Friday, December 1, 2017

RFID Tags in Clothing – What Could Go Wrong

Sometimes we need a break from all of the serious security issues we deal with and talk about. This blog is a break from breaches, sabotage, espionage and camouflage. If you want serious security today might I recommend Top 4 Reasons Why Hackers Plant Geolocation Malware on Websites, or some of my previous blogs such as Evasion and Regeneration; Decoys and Deception, or New Equifax Website Compromise.

Recently I had to shop for a washing machine. I had forgotten that now a days washing machines are part of the Internet of Things (IoT).  It was pretty easy to narrow down my choices of washing machines; if the washing machine listens and tells all to Google then I don’t want it, I have my Android phone for that. I would need to remember not to talk about confidential information when I am in the laundry room… Google hears all, Google sells all.

All of these high tech washing machines made me contemplate what other absurd things we can apply IoT technology to?  I decided that IoT clothes would be absurd… until I had my million dollar idea for a ground breaking application of the technology.

You see, I am really about function over form. My sense of fashion is only marginally better than most IoT vendor’s knowledge of the need for IoT security. I reason that if I could have RFID tags in my clothes, I could put my sports coat next to a shirt and then my mobile phone will tell me if the clothes work together. Next I put a tie with the shirt and sports coat and my phone tells me if it is business casual or a misdemeanor.


RFID tags would be solve my fashion impairment affliction. I could take pictures of my clothes to the store with me and know if something will pop before I buy it. It’s not just me, it’s a wonderful application for color blind people (who without exception have a better sense of color coordination than I do).

I could bring my clothes to the washing machine and it will TELL me which items can safely be washed with each other! The cost savings would be enormous. No more buying clothes that work together at the store and then inadvertently dyeing them to a color that no longer works with anything -including impressionist paintings.

There's also the problem that fashion changes. My app will be updated every time there is a new fashion (black is timeless). At last, if I buy on the first day of the cycle, my clothes can be fashionable for the full six months of their planned obsolescence. What's more, I could enter the name of an opera house or a burger joint and my phone will tell me if the clothes are acceptable for the dress code. Evidently sandals do not count as shoes at those fancy shmancy opera houses. I actually knew that and intentionally wore them when my ex-girlfriend tried to make me go to see the opera Lily.

So what could go wrong with putting RFID tags in clothes? Perhaps a manufacturing error puts the wrong chip in my clothes I'm wearing for an interview at T.J. Maxx. Suppose a hacker is able to hack the RFID chips and flash them to the 1970's fashion styles? If there is a manufacturing product recall for a defective RFID tag (the cheap ones are read only) is the shirt replaced with a refurbished shirt? Will the shirt be depreciated based on wear? If I am a clothing manufacturer would my competition hack into my system and sabotage my RFID tag stock?

Yes, there are potential security risks but still, if we nerds can finally go incognito in public it is a risk we are willing to take.

Randy Abrams
Independent Security Analyst

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Sometimes It Isn’t All About Russia

Saying that Russia has been in the news for espionage and hacking, etc. is like saying there’s oxygen in the air – it seems we breathe that news. Despite whatever Russian hackers have done, people get so hung up on the marketing value of the Russia brand that they forget there was supposed to be a story too. The exploitation of DDE is an example.

There are many articles about Russian hackers exploiting the terrorist attack in New York in order to lure people into opening documents that are booby-trapped with DDE content.  There are two real stories here and Russian hackers are not one of them. We have a story involving confidence attacks and another story about DDE exploitation.

