If government and industry don’t dramatically boost their efforts to protect critical infrastructure, such as the financial system or electric grids, they risk missing a “narrow and fleeting window of opportunity before a watershed, 9/11-level cyberattack,” according to a report approved by the Homeland Security Department’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council.
A rash of misconfigured Amazon Web Services storage servers leaking data to the internet have plagued companies recently. Earlier this week, data belonging to anywhere between six million and 14 million Verizon customers were left on an unprotected server belonging to a partner of the telecommunications firm. Last week, wrestling giant World Wide Entertainment accidentally exposed personal data of three million fans. In both cases, it was reported that data was stored on AWS S3 storage buckets.
“Storage Evaluator And Knowledge Extraction Reader”
On Monday August 7, at 6pm, in DEL NORTE 1530, the COMP 524 (Cybersecurity) students will present their final project, a technical solution for the SoCal High Technology Task Force in Ventura. This project implements a digital forensic tool with strict performance requirements.
You are cordially invited to attend; the presentation will take about two hours, and there will be snacks (Short link to this post: https://wp.me/p7D4ee-FJ).
A major global cyber-attack disrupted computers at Russia’s biggest oil company, Ukrainian banks and multinational firms with a virus similar to the ransomware that infected more than 300,000 computers last month.
The rapidly spreading cyber extortion campaign, which began on Tuesday, underscored growing concerns that businesses have failed to secure their networks from increasingly aggressive hackers, who have shown they are capable of shutting down critical infrastructure and crippling corporate and government networks.
Companies across the globe are reporting that they have been struck by a major ransomware cyber-attack.British advertising agency WPP is among those to say its IT systems have been disrupted as a consequence.
Ukrainian firms, including the state power distributor and Kiev’s main airport were among the first to report issues.
Experts suggest the malware is taking advantage of the same weaknesses used by the Wannacry attack last month.
Sensitive personal details relating to almost 200 million US citizens have been accidentally exposed by a marketing firm contracted by the Republican National Committee.
The 1.1 terabytes of data includes birthdates, home addresses, telephone numbers and political views of nearly 62% of the entire US population.
The data was available on a publicly accessible Amazon cloud server.
Anyone could access the data as long as they had a link to it.
Political biases exposed
The huge cache of data was discovered last week by Chris Vickery, a cyber-risk analyst with security firm UpGuard. The information seems to have been collected from a wide range of sources – from posts on controversial banned threads on the social network Reddit, to committees that raised funds for the Republican Party.
The information was stored in spreadsheets uploaded to a server owned by Deep Root Analytics. It had last been updated in January when President Donald Trump was inaugurated and had been online for an unknown period of time.
“We take full responsibility for this situation. Based on the information we have gathered thus far, we do not believe that our systems have been hacked,” Deep Root Analytics’ founder Alex Lundry told technology website Gizmodo.
“Since this event has come to our attention, we have updated the access settings and put protocols in place to prevent further access.”
Apart from personal details, the data also contained citizens’ suspected religious affiliations, ethnicities and political biases, such as where they stood on controversial topics like gun control, the right to abortion and stem cell research.
The file names and directories indicated that the data was meant to be used by influential Republican political organisations. The idea was to try to create a profile on as many voters as possible using all available data, so some of the fields in the spreadsheets were left left empty if an answer could not be found.
“That such an enormous national database could be created and hosted online, missing even the simplest of protections against the data being publicly accessible, is troubling,” Dan O’Sullivan wrote in a blog post on Upguard’s website.
“The ability to collect such information and store it insecurely further calls into question the responsibilities owed by private corporations and political campaigns to those citizens targeted by increasingly high-powered data analytics operations.”
Although it is known that political parties routinely gather data on voters, this is the largest breach of electoral data in the US to date and privacy experts are concerned about the sheer scale of the data gathered.
