Category Archives: Security

aka infosec

Phishing email examples

‘Phishing’ is the term used to describe email sent with the intention of tricking the recipient into divulging personal (often financial) information to the perpetrator.

A recent ISC Diary post provides some examples of recent phishing email received by ISC handler Johannes Ullrich. The associated analysis is helpful for learning how to distinguish legitimate from phishing email.

ISC is the Internet Storm Center, which “provides a free analysis and warning service to thousands of Internet users and organizations, and is actively working with Internet Service Providers to fight back against the most malicious attackers.” The site and associated services provide a wealth of information regarding Internet security.

That was fast… vulnerability found in latest Java

Researchers have already found a vulnerability in Java 7 Update 7, which was only released yesterday. So far all we know is that a report, along with code demonstrating the security hole, have been submitted to Oracle, Java’s developer.

Details on the new Java hole show that it could be used to take over a vulnerable computer. So, once again, users are being urged to disable Java, especially in web browser software.

Your move, Oracle.

UPDATE 2012Sep01: SANS reports that a new email phishing attack exploiting this new Java hole is showing up in the wild. The email appears to be from Microsoft, and is patterned on a recent, legitimate Microsoft email message. The mail contains an URL that – once clicked – sends web browsers to a site that has been infected with the published Java exploit code. Advice to users is the same as usual: be very careful about clicking on any link you don’t know for sure is safe, and consider disabling Java in your web browser.

New patch for Java plugs recently-discovered security hole

Much to their credit, Oracle has released a patch for Java that fixes a recently-discovered security hole in Java.

CERT confirms that the new patch does indeed resolve the problem. All Java users – and that’s you, unless you’re absolutely certain Java is disabled – should apply this update as soon as possible. This affects Windows, Linux and MacOS users.

This is a welcome reaction from Oracle. Until this patch was released, it was assumed that the hole would not be fixed until the next regular patch cycle in October 2012.

Why I use a really long passcode for my wireless network

Visitors to my home who want to use our wireless network are often stupefied by the 63-character, hexadecimal WPA2 passcode. In spite of the legitimate security concerns that went into my choice of such a long code, this always embarrasses me. Of course, being embarrassed easily is all part of growing up and being British. (That’s a Monty Python reference in case you didn’t get it.)

So I’m happy to report yet another analysis of wireless passcode security and the relative ease of cracking them.

The upshot is that no passcode is uncrackable. Your only hope is to make your passcode so long and complex that it can’t be cracked in a reasonable timeframe. Using all of the maximum 63 characters is strongly recommended.

So, laugh all you want, and groan as you struggle to enter that monstrosity, but I’m not going to simplify it just for convenience.

New Java vulnerability likely to remain unpatched until October 2012

UPDATE: Oracle releases a fix ahead of schedule.

A recently-discovered security flaw in Java is going to make web browsing more dangerous than usual over the coming weeks.

The new vulnerability has already been exploited to develop a working attack that can affect Windows, Linux and MacOS computers to varying degrees. The exploit code is available as part of the controversial Metasploit and Blackhole hacking toolkits. That means we can expect real, web-based attacks to start appearing almost immediately.

Anyone wanting to compromise vulnerable systems need only place the attack code on a web site and wait for those systems to visit the site. In this case, vulnerable systems include just about any Windows or Linux system running a web browser with Java enabled.

Java is typically installed both as a stand-alone runtime environment and as a plugin for web browsers. Both environments are vulnerable to this attack. Java is widely used for a variety of applications, including open source tools like Freemind and Eclipse. Some web sites use Java to provide functionality beyond what’s normally possible with web browsers.

Unfortunately, unless Java’s developer decides to issue an out-of-cycle patch for this vulnerability, it won’t be fixed until the next update cycle, which is scheduled for October 2012.

Recommendations

Standalone, locally-hosted Java applications you’re already using should be safe. Until the vulnerability is patched, we don’t recommend new installations of any Java-based software.

If you don’t use Java, or can live without it until a fix is made available, you can disable it completely in your operating system. However, this is overkill.

Attacks exploiting this vulnerability are much more likely to appear on compromised and nefarious web sites. Navigating your web browser to such a site will almost certainly infect your computer with some kind of malware. Savvy web users already know that care should be exercised when web browsing at any time, but until this security hole is fixed, blindly clicking on web links and browsing to unknown web sites is going to be like playing Russian Roulette. Because of this, many security experts are recommending disabling Java in web browsers, until the flaw is patched.

Here are some more technical details from CERT.

Additional related articles

More evidence of shoddy programming by Adobe

Apparently some Google employees decided to test Adobe Reader after they found several security-related bugs in the PDF reader code used in Google Chrome. They found sixty issues that cause crashes, about forty of which could provide attack vectors.

Bugs, crashes and security issues in Adobe software are nothing new. But given the frequency and number of updates for Reader, one might assume that Adobe had a handle on these issues. The ongoing crashing problems with Flash on Windows 7 indicate otherwise, as does this new revelation from Google.

Blizzard’s Battle.net hacked

Blizzard, the company that brought you the Diablo series, as well as World of Warcraft, runs a service called Battle.net. The service ostensibly helps online gamers find servers running their favourite Blizzard games. In fact the service is not much more than DRM: technology used by Blizzard to prevent people from playing their games. And prevent them it does. While Blizzard only really wants to prevent people with ‘pirated’ copies of games from playing, server outages and other technical glitches have caused problems for paying customers since the service began. Even people who purchased Diablo III with no intention of playing online must use Battle.net for the single player game, so they are affected by service outages.

Yesterday, Blizzard added insult to injury when they announced that Battle.net had been hacked. According to Blizzard, no financial (credit card) data was stolen, and although passwords may have been taken, those passwords were encrypted. Still, they are recommending that all Battle.net users change their password as soon as possible.

SANS has a breakdown of the implications to users.

When Blizzard announced that Diablo III would require use of the Battle.net service, even for single player games, I decided to protest by not buying the game, despite having enjoyed the previous two games immensely. That’s starting to look like a wise choice.

The Tech Support Phone Call Scam

The latest SANS OUCH! newsletter (PDF) covers an increasingly-common scam in which the scammer calls their victim on the phone and talks their way into accessing the victim’s computer.

Here’s an except from the newsletter:

“You receive a phone call from a person claiming to be from a computer support company associated with Microsoft or another legitimate company. They claim to have detected your computer behaving abnormally, such as scanning the Internet, and believe it is infected with a virus. They explain they are investigating the issue and offer to help you secure your computer. They then use a variety of technical terms and take you through confusing steps to convince you that your computer is infected, scaring you into ultimately buying their product.”

SANS is a computer security company based in the USA. They publish several excellent newsletters, including OUCH! You can subscribe to any of these lists for free at http://www.sans.org/newsletters/.