Happy Birthday Sweet 16

2017 marks the 16th anniversary of the Anna Kournikova worm. Amusingly, at least to me is that when I thought of using the Anna Kournikova worm as an example in this blog, I had completely forgotten that Anna hails from Russia. I also wasn’t thinking about the lyrics either. “You've turned into the prettiest girl I've ever seen.” is also in the lyrics to the song. That Anna is from Russia was not relevant to the story of the worm. That Anna is a lovely woman is only relevant to the construction of the worm attack. The story is about techniques that are highly effective in enticing users to execute malware. The point of “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen” is that we are not dealing with anything new.  The “ILoveYou” worm is a year older but nobody says “Happy Birthday Sweet Seventeen” so Anna it is. There is also another interesting parallel between the Anna Kournikova worm and the DDE exploit attack vector. Jan de Wit, the author of the Anna Kournikova worm, used a virus construction kit to generate the worm for him. Not to say that Russian, Chinese, American and other hackers are not sophisticated, but tutorials to exploit the DDE vulnerability are on YouTube.’ Just sayin




If, like Jan, you prefer to use a kit, Metasploit has a module all set up for you.

Prescriptive Guidance

Russian hackers using exploits to deliver malware is not a story. Using a tragedy as a lure is not a story. Anyone involved in security already knew that exploitation the terrorist attack story would be happening within minutes. If you are going to use the Russian brand for marketing (like I am now), use the marketing for good. In that spirit I would like to provide at least a little prescriptive guidance. 

1) Read
Despite the varying nature of usefulness, Microsoft usually provides mitigation strategies for vulnerabilities. In this case you should read the Microsoft Security Advisory 4053440 titled “Securely opening Microsoft Office documents that contain Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) fields.”

Many security companies have excellent write-ups of the actual threat, how it works, what Yara rules and Snort signatures may be available, and other truly relevant information. Read those articles if security is your thing. Read my blog if it isn’t .

2) Keep your eye on the ball
Perhaps you can employ Microsoft’s mitigation strategies, but whether you can or cannot, remember that blocking these attacks is part of a strategy, not the goal. Protecting data is the goal.

There are books, courses, and I believe even theologies that deal with data protection, but “how to” is beyond the scope of this blog and outside of my area of practice. Cutting through the haze of hype is the story I want to tell. If you are keeping your eye on the ball, the DDE vulnerability is a reminder that protecting your data is the endgame. If your data is vulnerable to exploitation of DDE, perhaps DDE is not your biggest problem. The DDE issue might also be a reminder to audit/test your defense systems. 

I often recall Greg Thompson’s post on LinkedIn in the wake of WannaCry. Growing weary of the Gregorian chant “Patch Patch Patch Patch Patch Patch Patch Patch Patch” he exclaimed:


Like Greg said, “...we need to re-think how we control/manage vulnerabilities.” 

Thanks Greg, for the reminder to keep my eye on the ball.

You see… sometimes it isn’t all about Russia, but it just might be about tennis lessons with from Anna Kournikova. Anna’s story is timeless and I think that Anna is too - she is just as beautiful as she was 16 years ago when a worm by her namesake made the world news.

In the blog "Internal Audits, Lawsuits, ad Love Letters, I promised a blog dealing with the Malware aspect of using public computers. You can find that blog  on the Quttera blog at Public Computers and Malware.

Randy Abrams
Senior Security Analyst at Quttera Labs


Saturday, November 4, 2017

Internal Audits, Lawsuits, and Love Letters

What Comes to the Business Center Computer Stays on the Business Center Computer

Several examples of data left behind on public computers will be shared in this blog. When possible or deemed necessary attempts were made to notify the owners of that their data had been at risk. Sensitive content was also deleted from these computers. Typically I deleted all temporary files as well as those left behind in common locations.

Before I continue I want to make it clear that I am not a hacker. It took no special skills to find the files in the examples used below. If a computer was reasonably well locked down, and some are, I wouldn’t know how to hack into it. The only “special tool” I used that was not on the computers inspected was a hex editor. A hex editor is very useful in determining the true file type of a file that does not have its regular extension.
 
Please Help

Do any of my readers know how many bags of mints every United Airlines flight leaving St Louis should have onboard? I found a copy of the Trans States Airlines (TSA) August 2009 Bid Quiz on a public computer in a hotel. I have been dying to find the answer to this question ever since.

