INSIGHTS, NEWS & DISCOVERIES
FROM IOACTIVE RESEARCHERS

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Beware Your RSA Mobile App Download

By Gunter Ollmann, @gollmann 

It's been half a decade since Apple launched their iPhone campaign titled "There's an app for that". In the years following, the mobile app stores (from all the major players) have continued to blossom to the point that not only are there several thousand apps that help light your way (i.e. by keeping the flash running bright), but every company, cause, group, or notable event is expected to publish their own mobile application. 

Today there are several hundred good "rapid development" kits that allow any newbie to craft and release their own mobile application and several thousand small professional software development teams that will create one on your behalf. These bespoke mobile applications aren't the types products that their owners are expecting to make much (if any) money off of. Instead, these apps are generally helpful tools that appeal to a particular target audience.

Now, while the cynical side of me would like to point out that some people should never be trusted with tools as lofty as HTML and setting up WordPress sites–let alone building a mobile app, many corporate marketing teams I've dealt with have not only drunk the "There's an app for that" Kool-Aid, they appear to bath in the stuff each night. As such, a turnkey approach to app production is destined to involve many sacrifices and, at the top of the sacrificial pillar, data security and integrity continue to reign supreme.

A few weeks ago I noticed that, in the run up to the RSA USA 2014 conference, a new mobile application was conceived and thrust upon the Apple and Google app stores and electronically marketed to the world at large. Maybe it was a reaction to being spammed with a never-ending tirade of "come see us at RSA" emails, or it was topical off the back of a recent blog on the state of mobile banking application security, or maybe both. I asked some of the IOActive consulting team who had a little bench-time between jobs to have a poke at freshly minted "RSA Conference 2014" mobile application. 



The Google Play app store describes the RSA Conference 2014 application like this:
With the RSA Conference Mobile App, you can stay connected with all Conference activities, view the event catalog, manage session schedules and engage with colleagues and peers while onsite using our social and professional networking tools. You'll have access to dynamic agenda updates, venue maps, exhibitor listing and more!
Now, I wasn't expecting the application to be particularly interesting–it's not as if it was a transactional banking application etc.–but I would have thought that RSA (or whoever they tasked with commissioning the application) would have at least applied some basic elbow grease so as to not potentially embarrass themselves. Alas, that was not to be the case.

The team came back rather quickly with a half-dozen security issues. Technically the highest impact vulnerability had to do with the app being vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks, where an attacker could inject additional code into the login sequence and phish credentials. If we were dealing with a banking application, then heads would have been rolling in an engineering department, but this particular app has only been downloaded a few thousand times, and I seriously doubt that some evil hacker is going to take the time out of their day to target this one application (out of tens-of-millions) to try phish credentials to a conference.

It was the second most severe vulnerability that caught my eye though. The RSA Conference 2014 application downloads a SQLite DB file that is used to populate the visual portions of the app (such as schedules and speaker information) but, for some bizarre reason, it also contains information of every registered user of the application–including their name, surname, title, employer, and nationality.



I have no idea why the app developers chose to do that, but I'm pretty sure that the folks who downloaded and installed the application are unlikely to have thought that their details were being made public and published in this way. Marketers love this kind of information though!

Some readers may think I'm targeting RSA, and in a small way I guess I am. Security flaws in mobile applications (particularly these rapidly developed and targeted apps) are endemic, and I think the RSA example helps prove the point that there are often inherent risks in even the most benign applications.

I'm betting that RSA didn't even create the application themselves. The Google Play store indicates that a company called QuickMobile was the developer. With one small click it's possible to get a list of all the other applications QuickMobile have created for what I would assume to be on their clients behalf.



As you can see from above, there are lots of popular brands and industry conferences employing their app creation services. I wonder if many of them share the same vulnerabilities as the RSA Conference 2014 application?

Here's a little bit of advice to any corporate marketing team. If you're going to release your own mobile application, the security and integrity of that application are your responsibility. While you can't outsource that, you can get another organization to assess the application on your behalf.

