions on this question, but how important is it that someone interested in this field know how to code?

Grossman: It’s tough to give solid advice without knowing more about a person. For instance, are they interested in network security or application security? You can get by in IDS and firewall world and system patching without knowing any code; it’s fairly automated stuff from the product side. But with application security, it is absolutely mandatory that you know how to code and that you know software. So with Cisco gear, it’s much different from the work you do with Adobe software security. Infosec is a really big space, and you’re going to have to pick your niche, because no one is going to be able to bridge those gaps, at least effectively.

BK: So would you say hands-on experience is more important that formal security education and certifications?

Grossman: The question is are people being hired into entry level security positions straight out of school? I think somewhat, but that’s probably still pretty rare. There’s hardly anyone coming out of school with just computer security degrees. There are some, but we’re probably talking in the hundreds. I think the universities are just now within the last 3-5 years getting masters in computer security sciences off the ground. But there are not a lot of students in them.

BK:  What do you think is the most important qualification to be successful in the security space, regardless of a person’s background and experience level?

Grossman: The ones who can code almost always [fare] better. Infosec is about scalability, and application security is about scalability. And if you can understand code, you have a better likelihood of being able to understand how to scale your solution. On the defense side, we’re out-manned and outgunned constantly. It’s “us” versus “them,” and I don’t know how many of “them,” there are, but there’s going to be too few of “us “at all times.  So whatever your solution is or design criteria, you’re going to have to scale it. For instance, you can imagine Facebook…I’m not sure many security people they have, but…it’s going to be a tiny fraction of a percent of their user base, so they’re going to have to figure out how to scale their solutions so they can protect all those users.

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8
May 12

Adobe, Microsoft Push Critical Security Fixes

Adobe and Microsoft today each issued updates to address critical security flaws in their software. Adobe’s patch plugs at least five holes in its Shockwave Player, while Microsoft has released a bundle of seven updates to correct 23 vulnerabilities in Windows and other products.

Microsoft’s May patch batch includes fixes for vulnerabilities that could be exploited via Web browsing, file-sharing, or email. Eight of the 23 flaws earned Microsoft’s “critical” rating, meaning no user interaction is required for vulnerable systems to be hacked. At least three of the flaws were publicly disclosed before today.

According to Microsoft, the two updates are the most dire: The first is one related to a critical flaw in Microsoft Word (MS12-029); the second is an unusually ambitious update that addresses flaws present in Microsoft Office, Windows, .NET Framework and Silverlight. In a blog post published today, Microsoft explained why it chose to patch all of these seemingly disparate products all in one go. But the short version is that Microsoft is addressing the ghost of Duqu, a sophisticated malware family discovered last year that was designed to attack industrial control systems and is thought to be related to the infamous Stuxnet worm. A patch Microsoft issued last year addressed the underlying Windows vulnerability exploited by Duqu, but the company found that the same vulnerable code resided in a slew of other Microsoft applications.

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14
Dec 10

Microsoft Patches 40 Security Holes

Microsoft today issued 17 software updates to plug a total of 40 security holes in computers running its Windows operating system and other software. December’s bounty of patches means Microsoft fixed a record number of security vulnerabilities this year.

According to Microsoft, the most urgent of the patches is a critical update that fixes at least seven vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer versions 6, 7 and 8, including three that were publicly disclosed prior to today’s update. Microsoft said that at least one of the public flaws is already being actively exploited.

Microsoft also called special attention to the only other critical bulletin in the batch – a vulnerability in the OpenType Font Driver in Windows.  Redmond warns that an attacker could compromise a machine on a network simply by getting a user to open a shared folder containing a malicious OpenType font file.

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12
Oct 10

Microsoft Plugs a Record 49 Security Holes

Microsoft today issued 16 update bundles to fix a record-breaking 49 separate security vulnerabilities in computers powered by its Windows operating systems and other software.

“Microsoft has broken several of its own Patch Tuesday records this year, but this month far surpasses them all,” said Joshua Talbot, security intelligence manager, Symantec Security Response. “Perhaps most notable this month is the number of vulnerabilities that facilitate remote code execution. By our count, 35 of the issues fall into this category. These are bugs that could allow an attacker to run any command they wish on vulnerable machines.”

McAfee notes that today’s release exceeds the previous record of 34 vulnerabilities fixed in one go, which was first set in October 2009, and again in June and August of this year.

Microsoft said at least eight of the vulnerabilities were publicly disclosed prior to the release of today’s patches. The software giant also fixed one of the two remaining zero-day flaws exploited by the Stuxnet worm, a complex family of malware pegged by researchers as a weapon built to attack industrial control systems embedded in facilities like power and chemical manufacturing plants.

At the top of the critical list is an update for Internet Explorer versions 6 through 8 that plugs at least 10 security holes in the default Web browser on Windows, including two flaws that were disclosed previously. Several of the IE flaws are marked critical even on the latest versions of Microsoft’s products, including IE8 running on Windows 7 systems.

Two updates for versions of Microsoft Word and Excel comprise about half of the vulnerabilities addressed in today’s release.

Today’s fixes are available through Windows Update or by enabling Automatic Update in Windows. As always, if you experience any glitches or problems applying these patches, please drop a note in the comments section.

For more information on the patches, check out SANS Internet Storm Center‘s Black Tuesday roundup, as well as Microsoft’s Security Research & Defense blog.

Update, 3:58 p.m. ET: Several readers have pointed out that Microsoft took the momentous step today of adding detection for the infamous ZeuS Trojan to its Malicious Software Removal Tool. The MSRT is offered alongside Windows updates and if approved will scan host computers once a month for a variety of the most prevalent threats. It will be interesting to chart the impact of this welcome move by Microsoft.


