Posts Tagged: Windows XP


29
May 14

True Goodbye: ‘Using TrueCrypt Is Not Secure’

The anonymous developers responsible for building and maintaining the free whole-disk encryption suite TrueCrypt apparently threw in the towel this week, shuttering the TrueCrypt site and warning users that the product is no longer secure now that Microsoft has ended support for Windows XP.

tcSometime in the last 24 hours, truecrypt.org began forwarding visitors to the program’s home page on sourceforge.net, a Web-based source code repository. That page includes instructions for helping Windows users transition drives protected by TrueCrypt over to BitLocker, the proprietary disk encryption program that ships with every Windows version (Ultimate/Enterprise or Pro) since Vista. The page also includes this ominous warning:

“WARNING: Using TrueCrypt is not secure as it may contain unfixed security issues”

“This page exists only to help migrate existing data encrypted by TrueCrypt.”

“The development of TrueCrypt was ended in 5/2014 after Microsoft terminated support of Windows XP. Windows 8/7/Vista and later offer integrated support for encrypted disks and virtual disk images. Such integrated support is also available on other platforms (click here for more information). You should migrate any data encrypted by TrueCrypt to encrypted disks or virtual disk images supported on your platform.”

Doubters soon questioned whether the redirect was a hoax or the result of the TrueCrypt site being hacked. But a cursory review of the site’s historic hosting, WHOIS and DNS records shows no substantive changes recently.

What’s more, the last version of TrueCrypt uploaded to the site on May 27 (still available at this link) shows that the key used to sign the executable installer file is the same one that was used to sign the program back in January 2014 (hat tip to @runasand and @pyllyukko). Taken together, these two facts suggest that the message is legitimate, and that TrueCrypt is officially being retired.

That was the same conclusion reached by Matthew Green, a cryptographer and research professor at the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute and a longtime skeptic of TrueCrypt — which has been developed for the past 10 years by a team of anonymous coders who appear to have worked diligently to keep their identities hidden.

“I think the TrueCrypt team did this,” Green said in a phone interview. “They decided to quit and this is their signature way of doing it.”

Green last year helped spearhead dual crowdfunding efforts to raise money for a full-scale, professional security audit of the software. That effort ended up pulling in more than $70,000 (after counting the numerous Bitcoin donations) —  far exceeding the campaign’s goal and demonstrating strong interest and support from the user community. Earlier this year, security firm iSEC Partners completed the first component of the code review: an analysis of TrueCrypt’s bootloader (PDF). Continue reading →


8
Apr 14

Adobe, Microsoft Push Critical Fixes

Adobe and Microsoft each issued updates to fix critical security vulnerabilities in their software today. Adobe patched its Flash Player software and Adobe AIR. Microsoft issued four updates to address at least 11 unique security flaws, including its final batch of fixes for Office 2003 and for systems powered by Windows XP.

crackedwinTwo of the four patches that Microsoft issued come with Redmond’s “critical” rating (its most severe), meaning attackers or malware can exploit the flaws to break into vulnerable systems without any help from users. One of the critical patches is a cumulative update for Internet Explorer (MS14-018); the other addresses serious issues with Microsoft Word and Office Web apps (MS14-017), including a fix for a zero-day vulnerability that is already being actively exploited. More information on these and other patches are available here.

As expected, Microsoft also used today’s patch release to pitch XP users on upgrading to a newer version of Windows, warning that attackers will begin to zero in on XP users even more now that Microsoft will no longer be issuing security updates for the 13-year-old operating system. From Microsoft’s Technet blog: Continue reading →


8
Jan 13

Adobe, Microsoft Ship Critical Security Updates

Adobe and Microsoft today separately issued updates to fix critical security vulnerabilities in their products. Adobe pushed out fixes for security issues in Acrobat, Adobe Reader and its Flash Player plugin. Microsoft released seven patches addressing at least a dozen security holes in Windows and other software, although it failed to issue an official patch for a dangerous flaw in its Internet Explorer Web browser that attackers are now actively exploiting.

Two of the patches that Microsoft issued today earned a “critical” rating, signifying that these vulnerabilities could be exploited to fully compromise vulnerable Windows systems without any help from users. Microsoft called special attention to two critical bugs in its XML Core Services component; the company said it is likely that malware or miscreants will figure out a way to exploit these flaws in active attacks sometime within the next 30 days.

Unfortunately, Microsoft did not offer an official fix for a critical Windows flaw that malware and miscreants are already exploiting. In late December, Microsoft acknowledged that attackers were using a previously undocumented security hole in Internet Explorer versions 6 through 8 to break into Windows PCs. Microsoft later issued a stopgap “FixIt” tool to help lessen the vulnerability on affected systems, but researchers last week demonstrated that the FixIt tool only blocked some methods of attacking the flaw, leaving other ways unguarded. Meanwhile, a working copy of the exploit has been folded into Metasploit, a free penetration testing tool.

Wolfgang Kandek, chief technology officer at vulnerability management firm Qualys, said the zero-day IE vulnerability affects 90% of the IE install base at this time.

“Microsoft is not providing a patch today, though they have provided a Fix-It for the issue,” Kandek wrote in a blog post. “The vulnerability should be tracked closely, as a large percentage of enterprises still run the affected versions.”

Users who wish to continue browsing the Web with IE should upgrade to IE9 if possible (IE10 on Windows 8 also is not vulnerable). Users still on Windows XP will not be able to update to IE9, but may be able to derive some protection from the FixIt tool and by using Microsoft’s EMET tool. XP users may be better off, however, browsing with Firefox or Chrome with some type of script blocking and/or sandbox in place. More information on how to use EMET and script blocking options is available in my Tools for a Safer PC primer. More details about today’s updates from Microsoft can be found at the Microsoft Security Response Center blog and in the security bulletin summaries for each patch.

The Adobe Flash patch fixes at least one critical vulnerability in the media player plugin. Updates are available for all supported versions of Flash, including for Windows, Mac, Linux and Android. See the chart below for the latest version number broken down by operating system.

Continue reading →


16
Jul 12

Spy Software Aims to Corral Money Mules

Borrowing from the playbook of corporations seeking better ways to track employee productivity, some cybercriminal gangs are investing in technologies that help them keep closer tabs on their most prized assets: “Money mules,” individuals willingly or unwittingly recruited to help fraudsters launder stolen funds. It seems that at least one mule recruitment gang employs custom software to spy on new recruits.

Last month, I heard from a reader in North Carolina named John who’d been roped into working for a company that claimed to be in the digital concierge and outsourcing business. John became suspicious that he was involved in something shady when they told him he should expect a transfer of nearly $10,000 to the personal bank account that he’d provided to his erstwhile employer in order to eventually receive a paycheck.

The software stole this glimpse of my test machine’s desktop.

The firm that hired John, a fictitious company called VIP One, recruits mules to help process fraudulent transfers from businesses victimized by account takeovers. Prior to sending its mules money, VIP One has prospective mules spend several weeks doing relatively meaningless busy work, for which they are promised payment at the end of the month.

VIP One requires all new recruits to install a “time tracking” application, basically a digital stopwatch that employees are expected to use to keep track of their time “on the job.” John was kind enough to let me take a peek inside his account at VIP One, and to download the time tracking software. It’s safe to say that time is certainly not the only thing being tracked by this program.

I installed the application in a Window XP virtual machine equipped with Wireshark, a free program that lets you inspect the data packets going in and out of a host machine. I pressed start and left the software alone for a few hours. A review of the Wireshark logs showed that the time tracking tool periodically and surreptitiously took screenshots of my system, uploading them to a site called gyazo.com. This Web site appears to be associated with a legitimate screen-grabbing application that automates the grabbing and posting online of screen captures.

