Category: Malware


The Heartbleed bug: Am I at risk and do I really have to change my password?

The discovery of Heartbleed, a flaw in one of the most widespread encryption standards used online, has panicked webmasters and users alike.

The bug has gone unnoticed for more than two years and could have potentially given hackers access to an unlimited array of secure data — everything from passwords and login details to credit card numbers and addresses.

Although it’s difficult to say exactly how many websites have been exposed, the lower estimates are around 500 million with a large number of major web companies (Google, Facebook, Yahoo, etc) all forced to update their software to protect against the bug.

However, there have been quite a lot of mixed messages as to whether or not users should change their passwords, with some outlets urging that you should create new ones immediately while others are advising that you wait.

To add to the confusion there’s also been reports of hackers sending out phishing emails related to Heartbleed — in order to trick users into giving up passwords that have yet to be compromised. Be on the look out for these and don’t follow any links in suspicious looking emails – if you want to change a password go to the site directly.

Which sites are affected?
Most Google sites and services (including Gmail and YouTube – but not Chrome) were affected, as were sites maintained by Yahoo (including Tumblr and Flickr). Facebook was also hit by the bug although Twitter and LinkedIn were not.

Other big sites that have confirmed that they weren’t affected include Amazon, Hotmail and Outlook, eBay, PayPal and all of Apple’s properties — including iCloud and iTunes. If you want to check whether or not a site you use is still affected then you can do so here — just enter the URL.

Another big worry is for online banking, but thankfully we have some good news in that department. Lloyds, HSBC, RBS, Natwest, Santander and the Co-Op have all confirmed that they were not affected by the bug (they were using different encryption standards). Barclays has yet to issue a statement.

However, this does not mean that your credit card details are completely safe — as they could have been compromised via your Gmail or another third-party site. The security of mobile banking apps is still a developing situation as well.

So do I need to change my passwords?
In a word: Yes. For the sites we’ve listed above as being affected (including Gmail, Yahoo, Tumblr, Flickr, Facebook) it definitely won’t hurt to change your password some time in the next couple of weeks.

Although security experts have warned that you shouldn’t be too quick to change passwords, this is because not all website have patched their servers and changing your password before this happens could make matters worse. The sites we’ve listed above have patched their servers and if you want to check one we’ve not mentioned — click here and enter the URL.

Unfortunately, some sites (including Google) have specifically said that users don’t need to change their passwords. While it’s true that some sites are confident that they fixed the bug a while back, as most of us are guilty of changing our passwords less frequently than we should do (aka never) we think that this is as good an opportunity as ever to be a bit more security-conscious.

What should my new password be?
In lists of the most frequently used passwords online there’s some obvious clangers that we know you’re too smart to use (these include old standbys such as ‘123456’ and ‘password’ itself) but just because a password doesn’t look obvious to you that doesn’t make it safe.

This means that you shouldn’t really use any single words that are found in the dictionary, any words connected to you (place of birth or pets’ names), nor should you use any obvious ‘substitutions’ (eg pa55w0rd — more complicated variations are required) or patterns derived from your keyboard layout (eg ‘1qaz2wsx’ or ‘zxcvbnm’).

It’s wise to use a variety of characters in your password (including upper and lower case as well as numbers) but an easy way to get more secure is to start thinking of your password as a passphrase.

The easiest way of increasing the difficulty of a password is by simply making it longer — so try combining multiple words together and then adding in numbers between them.

You could pick a number of some significance to you (for example a loved one’s birthday, ie 12/08/1970) and then splicing this with a nonsensical phrase (‘shoesplittingwatchwizard’) to get a suitably difficulty password: Shoe12Splitting08Watch1970Wizard.

Other suggested methods for making a strong and memorable password include taking a sentence or a favourite line from a song as a starting point. So you might take the line “When you call my name it’s like a little prayer” and turn it into wuCmNilaLP. Madonna is optional of course, but we think this a fun method — especially if you can work in numbers somewhere.

You should also use different passwords for your different accounts (perhaps the most difficult piece of advice to follow of all) and if you want to be really secure you should also set up two-step authentication where available.

Ryan says: I recommend everyone on any of the sites mentioned in this article to change their passwords ASAP.

