Archive for Security

Don’t Know Much Security

Don’t Know Much SecurityWith apologies to Otis Redding, Americans don’t know much about security. They don’t know much privacy, or the SPAM they took. A new Pew Research Center survey, “What the Public Knows About Cybersecurity” quizzed 1,055 adults about their understanding of concepts important to online safety and privacy. The results of the Pew survey are unsettling.

questions about cybersecurityThe Pew Research survey asked 13 questions about cybersecurity. The median score was five correct answers. Just 20% answered eight questions correctly. A relatively large percentage of respondents answered “not sure” to questions rather than providing the wrong answer.

Most Americans don’t know how to protect themselves. Only 10% were able to identify one example of multi-factor authentication when presented with four images of online log-in screens.

Most Americans still unknowingly allow themselves to be tracked across the web. 61% of those surveyed were not aware that Internet Service Providers can still see the websites their customer visit even when they’re using “private browsing” on their search engines.

Internet securityA slight majority (52%) of people recognized that just turning off the GPS function on smartphones does not prevent all tracking of the phone’s location. Mobile phones can be tracked via cell towers or Wi-Fi networks.

Only 54% of respondents correctly identified a phishing attack. For cybercriminals, phishing remains a favorite trick for infecting computers with malware. Phishing schemes usually involve an email that directs users to click on a link to an infected website.

phishing attackComputer security software does a good job of blocking most phishing schemes, Stephen Cobb, security researcher for anti-virus software firm ESET told told Phys.org, including many advanced spear phishing attacks targeting people with personalized information.

Retired Rear Adm. Ken Slaght, head of the San Diego Cyber Center of Excellence, a trade group for the region’s cybersecurity industry told KnowB4.

It is probably our No. 1 concern and No. 1 vulnerability … These attackers keep upping their game. It has gone well beyond the jumbled, everything misspelled email.

cybersecurity2/3’s of Americans tested, could not identify what the what the ‘s’ in ‘https‘ meant. The article explains that the ‘s’ stands for secure, with website authentication and encryption of digital traffic. It is used mostly for online payments. Security researchers often suggest computer users check the website addresses – known as the URL – as a first step before they click on a link. ESET’s Cobb said, “You wonder if people know what a URL is … Do they know how to read a URL? So there is plenty of work to be done.”

In the most puzzling finding to me, 75% of participants identified the most secure password from a list of four options. And yet followers of Bach Seat know that year after year passwords suck. Could it be that Americans just don’t care about the online security?

Insecure passwordsFortunately some Americans also recognize that public Wi-Fi hotspots aren’t necessarily safe for online banking or e-commerce. The mixed security results highlights that staying secure online is not a priority for Americans at work or at home.

The Wall Street Journal also covered the Pew findings and quoted Forrester: “The percentage of security and risk professionals citing “security awareness” as a top priority rose to 61% last year, from 56% in 2010.”

In the enterprise,Heidi Shey, a senior analyst at Forrester, told CIO Journal that security awareness training isn’t always effective, since it’s often conducted once a year as a compliance issue and involves lists of dos and don’ts.

The human element is important in safeguarding a firm against cyberattack, since it’s both a first line of defense as well as a weak link. Successful awareness efforts are focused on enabling behavioral change, and typically customized and specific to an organization, its workforce, and relevant risks.

rb-

The data from Pew says that enterprise and home users need to be more security aware. Technology can’t solve stupid so users have to be the last line of defense.

Related articles

Ralph Bach has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Scary SS7 Flaw Strikes Banks

Scary SS7 Flaw Strikes BanksLost in last month’s hub-bub over WannaCry ransomware was the revelation that hackers had successfully exploited the SS7 “flaw” in January 2017. In May reports surfaced that hackers were able to remotely pilfer German bank accounts by taking advantage of vulnerabilities in Signaling System 7 (SS7). SS7 is a standard that defines how to public phone system talks to itself to complete a phone call.

Telephone system Signaling System 7 The high-tech heist was initially reported by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (auf Deutsch). The attack was  a sophisticated operation that combined targeted phishing emails and SS7 exploits to bypass two-factor authentication (2FA) protection. This is the first publicly known exploit of SS7 to intercept two-factor authentication codes sent by a bank to confirm actions taken by online banking customers.