“This is deeply troubling. This is not just sensitive, it’s intimate information, predictions about people’s behaviour, opinions and beliefs that people have never decided to disclose to anyone,” Privacy International’s policy officer Frederike Kaltheuner told the BBC News website.
However, the issue of data collection and using computer models to predict voter behaviour is not just limited to marketing firms – Privacy International says that the entire online advertising ecosystem operates in the same way.
“It is a threat to the way democracy works. The GOP [Republican Party] relied on publicly-collected, commercially-provided information. Nobody would have realised that the data they entrusted to one organisation would end up in a database used to target them politically.
“You should be in charge of what is happening to your data, who can use it and for what purposes,” Ms Kaltheuner added.
There are fears that leaked data can easily be used for nefarious purposes, from identity fraud to harassment of people under protection orders, or to intimidate people who hold an opposing political view.
“The potential for this type of data being made available publicly and on the dark web is extremely high,” Paul Fletcher, a cyber-security evangelist at security firm Alert Logic told the BBC.
AT MIDNIGHT, A week before last Christmas, hackers struck an electric transmission station north of the city of Kiev, blacking out a portion of the Ukrainian capital equivalent to a fifth of its total power capacity. The outage lasted about an hour—hardly a catastrophe. But now, cybersecurity researchers have found disturbing evidence that the blackout may have only been a dry run. The hackers appear to have been testing the most evolved specimen of grid-sabotaging malware ever observed in the wild.
Cybersecurity firms ESET and Dragos Inc. plan today to release detailed analyses of a piece of malware used to attack the Ukrainian electric utility Ukrenergo seven months ago, what they say represents a dangerous advancement in critical infrastructure hacking. The researchers describe that malware, which they’ve alternately named “Industroyer” or “Crash Override,” as only the second-ever known case of malicious code purpose-built to disrupt physical systems. The first, Stuxnet, was used by the US and Israel to destroy centrifuges in an Iranian nuclear enrichment facility in 2009.
The researchers say this new malware can automate mass power outages, like the one in Ukraine’s capital, and includes swappable, plug-in components that could allow it to be adapted to different electric utilities, easily reused, or even launched simultaneously across multiple targets. They argue that those features suggest Crash Override could inflict outages far more widespread and longer lasting than the Kiev blackout.
WikiLeaks Dumps CIA Patient Zero Windows Implant
WikiLeaks on Thursday made public a CIA implant that is used to turn a Windows file server into a malware distribution point on the local network.
The documents describing the tool, Pandemic, explain how remote machines on the local network trying to download and-or execute documents from the file server over SMB are infected with “replacement” documents on the fly. The implant swaps out the document with a Trojanized version while it’s in transit, never touching the original document on the file server.
The documentation that was leaked yesterday spans from January 2014 to April 2014 and is for versions 1.0 and 1.1.
The leaks are just the latest CIA tools to be dumped on the internet by the polarizing whistleblower outfit, which has for every Friday since March—save last week—put CIA documents and attacks online for public consumption.
In between are the ShadowBrokers pouring more gasoline on this information-based firestorm promising monthly leaks of not only NSA-built exploits targeting browsers, handsets and Windows 10 computers, but also stolen data allegedly from China, Iran, Russia and North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
The ShadowBrokers have already leaked their share of Windows-based exploits and vulnerabilities, the most worrisome being an April disclosure of SMB flaws and attacks that had been patched by Microsoft in March after it was allegedly tipped off by the NSA. One of those SMB exploits, EternalBlue, was of course used to launch and spread the WannaCry ransomware attacks three weeks ago today.
The ShadowBrokers also had their turn in the spotlight this week announcing a pricing structure and delivery schedule for its so-called Monthly Dump Service.
The Pandemic leak does not explain what the CIA’s initial infection vector is, but does describe it as a persistent implant.