Tools of Social Engineering

Trans Sates Airlines is or was a regional carrier for United Airlines. As I was looking through some “temporary” files on a computer in Austin, TX I came across a “bid quiz” and a PDF containing a training roster that included the names of several flight attendants, what appears to be their employee numbers, dates of training and training locations. However I did not find this quiz and PDF in 2009, it was 2012 when I first encountered it three years on that computer before I removed it.

What comes to the business center computer stays on the business center computer.

The story does not end there. I only had time to review a few of the temporary files at the time so I copied the rest of them onto a thumb drive for later perusal and use as training material.

In 2016 I finally got around to inspecting the files as I was creating a new training presentation. Seven years after the file had been left for dead in that temporary directory it was still relevant. In early 2017 there were at least 5 flight attendants still employed by TSA (not the TSA). At least one or two flight attendants had gone to work for other airlines. Finding the flight attendants was as simple as typing their names into a LinkedIn search box. From 2009 to 2012 the file was publically available as a weapon of social engineering. Today it may be an even more effective attack tool. Knowing several years of a victims past and colleagues can be quite convincing.

“Hey, I remember you. We talked on some flights between St, Louis and was it IAD?” Wow this brings back memories. Do you know what Jane is up to now? She was such a sweetheart. Last I heard she opened a yoga studio in Australia.”   Nice foundation for a confidence scam, except there is a lot more on social media now to build on. I did reach out to TSA. I offered to return their data if they wanted it and I requested the answer to the question about the mints. I received no reply.

Are You Traveling for Business or for Pleasure?
If you are a home user you might want to know what you could be leaving behind on these computers. My favorite finds are Yahoo emails that can be found in the temporary internet files directories. Temporary files from html email frequently have names that look like this “H2YDZKEU.htm.”

Those files then open in the browser like this



Aside from the fact that the email was sent to me, there were several other email addresses on the “TO:” line. Sometimes the emails indicate a transfer from a work account to a home account. Protecting yourself really isn’t as easy as telling a browser to delete all of the temporary files, at least Internet Explorer doesn’t remove them all. There are several other places to find temporary files on a windows computer.

I am a Security Professional, I got it

If you are responsible for enterprise IT/security I have some solid advice for you. Pray. Pray really hard. I do not care if you are an atheist, pray!  If you play D&D you are already a step ahead of me.

You might want to let the CEO know what things have been found on these computers. We’re not talking about the malware threats. Why let the CEO know? Aside from the fact that the CEO may be an offender, you may need some support to get the funds required to protect proprietary information. I’ll give you a bit of ammo below. Examples relevant to Finance and HR can be found.

An Internal Audit and a Bit More

While dumpster diving on a business center computer I came across an internal audit for a major chain that provides cash advances. I discovered which branch was being audited, the contact at the branch, and the auditor’s findings. While the branch received a satisfactory rating, issues such as a check missing a payee and a missing disclosure were noted.


 


On the same computer a document concerning a cash advance was also found. The document contained the customer’s name, address, phone number, customer number, and transaction logs.

Yeah, there’s no legal liability there… is there?

A Lawsuit

On one occasion I discovered correspondence between a very large law firm and their client. The client was filing a claim against the Manville Trust. In this case the PDF was sent to the claimant’s yahoo account, and was also sent via snail mail to the claimant at the hotel he was staying at. I did not include the law office’s logo on the letter head. It was not the lawyers who opened the doc on the public computers, they employ about two dozen lawyers who could make life hard for me if they were made aware that I exist and they are board or just mean.



The Love Letter – A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

Olga, the one who opened the email, may not care if the world knows that Kenny is in love with her, but she might not want her email address to be shared. I didn’t email her to find out though.



Not all correspondence is a love letter. One document left behind was titled:  “A Letter to Just One of the Other Women”

If the letter, a Word document) had been to Mary, or Sue, or Linda, I would not have redacted the name. The letter was to a woman whose first name is unique. There is only one person with that name on Facebook. The letter was much longer and contained information that corroborated identification. Even with a more common name personal identification may have been possible through correlation of a variety of social networking sites. The document was also probably edited or even composed on the hotel computer. One can speculate that the letter was sent as an attachment and the original was forgotten.

