Category Archives: Hacking

Meltdown and Spectre CPU Flaws Affect Intel, ARM, AMD Processors

Unlike the initial reports suggested about Intel chips being vulnerable to some severe ‘memory leaking’ flaws, full technical details about the vulnerabilities have now been emerged, which revealed that almost every modern processor since 1995 is vulnerable to the issues.

Disclosed today by Google Project Zero, the vulnerabilities potentially impact all major CPUs, including those from AMD, ARM, and Intel—threatening almost all PCs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones, regardless of manufacturer or operating system.

These hardware vulnerabilities have been categorized into two attacks, named Meltdown (CVE-2017-5754) and Spectre (CVE-2017-5753 and CVE-2017-5715), which could allow attackers to steal sensitive data which is currently processed on the computer.

Both attacks take advantage of a feature in chips known as “speculative execution,” a technique used by most modern CPUs to optimize performance.

“In order to improve performance, many CPUs may choose to speculatively execute instructions based on assumptions that are considered likely to be true. During speculative execution, the processor is verifying these assumptions; if they are valid, then the execution continues. If they are invalid, then the execution is unwound, and the correct execution path can be started based on the actual conditions,” Project Zero says.

Therefore, it is possible for such speculative execution to have “side effects which are not restored when the CPU state is unwound and can lead to information disclosure,” which can be accessed using side-channel attacks.

Meltdown Attack:

The first issue, Meltdown (paper), allows attackers to read not only kernel memory but also the entire physical memory of the target machines, and therefore all secrets of other programs and the operating system.

“Meltdown is a related microarchitectural attack which exploits out-of-order execution in order to leak the target’s physical memory.”

Meltdown uses speculative execution to break the isolation between user applications and the operating system, allowing any application to access all system memory, including memory allocated for the kernel.

“Meltdown exploits a privilege escalation vulnerability specific to Intel processors, due to which speculatively executed instructions can bypass memory protection.”

Nearly all desktop, laptop, and cloud computers affected by Meltdown.

Spectre Attack:
The second problem, Spectre (paper), is not easy to patch and will haunt people for quite some time since this issue requires changes to processor architecture in order to fully mitigate.

Spectre attack breaks the isolation between different applications, allowing the attacker-controlled program to trick error-free programs into leaking their secrets by forcing them into accessing arbitrary portions of its memory, which can then be read through a side channel.

Spectre attacks can be used to leak information from the kernel to user programs, as well as from virtualization hypervisors to guest systems.

“In addition to violating process isolation boundaries using native code, Spectre attacks can also be used to violate browser sandboxing, by mounting them via portable JavaScript code. We wrote a JavaScript program that successfully reads data from the address space of the browser process running it.” the paper explains.

 

“KAISER patch, which has been widely applied as a mitigation to the Meltdown attack, does not protect against Spectre.”

According to researchers, this vulnerability impacts almost every system, including desktops, laptops, cloud servers, as well as smartphones—powered by Intel, AMD, and ARM chips.

What You Should Do: Mitigations And Patches
Many vendors have security patches available for one or both of these attacks.

  • Windows — Microsoft has issued an out-of-band patch update for Windows 10, while other versions of Windows will be patched on the traditional Patch Tuesday on January 9, 2018
  • MacOS — Apple had already fixed most of these security holes in macOS High Sierra 10.13.2 last month, but MacOS 10.13.3 will enhance or complete these mitigations.
  • Linux — Linux kernel developers have also released patches by implementing kernel page-table isolation (KPTI) to move the kernel into an entirely separate address space.
  • Android — Google has released security patches for Pixel/Nexus users as part of the Android January security patch update.  Other users have to wait for their device manufacturers to release a compatible security update.

Mitigations for Chrome Users:

Since this exploit can be executed through the website, Chrome users can turn on Site Isolation feature on their devices to mitigate these flaws.
Here’s how to turn Site Isolation on Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome OS or Android:
  • Copy chrome://flags/#enable-site-per-process and paste it into the URL field at the top of your Chrome web browser, and then hit the Enter key.
  • Look for Strict Site Isolation, then click the box labeled Enable.
  • Once done, hit Relaunch Now to relaunch your Chrome browser.

There is no single fix for both the attacks since each requires protection independently.

Crime Does Not Pay!!


The U.S. federal officials have arrested three hackers who have pleaded guilty to computer-crimes charges for creating and distributing Mirai botnet that crippled some of the world’s biggest and most popular websites by launching the massive DDoS attacks last year.