“As the name suggests, a single computer on a local network with shared drives that is infected with the ‘Pandemic’ implant will act like a ‘Patient Zero’ in the spread of a disease,” WikiLeaks said in its summary description. “‘Pandemic’ targets remote users by replacing application code on-the-fly with a Trojaned version if the program is retrieved from the infected machine.”
The key to evading detection is its ability to modify or replace requested files in transit, hiding its activity by never touching the original file. The new attack then executes only on the machine requesting the file.
Version 1.1 of Pandemic, according to the CIA’s documentation, can target and replace up to 20 different files with a maximum size of 800MB for a single replacement file.
“It will infect remote computers if the user executes programs stored on the pandemic file server,” WikiLeaks said. “Although not explicitly stated in the documents, it seems technically feasible that remote computers that provide file shares themselves become new pandemic file servers on the local network to reach new targets.”
The CIA describes Pandemic as a tool that runs as kernel shellcode that installs a file system filter driver. The driver is used to replace a file with a payload when a user on the local network accesses the file over SMB.
“The goal of Pandemic is to be installed on a machine where the remote users use SMB to download/execute PE (portable executable) files,” the documentation says. “Users that are targeted by Pandemic, and use SMB to download the targeted file, will receive the ‘replacement’ file.”
On Friday, May 12, attackers spread a massive ransomware attack worldwide using the EternalBlue exploit to rapidly propagate the malware over corporate LANs and wireless networks. EternalBlue, originally exposed on April 14 as part of the Shadow Brokers dump of NSA hacking tools, leverages a vulnerability (MS17-010) in Microsoft Server Message Block (SMB) on TCP port 445 to discover vulnerable computers on a network and laterally spread malicious payloads of the attacker’s choice. This particular attack also appeared to use an NSA backdoor called DoublePulsar to actually install the ransomware known as WannaCry.
Over the subsequent weekend, however, we discovered another very large-scale attack using both EternalBlue and DoublePulsar to install the cryptocurrency miner Adylkuzz. Initial statistics suggest that this attack may be larger in scale than WannaCry: because this attack shuts down SMB networking to prevent further infections with other malware (including the WannaCry worm) via that same vulnerability, it may have in fact limited the spread of last week’s WannaCry infection.
Symptoms of this attack include loss of access to shared Windows resources and degradation of PC and server performance. Several large organizations reported network issues this morning that were originally attributed to the WannaCry campaign. However, because of the lack of ransom notices, we now believe that these problems might be associated with Adylkuzz activity. However, it should be noted that the Adylkuzz campaign significantly predates the WannaCry attack, beginning at least on May 2 and possibly as early as April 24. This attack is ongoing and, while less flashy than WannaCry, is nonetheless quite large and potentially quite disruptive.
Researchers urge Windows admins to apply MS17-010 before the next attack using the EternalBlue NSA exploit deploys a worse payload than WannaCry ransomware.
No one should be letting their guard down now that the WannaCry ransomware attacks have been relatively contained. Experts intimately involved with analyzing the malware and worldwide attacks urge quite the opposite, warning today that there’s nothing stopping attackers from using the available NSA exploits to drop more destructive malware.
The key is to patch vulnerable Windows machines while there is a downtime, ensure offline backups are secure and available, and that antimalware protection is running and current.
Kaspersky Lab researcher Juan Andres Guerrero-Saade and Comae Technologies’ Matt Suiche said today during a webinar, below, that the EternalBlue exploit targeting a SMBv1 flaw could be fitted with payloads ranging from banking Trojans to wiper malware that destroys a computer’s hard disk.
“Absolutely,” Guerrero-Saade said when asked if this could have been a wiper attack rather than ransomware. “We’re talking ring0 access (via the DoublePulsar rootkitinstalled by the EternalBlue exploit). It would have just come down to a matter of implementation at that point.”
Accelerating the researchers’ anxiety about what could be next was yesterday’s ShadowBrokers announcement that it would begin in June a monthly dump of new exploits—including Windows 10 attacks—and stolen data. The ShadowBrokers’ leak in April of EternalBlue and other Windows attacks handed attackers not only the exploits but also documentation that lowered any barrier to entry for using these attacks.
