NSA's TAO -- Leaked catalog of tools and techniques

NSA's TAO -- Dark Reading

The Internet has been buzzing with reports of the recently leaked NSA exploits, backdoors, and hacking / surveillance tools. The linked article is good example.

None of this should be news to anyone paying attention. Many similar hacking tools are available from vendors at conferences like BlackHat and DefCon.

We all know that zero-day exploits exist, and things like Stuxnet clearly show that governments collect them.

Intentionally introducing compromised crypto into the commercial stream has a long history, perhaps best demonstrated by the continued sales of Enigma machines to national governments long after it had been cracked by the US and others.

This reminds me of a quote I posted back in March. Brian Snow, former NSA Information Assurance Director said “Your cyber systems continue to function and serve you not due to the expertise of your security staff but solely due to the sufferance of your opponents.”

One can focus on making this difficult, but none of us should be under the illusion that we can make it impossible. If you have something that absolutely must be protected, and upon which your life or liberty depends, then you need to be taking drastic steps, including total air gaps.

For the rest of your activities, you can use email encryption, disk encryption, VPNs, and other tools to make it as difficult as possible for any adversary to easily vacuum up your information.

If you are of special interest, you may be individually targeted, in which case you should expect your opponent to succeed. Otherwise, someone hacking your computer, or planting a radio enabled USB dongle on your computer is the least of your worries. Your cell phone and social media activities are already hemorrhaging information.

Lance Cottrell is the Founder and Chief Scientist of Anonymizer. Follow me on Facebook and Google+.

PRISM fears being used by scammers

In a new attack, some websites have been set up to show visitors a slash page that says the vicim's computer has been blocked because is has been used to access illegal pornographic content. The user is then presented a link to pay an instant "fine" of $300 to the scammers.

This is a new variant of "ransomware". The most common of which is "fake AV". A fake anti-virus website or software will claim to scan your computer for free, then charge you to remove malware that it has "detected".

Details and screenshots here.

Signed Mac Malware discovered on activist's laptop

Arstechnica reports on the discovery of signed malware designed for surveillance on the Mac laptop of an Angolan activist.

The malware was a trojan that the activist obtained through a spear phishing email attack. The news here is that the malware was signed with a valid Apple Developer ID. 

The idea is that having all code signed should substantially reduce the amount of malware on the platform. This works because creating a valid Apple Developer ID requires significant effort, and may expose the identity of the hacker unless they take steps to hide their identity. This is not trivial as the Developer ID requires contact information and payment of fees.

The second advantage of signed code is that the Developer's certificate can be quickly revoked, so the software will be detected as invalid and automatically blocked on every Mac world wide. This limits the amount of damage a given Malware can do, and forces the attacker to create a new Apple Developer ID every time they are detected.

This has been seen to work fairly well in practice, but it is not perfect. If a target is valuable enough, a Developer ID can be set up just to go after that one person or small group. The malware is targeted to just them, so the likelihood of detection is low. In this case, it would continue to be recognized as a legitimates signed valid application for a very long time.

In the case of the Angolan activist, it was discovered at a human rights conference where the attendees were learning how to secure their devices against government monitoring.

A peek at the cybercrime economy

The latest Java exploit has given another view into the workings of the cybercrime economy. Although I should not be, I am always startled at just how open and robustly capitalistic the whole enterprise has become. The business is conducted more or less in the open.

Krebs on Security has a nice piece on an auction selling source code to the Java exploit. You can see that there is a high level of service provided, and some warnings about now to ensure that the exploit you paid for stays valuable.

Social Engineering - The oldest and best trick in the book.

The Washington Post has a good article on social engineering attacks. It is a good treatment of the topic.

Short answer, humans are the weak link, and can be defeated with extremely high probability.

The take away from this whole thing is that we need to be building security systems that don't rely on humans not being tricked into compromising their own security. A lot of security architects take a "blame the victim" stance. User's have other things to worry about than security. We need to make sure security happens even if they are not paying attention to it.

The iOS UDID leak

Forbs is reporting that Anonymous and Antisec have dropped a file with a million Unique Device ID (UDID) numbers for Apple iOS devices. They claim to have acquired an additional 11 million records which they may release later.

In addition to the identifiers, the file is said to also contain usernames, device names, cell numbers, and addresses. It is this additional personal information that seems to be the real threat here.

The Next Web has set up a tool for checking to see if your information is in the leaked data. You don't need to enter your full UDID into the field, just the first 5 characters. That way you don't need to trust them with your information either.

None of my iOS devices showed up on the list, so I downloaded the entire file to look it over. You can see the release and download instructions here.

Looking through the document, I don't see any examples of particularly sensitive information. In the first field are the claimed UDID. The second field is a 64 digit hex string. After that is the name of the device, frequently something like "Lance's iPad". Finally is a description of the device itself: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch.