My test machine also had several peripherals plugged into it, including a Webcam. To my surprise, further review of the logs showed that the time tracking tool hijacked my machine’s Web cam and took several pictures, also posting them to gyazo.com.

Continue reading →


28
Mar 12

Researchers Clobber Khelios Spam Botnet

Experts from across the security industry collaborated this week to quarantine more than 110,000 Microsoft Windows PCs that were infected with the Khelios worm, a contagion that forces infected PCs to blast out junk email advertising rogue Internet pharmacies.

Most botnets are relatively fragile: If security experts or law enforcement agencies seize the Internet servers used to control the zombie network, the crime machine eventually implodes. But Khelios (a.k.a. “Kelihos”) was built to withstand such attacks, employing a peer-to-peer structure not unlike that used by popular music and file-sharing sites to avoid takedown by the entertainment industry.

Update, 11:07 a.m. ET: Multiple sources are now reporting that within hours of the Khelios.B takedown, Khelios.C was compiled and launched. It appears to be spreading via Facebook.

Original post: The distributed nature of a P2P botnet allows the botmaster to orchestrate its activities by seeding a few machines in the network with encrypted instructions. Those systems then act as a catalyst, relaying the commands from one infected machine to another in rapid succession.

P2P botnets can be extremely resilient, but they typically posses a central weakness: They are only as strong as the encryption that scrambles the directives that the botmaster sends to infected machines. In other words,  anyone who manages to decipher the computer language needed to talk to the compromised systems can send them new instructions, such as commands to connect to a control server that is beyond the reach of the miscreant(s) who constructed the botnet.

That’s precisely the approach that security researchers used to seize control of Khelios. The caper was pulled off by a motley band of security experts from the Honeynet Project, Kaspersky, SecureWorks, and startup security firm CrowdStrike. The group figured out how to crack the encryption used to control systems infected with Khelios, and then sent a handful of machines new instructions to connect to a Web server that the researchers controlled.

That feat allowed the research team to wrest the botnet from the miscreants who created it, said Adam Meyers, director of intelligence for CrowdStrike. The hijacking of the botnet took only a few minutes, and when it was complete, the team had more than 110,000 PCs reporting to its surrogate control server.

“Once we injected that information in the P2P node, it was essentially propagating everything else for us,” Meyers said. “By taking advantage of the intricacies of the protocol, we were providing the most up-to-date information that all of hosts were spreading.”

The group is now working to notify ISPs where the infected hosts reside, in hopes of cleaning up the bot infestations. Meyers said that, for some unknown reason, the largest single geographic grouping of Khelios-infected systems – 25 percent — were located in Poland. U.S.-based ISPs were home to the second largest contingent of Khelios bots. Meyers said about 80 percent of the Khelios-infected systems they sinkholed were running Windows XP, an increasingly insecure operating system that Microsoft released more than a decade ago. Continue reading →


14
Feb 12

Microsoft AV Flags Google.com as ‘Blacole’ Malware

Computers running Microsoft‘s antivirus and security software may be flagging google.com — the world’s most-visited Web site — as malicious, apparently due to a faulty Valentine’s Day security update shipped by Microsoft.

Microsoft's antivirus software flagged google.com as bad.

Not long after Microsoft released software security updates on Tuesday, the company’s Technet support forums lit up with complaints about Internet Explorer sounding the malware alarm when users visited google.com.

The alerts appear to be the result of a “false positive” detection shipped to users of Microsoft’s antivirus and security products, most notably its Forefront technology and free “Security Essentials” antivirus software.

I first learned of this bug from a reader, and promptly updated a Windows XP system I have that runs Microsoft Security Essentials. Upon reboot, Internet Explorer told me that my homepage — google.com — was serving up a “severe” threat —  Exploit:JS/Blacole.BW. For whatever reason, Microsoft’s security software thought Google’s homepage was infected with a Blackhole Exploit Kit.

