Tag Archives: Russia

Security News Bites for the Week Ending Oct. 5, 2018

Web Page Load Times Double Due to Trackers

Trackers, those microscopic bits of pixie dust that web pages and advertisers insert into web pages to track our activities, make a significant negative contribution to user experience.

Full disclosure – this study was done by Ghostery, who makes software – free software – that blocks these trackers.

Ghostery looked at the page load time of the top 500 US web sites as defined by Alexa and discovered that it took, on average, 10 seconds longer to load with trackers enabled than when blocked by Ghostery.

The 10 slowest of the top 500 sites loaded 10x faster without trackers, saving users 84 seconds on average.

Obviously you could run their free software to reduce your page load times and I have run it for years.  It is amazing how many trackers can exist on one web page.  Source: Ghostery

Feds Issue Alert Regarding Remote Deskup Protocol

Sometimes it takes the feds a little while to realize what we have known for years.  Remote Desktop Protocol or RDP is a Microsoft mechanism for remotely logging in to another computer.  Sometimes people (not very wisely) enable this capability over the Internet.

RDP was designed for LAN administrators to remotely access a user’s computer or a server on the same network, so security considerations were never a top priority.  Over the years Microsoft has improved the security of RDP but still – my opinion – it is foolish to enable this so that a hacker in Timbuktu can try to hack into your network.

Finally, after several years of these widespread attacks, the FBI has issued an alert telling people this is not a good practice.  There are ways to secure that RDP connection, the easiest of which is to require remote users to establish a VPN connection first.  Source: Homeland Security.

Adobe Patches 85 Vulnerabilities in Acrobat and Reader

Adobe has released patches for 85 vulnerabilities in Acrobat and Acrobat Reader for both Windows and Mac.  85 is a pretty big number.  Some of the vulnerabilities allow for remote code execution while others allow for information disclosure or privilege elevation.  In other words, an entire buffet of problems.

This points to why it is so critical to understand what apps you have installed and make sure that they are patched quickly.  Every single time patches are released.  On every device in the network.  Desktops.  Laptops.  Servers.  Phones.  Tablets.  Everywhere.  As of today, Adobe says they are not being exploited in the wild – that they know of.  Tomorrow, at a minimum, every foreign intelligence agency in the world will have reverse engineered them and figured out how to use them as a weapon.  That doesn’t count the hackers.  Source:  The Register.

FBI Forces Child Abuse Suspect To Look at His Phone

In August, for the first time ever that we know of, the FBI obtained a warrant to force a person to look at his iPhone X to unlock it using Apple’s face recognition.  A month later he was charged with receiving and possessing child porn.

While no sane person is going to suggest that the judge should not have issued the warrant in this case, it points to the assumption that people have that stuff on their mobile devices is private.  A bad guy could put a gun to your head and that would likely have the same effect as the warrant.

Privacy is a relative term and as long as everyone understands that, we are all good.  Source: Forbes.

DoJ Indicts 7 Russian Hackers;  Odds of Them Standing Trial Are Almost Zero

The Department of Justice announced criminal charges against 7 Russian intelligence operatives this week, charging them with wire fraud, money laundering, identity theft and hacking.

Russia is unlikely to hand them over to the United States to stand trial and unless the Intelligence agents are not very intelligent, they will never visit any country that has an extradition treaty with the U.S.

That being said, a couple Russian criminal hackers (who are likely not as intelligent as GRU officers) have been known to visit countries friendly to us, so it is, technically possible, that they could wind up on trial in the U.S.  Just not very likely.

These indictments add more fuel to the fire that Russia is hacking us, although this is not specifically tied to the elections.  Source: CNN

 

Given that the President has

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Security News Bites for the Week Ending Aug 24, 2018

FBI Asks Google for Information on ALL People Near Certain Crimes

Now that we know that Google tracks you even if you ask nicely for it not to, this news from BBC becomes more interesting.

The FBI issued a search warrant to Google for information on all people within a 100 acre block around a couple of crimes they were investigating in Portland.

Not only did they want location, but they also wanted full names and addresses, telephone numbers, records of session times and durations, date on which the account was created, length of service, IP address used to register the account, login IP addresses, email addresses, log files and means and source of payment.

Needless to say, all people within a 100 acre block of land is a lot of people and who are not particularly suspected of any crime.

Google declined the request and after about 6 months, the FBI withdrew the warrant request.  Source: BBC .

Maybe Apple’s Security is Not Perfect

A 16 year old Australian kid has been charged with hacking into Apple’s network multiple times over the course of a year successfully, downloading 90 gig of secure files and accessed customer data.