In the meantime, readers of this blog may want to refrain from downloading the RSA Conference 2014 (and related) mobile applications–unless you're a hacker or marketing team that wants to acquire a free list of conference attendees names, positions, and employers.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

PCI DSS and Security Breaches

By Christian Moldes, Director of Compliance Services

Every time an organization suffers a security breach and cardholder data is compromised, people question the effectiveness of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Blaming PCI DSS for the handful of companies that are breached every year shows a lack of understanding of the standard’s role. 

Two major misconceptions are responsible for this.

First, PCI DSS is a compliance standard. An organization can be compliant today and not tomorrow. It can be compliant when an assessment is taking place and noncompliant the minute the assessment is completed.

Unfortunately, some organizations don’t see PCI DSS as a standard that applies to their day-to-day operations; they think of it as a single event that they must pass at all costs. Each year, they desperately prepare for their assessment and struggle to remediate the assessor’s findings before their annual deadline. When they finally receive their attestation, they check out and don’t think about PCI DSS compliance until next year, when the whole process starts again. 

Their information security management system is immature, ad-hoc, perhaps even chaotic, and driven by the threat of losing a certificate or being fined by their processor.

To use an analogy, PCI DSS compliance is not a race to a destination, but how consistently well you drive to that destination. Many organizations accelerate from zero to sixty in seconds, braking abruptly, and starting all over again a month later. The number of security breaches will be reduced as soon as organizations and assessors both understand that a successful compliance program is not a single state, but an ongoing process. As such, an organization that has a mature and repeatable process will be compliant continuously with rare exceptions and not only during the time of the assessment.

Second, in the age of Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs), the challenge for most organizations it is not whether they can successfully prevent an attack from ever occurring, but how quickly they can become aware that a breach has actually occurred.

PCI DSS requirements can be classified into three categories:  

1. Requirements intended to prevent an incident from happening in the first place. 
These requirements include implementing network access controls, configuring systems securely, applying periodic security updates, performing periodic security reviews, developing secure applications, providing security awareness to the staff, and so on. 

2. Requirements designed to detect malicious activities.
These requirements involve implementing solutions such as antivirus software, intrusion detection systems, and file integrity monitoring.


3. Requirements designed to ensure that if a security breach occurs, actions are taken to respond to and contain the security breach, and ensure evidence will exist to identify and prosecute the attackers.


Too many organizations focus their compliance resources on the first group of requirements. They give the second and third groups as little attention as possible. 

This is painfully obvious. According to the Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report (DBIR) and public information available for the most recent company breaches, most organizations become aware of a security breach many weeks or even months after the initial compromise, and only when notified by the payment card brands or law enforcement. This confirms a clear reality. Breached organizations do not have the proper tools and/or qualified staff to monitor their security events and logs. 

Once all the preventive and detective security controls required by PCI DSS have been properly implemented, the only thing left for an organization is to thoroughly monitor logs and events. The goal is to detect anomalies and take any necessary actions as soon as possible.

Having sharp individuals in this role is critical for any organization. The smarter the individuals doing the monitoring are, the less opportunity attackers have to get to your data before they are discovered. 

You cannot avoid getting hacked. Sooner or later, to a greater or lesser degree, it will happen. What you can really do is monitor and investigate continuously.


In PCI DSS compliance, monitoring is where companies are really failing.

Monday, February 17, 2014

INTERNET-of-THREATS

By Cesar Cerrudo @cesarcer

At IOActive Labs, I have the privilege of being part of a great team with some of the world’s best hackers. I also have access to really cool research on different technologies that uncovers security problems affecting widely used hardware and software. This gives me a solid understanding of the state of security for many different software and hardware devices, not just opinions based on theories and real life experience.

Currently, the term Internet-of-Things (IoT) is becoming a buzzword used in the media, announcements from hardware device manufacturers, etc. Basically, it’s used to describe an Internet with everything connected to it. It describes what we are seeing nowadays, including:
  • Laptops, tablets, smartphones, set-top boxes, media-streaming devices, and data-storage devices
  • Watches, glasses, and clothes
  • Home appliances, home switches, home alarm systems, home cameras, and light bulbs
  • Industrial devices and industrial control systems
  • Cars, buses, trains, planes, and ships
  • Medical devices and health systems
  • Traffic sensors, seismic sensors, pollution sensors, and weather sensors
     …and more; you name it, and it is or soon will be connected to the Internet.