The odds are that you do not have a letter to the other woman, but have you ever composed anything that required discretion or read any such items on a public computer? Perhaps saved them?

Did you ever print out a boarding pass? I could have re-assigned a middle seat to a passenger late last year. His flight didn’t depart for hours! It was a long flight too.

In early 2017 I found a number of items on the computer in an executive lounge at an airport. I came across a financial advisor’s communications in a document that indicated it contained proprietary information and trade secrets.

Typically strategic development plans are not for public consumption. I have only included a small part of this document.



In this case I’m not really sure that the company cared. They never got back to me on Facebook. Also found was an investment firm’s communications with an indicator that the content included proprietary trade secrets. It actually appeared to be boiler-plate, but I don’t know.

Amusingly, on the same computer was a PDF with installation instructions for a Chamberlain garage door opener. I left the installation instructions on the computer for the benefit of others who may find them useful.

A few additional examples.



The spreadsheet I found with the names, salaries, and merit raises for faculty at a university in Texas should never have been there. Of course the faculty are woefully underpaid. Teachers need to be appreciated more.

Online banking is like money in the bank.


There was enough information in the HTML file to identify the account owner, where he lived, multiple sources of income, and places he frequented.

Finally, there are always the selfies and the pets. Out of respect for private citizens I have anonymized these pictures.





A Most Gratifying Experience

On one hotel computer I found a spreadsheet with the names of the salespeople, their team leaders, and how much product each had sold. This information belonged to a fairly large company that is the leader in their field. When I contacted the appropriate person, among her first words were “we will begin training immediately?” That is what this is all about.

Understand private and corporate risk, and act accordingly

This blog does not address the malware threats. I will be writing about that on the Quttera blog.

One final word of caution. Should you decide to look for what was left behind on a business center computer, there are somethings that you can never un-see…






I warned you.

My blog dealing with the malware risk when  using public computers is live at Public Computers and Malware

Randy Abrams
Senior Security Analyst at Quttera Labs

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Cleaning and Gutting Phish for Beginners

To start with, beginners don’t usually clean phish but anyone can help to get the cleaning process started. Admitting that someone else has a problem is the first step toward fixing the problem! If it is your own website that is hosting a phish then it is up to you to clean it, or get help cleaning it.

Phishing links can be dangerous to click on as they make take you to a site with exploits. If you have a safe environment, such as a virtual machine or sandbox, then it is typically ok to follow the link, but be sure to replace the VM with a pristine copy or delete the contents of the sandbox.

When you receive an email that you suspect or know is a phish, before you delete it share it with Phishtank. The easiest way to get it to PhishTank is to forward the email to  phish@phishtank.com. PhishTank make phish available for people to validate. Security companies can also pull information so as to more quickly block the phishing attacks. It is a great idea to sign up for an account at PhishTank. If you have the know-how to tell a phish from spam you can help by logging into PhishTank and evaluating some phish.


If the phish is attacking customers of a financial institution you might be able to contact the institution, but frequently it is hard to find a way to report the phish to. Sometimes you can message the affected company on social media and find out where they would like the phish forwarded to.
Sometimes you can let website owners know when their websites are being used to host the phishing pictures and kits.

Now let’s move along to gutting a phish. We will start with the small phish.




We’ve all seen these before. I particularly like the professional touches on this one such as To: Undisclosed-Recipients and “This message was sent to “”.” I right-clicked on the email so I could view the source text. On the lower right you can see the context menu. Here are the entire contents of the body (guts) of the phish.