Because the kid is a minor and also because Apple is slightly embarrassed, the police are not saying much.  Source: The Age

Russians Target Senate Races and Conservative Think Tanks

While the President continues to say that the Russians are not targeting our political process, Microsoft has convinced our court system that they are and has seized several domains that were posing as Microsoft domains and were being run by the Russian spy agency GRU and created by the Russian hacker organization known as APT28/Fancy Bear/Strontium (everyone has to create the own name for the same group).  Microsoft claimed that the web sites could be used as a launch pad for attacks since they looked like official Microsoft web properties.  While the article doesn’t say so, I suspect that Microsoft detected actual attacks, otherwise why would they be so specific as to the targets?

The think tanks in question have been critical of Russia.

Russia, of course, is acting dumb and said what web sites and what do you mean impacting the elections.  No surprise there.

One of the think tanks is the Hudson Institute where Trump’s Director of National Intelligence recently said, in a speech, that the lights were “blinking red” like they were just before 9-11.  He was specifically referring, in this case, to Russian interference in the elections.

Microsoft is offering special security services to all political candidates. Source: CNN)

Another Nasty Apache Struts Vulnerability

Remember the Equifax breach?  The root cause of that was an unpatched computer running Apache Struts software.  Now there is another Apache Struts bug and this one is being called critical.   The common vulnerability risk score is 10 out of a possible 10.  Hard to get more critical than that.

Don’t use Struts?

Do you use Atlassian products?  Cisco?  Hitachi?  IBM?  Oracle?  VMWare?  Well then, you  might be using Struts (depends on exactly which product from those companies that you use). (Source: Risk Based Security )

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Security News for the Week Ending Friday August 10, 2018

Lack of Vendor Cyber Risk Management Hurts over 750 Banks

TCM Bank, a company that helps hundreds of small banks issue credit cards had a problem with their third party vendor – the bank’s fourth party vendor risk.

The small bank wants to issue credit cards so they hire TCM and TCM hires someone else and that company leaked the bank’s customer data.

TCM said less than 25% of applicants had their data compromised – fewer than 10,000 consumers.  That, I gather, is supposed to make us feel better, but somehow, it doesn’t.

The small community bank, who has the least security expertise is liable for the fourth party breach.  The Feds – the FFIEC or the OCC or the FDIC plus the state regulators will be asking lots of embarrassing questions.  Those banks, who likely do not have a good vendor cyber risk management program, will be left holding the bag.

Many companies have a fourth party vendor cyber risk management problem.  Most are completely unaware.  Source: Krebs on Security

It is Amazing What a Potential 20 Million Euro Fine Will Do

In the UK alone, there were about 400 breaches reported to the ICO (information commissioner’s office) in March and another 400 in April.  In May, the month that GDPR came into effect at the end of the month, there were 750 breaches reported.  In June, the first full month that GDPR was in effect, there were 1,750 breaches reported.

It is unlikely that hackers decided to become more active in alignment with GDPR, so what is likely is that the threat of a massive fine is causing people to report breaches.  We shall have to see what the trend looks like and what happens in other countries.  Source: Bankinfo Security

The Pentagon is Creating a “Do Not Buy” List

The Pentagon’s Acquisition Chief admitted last week that the Pentagon is creating a secret Do Not Buy list of companies known to use Russian and Chinese software in their products.

The Pentagon plans to work with defense industry trade associations to effectively blacklist those companies.

The new Defense Authorization bill also requires companies to tell if they have less the Ruskies or Chinese look at their source code.  Source: Bleeping Computer.

 

Some Samsung Phones Sending Random Pictures To Random Contacts

Reports started surfacing last month about some Samsung phones sending one or more pictures to contacts in the user’s contact list without the user even being involved.  In one reported case the user’s entire gallery was sent.

Given that many people have at least some adult pictures on their phone, if this is really happening, the results could be dicey to say the least.

In addition, if you have any pictures with business proprietary information – say a snap of a white board from a meeting – that could be a problem too.

Samsung said they are aware of it.

T-Mobile, the carrier in at least some of the cases, in a perfect example of taking care of their customers said “It’s not a T-Mobile issue” and told people to talk to Samsung.  Note to self – even though T-Mobile may be less expensive, a great customer focused attitude like that goes a long way to kill that value.

Luckily it seems to be happening on new phones which, if Samsung can figure out what is happening, they may be able to develop a patch and those patches would likely be available to the users of the new phones.  If this is happening on older phones, users may just be out of luck, since most vendors don’t provide any patches for phones older than about 2 years. This assumes that the users bother to install the patches that are available, which is probably less than a 50/50 bet.  Source: Gizmodo.