Continue reading →


13
Jul 10

Microsoft Security Updates, and a Farewell to Windows XP Service Pack 2

Microsoft today released software updates to fix at least five security vulnerabilities in computers running its Windows operating system and Office applications. Today also marks the planned end-of-life deadline for Windows XP Service Pack 2, a bundle of security updates and features that Microsoft first released in 2004.

Four out of five of the flaws fixed in today’s patch batch earned a “critical” rating, Redmond’s most severe. Chief among them is a bug in the Help and Support Center on Windows XP and Server 2003 systems that’s currently being exploited by crooks to break into vulnerable machines. Microsoft released an interim “FixIt” tool last month to help users blunt the threat from this flaw, and users who applied that fix still should install this patch (and no, you don’t need to undo the FixIt setting first). Update 5:50 p.m. ET: I stand corrected on this — it looks like Microsoft won’t offer the patch for this flaw if you’ve already used the FixIt tool.

Continue reading →


5
Jul 10

Microsoft Warns of Uptick in Attacks on Unpatched Windows Flaw

Microsoft is warning that hackers have ramped up attacks against an unpatched, critical security hole in computers powered by Windows XP and Server 2003 operating systems. The software giant says it is working on an official patch to fix the flaw, but in the meantime it is urging users to apply an interim workaround to disable the vulnerable component.

Redmond first warned of limited attacks against the vulnerability in mid-June, not long after a Google researcher disclosed the details of a flaw in the Microsoft Help & Support Center that can be used to remotely compromise affected systems. Last week, Microsoft said the pace of attacks against Windows users had picked up, and that more than 10,000 distinct computers have reported seeing this attack at least one time.

If you run either Windows XP or Server 2003, I’d encourage you to consider running Microsoft’s stopgap “FixIt” tool to disable the vulnerable Help Center component. To do this, click this link, then click the “FixIt” button in the middle of the page under the “enable this fix” heading. Should you need to re-enable the component for any reason, click the other FixIt icon. Users who apply this fix don’t need to undo it before applying the official patch once it becomes available, which at this rate probably will be on Tuesday, July 13.


15
Jun 10

Unpatched Windows XP Flaw Being Exploited

A security vulnerability in Microsoft Windows XP systems that was first disclosed a week ago is now being actively exploited by malicious Web sites to foist malware on vulnerable PCs, according to reports.

Last week, Google researcher Tavis Ormandy disclosed the details of a flaw in the Microsoft Help & Support Center on Windows XP and Server 2003 systems that he showed could be used to remotely compromise affected systems. Today, experts at security firm Sophos reported that they’re seeing the first malicious and/or hacked sites beginning to exploit the bug.

If you use Windows XP and have not yet taken Microsoft up on its suggestion to disable the vulnerable Help & Support Center component, please consider taking a moment to do that today. Until Microsoft issues an official fix for this flaw, the workaround they suggest is an easy and apparently painless one. The instructions are available at this link.

Update, June 17, 9:20 a.m. PST: Updated post to include link to Microsoft “FixIt” tool.


14
Jun 10

Security Alert for Windows XP Users

Microsoft is warning Windows XP and Server 2003 users that exploit code has been posted online showing attackers how to break into these operating systems remotely via a newly-discovered security flaw.

The vulnerability has to do with a weakness in how Windows Help and Support Center processes links. Both Windows XP and Server 2003 retrieve help and support information from a fixed set of Web pages that are included on a whitelist maintained by Windows. But Google security researcher Tavis Ormandy last week showed the world that it was possible to add URLs to that whitelist.

Microsoft said an attacker could exploit this flaw by tricking a user into clicking a specially crafted link. Any files fetched by that link would be granted the same privileges as the affected system’s current user, which could spell big problems for XP users browsing the Web in the operating system’s default configuration — using the all-powerful “administrator” account.

“Given the public disclosure of the details of the vulnerability, and how to exploit it, customers should be aware that broad attacks are likely,” Microsoft said in a statement released last week.

Continue reading →