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
<head>
<title></title>
</head>
<body>
<p><a href="http://bit.ly/2QKGRFNGDBF"><img alt="Mountain View" src="http://bit.ly/TGFDCYTHGRFDHGF" style="width: 592px; height: 473px;" /></a></p>
</body>
</html>

There are two significant things going on here. src="hxxp://bit.ly/TGFDCYTHGRFDHGF"   is where the picture in the email is coming from. This is the second link above. The first link is the smelly part of the phish. hxxp://bit.ly/TGFDCYTHGRFDHGF is where the phishing kit used to be located. It was replaced with a 404.
These links happen to be bit.ly shortened URLs, but there are many sites that provide URL shortening services. You really want to know where you are going before you go there, so expand the URL back to the full version before you decide to click. The JoshMeister has some great tips for decoding links that have been shortened by using a variety of services.

Since this URL is shortened by bit.ly we just add a + sign to the link and hit enter. This takes us to the bit.ly site where we are shown the full URL. In this case hxxp://bit.ly/TGFDCYTHGRFDHGF+


hxxps://s1.postimg.org/1smpducc3j/boaaaaaaaaaaa_NEW.png is not the link that matters. That one has advertising that would give the phish away. The one you want is the smaller one in orange. hxxp://bitly.com/TGFDCYTHGRFDHGF leads us to the plain picture shown at the beginning of the gutting section of this blog.

When you click on the picture in the Phishing email you would have been taken to the phishing kit which asked for your login information and many other details. It even asked you to create 5 challenge questions that are commonly used. I liked the one that asked “What is your father’s middle name?” I answered “The one between his first name and his last name.” I do not suggest that you visit the phishing sites though. I was using my wife’s computer so I was never at risk.

So how did I help to clean this phish? First I admitted that someone else had a problem and then I let them know that there was a problem.

I wrote up more about this specific incident in a blog titled “Phishing for a Gold Medal” at Quttera. I am now a Senior Security Analyst at Quttera. I included a couple of more shots of this particular phish and a tiny bit of biographical information about the gold medal winning Olympic athlete.
In addition to my personal blogs here, I hope you will follow me at Quttera as well!

Randy Abrams
Independent Security Analyst by night and
Senior Security Analyst at Quttera Labs

I Am Pleased To Announce My New Position with Quttera

I am now a Senior Security Analyst at Quttera. Quttera is a company devoted to helping small and medium site businesses secure their websites...almost for free... the cost is pretty small, so even small businesses can afford to secure their websites. I'd look at "about us" first to get an idea of what Quttera is all about. It's just a paragraph that gets right to the point.

I am a really big fan of heuristics and I have been for many years. That is one of the reasons I decided to work for Quttera. I also like to help people become more secure online, and Quttera allows me to do just that.

OK, I'll return to my typical blogging style right after recommending you give the Quttera Free Online Website Malware Scanner.  I also like free online security scanners!

Randy Abrams
Senior Security Analyst
Quttera

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Living With Brian Cassin – CEO, Experian

I have to change my address again. I don’t like where Bank of America has moved me to so I am going to move to 475 Anton Blvd., Costa Mesa, CA 92626. I hear that they have really nice digs there.

Following my discovery of  an issue with a link on the Equifax website I decided to return to what I set out to do in the first place - get my mailing address corrected on my Experian credit report. How hard could that be?

This is where the unholy collusion of creditors and credit reporting agencies makes a blatantly unabashed public appearance. The answer to “how hard could it be?” is “it is surprisingly hard.”

Any creditor can report a change to your mailing address, your gender, your age, your marital status, etc., and Experian will change it and you cannot contest it. Your creditor has to change the information for you. If your creditor will not (or cannot) change it then you are "attached to another object by an inclined plane, wrapped helically around an axis."

In this case Bank of America has explicitly told me that they have no idea where the incorrect information is in their systems. The address is correct in my online profile, just not in the system that reports to Experian.

Nobody knows how many millions of Americans have incorrect personal information on their credit reports. Experian has no idea because there is no data validation. Consumers do not know because changes are made secretly, and even when they are discovered, there is no recourse.

Even with free annual credit reports, falsified information can easily persist for months on end unless a person pays the ransom to see their credit reports more frequently. Changes to personal information should be proactively reported to the consumer. Equifax proactively tipped me off to the Experian issue.