More Problems for Huawei

While US Gov Tries to Ban Huawei Devices, the UK Gov only said it was “disappointed” at the lack of progress Huawei has made in improving security.  Curiously, this is the fourth report over the last 8 years that the UK government has issued and the first three said that any risks had been mitigated.  The reason for the change of heart is unknown.

In the meantime, Australia is considering banning Huawei gear, like the U.S. is doing.

One of Britain’s concerns is that Huawei is using third party software – in this case the operating system the gear runs on – that will no longer be supported in two years.  Given the normal lifespan of telecom equipment, that is a major problem.

Hauwei said that there were “some areas for improvement”.

Given the concerns over Chinese government influence and possible backdooring of Hauwei equipment, it seems like it would just be a better idea to find another vendor.  Source: BBC .

 

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Security News Bites for the Week Ending July 28, 2017

Zip Slip Vulnerability Affects Thousands of Projects

Researchers discovered a flaw in almost all zip-style file decompressors – RAR, TAR, 7ZIP-APK and others.

The problem is caused by a very old attack vector called directory traversal that these libraries do not handle correctly.

The decompressor libraries were likely downloaded from places like Github and Stack Overflow and developers used them in thousands of projects used by millions of users without a clue that the vulnerability has existed for years, maybe decades.

And, likely, most of those developers are completely blind to the fact their their software  is vulnerable due to a software supply chain issue – assuming they are even still involved with those software projects.

Software supply chain is the Achilles heel of the entire industry and the industry is not doing much to fix it.  (Source: Bleeping Computer)

NSA Forms Group to Counter Russian Threat in Cyberspace

In what would appear to be a difference of opinion with his boss, the head of the NSA has created a special task force to address Russian threats in cyberspace.  The Washington Post reported that the NSA and its sister Cybercom will collaborate against Russian threats to the security of the U.S. midterm elections – a threat which his boss, the President, has said does not exist any more, if it ever did.  The President has called the threat fake news many times.  It would appear that General Nakasone has a difference of opinion with his boss.  Source: Bloomberg

Level One Robotics Leaves Tens of Thousand of Sensitive Docs Unprotected

Canadian robotics vendor Level One is the most recent vendor to leave tens of thousands of sensitive documents – apparently including non disclosure agreements – belonging to multiple automakers including Tesla, Toyota and Volkswagen – unprotected online.  The material includes documents from over 100 companies and includes blueprints, factory schematics and other materials.

The data was found by Chris Vickery of Upgard.  Chris has found dozens of unprotected data sets just in recent months, usually on Amazon.  Chris DOES NO HACKING.  All he does is walk around the digital neighborhood jiggling doorknobs, looking for ones that are unlocked.  In this case, the material was an unprotected backup – 157 gigabytes of data made up of over 47,000 files. If hackers found it before Chris did, and they may have, they are likely celebrating.  That quantity of data on the design of cars and car assembly could give them a significant advantage in hacking into automobiles from a wide range of companies.  Source: NY Times

Federal Officials Tell WSJ That Ruskies Have Already Hacked the US Power Grid

The Department of Homeland Security reported Monday that hackers, working for Russia, hacked into the US power grid as early as 2013 and are likely still inside the grid with the ability to turn off the lights.  DHS says there were likely  hundreds of victims and one of the attack vectors is by compromising trusted vendors of the power companies (third party vendor cyber risk management).  Homeland Security said that some of the power companies don’t know that they have been hacked (why not – don’t their telephones work?).  Maybe that will be a topic of discussion when Putin visits President Trump in the White House this fall.  For all businesses, if you do not have an aggressive vendor cyber risk management program already, now is the time.  Source: CNET

Russian Hackers Attack Senator Claire McCaskill

Reports have surfaced today that Russian intelligence agency GRU attacked the re-election campaign of Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri.  The Senator says that the attack was not successful.  McCaskill is a vocal opponent of Russia.  This is happening as the President continues to say that Russia is not hacking us and before the campaign season really warms up.  Source: The Daily Beast

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Security News Bites for the Week Ending July 20, 2018

Israeli Startup Raises $12.5 Million to Help Governments Hack IoT

Given the sad state of IoT security, I am not sure that governments need any help in hacking IoT devices, but just in case they do, Israeli startup Toka raised $12.5 million to help police hack iPhones, Alexas, Echos and Nests, along with other IoT devices like your TV, refrigerator and dishwasher.

If you weren’t paranoid before, maybe you should be now.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is a cofounder and Brigadier General Yaron Rosen, former head of the Israel Defense Forces cyber staff is the president of Toka.

Kind of like NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) that builds custom hacks for the NSA, Toka said they are going to see what customers ask for and then deliver.

This sounds like a company to watch.  (Source: Forbes)

U.S. Intel Chief Warns of Devastating Cyber Threat to U.S. Infrastructure

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said the warning lights are blinking red again, nearly two decades after 9-11.

Russia, China, Iran and North Korea are launching daily cyber strikes on the networks of federal, state and local government agencies, U.S. corporations and academic institutions.

Of the four, Russia has been the most aggressive according to Coats.

Coats warned that the possibility of a “crippling cyber attack on our critical infrastructure” by a foreign actor is growing. (Source: Reuters)

Voting Machine Vendor Admits Installing Remote Access Software After Lying About it to the New York Times

Election Systems and Software admitted in a letter sent to Senator Ron Wyden that they installed pcAnywhere remote access software on some voting machines delivered between 2000 and 2006.  This is opposite what they told a New York Times reporter in February, so either they were lying then or are lying now, pick one.

They stopped installing the remote access software in December 2007 after the laws changed which would have made installing that software illegal.

The remote access software was not on the ballot boxes in the local precincts but rather on the election management systems in the city and county headquarters.  There are much fewer of these systems and each one is accountable for many voting machines, which would make them a much more attractive target for hackers.  (Source: Motherboard)

LabCorp Shuts Down Network Due to Ransomware Attack

Laboratory Corporation of America, known to most Americans as LabCorp shut down portions of its network over the weekend due to suspicious activity.  That is about as vague as the company has been.

The attack hit the company’s genetic testing unit and spread from there.  The company has data on over 250 million Americans. LabCorp says there is no indication that data was breached, but according to people familiar with the attack, it is a strain of the common ransomware SamSam and it has infected tens of thousands of workstations.

The hackers demanded $52,000 in ransom which LabCorp says it has no intention of paying.

LabCorp is working hard to try and minimize brand damage as the fight for marketshare with Quest Diagnostics.  Unfortunately, unless they can prove that no data was stolen, under HIPAA rules, this will be considered a breach and must be reported to the government, at which point we will get more details.  Source: Wall Street Journal.

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NBC Reports Seven States Election Data Hacked

NBC is reporting that the Intelligence Community developed substantial evidence that Russian financed attackers compromised the voter registration systems or web sites of seven states to different degrees.

Up until this time DHS has been completely mum about this, saying absolutely nothing.

But now NBC is reporting that the seven states are Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin.

The officials say that the systems were compromised in different ways and to different degrees.

Those state and federal officials that spoke to NBC claimed that no votes were changed and no voters taken off the voter rolls. They did not, however, provide any evidence to support those claims, so I guess we should trust them.  After all, why would they lie?

After NBC broadcast the story, the Homeland Security acting spin doctor Tyler Houlton said the reporting is not accurate and is actively undermining efforts of the Department of Homeland Security to work in close partnership with state and local governments to protect the nation’s election systems from foreign actors.  He did not say what about it was inaccurate.   Did he mean that there were only 6 states?  OR, that there were 9 states?  We don’t know.

He also said, via Twitter, that DHS has no intelligence that corroborates NBC’s reporting.

Today, Michael Daniel, top cyber security official at the end of the Obama administration, basically corroborated the NBC reports.

Perhaps DHS is telling the truth.  As the states have complained for a year now, DHS is not sharing any information with them.  Maybe the intelligence community is not sharing information with DHS.  If that is the case, both NBC and DHS could be telling the truth.

Regarding the statement that reporting is undermining the efforts to keep us safe, I have a couple of thoughts.

First, it may be useful to not telegraph how much we know to the Ruskies.  Up until now, the only state that we knew had been hacked was Illinois.  Now they know that we know that there are at least seven states.  They can compare this to the list of states that they did hack and say, maybe, “wow, we got away undetected 50%  of them time”.

But from a different standpoint, don’t the American people deserve to know the extent of Russian meddling in our elections?

For those of you who are cynical, you may draw a correlation between the current administration’s repeated efforts to “believe” Putin and disbelieve our own intelligence community and an effort by DHS to withhold information on the degree of Russian hacking.

Is this related, also, to the fact that until last week (when they appointed a committee to look into it) the Justice Department was not doing anything at all to deal with the Russian hacking?

And, is this related to the comment that soon-to-retire Admiral Mike Rogers, head of the NSA and of Cyber Command’s made before Congress that the White House has not asked them to do anything to stop Russian election hacking?

I don’t know the answer, so you are going to have to draw your own conclusions.  However, given the amount of smoke around this subject, there likely is a really, really, big fire.

Information for this post came from NBC News.

 

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