Bitcoins, other digital currencies stolen in massive ‘Pony’ botnet attack

Cybercriminals have infected the computers of digital currency holders, using a virus known as “Pony” to make off with account credentials, bitcoins and other digital currencies in one of the largest attacks on the technology, security services firm Trustwave said.

The attack was carried out using the “Pony” botnet, a group of infected computers that take orders from a central command-and-control server to steal private data. A small group of cybercriminals were likely behind the attack, Trustwave said.

Over 700,000 credentials, including website, email and FTP account log-ins, were stolen in the breach. The computers belonging to between 100,000 and 200,000 people were infected with the malware, Trustwave said.

The Pony botnet has been identified as the source of some other recent attacks, including the theft of some 2 million log-ins for sites like Facebook, Google and Twitter. But the latest exploit is unique due to its size and because it also targeted virtual wallets storing bitcoins and other digital currencies like Litecoins and Primecoins.

Eighty-five wallets storing the equivalent of $220,000, as of Monday, were broken into, Trustwave said. That figure is low because of the small number of people using Bitcoin now, the company said, though instances of Pony attacks against Bitcoin are likely to increase as adoption of the technology grows. The attackers behind the Pony botnet were active between last September and mid-January.

“As more people use digital currencies over time, and use digital wallets to store them, it’s likely we’ll see more attacks to capture the wallets,” said Ziv Mador, director of security research at Chicago-based Trustwave.

Most of the wallets that were broken into were unencrypted, he said.

“The motivation for stealing wallets is obviously high—they contain money,” Trustwave said in a blog post describing the attack. Stealing bitcoins might be appealing to criminals because exchanging them for another currency is easier than stealing money from a bank, Trustwave said.

There have been numerous cyberattacks directed at Bitcoin over the last year or so as its popularity grew. Last year, a piece of malware circulating over Skype was identified as running a Bitcoin mining application. Bitcoin mining is a process by which computers monitor the Bitcoin network to validate transactions.

“Like with many new technologies, malware can be an issue,” said a spokesman for the Bitcoin Foundation, a trade group that promotes the use of Bitcoin, via email. Wallet security should improve, the spokesman said, as more security features are introduced, like multisignature transactions, he said.

Digital currency users can go to this Trustwave site to see if their wallets and credentials have been stolen.

Source: PC World

iPhones, iPads vulnerable to hacking: Apple

A major flaw in Apple software for mobile devices could allow hackers to intercept email and other communications that are meant to be encrypted, the company said Friday.

If attackers have access to a user’s network, such as by sharing the same unsecured wireless service offered by a restaurant, they could see or alter exchanges between the user and protected sites such as Gmail and Facebook, experts said.

“It’s as bad as you could imagine, that’s all I can say,” said Johns Hopkins University cryptography professor Matthew Green.

Apple did not say when or how it learned about the flaw in the way iOS handles sessions in what are known as secure sockets layer or transport layer security, nor did it say whether the flaw was being exploited. But a statement on its support website was blunt: The software “failed to validate the authenticity of the connection.”

Apple released software patches and an update for the current version of iOS for iPhone 4 and later, 5th-generation iPod touches, and iPad 2 and later.

Without the fix, a hacker could impersonate a protected site and sit in the middle as email or financial data goes between the user and the real site, Green said.

Apple did not reply to requests for comment.

The flaw appears to be in the way that well-understood protocols were implemented, an embarrassing lapse for a company of Apple’s stature and technical prowess. The company was recently stung by leaked intelligence documents claiming that authorities had 100 percent success rate in breaking into iPhones.

Friday’s announcement suggests that enterprising hackers could have had great success as well if they knew of the flaw.

Ryan:  Kinda told you Apple lovers that this gear is very insecure.. did ya listen to me?

Researchers describe hacking iOS devices with malicious charger

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology will be demonstrating a proof-of-concept method of hacking an iPhone using a malicious USB charger. Billy Lau, Yeongjin Jang, Chengyu Song announced the demonstration for Black Hat USA 2013, an annual conference for hackers and security researchers that begins on July 27th in Las Vegas.

The short version is the three researchers found a way to use USB protocols to bypass some of Apple’s security features in iOS that prevent unauthorized software from being installed on your iOS device. The three built a charger based on a BeagleBoard (see below)—a US$125 computer-on-a-circuit-board—that was able to successfully insert malware onto an iPhone plugged into it.