“This is really worrying because we’ve seen the impact of what those files out in the wild can do,” Suiche said.
The attacks also exposed the shortcomings associated with patching, despite experts for more than a decade stressing the importance of keeping operating systems, browsers and third-party software up to date. MS17-010, the patch that addressed the SMB vulnerabilities leaked by the ShadowBrokers in April, has been available since March. Microsoft rated the security bulletin as critical and experts cautioned that this patch was to be prioritized, and that SMB port 445 on Windows machines should not be exposed to the internet. Yet, Rapid7 today said its scans have found more than 1 million internet-connected devices exposing SMB over 445 with more than 800,000 of those devices running Windows. Rapid7 said it’s likely that a large percentage of that number includes vulnerable versions of Windows with SMBv1 enabled.
“Beyond the prevalence of what these exploits might be, but it really has been a test on the industry and defenders as well,” Guerrero-Saade said. “What we saw here was not the super secret zero-day situation you can’t save yourself from. It was a test of how well we’re implementing the solutions and recommendations that have been out there a very long time that everybody touts every single day. We were asked to put our money where our mouth is with this WannaCry infection.”
The biggest mitigating factor in slowing down the WannaCry outbreak was the discovery of a so-called killswitch that was likely an evasion technique by the malware to check whether it was running in a sandbox. The malware called out to a hard-coded URL, and if it responded, the malware would not execute. The speculation is that getting a response back from the killswitch domain indicated the malware might be executing instead in a sandbox.
Researcher Marcus Hutchins of the MalwareTech blog registered the domain coded into last Friday’s version of WannaCry while Suiche registered a second and third killswitch domain found in subsequent variants, shutting down most infections in the wild.
Guerrero-Saade said his concern is that the next version likely won’t have a killswitch, and could contain a more dangerous and costly payload.
“We have essentially bought time with the killswitches. That’s something where we got incredibly lucky that was even involved in the development of the malware,” Guerrero-Saade said.
They also touched on the shared code between an early WannaCry version found in February and a sample from the Lazarus APT from February 2015. Lazarus is the North Korean group alleged to be behind the Sony hack, which featured wiper malware and damaging data leaks, as well as the SWIFT attacks against banks in Bangladesh, Poland and Mexico. The attacks against financial organizations, experts said during the Kaspersky Lab Security Analyst Summit, were performed by an internal Lazarus splinter group called Bluenoroff in an attempt to help fund the APT’s other activities.
Google’s Neel Mehta found the same code in both samples, which was confirmed by Kaspersky Lab and Suiche later. Guerrero-Saade, who worked on the Lazarus research and on separate research on APTs and their use of false flags, said today that this was not an attribution claim that Lazarus was behind WannaCry, but instead a clustering claim.
“What we’re talking about is what cluster of activity this fits into, what threat actor fits the bill for this,” he said. The linkage between the SWIFT attacks and Lazarus, made by BAE Systems researchers, was based off similar code re-use of a wiper function in a Lazarus attack and the Bangladeshi attack. “The amount of proof grew over times and we laid to rest the concerns about whether the SWIFT attackers are actually part of the Lazarus group.
“Having only had WannaCry for five days, I think it’s important to understand that this is only a lead, and not a simple lead,” Guerrero-Saade said. “It’s not necessarily easy to just replicate a very specific function of code from a very obscure piece of malware from two years ago that you only put into version 1.0 and then removed. That’s not a false flag, that’s too subtle. No one would have noticed it if not for Neel Mehta doing fantastic work.
“I understand that while it’s important to have some healthy skepticism, in this particular case, I think we’re just catching a bit of code re-use. The claims aren’t necessarily bigger than they are, but they aren’t quite as hard to stomach when you look at the code itself.”