According to the federal court documents unsealed Tuesday, Paras Jha (21-year-old from New Jersey), Josiah White (20-year-old Washington) and Dalton Norman (21-year-old from Louisiana) were indicted by an Alaska court last week on multiple charges for their role in massive cyber attacks conducted using Mirai botnet.

Mirai is a piece of nasty IoT malware that scans for insecure routers, cameras, DVRs, and other Internet of Things devices which are still using their default passwords and then add them into a botnet network, which is then used to launch DDoS attacks on websites and Internet infrastructure.

According to his plea agreement, Jha “conspired to conduct DDoS attacks against websites and web hosting companies located in the United States and abroad” by ensnaring over 300,000 IoT devices. He also demanded payment “in exchange for halting the attack.

Between September and October 2016, Jha advertised Mirai botnet on multiple dark web forums using the online monikers “Anna Senpai.” He also admitted to securely wiping off the virtual machine used to run Mirai on his device and then posting the source code of Mirai online for free.

Since then, other cybercriminals have used the open-source code of the botnet to create their own Mirai variants in a variety of different cyber attacks against their targets.

Paras Jha (a.k.a Anna Senpai) and his business partner Josiah White (a.k.a Lightspeed and thegenius) are the same people who were outed by blogger Brian Krebs earlier this year after his blog was also knocked offline by a massive 620 Gbps of DDoS attack using Mirai botnet.

Paras-Jha-Mirai-botnet

According to Jha’s LinkedIn profile, he is a 21-year-old passionate programmer from Fanwood, U.S., who knows how to code in multiple programming languages and is positioned as president of a DDoS mitigation firm, ProTraf Solutions.

White admitted to creating the Mirai botnet’s scanner to identify and hijack vulnerable internet-connected devices to enlist in the botnet, while Norman (a.k.a Drake) admitted to identifying private zero-day vulnerabilities and exploits to build into the massive botnet.

From December 2016 to February 2017, the trio successfully infected more than 100,000 computing devices to form another powerful botnet, called Clickfraud, which was designed to scam online ad networks by simulating clicks on ads for the purpose of artificially generating revenue.

A week after the massive DDoS attack, the source code of Mirai was released on the widely used hacker chat forum Hackforums by Jha who, under the name Anna-senpai, wrote he had “made their money…so it’s time to GTFO.”

“So today, I have an amazing release for you,” he wrote. “With Mirai, I usually pull max 380k bots from telnet alone. However, after the Kreb [sic] DDoS, ISPs been slowly shutting down and cleaning up their act. Today, max pull is about 300k bots, and dropping.”

Once Mirai source code was out, various cyber criminals started exploiting the IoT malware to launch powerful DDoS attacks against websites and Internet infrastructure, one of which was the popular DNS provider Dyn, which was DDoSed by a botnet of an around 100,000 Mirai malware-infected devices.

The defendants’ involvement with the original Mirai variant ended in the fall of 2016, when Jha posted the source code for Mirai on a criminal forum. Since then, other criminal actors have used Mirai variants in a variety of other attacks.” DOJ said.

The trio faces a sentence of up to five years in prison.
Crime does not pay, it will eventually catch up to you !!!

Hackable Apartments: How to Keep Our Communities Safe When Everything is Going Online

Honored to be speaking at 2017 NMHC OPTECH Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas October 25-27, 2017 Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

 

 

Hackable Apartments: How to Keep Our Communities Safe When Everything is Going Online
With the Internet of Things poised to revolutionize our systems and appliances just as the internet did with our information, the question remains—can we keep these devices safe? Today’s “smart” home demands a modern take on security and privacy as well as possible integrations with property management systems or even new voice activated consumer technology. Online security experts will assess the risk of the internet-enabled apartment and will present best practices to keep your residents and your enterprise safe from hackers.

 

U.S. warns public about attacks on energy, industrial firms

(Reuters) – The U.S government issued a rare public warning that sophisticated hackers are targeting energy and industrial firms, the latest sign that cyber attacks present an increasing threat to the power industry and other public infrastructure.

The Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation warned in a report distributed by email late on Friday that the nuclear, energy, aviation, water and critical manufacturing industries have been targeted along with government entities in attacks dating back to at least May.

The agencies warned that hackers had succeeded in compromising some targeted networks, but did not identify specific victims or describe any cases of sabotage.

