Oct 11 2017

Krebs on Security 2017-10-11 10:18:40

Microsoft on Tuesday released software updates to fix at least 62 security vulnerabilities in Windows, Office and other software. Two of those flaws were detailed publicly before yesterday’s patches were released, and one of them is already being exploited in active attacks, so attackers already have a head start.

brokenwindowsRoughly half of the flaws Microsoft addressed this week are in the code that makes up various versions of Windows, and 28 of them were labeled “critical” — meaning malware or malicious attackers could use the weaknesses to break into Windows computers remotely with no help from users.

One of the publicly disclosed Windows flaws (CVE-2017-8703) fixed in this batch is a problem with a feature only present in Windows 10 known as the Windows Subsystem for Linux, which allows Windows 10 users to run unmodified Linux binary files. Researchers at CheckPoint recently released some interesting research worth reading about how attackers might soon use this capability to bypass antivirus and other security solutions on Windows.

The bug quashed this week that’s being actively exploited resides in Microsoft Office (CVE-2017-11826), and Redmond says attackers could seize control over a vulnerable system just by convincing someone to open a booby-trapped Word file. Another Office vulnerability, (CVE-2017-11776), involves a flaw in Outlook’s ability to encrypt messages; SEC-Consult has more details on this bug.

Another critical flaw (CVE-2017-11779) addresses a scary vulnerability in the domain name system (DNS) component of Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012. According to research from Bishop Fox, the security firm credited with finding and reporting the bug, this flaw could be exploited quite easily to gain complete control over vulnerable systems if the attacker controls or compromises a local network (think Wi-Fi hotspot).

Normally, Adobe uses Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday (the second Tuesday of each month) to release its own fixes for Flash Player, Reader and other products. However, this time around the company has no security updates available. Adobe did release a new version of Flash that includes bug fixes (v. 27.0.0.159), but generally speaking only even-numbered Flash releases include security fixes.

For additional commentary on October’s bundle of updates from Microsoft, see these blogs from security vendors Ivanti and Qualys. For those looking for a straight-up list of which patches deserve priority, check out the always useful roundup from the SANS Internet Storm Center.

Sep 13 2017

Krebs on Security 2017-09-13 12:42:30

Adobe and Microsoft both on Tuesday released patches to plug critical security vulnerabilities in their products. Microsoft’s patch bundles fix close to 80 separate security problems in various versions of its Windows operating system and related software — including two vulnerabilities that already are being exploited in active attacks. Adobe’s new version of its Flash Player software tackles two flaws that malware or attackers could use to seize remote control over vulnerable computers with no help from users.

brokenwindows

Of the two zero-day flaws being fixed this week, the one in Microsoft’s ubiquitous .NET Framework (CVE-2017-8759) is perhaps the most concerning. Despite this flaw being actively exploited, it is somehow labeled by Microsoft as “important” rather than “critical” — the latter being the most dire designation.

More than two dozen flaws Microsoft remedied with this patch batch come with a “critical” warning, which means they could be exploited without any assistance from Windows users — save for perhaps browsing to a hacked or malicious Web site.

Regular readers here probably recall that I’ve often recommended installing .NET updates separately from any remaining Windows updates, mainly because in past instances in which I’ve experienced problems installing Windows updates, a .NET patch was usually involved.

For the most part, Microsoft now bundles all security updates together in one big patch ball for regular home users — no longer letting people choose which patches to install. One exception is patches for the .NET Framework, and I stand by my recommendation to install the patch roll-ups separately, reboot, and then tackle the .NET updates. Your mileage may vary.

Another vulnerability Microsoft fixed addresses “BlueBorne” (CVE-2017-8628), which is a flaw in the Bluetooth wireless data transmission standard that attackers could use to snarf data from Bluetooth-enabled devices that are physically nearby and with Bluetooth turned on.

For more on this month’s Patch Tuesday from Microsoft, check out Microsoft’s security update guide, as well as this blog from Ivanti (formerly Shavlik).

brokenflash-aAdobe’s newest Flash version — v. 27.0.0.130 for Windows, Mac and Linx systems — corrects two critical bugs in Flash. For those of you who still have and want Adobe Flash Player installed in a browser, it’s time to update and/or restart your browser.

Windows users who browse the Web with anything other than Internet Explorer may need to apply the Flash patch twice, once with IE and again using the alternative browser (Firefox, Opera, e.g.).