14
Sep 10

‘Stuxnet’ Worm Far More Sophisticated Than Previously Thought

The “Stuxnet” computer worm made international headlines in July, when security experts discovered that it was designed to exploit a previously unknown security hole in Microsoft Windows computers to steal industrial secrets and potentially disrupt operations of critical information networks. But new information about the worm shows that it leverages at least three other previously unknown security holes in Windows PCs, including a vulnerability that Redmond fixed in a software patch released today.

Image courtesy Kaspersky Lab

As first reported on July 15 by KrebsOnSecurity.com, Stuxnet uses a vulnerability in the way Windows handles shortcut files to spread to new systems. Experts say the worm was designed from the bottom up to attack so-called Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems, or those used to manage complex industrial networks, such as systems at power plants and chemical manufacturing facilities.

The worm was originally thought to spread mainly through the use of removable drives, such as USB sticks. But roughly two weeks after news of Stuxnet first surfaced, researchers at Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab discovered that the Stuxnet worm also could spread using an unknown security flaw in the way Windows shares printer resources. Microsoft fixed this vulnerability today, with the release of MS10-061, which is rated critical for Windows XP systems and assigned a lesser “important” threat rating for Windows Vista and Windows 7 computers.

In a blog post today, Microsoft group manager Jerry Bryant said Stuxnet targeted two other previously unknown security vulnerabilities in Windows, including another one reported by Kaspersky. Microsoft has yet to address either of these two vulnerabilities – known as “privilege escalation” flaws because they let attackers elevate their user rights on computers where regular user accounts are blocked from making important system modifications.

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30
Jul 10

Microsoft to Issue Emergency Patch for Critical Windows Bug

Microsoft said Thursday that it will issue an out-of-band security update on Monday to fix a critical, remotely-exploitable security hole present in all versions of Windows, which the software giant says is fueling an increasing number of online attacks.

On July 15, KrebsOnSecurity.com first warned that a flaw in the way Windows processes shortcut files (those ending in “.lnk”) was being exploited by highly targeted malicious software called “Stuxnet”. Researchers learned that Stuxnet was aimed at infiltrating Windows computers running Siemens WinCC SCADA software, or machines responsible for controlling the operations of large, distributed systems, such as manufacturing and power plants.

Since then, experts have found several new variants of Stuxnet, while a growing number of more mainstream attacks have been spotted exploiting the underlying Windows flaw.

“We’re able to confirm that, in the past few days, we’ve seen an increase in attempts to exploit the vulnerability,” wrote Christopher Budd, senior security response communications manager at Microsoft, on one of the company’s TechNet blogs. “We firmly believe that releasing the update out of band is the best thing to do to help protect our customers.”

I’m looking forward to applying this fix: About a week ago, Microsoft provided a stopgap “FixIt” tool that blunts the threat from this vulnerability, but it also changes the appearance of certain icons on the Windows desktop, often making it difficult for users to tell one program from the next. For example, here’s a screen shot of my Windows 7 desktop toolbar after I applied the fix:

I’ve found it fascinating to watch the speculation and hype swirl around this Stuxnet worm: Early on, the news media and pundits fixated on the notion that this was proof that other countries were planning cyber attacks on our power grid and other highly complex networks that rely on the types of SCADA systems targeted by Stuxnet. Then, about a week ago, experts began charting where in the world most victims were based. According to Symantec, roughly 60 percent of the systems infected with this family of malware were based in Iran, while computers in Indonesia and India also were hard-hit.

One equally likely scenario that I haven’t heard suggested much yet is that perhaps we are seeing evidence of our country’s own cyber warriors probing the networks of other nations. It is notable that the first definitions that the major anti-virus firms shipped for the Stuxnet malware were issued on or around the same day as my story, and that this malware was first discovered one month earlier by VirusBlokada, a relatively tiny anti-virus firm in Belarus that said it found the worm on computers belonging to one of its Iranian customers. What’s more, it’s unlikely that a malware threat initially directed at Iran would show up on the radar of U.S.-based anti-virus makers, all of whom are prohibited by U.S. trade sanctions from selling products and services to Iran.


15
Jul 10

Experts Warn of New Windows Shortcut Flaw

Researchers have discovered a sophisticated new strain of malicious software that piggybacks on USB storage devices and leverages what appears to be a previously unknown security vulnerability in the way Microsoft Windows processes shortcut files.

Update, July 16,  7:49 p.m. ET: Microsoft just released an advisory about this flaw, available here. Microsoft said it stems from a vulnerability in the “Windows shell” (Windows Explorer, e.g.) that is present in every supported version of Windows. The advisory includes steps that can mitigate the threat from this flaw.

Original post:

VirusBlokAda, an anti-virus company based in Belarus, said that on June 17 its specialists found two new malware samples that were capable of infecting a fully-patched Windows 7 system if a user were to view the contents of an infected USB drive with a common file manager such as Windows Explorer.

USB-borne malware is extremely common, and most malware that propagates via USB and other removable drives traditionally has taken advantage of the Windows Autorun or Autoplay feature. But according to VirusBlokAda, this strain of malware leverages a vulnerability in the method Windows uses for handling shortcut files.

Shortcut files — or those ending in the “.lnk” extension — are Windows files that link (hence the “lnk” extension) easy-to-recognize icons to specific executable programs, and are typically placed on the user’s Desktop or Start Menu. Ideally, a shortcut doesn’t do anything until a user clicks on its icon. But VirusBlokAda found that these malicious shortcut files are capable of executing automatically if they are written to a USB drive that is later accessed by Windows Explorer.

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