While the devices and systems connected to the Internet are different, they have something in common–most of them suffer from serious security vulnerabilities. This is not a guess. It is based on IOActive Labs’ security research into many of these types of devices currently being used worldwide. Sadly, we are seeing almost the exact same vulnerabilities on these devices that have plagued software vendors over the last decade. Vulnerabilities that the most important software vendors are trying hard to eradicate. It seems that many hardware companies are following really poor security practices when adding software to their products and connecting them to the Internet. What is worse is that sometimes vendors don’t even respond to security vulnerability reports or just downplay the threat and don’t fix the vulnerabilities. Many vendors don’t even know how to properly deal with the security vulnerabilities being reported.

Some of common vulnerabilities IOActive Labs finds include:
  • Sensitive data sent over insecure channels
  • Improper use of encryption
    • No SSL certificate validation
    • Things like encryption keys and signing certificates easily available to anyone
  • Hardcoded credentials/backdoor accounts
  • Lack of authentication and/or authorization
  • Storage of sensitive data in clear text
  • Unauthenticated and/or unauthorized firmware updates
  • Lack of firmware integrity check during updates
  • Use of insecure custom made protocols
Also, data ambition is working against vendors and is increasing attack surfaces considerably. For example, all data collected is sent to “vendor cloud” and device commands are sent from “vendor cloud”, instead of just allowing users to connect directly to and command their devices. Hacking into “vendor cloud” = thousands of devices compromised = lots of lost money.

Why should we worry about all of this? Well, these devices affect our everyday life and will continue to do so more and more. We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the attacks that people, companies, and governments face and how easily they can be performed. If the situation doesn’t change soon, it is just matter of time before we witness attacks with tragic consequences.

If a headline like “+100K Digital Toilets from XYZ1.3 Inc. Found Sending Spam and Distributing Malware” doesn’t scare you because you think it’s funny and improbable, you could be wrong. We shouldn’t wait for headlines such as “Dozens of People Injured When Home Automation Devices Hacked” before we react.

Something must be done! From enforcing secure practices during product development to imposing high fines when products are hacked, action must be taken to prevent the loss of money and possibly even lives.

Companies should strongly consider:
    • Training developers on secure development
    • Implementing security development practices to improve software security
    • Training company staff on security best practices
    • Implementing a security patch development and distribution process
    • Performing product design/architecture security reviews
    • Performing source code security audits
    • Performing product penetration tests
    • Performing company network penetration tests
    • Staying up-to-date with new security threats
    • Creating a bug bounty program to reward reported vulnerabilities and clearly defining how vulnerabilities should be reported
    • Implementing a security incident/emergency response team
It is difficult to give advice to end users given that the best solution is just not to buy or use many products because they are insecure by design. At this stage, it’s just matter of being lucky and hoping that you won’t be hacked. Maybe opportunistic vendors could come up with some novel solution such as an IPS/anti* device that will protect all of your devices from attacks. Just pray that the protection device itself is not vulnerable.

Sometimes end users are forced to live with insecure devices since there isn’t any way to turn them off or not to use them. These include devices provided by TV cable companies, electricity and gas companies, public services companies, governments, etc. These companies and the government should take responsibility for deploying secure products.

This is not BS–in a couple of days we will be releasing some of the extensive research I mentioned and on which this blog post is based.


I intend for this post to be a wakeup call for everyone! I’m really concerned about the current situation. In the meantime, I will use the term INTERNET-of-THREATS (not Internet-of-Things). Maybe this new buzzword will make us more conscious of the situation. If it doesn’t, then at least I have tried.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The password is irrelevant too

By Eireann Leverett @blackswanburst

In this follow up to a blog post on the Scalance-X200 series switches, we look at an authentication bypass vulnerability. It isn’t particularly complicated, but it does allow us to download configuration files, log files, and a firmware image. It can also be used to upload configuration and firmware images, which causes the device to reboot.