Chrome and IE should auto-install the latest Flash version on browser restart (users may need to manually check for updates and/or restart the browser to get the latest Flash version). Chrome users may need to restart the browser to install or automatically download the latest version. When in doubt, click the vertical three dot icon to the right of the URL bar, select “Help,” then “About Chrome”: If there is an update available, Chrome should install it then. Chrome will replace that three dot icon with an up-arrow inside of a circle when updates are ready to install).

Better yet, consider removing or at least hobbling Flash Player, which is a perennial target of malware attacks. Most sites have moved away from requiring Flash, and Adobe itself is sunsetting this product (albeit not for another long two more years).

Windows users can get rid of Flash through the Add/Remove Programs menu, unless they’re using Chrome, which bundles its own version of Flash Player. To get to the Flash settings page, type or cut and paste “chrome://settings/content” into the address bar, and click on the Flash result.

Aug 02 2017

Krebs on Security 2017-08-02 12:17:05

Adobe last week detailed plans to retire its Flash Player software, a cross-platform browser plugin so powerful and so packed with security holes that it has become the favorite target of malware developers. To help eradicate this ubiquitous liability, Adobe is enlisting the help of Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla. But don’t break out the bubbly just yet: Adobe says Flash won’t be put down officially until 2020.

brokenflash-aIn a blog post about the move, Adobe said more sites are turning away from proprietary code like Flash toward open standards like HTML5, WebGL and WebAssembly, and that these components now provide many of the capabilities and functionalities that plugins pioneered.

“Over time, we’ve seen helper apps evolve to become plugins, and more recently, have seen many of these plugin capabilities get incorporated into open web standards,” Adobe said. “Today, most browser vendors are integrating capabilities once provided by plugins directly into browsers and deprecating plugins.”

It’s remarkable how quickly Flash has seen a decline in both use and favor, particularly among the top browser makers. Just three years ago, at least 80 percent of desktop Chrome users visited a site with Flash each day, according to Google. Today, usage of Flash among Chrome users stands at just 17 percent and continues to decline (see Google graphic below).

For Mac users, the turning away from Flash began in 2010, when Apple co-founder Steve Jobs famously penned his “Thoughts on Flash” memo that outlined the reasons why the technology would not be allowed on the company’s iOS products. Apple stopped pre-installing the plugin that same year.

The percentage of Chrome users over time that have used Flash on a Web site. Image: Google.

The percentage of Chrome users over time that have used Flash on a Web site. Image: Google.

“Today, if users install Flash, it remains off by default,” a post by Apple’s WebKit Team explains. “Safari requires explicit approval on each website before running the Flash plugin.”

Mozilla said that starting this month Firefox users will choose which websites are able to run the Flash plugin.

“Flash will be disabled by default for most users in 2019, and only users running the Firefox Extended Support Release will be able to continue using Flash through the final end-of-life at the end of 2020,” writes Benjamin Smedberg for Mozilla. “In order to preserve user security, once Flash is no longer supported by Adobe security patches, no version of Firefox will load the plugin.”

Facebook has long hosted plenty of games that invoke Flash, but over time more Facebook apps and games turned to HTML5, the company said.

“Today, more than 200 HTML5 games are live on our platform, most of which launched within the last year,” wrote Facebook’s Jakub Pudelek. “Many of the largest developers on the platform…migrated at least one Flash game to HTML5 on the Facebook platform with minimal impact to their existing customers.”

Finally, Microsoft said it has begun phasing out Flash from Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer, culminating in the removal of Flash from Windows entirely by the end of 2020. For now, Microsoft Edge, the default browser on newer versions of Windows, will continue to ask users for permission to run Flash on most sites the first time the site is visited, remembering the user’s preference on any subsequent visits.

By mid- to late 2018, Microsoft says, Edge will require permission for Flash to be run each browser session. But by mid 2018, Microsoft will disable Flash by default in both Edge and Internet Explorer. Read more about Microsoft’s timeline for Flash elimination here.

For years, unpatched vulnerabilities in Flash plugins have been the top moneymaker for users of various commercial “exploit kits,” crimeware designed to be stitched into the fabric of hacked or malicious sites and exploit browser plugin flaws.

An analysis of exploit kit activity  by Arlington, Va.-based security firm Recorded Future showed that Flash Player vulnerabilities provided six of the top 10 vulnerabilities used by exploit kits in 2016 [full disclosure: Recorded Future is an advertiser on this blog].

Image: Recorded Future

Image: Recorded Future

I look forward to a time when Flash Player is in the rearview mirror entirely. Until then, KrebsOnSecurity will continue to call attention to new security updates for Flash Player and other widely used Adobe products.