According to ars technica the attack began with traditional bank-fraud trojans. These trojans infect account holders’ computers and steal the passwords used to log in to bank accounts. From there, attackers could view account balances, but were prevented from making transfers without the one-time password the bank sent as a text message. After stealing the necessary login details via phishing emails, the perpetrators leveraged the SS7 flaw to intercept the associated mTAN (mobile transaction authentication numbers) authentication codes sent to the victims — messages notifying them of account activity — to validate the transactions and remain hidden, investigators say.

Central office equipmentGerman Telecommunications giant O2-Telefonica confirmed details of the SS7-based cyber attacks to the newspaper. Ars says, in the past, attackers have obtained mTANs by obtaining a duplicate SIM card that allows them to take control of the bank customer’s phone number. SS7-facilitated compromises, by contrast, can be done remotely on a much larger quantity of phone numbers.

O2 Telefonica confirmed to Help Net Security that the attackers were able to gain access to the network of a foreign mobile network operator in January 2017. The attackers likely purchased access to the foreign telecommunications provider – this can apparently be done for less than 1,000 euros – and have set up call and SMS forwarding.

Ford Road CO in Dearborn Mi is the Oregon officeTwo-factor authentication (2FA) is a security process in which the user provides two authentication factors to verify they are who they say they are.  2FA provides an extra layer of security and makes it harder for attackers to gain access to a person’s devices and online accounts, because knowing the victim’s password alone is not enough to pass the authentication check. Two-factor authentication has long been used to control access to sensitive systems and data, and online services are increasingly introducing 2FA to prevent their users’ data from being accessed by hackers who have stolen a password database or used phishing campaigns to get users’ passwords.

News of the incident prompted widespread concern online. Security advocates railed against the popular and continuous use of text messages to authenticate account information while growing evidence suggests that SS7 is an unsafe channel to deliver such data. Security experts told ars that the same SS7-centric hacking techniques used against German banks will become increasingly prevalent in the future, forcing organizations to reconsider how they authenticate user activity.

Cris Thomas, a strategist at Tenable Network Security warns in the article:

Two-factor authenticationWhile this is not the end of 2FA, it may be the end of 2FA over SS7, which comprises a majority of 2FA systems … Vulnerabilities in SS7 and other cellular protocols aren’t new. They have been presented at security conferences for years … there are other more secure protocols available now that systems can switch to…

Cyber security researchers began issuing warning about this flaw in late 2014 about dangerous flaws in SS7. I wrote about the SS7 flaw in September of 2016  and in March 2107. Maybe this will be the wake up call for the carriers. One industry insider quipped:

This latest attack serves as a warning to the mobile community about what is at stake if these loopholes aren’t closed … The industry at large needs to go beyond simple measures such as two-factor authentication, to protect mobile users and their data, and invest in more sophisticated mobile security.

man-in-the-middle attackIn 2014 security researchers first  demonstrated that SS7 could be exploited to track and eavesdrop on cell phones. This new attack is essentially a man-in-the-middle attack on cell phone communications. It exploits the lack of authentication in the communication protocols that run on top of SS7.

Developed in 1975, today, over 800 telecommunications companies around the world, including AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ), use SS7 make sure their networks interoperate. This technology has not kept up with modern times.  In May 2017, Wired published an article which explains some of the ways to secure SS7. Overcoming SS7 insecurity requires implementing a series of firewalls and filters that can stop the attacks. Researchers Wired spoke to suggest that adding encryption to SS7 would shield network traffic from prying eyes and bolster authentication. Both of these changes are unpopular with the carriers, because they cost money and can impact the network core, so don’t expect any network changes to address the SS7 flaw anytime soon.

Carriers should use SS7 firewall to secure the SS7 networkThe Register reports that the FCC’s Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council found that the proposed replacement for SS7 on 5G networks, dubbed the Diameter protocol has security holes too.

In March 2017, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and California Rep. Ted Lieu sent a letter to Homeland Security’s John Kelly requesting that DHS investigate and provide information about the impact of SS7 vulnerabilities to U.S. companies and governmental agencies. Kelly has not responded to the letter, according to the Wired article.

