INSIGHTS, NEWS & DISCOVERIES
FROM IOACTIVE RESEARCHERS

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Behind ADSL Lines: How to Bankrupt ISPs While Making Money


By Ehab Hussein @__obzy__ & Sofiane Talmat @_Sud0

Disclaimer: No businesses or even the Internet were harmed while researching this post. We will explore how an attacker can control the Internet access of one or more ISPs or countries through ordinary routers and Internet modems.
Cyber-attacks are hardly new in 2013. But what if an attack is both incredibly easy to construct and yet persistent enough to shut Internet services down for a few hours or even days? In this blog post we will talk about how easy it would be to enlist ordinary home Internet connections in this kind of attack, and then we suggest some potentially straightforward solutions to this problem.

Monday, March 25, 2013

SQL Injection in the Wild


By Gunter Ollmann, @gollmann

As attack vectors go, very few are as significant as obtaining the ability to insert bespoke code in to an application and have it automatically execute upon “inaccessible” backend systems. In the Web application arena, SQL Injection vulnerabilities are often the scariest threat that developers and system administrators come face to face with (albeit way too regularly).  In fact the OWASP Top-10 list of Web threats lists SQL Injection in first place.

More often than not, when security professionals discuss SQL Injection threats and attack vectors, they focus upon the Web application context. So it was with a bit of fun last week when I came across a photo of a slightly unorthodox SQL Injection attempt – that of someone attempting to subvert a traffic monitoring system by crafting a rather novel vehicle license plate.

My original tweet got retweeted a couple of thousand of times – which just goes to show how many security nerds there are out there in the twitterverse.

This “in the wild” SQL Injection attempt was based upon the premise that video cameras are actively monitoring traffic on a road, reading license plates, and issuing driver warnings, tickets or fines as deemed appropriate by local law enforcement.

At some point the video captures of the passing vehicle’s license plate must be converted to text and stored – almost certainly in some kind of backend database. The hope of the hacker that devised this attack was that the process would be vulnerable to SQL Injection – and crafted a simple SQL statement that could potentially cause the backend database to drop (i.e. “delete”) the table containing all of the license plate information.

Whether or not this particular attempt worked, I have no idea (probably not if I have to guess an outcome); but it does help nicely to raise attention to this category of vulnerability.

As surveillance systems become more capable – digitally storing information, distilling meta-data from image captures, and sharing observation data between systems – it opens many new doors for mischievous and malicious attack.

The physical nature of these systems, coupled with the complexities of integration with legacy monitoring and reporting systems, often makes them open to attacks that would be classed as fairly simple in the world of Web application security.

A common failure of system developers is to assume that the physical constraints of the data acquisition process are less flexible than they are. For example, if you’re developing a traffic monitoring system it’s easy to assume that license plates are a fixed size and shape, and can only contain 10 alphanumeric characters. Meanwhile, the developers of the third-party image processing code had no such assumptions and will digitize any image. It reminds me a little of the story in which reuse of some object-oriented code a decade ago resulted in Kangaroos firing Stinger missiles during a military training simulation.

While the image above is amusing, I’ve encountered similar problems before when physical tracking systems integrate with digital backend processes – opening the door to embarrassing and fraudulent events. For example, in the past I’ve encountered similar SQL Injection vulnerabilities within systems such as:
  • Toll booths reading RFID tags mounted on vehicle windshields – where the tag readers would accept up to 2k of data from each tag (even though the system was only expecting a 16 digit number).
  • Credit card readers that would accept pre-paid cards with negative balances – which resulted in the backend database crediting the wrong accounts.
  • RFID inventory tracking systems – where a specially crafted RFID token could automatically remove all record of the previous hours’ worth of inventory logging information from the database allowing criminals to “disappear” with entire truckloads of goods.
  • Luggage barcode scanners within an airport – where specially crafted barcodes placed upon the baggage would be automatically conferred the status of “manually checked by security personnel” within the backend tracking database.
  • Shipping container RFID inventory trackers – where SQL statements could be embedded to adjust fields within the backend database to alter Custom and Excise tracking information.