Worse, they can do so in under a minute.

“Despite the plethora of defense mechanisms in iOS, we successfully injected arbitrary software into current-generation Apple devices running the latest operating system (OS) software,” the researchers wrote on their BlackHat presentation description. “All users are affected, as our approach requires neither a jailbroken device nor user interaction.”

In the demonstration, they said will discuss Apple’s existing security mechanisms that protect against “arbitrary software installation,” which in layman’s terms essentially means malware. They will then describe how standard USB capabilities can be, “leveraged to bypass these defense mechanisms.” To finish it off, they will demonstrate how this same process can be used to then hide the resulting malware from the user the same way Apple hides its own built in software.

The three researchers named their malicious charger “Mactans.”

The BeagleBoard it is based on is an off-the-shelf circuit board that can be used to create all manner of tiny computing devices running Angstrom (Open Embedded), Debian, Ubuntu, and Gentoo. There are other BeagleBoard products as well, including a slightly larger model with a 1GHz Sitara ARM Cortex-A8 processors that can run Android.

The point the researchers are making is that their method can be accomplished with readily available technology.

“While Mactans was built with limited amount of time and a small budget,” they wrote, “we also briefly consider what more motivated, well-funded adversaries could accomplish.”

The researchers will offer methods for protecting yourself against such an attack—we’ll throw out that you should probably be choosy about using a charger whose provenance you can’t verify—and what Apple can do to make this attack, “substantially more difficult to pull off.”

Source: UPI

Russian BadNews bug found in Android app store

Security researchers have identified 32 separate apps on Google Play that harboured a bug called BadNews.

On infected phones, BadNews stole cash by racking up charges from sending premium rate text messages.

The malicious program lay dormant on many handsets for weeks to escape detection, said security firm Lookout which uncovered BadNews.

The malware targeted Android owners in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other countries in eastern Europe.

The exact numbers of victims was hard to calculate, said Lookout, adding that figures from Google Play suggest that between two and nine million copies of apps booby trapped with BadNews were downloaded from the store.

In a blogpost, Lookout said that a wide variety of apps were harbouring the BadNews malware. It found the programme lurking inside recipe generators, wallpaper apps, games and pornographic programmes.

The 32 apps were available through four separate developer accounts on Play. Google has now suspended those accounts and removed all the affected apps from its online store. No official comment from Google has yet been released.

Lookout said BadNews concealed its true identity by initially acting as an “innocent, if somewhat aggressive, advertising network”. In this guise it sent users news and information about other infected apps, and prompted people to install other programmes.

BadNews adopted this approach to avoid detection systems that look for suspicious behaviour and stop dodgy apps being installed, said Lookout.

This masquerade ended when apps seeded with BadNews got a prompt from one of three command and control servers, then it started pushing out and installing a more malicious programme called AlphaSMS. This steals credit by sending text messages to premium rate numbers.

Users were tricked into installing AlphaSMS as it was labelled as an essential update for either Skype or Russian social network Vkontakte.

Security firm Lookout said BadNews was included in many popular apps by innocent developers as it outwardly looked like a useful way to monetise their creations. It urged app makers to be more wary of such “third party tools” which they may include in their code.

Half of the 32 apps seeded with BadNews are Russian and the version of AlphaSMS it installed is tuned to use premium rate numbers in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia and Kazakhstan.

Source: BBC News

Apple finally fixes App Store flaw by turning on encryption

Apple has finally fixed a security flaw in its application store that for years has allowed attackers to steal passwords and install unwanted or extremely expensive applications.

The flaw arose because Apple neglected to use encryption when an iPhone or other mobile device tries to connect to the App Store, meaning an attacker can hijack the connection. In addition to a security flaw, the unencrypted connections also created a privacy vulnerability because the complete list of applications installed on the device are disclosed over Wi-Fi.

It also allows the installation of apps, including extremely expensive ones that top out at $999.99, without the user’s consent, which can create serious consequences because Apple doesn’t give refunds. To do this, an attacker needs to be on the same private or public Wi-Fi network, including, for example, a coffeeshop, hotel, or airport network.