Of course the TLA’s would never use this “flaw” in SS7 to spy on us.

The Guardian says that given that the SS7 vulnerabilities reside on systems outside of your control, there is very little you can do to protect yourself beyond not using the services.

PoliticianThey recommend for text messages, avoiding SMS and instead using encrypted messaging services such as Apple’s (AAPL) iMessage, Facebook‘s (FB) WhatsApp or the many others available will allow you to send and receive instant messages without having to go through the SMS network to protect your messages from surveillance.

For calls, the Guardian recommends using a service that carries voice over data rather than through the voice call network. This will help prevent your calls from being snooped on. Messaging services including WhatsApp permit calls. Silent Circle’s end-to-end encrypted Phone service or the open-source Signal app also allow secure voice communications.

protect yourself Your location could be being tracked at any stage when you have your mobile phone on. The only way to avoid it is to turn off your phone or turn off its connection to the mobile phone network and rely on Wi-Fi instead.

Related articles

Ralph Bach has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Redmond’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Month

Redmond's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad MonthRedmond’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad month continues. The WannaCry ransomware hit mostly Windows 7 machines, and now researchers from the Russian information security company Aladdin RD, recently discovered a new bug that will slow down and crash Microsoft (MSFT) Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 PCs, but does not seem to impact Windows 10 so far.

Microsoft logoIn a throw back to the Windows 95 and 98 era Ars Technica reports that certain specially crafted filenames could make the operating system lock up or occasionally crash with a blue screen of death. Ars reports that the bug allows a malicious website to try to load an image file with the “$MFT” name in the directory path. Windows uses “$MFT” for special metadata files that are used by NTFS file system. The effected systems do not handle this directory name correctly.

The file exists in the root directory of each NTFS volume, but the NTFS driver handles it in special ways. Ars explains that it’s hidden from view and inaccessible to most software. Attempts to open the file are normally blocked, but if the filename is used as if it were a directory name—for example, trying to open the file c:\$MFT\123—then the NTFS driver takes out a lock on the file and never releases it. Every subsequent operation sits around waiting for the lock to be released. Forever. This blocks all other attempts to get access to the file system, and so every program will start to hang, rendering the machine unusable until it is rebooted.

Denial of Service attackArs says that web pages that use the bad filename in an image source for example, will provoke the bug and make the machine stop responding. Depending on what the machine is doing concurrently, it will sometimes blue screen. Either way, you’re going to need to reboot it to recover. Some browsers will block attempts to access these local resources, but Internet Explorer, will try open the bad file.

Ars couldn’t immediately cause the same thing to occur remotely (by sending IIS a request for a bad filename), but it wouldn’t immediately surprise us if certain configurations or trickery were enough to cause the same problem.

Windows Blue Screen of DeathThe Verge has successfully tested the bug on a Windows 7 PC with the default Internet Explorer browser. Using a filename with “c:\$MFT\123” in a website image, their test caused a machine to slow down to the point they had to reboot to get the PC working again.

A Microsoft spokesperson told Engadget that the company is looking into the matter and will give an update as soon as it can.
“Our engineers are currently reviewing the information. Microsoft has a customer commitment to investigate reported security issues and provide updates as soon as possible.”

The Redmond boys also had to release an emergency out of band update for the Malware Protection Engine aka Windows Defender. Two Google security researchers discovered the “crazy bad” flaw. They claimed it was “the worst Windows remote code exec in recent memory.” The TechNet article says the vulnerability they patched would allow remote code execution if the Microsoft Malware Protection Engine scans a specially crafted file (CVE-2017-0290). To MSFT’s credit, they did fix the bug and release the patch with a week of being notified.

rb-

Early reports are that this bug is an attack vector. However, this is a denial of service attack that will need a reboot. This new flaw could be bundled with other more dangerous malware to force the user to reboot allowing the attack malware to get loaded.

Related articles

Ralph Bach has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Whose Time Is It?

Whose Time Is It?What time is it? If you looked at the lower right corner of your Windows PC screen, you know what time it is. That is good enough for most people, but followers of the Bach Seat want to know more. How does Microsoft know that time it is? Microsoft and everybody else uses Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) RFC 7822 standard protocol called Network Time Protocol (NTP).