The code can be found in IOActive Labs github repository.

If an attacker has access to a configuration file with a known password, they can use this code to update the configuration file and take over the switch’s management functions. It can also be used to mirror ports and enable or disable other services, such as telnet, SSH, or SNMP. Lastly, the same script can be used to upload a firmware image to the device sans authentication. In other words, it is *delightfully reprogrammable* until you install the patch.


This brings us to an interesting point. I asked Siemens if the SSH keys in Firmware V5.X (the fixed version) are unique per device, and I was assured that they are. If this is true, there should be no problem with me publishing a hash of the private key for my device. Don’t worry damsels and chaps, I can always patch my device with a new key later, as a demonstration of my enthusiasm for firmware. 

Anyway, here are two fingerprints of the private SSH key: 

MD5   6f09a4d77569236fd90483a85920912d
SHA256    505166f90ee05761b11a5feda24d0ccdc53ef902cdd617b330db3634cc2788f7

If you have one of these devices and have patched to the version that contains fixes, you could assist the community greatly by verifying that the key gets a different finger-print. This will independently confirm what those outstanding gentry at Siemens told me and promote confidence in their security solutions.

This neatly segues into some changes we’ve seen in the ICS-space over the last few years. 

The primary change in behavior I’d like to applaud is how companies are striving to develop better relationships with independent security researchers such as myself. The increase in constructive dialogue is evidenced by Siemen’s ability to receive notification and then produce a patch within three months. Years ago we were regularly waiting six months to two years for fixes.

In fact, I challenged vendors at S4x14 to commit to an AVERAGE TIME of security patching for externally supplied vulnerabilities. We purposefully chose the average time for this challenge, because we know that providing quality assurance for these systems is difficult and can be time consuming. After all, some bugs are just thornier than others

Incidentally, this is backed up by empirical research shared with me by the inimitable Sean McBride during our conversations at S4x14. I wouldn’t want you to think I am just some un-gentlemanly shuffler or simkin, challenging hecatonchires for the sport of it (hat-tip @sergeybratus).


Follow @digitalbond to see the response I got to committing to an average security patch time, when my ”Red/Blue Live” talk goes online. You’ll also notice that my two attackers (red team) did not manage to use the script to take over the device, despite doing so in practice sessions the night before. The ingenious Rotem Bar (blue team) demonstrated that the secret of ICS security is to simply *patch*. Apparently, it is not only possible, but effective!
...and btw, happy Valentine's!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

An Equity Investor's Due Diligence

By Gunter Ollmann, @gollmann 


 Information technology companies constitute the core of many investment portfolios nowadays. With so many new startups popping up and some highly visible IPO's and acquisitions by public companies egging things on, many investors are clamoring for a piece of the action and looking for new ways to rapidly qualify or disqualify an investment ; particularly so when it comes to hottest of hot investment areas - information security companies. 

Over the years I've found myself working with a number of private equity investment firms - helping them to review the technical merits and implications of products being brought to the market by new security startups. In most case's it's not until the B or C investment rounds that the money being sought by the fledgling company starts to get serious to the investors I know. If you're going to be handing over money in the five to twenty million dollar range, you're going to want to do your homework on both the company and the product opportunity. 

Over the last few years I've noted that a sizable number of private equity investment firms have built in to their portfolio review the kind of technical due diligence traditionally associated with the formal acquisition processes of Fortune-500 technology companies. It would seem to me that the $20,000 to $50,000 price tag for a quick-turnaround technical due diligence report is proving to be valuable investment in a somewhat larger investment strategy. 