Security researcher Elie Bursztein discovered the vulnerability and reported it to Apple last July. Apple fixed the problem in a recent update that said “content is now served over HTTPS by default.” Apple also thanked Bernhard Brehm of Recurity Labs and Rahul Iyer of Bejoi.

Bursztein, who works at Google, in Mountain View, Calif., but emphasized this was work done at home in his spare time, published a personal blog post today that described details about the App Store vulnerability and included videos of how an attacker was able to steal passwords or install unwanted apps.

Publicizing this flaw, Bursztein said, highlighted how necessary encrypted HTTPS connections were. “Many companies don’t realize that HTTPS is important for mobile apps,” he said. But if they rely on Web connections or Webviews, he added, they are vulnerable to attacks: “Providing a concrete example seems a good way to attract developer attention to the issue.”

As a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University, Bursztein published research that included demonstrating flaws in Captchas and the Web interfaces of embedded devices. At the Defcon conference in Las Vegas two years ago, he demonstrated how to bypass Windows’ built-in encryption that Web browsers, instant messaging clients, and other programs used to store user passwords.

Bursztein’s blog post comes a day after Apple’s marketing chief, Phil Schiller, took a security-related swipe at Google on Twitter by pointing to a report on the rise of Android malware.

 

Source: CNET

Sophisticated botnet steals more than $47M by infecting PCs and phones

A new version of the Zeus trojan—a longtime favorite of criminals conducting online financial fraud—has been used in attacks on over 30,000 electronic banking customers in Europe, infecting both their personal computers and smartphones. The sophisticated attack is designed to circumvent banks’ use of two-factor authentication for transactions by intercepting messages sent by the bank to victims’ mobile phones.

The malware and botnet system, dubbed “Eurograbber” by security researchers from Check Point Software and Versafe, was first detected in Italy earlier this year. It has since spread throughout Europe. Eurograbber is responsible for more than $47 million in fraudulent transfers from victims’ bank accounts, stealing amounts from individual victims that range from 500 Euros (about $650) to 25,000 Euros (about $32,000), according to a report published Wednesday.

The malware attack begins when a victim clicks on a malicious link, possibly sent as part of a phishing attack. Clicking on the link directs them to a site that attempts to download one or more trojans: customized versions of Zeus and its SpyEye and CarBerp variants that allow attackers to record Web visits and then inject HTML and JavaScript into the victim’s browser. The next time the victim visits their bank website, the trojans capture their credentials and launch a JavaScript that spoofs a request for a “security upgrade” from the site, offering to protect their mobile device from attack. The JavaScript captures their phone number and their mobile operating system information—which are used in the second level of Eurograbber’s attack.

With the phone number and platform information, the attacker sends a text message to the victim’s phone with a link to a site that downloads what it says is “encryption software” for the device. But it is, in fact, “Zeus in the mobile” (ZITMO) malware—a Trojan crafted for the Android and BlackBerry mobile operating systems that injects itself between the user and the mobile browser and SMS messaging software. With both devices now compromised, the malware waits for the victim to access a bank account, and then immediately transfers a percentage of the victim’s balance to an account set up by the criminals running the botnet.

The malware then intercepts the confirmation text message sent by the bank, forwarding it to the trojan’s command and control server via a relay phone number. The server uses the message to confirm the transaction and withdraw the money. The same process happens every time the victim logs into their bank account, gradually withdrawing money without alerting the user.

Both Checkpoint and Versafe have added signature and behavior detection to their malware protection products that can block Eurograbber. Updating software that is a frequent target for Web “driveby download” exploits—such as Adobe Flash, Java, and Web browsers—can help prevent infection by the malware, as can a healthy amount of paranoia about clicking links in e-mails.

Source: Arstechnica

Google engineer finds British spyware on PCs and smartphones

Two security researchers have found new evidence that legitimate spyware sold by British firm Gamma International appears to be being used by some of the most repressive regimes in the world.

Google security engineer Morgan Marquis-Boire and Berkeley student Bill Marczak were investigating spyware found in email attachments to several Bahraini activists. In their analysis they identified the spyware infecting not only PCs but a broad range of smartphones, including iOS, Android, RIM, Symbian, and Windows Phone 7 handsets.