Network Time ProtocolNTP is one of the oldest Internet protocols still in use. NTP was designed by UMich alum David Mills at the University of Delaware. NTP can maintain time to within tens of milliseconds over the public Internet, and better than one millisecond accuracy on a LAN. Like many other things in the network world, NTP is set up as a hierarchy. At the top of the tree are “Atomic Clocks” (Stratum 0). Corporations, governments and the military run atomic clocks.

USNO NTP Servers

Atomic clocks are high-precision timekeeping devices which use the element cesium, which has a frequency of 9,192,631,770 Hertz. That means it “oscillates” a little over nine billion times a second. Knowing the oscillation frequency and then measuring it in a device creates an incredibly accurate timekeeping mechanism. Atomic clocks generate a very accurate interrupt and timestamp on a connected Stratum 1 computer. Stratum 0 devices are also known as reference clocks.

Stratum 1 – These are computers attached to stratum 0 devices. Stratum 1 servers are also called “primary time servers”.

Stratum 2 – These are computers that synchronize over a network with stratum 1 servers. Stratum 2 computers may also peer with other stratum 2 computers to offer more stable and robust time for all devices in the peer group.

Stratum 3 computers synchronize with stratum 2 servers. They use the same rules as stratum 2, and can themselves act as servers for stratum 4 computers, and so on.

NIST's first atomic beam clockOnce synchronized, with a stratum 1, 2 or 3 server, the client updates the clock about once every 10 minutes, usually requiring only a single message exchange. The NTP process uses User Datagram Protocol port 123. The NTP timestamp message is 64-bits and consist of a 32-bit part for seconds and a 32-bit part for fractional second. 64-bits gives NTP a time scale of 232 seconds (136 years) and a theoretical resolution of 2?32 seconds (233 picoseconds). NTP uses an epoch of January 1, 1900 so the first roll over will be on February 7, 2036.

Microsoft (MSFT) has a mixed history of complying with NTP. All Microsoft Windows versions since Windows 2000 include the Windows Time service (“W32Time”) which was originally implemented to support the Kerberos version 5 authentication protocol. It required time to be within 5 minutes of the correct value to prevent replay attacks. The NTP version in Windows 2000 and XP violates several aspects of the NTP standard. Beginning with Windows Server 2003 and Vista, MSFT’s NTP which was reliable to 2 seconds. Windows Server 2016 can now support 1ms time accuracy.

Atomic clockIn 2014 a new NTP client, ntimed, was started. As of May 2017, no official release was done yet, but ntimed can synchronize clocks reliably under Debian and FreeBSD, but has not been ported to Windows or Apple (AAPL) macOS.

Accurate time across a network is important for many reasons; discrepancies of even fractions of a second can cause problems. For example:

  • Distributed procedures depend on coordinated times to make sure proper sequences are followed.
  • Authentication protocols and other security mechanisms depend on consistent timekeeping across the network.
  • File-system updates carried out by a number of computers depend on synchronized clock times.
  • Network acceleration and network management systems also rely on the accuracy of timestamps to measure performance and troubleshoot problems.
  • Each individual blockchain includes a timestamp representing the approximate time the block was created.

NTP has known vulnerabilities. The protocol can be exploited and used in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks for two reasons: First, it will reply to a packet with a spoofed source IP address; second, at least one of its built-in commands will send a long reply to a short request.

More vulnerabilities were recently discovered in NTP. SearchSecurity.com reports that security researcher Magnus Stubman discovered the vulnerability and, instead of going public, took the mature route and privately informed the community of his findings. Mr. Stubman wrote that the vulnerability he discovered could allow unauthenticated users to crash NTPF with a single malformed UDP packet, which will cause a null point dereference. The article explains this means that an attacker could be able to craft a special UDP packet which targets NTP, resulting in an exception bypass that can crash the process. A patch to remediate specific vulnerability — named NTP 4.2.8p9  — was released by the Network Time Foundation Project .