The objective of the attackers is to compromise organizational networks with malicious emails and tainted websites to obtain credentials for accessing computer networks of their targets, the report said.

U.S. authorities have been monitoring the activity for months, which they initially detailed in a confidential June report first reported by Reuters. That document, which was privately distributed to firms at risk of attacks, described a narrower set of activity focusing on the nuclear, energy and critical manufacturing sectors.

Department of Homeland Security spokesman Scott McConnell declined to elaborate on the information in the report or say what prompted the government to go public with the information at this time.

“The technical alert provides recommendations to prevent and mitigate malicious cyber activity targeting multiple sectors and reiterated our commitment to remain vigilant for new threats,” he said.

The FBI declined to comment on the report, which security researchers said described an escalation in targeting of infrastructure in Europe and the United States that had been described in recent reports from private firms, including Symantec Corp.

“This is very aggressive activity,” said Robert Lee, an expert in securing industrial networks.

Lee, chief executive of cyber-security firm Dragos, said the report appears to describe hackers working in the interests of the Russian government, though he declined to elaborate. Dragos is also monitoring other groups targeting infrastructure that appear to be aligned with China, Iran, North Korea, he said.

    The hacking described in the government report is unlikely to result in dramatic attacks in the near term, Lee said, but he added that it is still troubling: “We don’t want our adversaries learning enough to be able to do things that are disruptive later.”

The report said that hackers have succeeded in infiltrating some targets, including at least one energy generator, and conducting reconnaissance on their networks. It was accompanied by six technical documents describing malware used in the attacks.

Homeland Security “has confidence that this campaign is still ongoing and threat actors are actively pursuing their objectives over a long-term campaign,” the report said.

The report said the attacker was the same as one described by Symantec in a September report that warned advanced hackers had penetrated the systems controlling operations of some U.S. and European energy companies.

Symantec researcher Vikram Thakur said in an email that much of the contents of Friday’s report were previously known within the security community.

Cyber-security firm CrowdStrike said the technical indicators described in the report suggested the attacks were the work of a hacking group it calls Berserk Bear, which is affiliated with the Russian Federation and has targeted the energy, financial and transportation industries.

“We have not observed any destructive action by this actor,” CrowdStrike Vice President Adam Meyers said in an email.

It’s just a matter of time.

Another AWS leak exposes 150,000 Patient Home Monitoring Corp. client records

Another publicly accessible Amazon S3 repository has been once again been left exposing sensitive consumer information, this time affecting approximately 150,000 U.S. patients.

Kromtech Security Researchers discovered the exposed server belonging to Patient Home Monitoring Corp. which contained in 47.5 GB worth of data in the form of 316,363 PDF reports detailing weekly blood test results including patient and doctor names, case management notes, other client information and the Development Server Backup.

The vulnerable server was spotted on Sept. 29 and researchers said they notified the company on Oct 5. and by Oct. 6, the bucket had been secured. Kromtech pointed out that the company’s privacy page stated that patients have the right to be notified when their information is being accessed and that it’s unclear how or if patients will be notified of the incident.

The HIPAA Breach Notification Rule requires covered entities to notify affected individuals, HHS, and in some cases, the media of a breach of unsecured PHI. Most notifications must be provided without unreasonable delay and no later than 60 days following the discovery of a breach. fines can range from $100 to $50,000 per violation (or per record), with a maximum penalty of $1.5 million per year for each violation.

Some researchers aren’t surprised that admins are misconfiguring Amazon S3 buckets and leaving them exposed with the rapid adoption of the new technology.

“The Amazon S3 bucket can be easily switched from private to public access – with public being the default.” Josh Mayfield, platform specialist, Immediate Insight at FireMon said. “With the speed that organizations are moving to AWS and cloud infrastructure, it is only natural to miss something.”

Mayfield said companies should have policy controls that are automated irrespective of future technology so that admins don’t have to sacrifice security for speed and that added that policy management consoles with the flexibility to handle heterogeneous infrastructures and devices are invaluable.

Other researchers weren’t as forgiving. AlienVault Security Advocate Javvad Malik said the issue of misconfigured cloud services is a growing problem and a lack of skill may be to blame.

“As more and more companies migrate datasets to the cloud, it is becoming apparent that many lack the cloud skills needed to secure the cloud infrastructure, gain assurance that the cloud infrastructure is secured appropriately, or monitor their cloud environments for unauthorized access,” Malik said. “While cloud can bring benefits of having a resilient infrastructure, security cannot be outsourced, and much of the responsibility remains with the customer.”

Malik added that unfortunately, the people affected the most are the patients who have had their sensitive information exposed. Researchers agreed mistakes like this emphasize the impact breaches like this can have on individuals.

The narrative surrounding breaches is so often defined by the financial implications, but the impact of medical records being leaked on individuals could be equally if not more damaging,” DomainTools Senior Sybersecurity Threat Researcher Kyle Wilhoit said. “Revealing potentially sensitive personally identifiable information could impact an individual’s employment or it could be used by criminals/state entities for targeted attacks, such as spear phishing.”

Wilhoit said Medical organizations need to start taking the data they have access to as seriously as financial organizations, all assets must be discovered and tested against current vulnerabilities and patches must be deployed quickly.

And the plot thickens: Hackers Entered Equifax Systems in March

Equifax previously disclosed data was potentially accessed in May

Hackers roamed undetected in Equifax Inc.’s computer network for more than four months before its security team uncovered the massive data breach, the security firm FireEye Inc. said this week in a confidential note Equifax sent to some of its customers.

FireEye’s Mandiant group, which has been hired by Equifax to investigate the breach, said the first evidence of hackers’ “interaction” with the company occurred on March 10, according to the Mandiant report, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Equifax had previously disclosed that data belonging to approximately 143 million Americans was potentially accessed in May. It isn’t known when Equifax learned from Mandiant that the hacking activity began in March, not May. Equifax wasn’t available for comment.

Equifax has said it didn’t discover the breach until July 29. Days later it called in Mandiant. Equifax didn’t disclose the breach until Sept. 7.

The attack, which is being probed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is one of the most significant data breaches given the scope of the information disclosed: people’s names, addresses, dates of birth and Social Security numbers. In its wake, consumers, customers, regulators and legislators have been asking how the attack occurred and whether Equifax took sufficient measures to protect such sensitive information.

Equifax sent the Mandiant report to some customers, many of which are financial firms, with a cover letter dated Tuesday, Sept. 19, that was signed by the company’s new chief information officer, Mark Rohrwasser, and new chief security officer, Russ Ayres. Equifax last Friday announced the departure of the two executives who previously held those positions.

In a progress report that accompanied that announcement last Friday, Equifax said hackers accessed consumers’ data from May 13 through July 30. It didn’t mention in that report that the attack had begun at an earlier date.

Mandiant’s report this week noted the hackers accessed one of Equifax’s servers by taking advantage of a flaw in software called Apache Struts, used by many companies to build interactive websites.

Two days before the access occurred, on March 8, security researchers at Cisco Systems Inc. warned of the flaw in Struts and a patch was issued by the Apache Software Foundation. Equifax in its report last week said its security staff “took efforts” to fix the system, saying it understood the intense focus outside the company on patching efforts and that its review was ongoing.

After interacting with Equifax’s server in early March, the hackers then entered the computer command “Whoami,” Mandiant wrote. This command would have given the attackers the username of the computer account to which they had just gained access, an early step in a hacking attempt.

Investigators have not determined for certain whether the March incident was issued by the data thieves or a different set of hackers, but it was likely the beginning of a monthslong reconnaissance mission, according to a person familiar with the investigation. It is common for attackers to lurk for months after their initial break-in as they probe corporate systems—the digital equivalent of trying as many doorknobs as possible to see which doors can be opened.

The March activity was likely a result of the hackers “spamming the internet for vulnerable systems,” said Johannes Ullrich, dean of research with the SANS Technology Insitute, a cybersecurity training school.

It isn’t surprising that the hackers took weeks before accessing the sensitive data, Mr. Ullrich said. “Typically, you first build out a beachhead so that it’s difficult to get kicked out,” he added.

On average, it takes companies close to 100 days to discover that they have been hacked, FireEye said in a report released earlier this year. In Equifax’s case, it took 141 days.

Eventually, between May 13 and late July, the attackers accessed files that contained Equifax credentials, such as username and password, and “performed database queries that provided access to documents and sensitive information stored in databases in an Equifax legacy environment,” the Mandiant report said.

Overall, the attackers accessed “numerous database tables in several databases,” the Mandiant report said.

The report added that the attackers “compromised two systems” that support Equifax’s online dispute web application. This is the place where consumers go to dispute information on their credit reports.