Even so, I’ll also continue to encourage readers to remove or hobble Flash Player unless and until it is needed for a specific site or purpose. More on that approach (as well as slightly less radical solutions ) can be found in A Month Without Adobe Flash Player. The short version is that you can probably get by without Flash installed and not miss it at all.

For readers still unwilling to cut the cord, there are half-measures that work almost as well. Fortunately, disabling Flash in Chrome is simple enough. Paste “chrome://settings/content” into a Chrome browser bar and then select “Flash” from the list of items. By default it should be set to “Ask first” before running Flash, although users also can disable Flash entirely here or whitelist and blacklist specific sites.

Another, perhaps less elegant, solution is to keep Flash installed in a browser that you don’t normally use, and then to only use that browser on sites that require it.

Nov 17 2016

Krebs on Security 2016-11-17 17:04:29

Adobe will pay just $1 million to settle a lawsuit filed by 15 state attorneys general over its huge 2013 data breach that exposed payment records on approximately 38 million people. In other news, the 39-year-old Dutchman responsible for coordinating an epic, weeks-long distributed denial-of-service attack against anti-spam provider Spamhaus in 2013 will avoid any jail time for his crimes thanks to a court ruling in Amsterdam this week.

On Oct. 3, 2013, KrebsOnSecurity broke the story that Adobe had just suffered a breach in which hackers siphoned usernames, passwords and payment card data on 38 million customers. The intruders also made off with digital truckloads of source code for some of Adobe’s most valuable software properties — including Adobe Acrobat and Reader, Photoshop and ColdFusion.

On Monday, Nov. 11, North Carolina Attorney General  Roy Cooper joined his counterparts in 14 other states in announcing a $1 million settlement with Adobe over the 2013 breach. According to Cooper, the hacked Adobe servers contained the personal information of approximately 552,000 residents of the participating 15 states. That works out to about $1.80 per victim across all 15 states.

A posting on anonnews.org that was later deleted.

A posting on anonnews.org that was later deleted.

According to a statement by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, “an investigation by the states revealed that in September 2013, Adobe received an alert that the hard drive for one of its application servers was nearing capacity. In responding to the alert, Adobe learned that an unauthorized attempt was being made to decrypt customer payment card numbers maintained on the server.”

“Adobe discovered that one or more unauthorized intruder(s) had compromised a public-facing web server and used it to access other servers on Adobe’s network, including areas where Adobe stored consumer data,” the statement from Healey’s office reads. “The intruder(s) ultimately stole consumer data from Adobe’s servers, including encrypted payment card numbers and expiration dates, names, addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, usernames (Adobe IDs), and passwords associated with the usernames.”

When I think of the Adobe breach I’m reminded of that scene out of the 1982 Spielberg horror classic “Poltergeist,” when Craig T. Nelson as “Steve Freeling” seizes the horrified neighborhood developer Mr. Teague by his coat collars and screams, “You son of a bitch! You moved the cemetery but you left the bodies, didn’t ya?! You left left the bodies and you only moved the headstones!! Why?!?!?! Whyyyyyyeeeiee??!?!?”

A scene from Poltergeist. Image: IMDB.

A scene from Poltergeist. Image: IMDB.

Likewise, Adobe had various storefronts for its various software products, but it eventually centralized many store operations. The main trouble was the company left copies of their customer records in multiple internal network locations that were no longer as protected as Adobe’s globally centralized storefront.

North Carolina’s Cooper said in a statement on the settlement that businesses and government must do more to protect consumer data. But if this settlement was meant as a deterrent to dissuade other companies from hosting customer payment data on public-facing Web servers, the fine might be more effective if it were more commensurate with the company’s size and the number of customers impacted.

As Digital Trends notes, such a breach under the new General Data Protection Regulation going into effect in 2018, would be quite a bit more costly. “Adobe could face fines of up to four percent of its annual global turnover,” wrote Jonathan Keane for DT. “Last we checked, Adobe’s previous quarterly earnings were $1.4 billion.”

Keane also notes that Adobe had previously settled a similar case in California where it settled for an undisclosed amount and $1.1 million in legal fees.

One interesting nugget tucked in at the end of the statement from the North Carolina AG’s office is this bit: More than 3,700 breaches impacting nearly 10 million North Carolinians have been reported since the state’s data breach notification law took effect in 2005, including 677 breaches reported so far in 2016. According to the United States Census Bureau, there were just over 10 million residents in North Carolina as of July 2015.