The spying software has the capability to monitor and report back on calls and GPS positions from mobile phones, as well as recording Skype sessions on a PC, logging keystrokes, and controlling any cameras and microphones that are installed.

They report the code appears to be FinSpy, a commercial spyware sold to countries for police criminal investigations. FinSpy was developed by the German conglomerate Gamma Group and sold via the UK subsidiary Gamma International. In a statement to Bloomberg, managing director Martin Muench denied the company had any involvement.

“As you know we don’t normally discuss our clients but given this unique situation it’s only fair to say that Gamma has never sold their products to Bahrain,” he said. “It is unlikely that it was an installed system used by one of our clients but rather that a copy of an old FinSpy demo version was made during a presentation and that this copy was modified and then used elsewhere.”

Parallel research by computer investigators at Rapid7 found command and control software servers for the FinSpy code running in Indonesia, Australia, Qatar, Ethiopia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Mongolia, Latvia, and the United Arab Emirates, with another server in the US running on Amazon’s EC2 cloud systems. Less than 24 hours after the research was published, the team noted that several of these servers were shut down.

Gamma and FinSpy gained notoriety last year when documents apparently from the company were found in the Egyptian security service headquarters when it was ransacked by protestors after the fall of Hosni Mubarak. These appear to be a proposal that the Egyptian government buy a five-month license for the software for €287,000. Again Gamma denied involvement.

But Marquis-Boire and Marczak told The New York Times that they appear to have found a link to Gamma in these latest code samples. The malware for Symbian phones uses a code certificate issued to Cyan Engineering, whose website is registered to one Johnny Geds.

The same name is listed as Gamma Group’s sales contact on the FinSpy proposal uncovered in the raid on Egypt’s security headquarters. Muench has confirmed they do employ someone of that name in sales but declined to comment further.

Commercial spyware is an increasingly lucrative racket, as El Reg has pointed out, and there’s growing evidence that Britain is one of the leading players in the market. Privacy International has formally warned the British government that it will be taking legal action on the issue and this latest research only adds weight to the issue.

Source: The Register

Latest Java software opens PCs to hackers: experts

Computer security firms are urging PC users to disable Java software in their browsers, saying the widely installed, free software from Oracle Corp opens machines to hacker attacks and there is no way to defend against them.

The warnings, which began emerging over the weekend from Rapid7, AlienVault and other cyber security firms, are likely to unnerve a PC community scrambling to fend off growing security threats from hackers, viruses and malware.

Researchers have identified code that attacks machines by exploiting a newly discovered flaw in the latest version of Java. Once in, a second piece of software called “Poison Ivy” is released that lets hackers gain control of the infected computer, said Jaime Blasco, a research manager with AlienVault Labs.

Several security firms advised users to immediately disable Java software — installed in some form on the vast majority of personal computers around the world — in their Internet browsers. Oracle says that Java sits on 97 percent of enterprise desktops.

“If exploited, the attacker will be able to perform any action the victim can perform on the victim’s machine,” said Tod Beardsley, an engineering manager with Rapid7’s Metasploit division.

Computers can get infected without their users’ knowledge simply by a visit to any website that has been compromised by hackers, said Joshua Drake, a senior research scientist with the security firm Accuvant.

Java is a computer language that enables programmers to write one set of code to run on virtually any type of machine. It is widely used on the Internet so that Web developers can make their sites accessible from multiple browsers running on Microsoft Windows PCs or Macs from Apple Inc.

An Oracle spokeswoman said she could not immediately comment on the matter.

Security experts recommended that users not enable Java for universal use on their browsers. Instead, they said it was safest to allow use of Java browser plug-ins on a case-by-case basis when prompted for permission by trusted programs such as GoToMeeting, a Web-based collaboration tool from Citrix Systems Inc

Rapid7 has set up a web page that tells users whether their browser has a Java plug-in installed that is vulnerable to attack: www.isjavaexploitable.com

Source: Reuters

Ryan says: I would recommend updating to the latest version of Java.  The latest version of Java Runtime Environment JRE-64-bit is here. For users with older computers, try downloading the latest version in 32-bit.

Hands On With Clueful, the iOS App That Rats Out Privacy Risks

When you install a new mobile app, you expect it to use your data according to the permissions you’ve allowed. So, when an app suddenly uses your information in an unexpected way — who can forget Path’s address-book-sharing saga? — it can feel like a betrayal.