This is a Windows only vulnerability at this time. The author urges anyone running the NTP daemon on a Windows systems to patch it as soon as possible. This particular DoS attack against NTP could incapacitate a time-server and cause havoc in the network. The easiest fix is to apply the NTP patch the article states.

rb-
NTP is important to your network and patching and protecting it should be a priority. The threat to your environment is real. If NTP is not patched, an attacker could take advantage of the chaos created by this vulnerability to hide their tracks since timestamps on files and in logs won’t match.

Way back in the day, when I was a network administrator, I inherited a network where a directory services container was frozen. Seems that time had never been properly set up on the server holding the replica and as time passed, the server time drifted away from network time and at some point we could not make changes or force a replica update. That meant a late night call to professional services to kill the locked objects and then apply DSRepair –xkz (I think) and then re-install an R/O replica.

 

Ralph Bach has been in IT for a while and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Whats a Lifetime on Social Media?

Whats a Lifetime on Social Media?From the scary stats department – In 2015, time spent on mobile apps exceeded time spent watching TV for U.S. consumers according to TechCrunch.  And now influencer marketing agency MediaKix has calculated more scary social media statistics. Social media users will now spend years online during their lifetime.

Time spent on social media is increasingGrowth on many of the top social media platforms continues to rise as each network rolls out new features and functionalities to better compete for users’ daily time. It must be working, not only is the number of people using social media increasing, and the time people are spending each day on social media is increasing. MediaKix says that just  Facebook (FB) users are spending an average of 50 minutes each day on the site.

In order to see how much the average person will spend on social media through out their life, MediaKix calculated the time spent across today’s most popular social media platforms. Across today’s most popular social media platforms, people are spending the following daily averages:

A lifetime on social mediaThe advertising firm says these social media consumption rates, across a lifetime will total up to:

  • YouTube: 1 year, 10 months
  • Facebook: 1 year, 7 months
  • Snapchat: 1 year, 2 months
  • Instagram: 8 months
  • Twitter: 18 days

Cumulatively, this adds up for a total of 5 years and 4 months spent on social media across a lifetime. Compare the time spent on social media against more mundane life activities.

  • Social Media: 5 years, 4 months
  • Eating & Drinking: 3 years, 5 months
  • Grooming: 1 year, 10 months
  • Socializing: 1 year, 3 months
  • Laundry: 6 months

The Santa Monica, CA firm projected the social media figures across an entire lifetime and put the numbers into the infographic below.

 

How much time do people spend on social media?

 

rb-

I have argued for a while that the social media fake news issue is a result of the American educational system. They are obsessed with teaching the common core, that they don’t teach any analytical skills. Schools need to reinstate current events and media literacy classes.

Quartz cited a survey that found that teens prefer Facebook as a news source (41%), while tweens break between YouTube (41%) and Facebook (37%). By huge margins, girls prefer Facebook for news, and boys, YouTube.

The converging trends of more time spent online, preferring social media as a news source and no education is putting democracy at risk.

Search Engine Journal offers some good suggestions on how to evaluate if a story is real or fake.

What is the Site? most major recognized sources for news journalism are not going to be producing clickbait fake news. Most of the fake news that go for “shock” value and produce fake stories are not as recognized. Look into the source itself and see whether it is a website that can be trusted.

Check the Domain – Many fake news stories use similar URLs and domain names to mimic reputable news sources, but rather than using a .com they use .com.co endings

What are the Authors’ Sources? – Good news stories contain links to other reputable reporting by respected organizations. Be wary of sources that cannot substantiate their claims.

Fact Check! – When in doubt, fact-check the information that you read! You can start with a simple search to look into the keywords or the event that is being reported on. You can also use sites like PolitiFactFactCheck, and Snopes.

Examine the Website Closely – Look at the full spectrum of details on the site. Are there other fake-looking or shocking headlines? What does the overall website look like? How is the user experience? Sometimes doing just a little further digging will make it clear if a news story is fake.

Act! – Once you identify if a story is real or fake, you can make a big difference. Do not share stories on social media that are fake and make them more visible. If you notice a friend or family member share a fake story on a social media outlet, do them a favor and comment or message them showing how you found out it was fake so they don’t repeat the same mistake.

If you come across a fake news article, comment on it stating how you arrived at the conclusion it was fake. If everyone does their part to distinguish fake news stories and make them known, then they won’t be shared as easily.

 

Ralph Bach has been in IT for a while and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.