That means just about everyone in North Carolina was impacted by at least one data breach over the past 12 years. I’d wager this is true for just about every state in the Union, and probably many times over for some. A handful of lucky states have had single breaches that affected all citizens at once.

In 2012, a phishing attack against an employee of the South Carolina Department of Revenue allowed intruders to make off with Social Security numbers and other personal data on 3.8 million electronic tax filers, as well as 1.9 million of their dependents. Also in that breach, nearly 700,000 businesses, 3.3 million bank accounts and 5,000 expired credit cards were compromised. As of July 2015, South Carolina had fewer than five million residents, according to the Census Bureau.

SVEN OLAF KAMPHUIS — A.K.A. “Prince of Cyberbunker Republic”

In March 2013, a coalition of spammers and spam-friendly hosting firms pooled their resources to launch what would become the largest distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack the Internet had ever witnessed. The assault briefly knocked offline the world’s largest anti-spam organization, and caused a great deal of collateral damage to innocent bystanders in the process. Here’s a never-before-seen look at how that attack unfolded, and a rare glimpse into the shadowy cybercrime forces that orchestrated it.

That paragraph above was the lead for a story I published in August 2016, “Inside the Attack that Almost Broke the Internet“. It’s starring member was a colorful Dutchman named Sven Olaf Kamphuis who ran a technology services company called CB3ROB. This CB3ROB in turn provided services for a Dutch company called “Cyberbunker,” so named because the organization was allegedly housed in a five-story NATO bunker and because it had advertised its services as a bulletproof hosting provider.

A snippet from a very long chat log published here detailing the extended DDoS campaigns waged against Spamhaus.

A snippet from a very long chat log published here detailing the extended DDoS campaigns waged against Spamhaus.

Kamphuis seemed to honestly believe his Cyberbunker was sovereign territory, even signing his emails “Prince of Cyberbunker Republic.” Arrested in Spain in April 2013 in connection with the attack on Spamhaus, Kamphuis was later extradited to The Netherlands to stand trial. He has publicly denied being part of the attacks, but the chat logs with him coordinating the attack with co-conspirators are fairly damning considering he didn’t even use an alias in the discussions and live-posted his campaign of terror to his Facebook account.

Nevertheless, a judge in Amsterdam this week sentenced Kamphuis to a total of 240 days in jail. However, the judge also counted the 55 days Kamphuis spent awaiting extradition from Spain, and suspended the remaining 185-day sentence. No jail time for Kamphuis.

Spamhaus founder Steve Linford said the organization was disappointed in the sentence, and it warned Kamphuis about any thoughts of retaliation.

“We had hoped for a longer jail sentence to send the message that organising and conducting DDoS attacks is a crime not acceptable to law courts or society, however the ease with which Kamphuis was arrested and extradited, and the two months already served in jail will hopefully have delivered the message to him that there is no escape from the law should he attempt any attacks in the future,” Linford wrote in a email. “Since the remainder of the term is a suspended sentence, any actions or threats made to Spamhaus during the term would be filed with the court as a violation of the conditions of the suspended sentence.”

Facebook profile picture of Sven Olaf Kamphuis

Facebook profile picture of Sven Olaf Kamphuis

The only other person charged in connection with the largest attack the Internet had ever seen at the time was Sean Nolan McDonough, a.k.a. “narko” in the chat logs referenced in the snippet pictured above.

Narko was a juvenile when he was arrested by the U.K.’s National Crime Agency (NCA); when the NCA raided Narko’s home, they found his computer still logged in to crime forums, and they seized £70,000 from his bank account (believed to be payments for DDoS attacks). Narko later pleaded guilty to coordinating the attacks and was sentenced to 240 hours of community service, but because of his age and in return for cooperating with the NCA he avoided a jail term.

This sentence sends the wrong message and misses the mark by a mile. The message we as a society of Internet users continue to send by our unwillingness to punish people for these crimes is, “Hey, if you’re involved in heavily disrupting networks and commerce through botnet attacks, you don’t have to worry because you’ll either never be prosecuted…or if you are the sentence will be community service or nothing.”

Neither of the two 18-year-old Israeli men arrested in September for their role in selling the massively profitable vDOS attack-for-hire service to knock Web sites offline have been indicted by the Israeli, British or American governments. The hammer has yet to fall on those responsible for lobbing the record 620 Gpbs attack on my site, or the individual(s) involved in the attack on Dyn that disrupted service for some of the Web’s top destinations. I’m afraid the wheels of justice still creak forward far too slowly in Internet time for the threat of prosecution to be much of an immediate deterrent against online hooliganism in the here-and-now.