Advanced CIA firmware has been infecting Wi-Fi routers for years

Enlarge (credit: D-Link)

Home routers from 10 manufacturers, including Linksys, DLink, and Belkin, can be turned into covert listening posts that allow the Central Intelligence Agency to monitor and manipulate incoming and outgoing traffic and infect connected devices. That's according to secret documents posted Thursday by WikiLeaks.

CherryBlossom, as the implant is code-named, can be especially effective against targets using some D-Link-made DIR-130 and Linksys-manufactured WRT300N models because they can be remotely infected even when they use a strong administrative password. An exploit code-named Tomato can extract their passwords as long as a default feature known as universal plug and play remains on. Routers that are protected by a default or easily-guessed administrative password are, of course, trivial to infect. In all, documents say CherryBlossom runs on 25 router models, although it's likely modifications would allow the implant to run on at least 100 more.

(credit: WikiLeaks)

The 175-page CherryBlossom user guide describes a Linux-based operating system that can run on a broad range of routers. Once installed, CherryBlossom turns the device into a "FlyTrap" that beacons a CIA-controlled server known as a "CherryTree." The beacon includes device status and security information that the CherryTree logs to a database. In response, the CherryTree sends the infected device a "Mission" consisting of specific tasks tailored to the target. CIA operators can use a "CherryWeb" browser-based user interface to view Flytrap status and security information, plan new missions, view mission-related data, and perform system administration tasks.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Out-of-the-box exploitation possible on PCs from top 5 OEMs

(credit: Duo Security)

The next time you're in the market for a new Windows computer, consider this: if it comes from one of the top five manufacturers, it's vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks that allow hackers to install malware.

That's the take-away from a report published Tuesday by researchers from two-factor authentication service Duo Security. It found third-party updating tools installed by default threatened customers of Dell, HP, Lenovo, Acer, and Asus. The updaters frequently expose their programming interfaces, making them easy to reverse engineer. Even worse, the updaters frequently fail to use transport layer security encryption properly, if at all. As a result, PCs from all five makers are vulnerable to exploits that allow attackers to install malware.

"Hacking in practice means taking the path of least resistance, and OEM software is often a weak link in the chain," the Duo Security report stated. "All of the sexy exploit mitigations, desktop firewalls, and safe browsing enhancements can't protect you when an OEM vendor cripples them with pre-installed software."

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Man-in-the-middle attack on Vizio TVs coughs up owners’ viewing habits

(credit: Vizio)

The cautionary tales just keep coming for Internet-connected TVs, thermostats, and other so-called "Internet-of-Things" devices. Today's lesson comes courtesy of a smart TV from Vizio that was subjected to a man-in-the-middle attack because it couldn't be bothered to validate the HTTPS certificates of servers it connected to.

Researchers from security firm Avast found that the Vizio model in their lab broadcasted fingerprints of users' viewing habits, even when owners hadn't consented to a privacy policy displayed during set up. What's more, the researchers uncovered a vulnerability in the smart TV that could act as a potential attack vector for a hacker attempting to access a user's home network.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

HTTPS-crippling attack threatens tens of thousands of Web and mail servers

Tens of thousands of HTTPS-protected websites, mail servers, and other widely used Internet services are vulnerable to a new attack that lets eavesdroppers read and modify data passing through encrypted connections, a team of computer scientists has found.

The vulnerability affects an estimated 8.4 percent of the top one million websites and a slightly bigger percentage of mail servers populating the IPv4 address space, the researchers said. The threat stems from a flaw in the transport layer security protocol that websites and mail servers use to establish encrypted connections with end-users. The new attack, which its creators have dubbed Logjam, can be exploited against a subset of servers that support the widely used Diffie-Hellman key exchange, which allows two parties that have never met before to negotiate a secret key even though they're communicating over an unsecured, public channel.

The weakness is the result of export restrictions the US government mandated in the 1990s on US developers who wanted their software to be used abroad. The regime was established by the Clinton administration so the FBI and other agencies could break the encryption used by foreign entities. Attackers with the ability to monitor the connection between an end user and a Diffie-Hellman-enabled sever that supports the export cipher can inject a special payload into the traffic that downgrades encrypted connections to use extremely weak 512-bit key material. Using precomputed data prepared ahead of time, the attackers can then deduce the encryption key negotiated between the two parties.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments