October was named European Month of Cyber Security and because of that, many events intended to raise cyber security awareness (such as Security Fest in Prague) were held during the 30 day period. Unfortunately, October has seen just as many new developments on the proverbial “dark side” of cyber security. One of these was a widely followed theft of personal data (including credit card numbers) of up to four milion customers of a British telecommunication service provider TalkTalk.
Information concerning number of devices vulnerable to Heartbleed vulnerability has appeared in the news during September. Given that the existence of Heartbleed was made public almost a year and a half ago it may be surprising that the number of vulnerable devices exceeds 200.000. Affair concerning the Stagefright vulnerability (which was mentioned in the last Looking back) continued in September when Zimperium – the company which discovered Stagefright – released a proof-of-concept code which exploits the vulnerability.
One of the most important information related to cyber security pertains to August release of a patch for the Stagefright vulnerability, to which almost all versions of the Android OS from versions 2.2 to version 5.1 are vulnerable. The existence of Stagefright had been made public at the end of July and it is estimated that vulnerable device number in hundreds of millions. The vulnerability enables the attacker to cause arbitrary code execution by sending a specially crafted MMS.
The most important IT security-related news in July has definitely been the affair surrounding a theft of data from the Hacking Team – company, which develops commercial spyware intended for use by police departments and other security agencies. More than 400 GB of stolen data were made public and afterwards analyzed by IT security specialists, leading to discovery of a large number (still growing) of zero-day vulnerabilities which were used in Hacking Team’s products.
Probably the most interesting of security-related news in June has been an announcement by OPM (Office of Personnel Management of United States), organization which is responsible for HR services and administration of US federal employees, about an attack which exposed records for approximately four million current and past employees. The breach has apparently been active for some time before it was discovered using a special IDS called Einstein. Anonymous US officials attributed the attack to China.
May has been at least as rich on cybersecurity incidents and events as any of the previous months of the year. Some of the more important are described in the following text. The VENOM (Virtual Environment Neglected Operations Manipulation) vulnerability may be considered to be a very significant one. VENOM is a vulnerability in the code of a virtual floppy drive which is used by some of the virtualization platforms (QEMU, KVM, Xen).
During April, we have witnessed - among others - a discovery of an 18 years old “Redirect to SMB” vulnerability which can be used to attack all versions of Windows released since then. The vulnerability can be exploited in cases when attacker has some control over the network, enabling him to gain user login information by redirecting of network traffic to a malicious SMB (server message block) server. The server forces the target to automatic authorization process during which the target sends users login, domain and hashed password.
Looking back at March, probably the most important information security news has been discovery of a significant vulnerability (which could be exploited using a FREAK attack) in some TLS/SSL implementations, including the ones used by Windows operating systems. Another worth while news has been a discovery of a new campaign aimed at energy sector companies in the Middle East. Trojan Laizok - a reconnaissance malware for gathering information about infected systems - has been used in the campaign, along with other malicious programs which have been modified for specific systems based on the information gathered by Laizok.
Researchers from Google’s Project Zero have released information about a new attack based on flipping bits in DDR3 memory. The attack uses approach called Rowhammer which was devised last year by a team from Carnegie Mellon University and Intel Labs. It is based on repeated writing to and reading from a part of memory in a very short time which causes flipping values of bits in adjacent memory (the flipping is made possible by interaction between adjacent memory cells caused by their close proximity).
An international research team has devised attack called FREAK (Factoring attack on RSA Export Keys) with which it is possible to lower the level of encryption used in SSL connections. Attack is based on forcing server and client to use legacy (the vulnerability has been present for a long time) weak cryptographic suites which are still supported by some of the mainstream browsers (Safari and OpenSSL-based Android browser among others) and servers.