Unlike the process of hunting for SQL Injection vulnerabilities within Internet accessible Web applications, you can’t just point an automated vulnerability scanner at the application and have at it. Assessing the security of complex physical monitoring systems is generally not a trivial task and requires some innovative approaches. Experience goes a long way.

-- Gunter Ollmann, CTO IOActive Inc.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Credit Bureau Data Breaches


By Gunter Ollmann, @gollmann

This week saw some considerable surprise over how easy it is to acquire personal credit report information.  On Tuesday Bloomberg News led with a story of how “Top Credit Agencies Say Hackers Stole Celebrity Reports”, and yesterday there were many follow-up stories examining the hack. In one story I spoke with Rob Westervelt over at CRN regarding the problems credit reporting agencies face when authenticating the person for which the credit information applies and the additional problems they face securing the data in general (you can read the article “Equifax, Other Credit Bureaus Acknowledge Data Breach”).

Many stories have focused on one of two areas – the celebrities, or the ease of acquiring credit reports – but I wanted to touch upon some of the problems credit monitoring agencies face in verifying who has access to the data and how that fits in to the bigger problem of Internet-based authentication and the prevalence of personal-enough information.

The repeated failure of Internet portals tasked with providing access to personal credit report information stems from the data they have available that can be used for authentication, and the legislated requirement to make the data available in the first place.

Credit monitoring agencies are required to make the data accessible to all the individuals they hold reports on, however access to the credit report information is achieved through a wide variety of free and subscription portals – most of which are not associated with the credit monitoring bureaus in the first place.
In order to provide access to a particular individual’s credit report, the user must answer a few questions about themselves via one such portal. These questions, by necessity, are restricted to the kinds of data held (and tracked) by the credit reporting agencies – based off information garnered from other financial institutions. This information includes name, date of birth (or age), social security number, account numbers, account balances, account addresses, financial institutes that manages the accounts, and past requests for access to credit report information. While it sounds like a lot of information, it’s actually not a very rich source for authentication purposes – especially when some of the most important information that can uniquely identify the individual is relatively easy to acquire through other external and Internet-based sources.

Time Magazine’s article “Hackers Now Aiming For Your Credit Reports” of a year ago describes many of these limitations and where some of this information can be acquired. In essence though, the data is easy to mine from social media sites and household tax records; and a little bruteforce guessing can overcome the hurdle of it not already being in the public domain.

The question then becomes “what can the credit monitoring agencies do to protect the privacy of credit reports?”  Some commentators have recommended that individuals should provide a copy of state-issued identification documents – such as a drivers license or passport.

The submission of such a scanned document poses new problems for the credit monitoring agencies. First of all, this probably isn't automatable on a large scale and they’ll need trained staff to review each of these documents. Secondly, there are plenty of tools and websites that allow you to generate a fake ID within seconds (e.g. here) – and spotting the fakes will be extremely difficult without tying the authentication process to an external government authentication system (e.g. checking to see if the drivers license or passport number is legitimate). Thirdly, do you want the credit reporting agencies holding even more personal information about you?

This entire problem is getting worse – not just for the credit monitoring agencies, but for all online services. Authentication – especially “first time” authentication – is difficult at the best of times, but if you’re trying to do this using only data an organization has collected and holds themselves, it’s neigh on impossible given current hacking techniques.

I hate to say it, but there’s a very strong (and growing) requirement for governments to play a larger role in identity management. Someone somewhere needs to act as a trusted Internet passport authority – with “trusted” being the critical piece. I've seen the arguments that have been made for Facebook, Google, etc. being that identity management platform, but I respectively disagree. These commercial services aren't identity management platforms, they’re authentication gateways. What is needed is the cyber-equivalent of a government-issued passport, with all the checks and balances that entails.

Even that is not perfect, but it would certainly be better than the crumby vendor-specific authentication systems and password recovery processes that currently plague the Internet.

In the meantime, don’t be surprised if you find your credit report and other personal information splattered over the Internet as part of some juvenile doxing attack.

-- Gunter Ollmann, CTO IOActive Inc.