The hackers also set up about 30 Web shells—hidden pages that would allow them to remotely run commands on Equifax’s systems even if the Struts vulnerability was patched, the report said. The attackers “remotely accessed” the Equifax systems from approximately 35 “distinct public IP addresses,” it added.

The identity of the hackers is still unknown. Mandiant said in its letter that it hadn’t been able to attribute the breach to any “threat group actor” it currently tracks. Nor did the “tools, tactics and procedures” used overlap with those seen in previous investigations by the firm.

 

Critical Bluetooth Flaws Put Over 5 Billion Devices At Risk Of Hacking


Bluetooth is one of the most popular short-range wireless communications technologies in use today and is built into many types of devices, from phones, smartwatches and TVs to medical equipment and car infotainment systems. Many of those devices are now at risk of being hacked due to critical flaws found in the Bluetooth implementations of the operating systems they use.

Over the past several months, a team of researchers from IoT security firm Armis have been working with Google, Microsoft, Apple and Linux developers, to silently coordinate the release of patches for eight serious vulnerabilities that could allow attackers to completely take over Bluetooth-enabled devices or to hijack their Internet traffic.

The flaws found by Armis are particularly dangerous because they can be exploited over the air without any type of authentication or device pairing. Simply having Bluetooth enabled on a device is enough to make it vulnerable if patches for these issues are not installed.

The attacks can be fully automated and they don’t require any user interaction, as attackers can force vulnerable devices to open Bluetooth connections. In one scenario, the flaws can be used to build a worm-like attack where one compromised device automatically infects others when they come in its Bluetooth range. This can lead to the creation of massive botnets.

The Armis researchers have dubbed this new attack vector BlueBorne and they estimate that it affects over 5.3 billion devices. Furthermore, based on their discussions with vendors, they believe that 40% of the impacted devices will never be patched, either because they’re old and won’t receive firmware updates at all or because updating them is too complicated and users won’t bother.

The vulnerabilities are not located in the Bluetooth protocol itself, but in the individual Bluetooth implementations — or stacks — that are present in Android, Windows, Linux and iOS. Because of this, it doesn’t matter what version of the Bluetooth protocol a device supports — they’re all affected, with the exception of those that support only Bluetooth Low Energy, also known as Bluetooth Smart.

The Armis team first stumbled across one of the flaws during their regular work on the company’s security product, which helps organizations identify rogue or compromised IoT devices on their networks. The team then checked the similar code in other Bluetooth stacks and found additional vulnerabilities.

Four of the eight vulnerabilities were found in Android’s Bluetooth implementation, two in Linux, one in iOS and one in Windows. Their impact varies based on operating system.

“I think this is really just the tip of the iceberg as far as vulnerabilities in Bluetooth implementations go,” the Armis researchers said. “We feel that there are potentially other stacks affected by similar issues, but future research needs to be done to determine this.”

The vulnerability that affects the Bluetooth stack in Windows Vista and later does not lead to remote code execution but allows hackers to launch man-in-the-middle traffic interception attacks. Attackers can remotely force vulnerable Windows computers to set up a malicious Bluetooth-based network interface and route all of their communications through it. In this way, attackers can get all of a victim’s Internet traffic over Bluetooth.

Microsoft released security updates to address this vulnerability on supported Windows versions in July and customers who installed those updates are protected against this attack.

“We updated to protect customers as soon as possible, but as a responsible industry partner, we withheld disclosure until other vendors could develop and release updates,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

An almost identical man-in-the-middle issue was found in the Android Bluetooth stack. However, Android’s implementation also has an information leak flaw and two remote code execution vulnerabilities.

Attackers can exploit the information leak problem in order to extract sensitive information from the device memory, information that can then help them exploit the remote code execution vulnerabilities and take complete control of the targeted devices. According to the Armis team, this attack would be completely invisible to the user.

“We have released security updates for these issues, and will continue working with other affected platforms across the industry to develop protections that help keep users safe,” Google said in an emailed statement.

Google releases security fixes for its Pixel and Nexus devices every month and also contributes those patches to the Android Open Source Project. Device manufacturers that are in the Android partner program receive security patches a month or more before they’re made public, to give them enough time to integrate them in their own Android-based firmware.

Even so, there are millions of Android devices out there that have long reached end of support and will not get these patches. Those devices will remain vulnerable to these Bluetooth attacks indefinitely.

Please be sure to update all of your devices with the newest firmware or patches.