SHA hashes are 64 hex digits long, and are widely used in forensics to verify that captured evidence has not been changed. My intuition is something like that is what we are seeing in that second column.

I have no idea where the claims about addresses, and account names came from. I am not seeing anything like that.

It is interesting that Anonymous / Antisec claim that this data came from the hacked laptop of an FBI agent. This certainly raises big questions about why he would have this information on his laptop, and why the FBI has it at all.

While 12 million is a big number, it is a tiny fraction of the over 400 million iOS devices sold to date. Still, that would represent a shockingly wide dragnet if these are all being monitored in some way by law enforcement.

Of course, for all we know this list was captured evidence from some other group of hackers.

So, short answer (too late!), you probably don't have anything to worry about here, but you might want to check to see if your device is in the database anyway.

UPDATE: It appears that the UDID may tie to more information that was immediately apparent. While Apple's guidelines forbid tying UDIDs to specific account, of course that happens all the time. My friend Steve shared a link with me to an open API from OpenFeint which can tie a UDID to personal information. Certainly there are others which would reveal other information. The existence of these, and the leaked list of UDIDs would allow an app developer to tie a user's real identity to their activity and use of the app on their iOS device.

UDATE 2: I find it impossible to actually read documents from Anonymous and Antisec, they are just so poorly written. It seems I missed their statement in lines 353,354 of the pastbin where they say that they stripped out the personal information. The 64 digit block is actually the "Apple Push Notification Service DevToken". SCMagazine is reporting that the FBI is denying the laptop was hacked or that they have the UDIDs.

Stolen Credit Card website hacked

Vendor of Stolen Bank Cards Hacked — Krebs on Security Brian Krebs has an interesting blog post on how all of the credit card information was stolen by a hacker from a website that sells stolen credit cards.

This is in the "don't know whether to laugh or cry" department.

A Very Nice Analysis of the Lockheed Martin Network Breach

Here is a really nice analysis of the recent security breach at Lockheed Martin. The short version is that is looks like their SecureID tokens got duplicated. This is almost certainly related to the security breach at EMC / RSA. Digital Dao: An Open Source Analysis Of The Lockheed Martin Network Breach

Reader question on privacy software

A reader of this blog recently emailed me to ask:

What s/w do you recommend to keep anonymous while using Gmail, IE, Outlook, and Facebook on a laptop?

This is actually a very tricky question because the nature of all of these tools, except Internet Explorer (IE), is to be associated with a visible and discoverable account and identity in the "cloud". I will discuss IE last and separately.

Gmail ties to your gmail and other Google accounts. Outlook ties to some existing email account at some email provider. Facebook is tied to your Facebook account and is explicitly designed for making your information public.

The profound question here is, what do we even mean by being anonymous using these services? I would argue that the best one can manage is to be pseudonymous; that is to maintain a persistent and visible pseudonym / alias which, while discoverable, is not associated with your true identity.

Fortunately Gmail and Facebook are free and typically do not require any real credentials to set up an account, and many of the free email providers work similarly. Using Anonymizer Universal (AU), and a browser with no history or cache to set up the accounts would ensure they were not connected to your real identity. It is important that the accounts never be accessed in any way except through AU, or they will be forever after associated with your real IP address. Furthermore, it is critical that the browser used is never used for any activity connected to your real identity, or the cookies and other digital detritus in your browser may allow these sites (or other folks) to tie the pseudonym to your other real name accounts.

IE is in many ways the easiest because there is no underlying account, but all the same rules apply. You need to ensure that you isolate your anonymous or pseudonymous activity from your real name activity.

For all of this activity a virtual machine can be a very effective tool. For example, if you use a Mac you can use a virtual machine running Windows or Linux for all of your alias activities and use the normal operating system for your real name activities. Similar tools exist for other operating systems.

Excellent EFF post on failures of Cryptography regulation

The EFF has an excellent article on eight reasons why government regulation of cryptography is a bad idea. The short answer is: the bad guys can easily get it and use it anyway, and it will make security for the rest of us much worse (not including the big brother surveillance  and constitutional issues).

Breach in the trust of the global public key infrastructure

In a recent post on Privacy Digest, and an article in the NYTimes, there is a discussion of some major and well known vulnerabilities in the global public key infrastructure (PKI) and some examples of exploitations of that vulnerability.

The issue is with the proliferation of certificate authorities on the Internet, and the low level of oversight on their policies.

Using the web as an example, here is how it works. Embedded in every browser is a list of "certificate authorities". These are companies that are deemed trustworthy to issue and sign website certificates. Website certificates are what allows websites to be authenticated by your browser and enables SSL based secure connections (e.g. to your bank).