At Experian incorrect financial reporting can be contested. Correct financial reporting can be contested. Incorrect personal information is off limits. Just one more slip of the keyboard at Bank of America and I will be a 21 year old, Native American woman, living in Finland and married to Brian Cassin. Granted that is an unlikely scenario since Finland is too cold for me.

I asked Experian “If Bank of America reports my address as being the address of Experian’s corporate headquarters, will you change it to that?” The response was “Yes, if that is what a creditor reports then that is what will be on your credit report.” Unlike Experian, changing my address online at Bank of America is simple! I think this will be the start of a beautiful friendship. I am moving in with Brian Cassin at the posh Experian headquarters.

 I know where I will live; you only think you know where you live.

Please send your best wishes to me on my move to the Experian headquarters by post at:

Randy Abrams
C/O Brian Cassin CEO
Experian
475 Anton Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Randy Abrams
Independent Security Analyst just trying to find his home.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

VirusTotal, Equifax, and Antimalware Products

There is a subtle precision in the statement “VirusTotal only showed three antimalware scanners detecting malware.” If you think that means only three scanners on VirusTotal detected the malware, then read it again more carefully; that is not what it says and that is not what it means.

Before I continue to talk about VirusTotal mythology, there are a few things I would like to clarify concerning my find of a malicious link on the Equifax website.

  • The site was not hacked, but as stated in the title of my blog, it was compromised. There is a difference; there were no exploits, no backdoors, etc.
  • There was no malware and there were no malicious pages on the site.
  • There is no indication or probability that data was stolen as a result of the compromise.
  • Equifax’s security team is blameless for this one. They were sucker-punched so badly by a third party who was in turn compromised.  The whole food chain was poisoned.
  • Infection required two clicks, a download and an install. It was not a drive-by.
  • There was a serious threat to people who clicked on the link and fell for the attack. This was really nasty malware.

I do not understand why the Experian page was down for two days. I have a theory, but I will wait for the producers of Ancient Aliens to tell me what some people believe before I publish.

Speaking of antimalware, I hope that Kim Komando will agree to write some guest blogs under the pen name “Auntie Malware.” How cool would that be? But I digress. At the 2017 Virus Bulletin Conference in Madrid Spain I presented VirusTotal tips, tricks, and myths. I believe the full presentation will be available soon. The content of the presentation was submitted to my friends at VirusTotal to validate accuracy. I am going to do a series of blogs about VirusTotal mythology.

There are multiple reasons why one cannot assume that only the scanners that display detection on VirusTotal are the only ones that have detection of the threat. Just as importantly you cannot assume that if the scanner you did not display detection of the threat you were not protected.

VirusTotal uses command-line versions the scanners. Command-line antimalware scanner cannot be expected to perform the same way that the GUI versions do. There are undocumented switches that can boost heuristic detections to a levels not available in commercial offerings. Antimalware vendors can hide detection on VirusTotal. Sometimes you do not want the malware authors to know what you know. The commercial versions may very well have detection.

There is more to say on the subject, but for now know that “Displayed on VirusTotal” does not mean that only those scanners that display detection provide detection. Don’t forget protection; it is not the same as detection, but it matters. I know for a fact that at least one product that did not demonstrate detection offered protection. I have a very high degree of confidence that other scanners did too.
In the next series of blogs, which may not be sequential, I am going to dispel the following myths:

  • VirusTotal can be used to perform comparative testing
  • Detection of malware on VirusTotal means the scanner can detect it
  • Lack of detection means the file is safe
  • False Positive means false positive
  • Detection by more scanners means better coverage
  • Malicious website means malicious website

I am going end this blog by summing up VirusTotal in one neat little quote by Alan Greenspan.

“I know you think you understand what you thought I said
but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant”


Randy Abrams
Independent Security Analyst
https://www.linkedin.com/in/randy-abrams-ba24391/