When it comes to performing the technical due diligence on a startup (whether it's a security or social media company for example), the process tends to require a mix of technical review and tapping past experiences if it's to be useful, let alone actionable, to the potential investor. Here are some of the due diligence phases I recommend, and why:
  1. Vocabulary Distillation - For some peculiar reason new companies go out of their way to invent their own vocabulary as descriptors of their value proposition, or they go to great lengths to disguise the underlying processes of their technology with what can best be described as word-soup. For example, a "next-generation big-data derived heuristic determination engine" can more than adequately be summed up as "signature-based detection". Apparently using the word "signature" in your technology description is frowned upon and the product management folks avoid the use the word (however applicable it may be). Distilling the word soup is a key component of being able to compare apples with apples.

  2. Overlapping Technology Review - Everyone wants to portray their technology as unique, ground-breaking, or next generation. Unfortunately, when it comes to the world of security, next year's technology is almost certainly a progression of the last decade's worth of invention. This isn't necessarily bad, but it is important to determine the DNA and hereditary path of the "new" technology (and subcomponents of the product the start-up is bringing to market). Being able to filter through the word-soup of the first phase and determine whether the start-up's approach duplicates functionality from IDS, AV, DLP, NAC, etc. is critical. I've found that many start-ups position their technology (i.e. advancements) against antiquated and idealized versions of these prior technologies. For example, simplifying desktop antivirus products down to signature engines - while neglecting things such as heuristic engines, local-host virtualized sandboxes, and dynamic cloud analysis.

  3. Code Language Review - It's important to look at the languages that have been employed by the company in the development of their product. Popular rapid prototyping technologies like Ruby on Rails or Python are likely acceptable for back-end systems (as employed within a private cloud), but are potential deal killers to future acquirer companies that'll want to integrate the technology with their own existing product portfolio (i.e. they're not going to want to rewrite the product). Similarly, a C or C++ implementation may not offer the flexibility needed for rapid evolution or integration in to scalable public cloud platforms. Knowing which development technology has been used where and for what purpose can rapidly qualify or disqualify the strength of the company's product management and engineering teams - and help orientate an investor on future acquisition or IPO paths.

  4. Security Code Review - Depending upon the size of the application and the due diligence period allowed, a partial code review can yield insight in to a number of increasingly critical areas - such as the stability and scalability of the code base (and consequently the maturity of the development processes and engineering team), the number and nature of vulnerabilities (i.e. security flaws that could derail the company publicly), and the effort required to integrate the product or proprietary technology with existing major platforms.

  5. Does it do what it says on the tin? - I hate to say it, but there's a lot of snake oil being peddled nowadays. This is especially so for new enterprise protection technologies. In a nut-shell, this phase focuses on the claims being made by the marketing literature and product management teams, and tests both the viability and technical merits of each of them. Test harnesses are usually created to monitor how well the technology performs in the face of real threats - ranging from the samples provided by the companies user acceptance team (UAT) (i.e. the stuff they guarantee they can do), through to common hacking tools and tactics, and on to a skilled adversary with key domain knowledge.

  6. Product Penetration Test - Conducting a detailed penetration test against the start-up's technology, product, or service delivery platform is always thoroughly recommended. These tests tend to unveil important information about the lifecycle-maturity of the product and the potential exposure to negative media attention due to exploitable flaws. This is particularly important to consumer-focused products and services because they are the most likely to be uncovered and exposed by external security researchers and hackers, and any public exploitation can easily set-back the start-up a year or more in brand equity alone. For enterprise products (e.g. appliances and cloud services) the hacker threat is different; the focus should be more upon what vulnerabilities could be introduced in to the customers environment and how much effort would be required to re-engineer the product to meet security standards.

Obviously there's a lot of variety in the technical capabilities of the various private equity investment firms (and private investors). Some have people capable of sifting through the marketing hype and can discern the actual intellectual property powering the start-ups technology - but many do not. Regardless, in working with these investment firms and performing the technical due diligence on their potential investments, I've yet to encounter a situation where they didn't "win" in some way or other. A particular favorite of mine is when, following a code review and penetration test that unveiled numerous serious vulnerabilities, the private equity firm was still intent on investing with the start-up but was able use the report to negotiate much better buy-in terms with the existing investors - gaining a larger percentage of the start-up for the same amount.