These certificate authorities may also be able to delegate their certificate signing authorities to other secondary certificate authority organizations. The list of primary certificate authorities in your browser is long (I count 43 in my copy of Firefox), and who knows how many secondary certificate authorities may be out there. These certificate authorities exist all over the world, and any of them can issue a certificate that your browser will accept as valid.

A malevolent certificate authority could issue certificates to allow them to impersonate any secure website.

The articles talk specifically about a secondary certificate authority called Etisalat, located in the UAE. They created a certificate which allowed them to sign code which would be accepted as valid and authorized by BlackBerry cell phones. They then created and distributed software to about 100,000 users which enabled government surveillance of the devices. RIM, the maker of BlackBerry, was able to detect and patch this introduced back door.

Etisalat could create certificates to allow the UAE to intercept and read all secure web traffic traveling over networks within that country.

It is likely that there are many other certificate authorities that are similarly willing to compromise the security of the PKI for various ends. To date, no action has been taken against Etisalat. The EFF is calling for Verizon to revoke Etisalat's ability to issue certificates (Verizon is the primary authority that delegated to Etisalat as the secondary).

Hack Exploits Google Street View to Find Victims - The New New Internet

Hack Exploits Google Street View to Find Victims - The New New Internet

This very short article describes a really simple attack that enables someone to discover your physical location with a very high degree of reliability and accuracy.

It involves using JavaScript to access the MAC address of your WiFi wireless access point (base station). The examples for this I have seen are IE specific. Any malware that has gotten itself installed on your computer could also do this.

Given that information, it is easy to pass this information to a Location Services API which returns a location good to a few hundred feet, sometimes much closer. Here is a website that does this for you.


Facebook Session Hijack Video

We discovered a major security hole in Facebook almost by accident. The exploit is so trivial I can't justify calling it hacking. Any time you are on an open WiFi and accessing Facebook, anyone else on the same network can easily grab your credential and access Facebook as you with full access to your account.

We have posted a video demonstrating this to YouTube as well as putting it in the Anonymizer Labs section of our website.

Collection of location info on iPhones and others

Many sites, including the Los Angeles Times are reporting on a change to Apple's privacy policy that allows collection and sharing of "anonymous" location information. The only way to prevent this seems to be completely disabling location services on the iPhone.

It appears that Google's privacy policy allows a similar level of information collection.

Much of the chatter I have seen about this issue talks about targeted advertising and user tracking. While I have no doubt that both companies are very interested in doing that I don't think this particular disclosure is about that. Message targeting is more likely to happen within applications where the user has granted explicit permission to push location based advertising and alerts.

I think this is all about improving Enhanced GPS services. My guess (and it is just a guess at this point) is that the phones are reporting back GPS location, Cell tower IDs and signal strength, and all visible WiFi base stations and signal strengths. Given enough of these sets of measurements, they can provide extremely accurate location information given only WiFi information (which takes much less power than GPS and also works indoors). It has been well established that multiple companies, including Google, are building such databases from trucks driving around the world (see my last post).

One purely anecdotal data point I have is from my WiFi only iPad. For background, I live on a fairly large lot and the only WiFi I can detect is my own. One of the first things I did with the new iPad was to open up the map application. It almost instantly centered the location reticule on my house. The only available location information was from the WiFi. I know that the Street View truck has never been through my neighborhood, and doubt that any others have been. My suspicion is that phones used within my house have been providing the correlating data between my physical location and my personal WiFi base station hardware ID.

Google "Street View" vans intercepted sensitive data

Cnet (among others) reports on Google's interception of personal information from open WiFi nodes, including passwords and e-mail.

Clearly it was poor practice for Google to be capturing and recording such information as they drove around, but the real news should be that the information was there to be captured. The intent of the monitoring of WiFi seems to be collecting the locations of WiFi base stations to improve enhanced GPS location services. This works by having your device upload a list of all the WiFi base stations it can see (along with signal strength) which the service then looks up in a database to determine your location. This requires the service to have a database of the physical location of an enormous number of WiFi base stations.

To do this, all Google would have needed to capture was the hardware address of each device. Instead they captured some of the actual data being sent back and forth as well.

It turns out that this is incredibly easy. With many of the WiFi chipsets built in to personal computers, laptops and USB adapters, one can easily download free software that will start intercepting open WiFi traffic with a single click.

The shocking news should not be that Google accidentally got this information but that anyone with bad intent could do it to you. Anonymizer will soon be releasing a video we did a few weeks back showing how someone could take control of your Facebook account using an open WiFi and almost no technical expertise at all.

If the connection between you and a website, email server, or other service is un-encrypted, then anyone near you can intercept it if you are using an open WiFi.

To be clear, open WiFi means that the underlying connection is un-encrypted. Many public WiFi sites have a login page. This is to manage usage, and provides no security to you at all.

If you get a connection before you type in a password, especially if you see a web page before you type a password, then you should assume you are on an insecure connection and therefor vulnerable.