Clueful, which made its debut at TechCrunch Disrupt today, is an app designed to prevent surprises. Clueful helps you identify “misdemeanant” apps on your iPhone — software that’s transmitting your data in ways you weren’t aware of.

Created by antivirus software developer Bitdefender, the app is simple enough. It gathers information on what apps are running in your iPhone’s memory and submits it anonymously to the “Clueful Cloud” for analysis. Using its own database of app behaviors, it then tells you what your software could be up to: whether an app uses GPS, whether an app is a battery-draining risk, or if an app can use address book information, among other things. The results are neatly listed, albeit in what appears to be random order, and you can tap an app listing to get more details on the possible risk areas of that app.

It’s not all fire and brimstone, though. The app also reveals “Things you might appreciate” for each app, such as information on whether it uses an anonymous identifier or encrypts stored data. (Foodspotting, for instance, does both of these things.)

It can be surprising to learn which apps do and don’t have solid security practices, and which apps are quietly tracking usage information for advertising purposes — something most apps do not openly reveal when you download them.

The app has several major pitfalls, though. For one, it can only provide information on free apps, so that sketchy $1 Angry Birds ripoff you got last week could be having a field day with your personal info, and you’d still never know it. And although it launches with a database of thousands of apps, there are more than 600,000 apps in the App Store, according to Apple’s Q2 earnings report. Clueful lets you search to see which apps are in its database, and we found some relatively big names were left out: Clear, Mint and Evi to name just three.

Also, Clueful doesn’t drill down into exactly what data is being transmitted from an app. Instead, it just generally reports what an app can and could be sending. (“Can” and “could” are differentiated.) Strangely, Clueful also “found” apps on my phone that I’ve never used or downloaded, like FlickFishing HD in the image above, and apps called Scoops and Quizarium. I’m sure they’re fine apps, but I’ve never downloaded them.

At $4 in the App Store, I can’t rightly recommend this app as a must-download. But if you’re completely anal about how your data is being used, or just curious, the download could be justified.

Source: Wired

Half a million Mac computers ‘infected with malware

More than half a million Apple computers have been infected with the Flashback Trojan, according to a Russian anti-virus firm.

Its report claims that about 600,000 Macs have installed the malware – potentially allowing them to be hijacked and used as a “botnet”.

The firm, Dr Web, says that more than half that number are based in the US.

Apple has released a security update, but users who have not installed the patch remain exposed.

Flashback was first detected last September when anti-virus researchers flagged up software masquerading itself as a Flash Player update. Once downloaded it deactivated some of the computer’s security software.

Later versions of the malware exploited weaknesses in the Java programming language to allow the code to be installed from bogus sites without the user’s permission.

Dr Web said that once the Trojan was installed it sent a message to the intruder’s control server with a unique ID to identify the infected machine.

“By introducing the code criminals are potentially able to control the machine,” the firm’s chief executive Boris Sharov told the BBC.

“We stress the word potential as we have never seen any malicious activity since we hijacked the botnet to take it out of criminals’ hands. However, we know people create viruses to get money.

“The largest amounts of bots – based on the IP addresses we identified – are in the US, Canada, UK and Australia, so it appears to have targeted English-speaking people.”

Dr Web also notes that 274 of the infected computers it detected appeared to be located in Cupertino, California – home to Apple’s headquarters.

Java’s developer, Oracle, issued a fix to the vulnerability on 14 February, but this did not work on Macintoshes as Apple manages Java updates to its computers.

Apple released its own “security update” on Wednesday – more than eight weeks later. It can be triggered by clicking on the software update icon in the computer’s system preferences panel.

The security firm F-Secure has also posted detailed instructions about how to confirm if a machine is infected and how to remove the Trojan.

Although Apple’s system software limits the actions its computers can take without requesting their users’ permission, some security analysts suggest this latest incident highlights the fact that the machines are not invulnerable.

“People used to say that Apple computers, unlike Windows PCs, can’t ever be infected – but it’s a myth,” said Timur Tsoriev, an analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

Apple could not provide a statement at this time.

Ryan: Download Apple’s security update for the Flashback Trojan here.

Source: BBC News