InfoSec Island

How Ethical Hackers Find Weaknesses and Secure Businesses

InfoSec Island - Wed, 09/11/2019 - 10:41am

When people hear about hackers, it typically conjures up images of a hooded figure in a basement inputting random code into a computer terminal. This Hollywood cliché is far from the truth from modern-day cybersecurity experts, and it’s also important to note that not all hackers are malicious.

Hackers and their role in information cybersecurity is a vastly growing career on a global scale. Market research predictions in the cybersecurity space is expected to exceed $181.77 billion by 2021. The global market for cybersecurity is growing, and companies are considering security an imperative for today’s organizations.

The cybersecurity landscape has growing threats today, with data breaches and attacks happening constantly. For instance, it’s hard to forget the infamous WannaCry ransomware attack spread through the world, targeting Microsoft machines and bringing multiple services worldwide to their knees. The attack hit an estimated 200,000 computers across 150 countries, encrypting files in health services, motor manufacturing, telephone companies, logistics companies, and more.

So, what can we do to secure our businesses and online infrastructure? One option is to look to ethical hackers, or white hat hackers, security experts who approaches your data and services through the eyes of a malicious attacker. An engagement from an ethical hacker is designed to see how your infrastructure or applications would hold up against a real-world attack.

Turning to Ethical Hackers

A commonly used term for ethical hackers attacking your system is known as the “Red Team.” While this term covers a broader attack surface, including attacks against people, such as social Engineering, and physical attacks, such as lock picking. Would your security stop dedicated and professional attackers or would they find holes and weaknesses, unknown to you and your internal security team (also known as, The Blue team)?

The job description for an ethical hacker can be simple to breakdown – assess the target, scope out all functionality and weaknesses, attack the system and then prove it can be exploited. While the job description can be described quite easily, the work involved can be large and undoubtedly complex. Additionally, when carrying out a pen-test or assessment of a client’s application or network, production safety and legality is what separates the “good guys” (ethical hackers) from the “bad guys” (malicious hackers).

Assessing the Target

When beginning an assessment of a system or application, we must have a set scope before we begin. It is illegal to attack systems without prior consent and furthermore a waste of time to work on assets out of the predefined scope. Target assessment can be one of the most important steps in a well-performed test. The idea of simply jumping straight in and attacking a system on the first IP or functionality we come across is a bad way to start.

The best practice is to find everything that is part of the assessment and see how it works together. We must know what the system in place was designed to do and how data is transferred throughout. Building maps with various tools gives a much greater picture of the attack surface we can leverage. The assessment of the target is commonly known as the “enumeration phase.”

At the end of this phase we should have a great place to start attacking, with an entire structure of the system or application, hopefully with information regarding operating systems, services packs, version numbers and any other fingerprinting data that can lead to an effective exploit of the target.

Vulnerability Analysis

All information gathered against the machines or applications should immediately give a good hacker a solid attack surface and the ability to identify weakness in the system. The internet provides a vast amount of information that can easily be associated with the architecture and lists of all known exploits or vulnerabilities already found against said systems.

There are additional tools to help with vulnerability analysis, like scanners, that flag possible points of weakness in the system or application. All of the analytic data is much easier to find and test after a thorough assessment.


Then, with exploitation, the services of an ethical hacker make an impact. We may have all the assessment data and vulnerability analysis information, but if they do not know how to perform strong attacks or bypass any security mechanisms in place, then the previous steps were useless. Exploiting a commonly known vulnerability can be fairly straight forward if it has write-ups from other security specialists. But hands-on experience against creating your own injections and obfuscated code, or black/white list in place is invaluable.

Furthermore, it is imperative to test with production safety in mind. Having an ethical hacker run dangerous code or tests against the system may cause untold damage. This defeats the purpose of a secure test. The objective is to prove that it is vulnerable, without causing harm or disruption to the live system.

Providing Concepts

After a test has been concluded, the results of all exploits, vulnerability analysis and even enumeration data returning valuable system information should be documented and presented to the client. All vulnerabilities should be given ratings (Standard rating systems like CVSS3 are most common to use) on how severe the issue and impact of the exploit could be.

Additionally, steps shown on how an attacker could perform this exploit should be included in a step-by-step proof of concept. The client should be able to follow along with your report and end up with the same results showing the flaw in the system. Again, non-malicious attacks should be given in the report.

Providing these proof-of-concept reports to clients, with steps on how to reproduce the issues and give non-malicious examples of how the system can be breached, is paramount to success in securing your systems.

No Perfect System

Finally, it’s important to note that no system is ever considered flawless. Exploits and vulnerabilities are released on almost a daily basis on every type of machine, server, application and language. Security assessments and tests in modern applications must be a continual process. This is where the role of a hacker in your organization, simulating attacks in the style of a malicious outsider becomes invaluable.

Approaching your currently implemented security as a target to beat or bypass, instead of a defense mechanism waiting to be hit, is the strongest and fastest way to find any flaws that may already exist! Modern-day web applications have been described as a living, breathing thing and negligence for keeping it secure will surely result in a digital disaster!

About the author: Jonathan Rice works as a vulnerability web application specialist for application security provider WhiteHat Security. In this role, Rice has focused on manual assessments, vulnerability verification and dynamic application security testing (DAST).

Copyright 2010 Respective Author at Infosec Island
Categories: InfoSec Island

New Passive RFID Tech Poses Threat to Enterprise IoT

InfoSec Island - Wed, 09/11/2019 - 10:33am

As RFID technology continues to evolve, IoT security measures struggle to keep pace.

The Internet of Things (IoT) industry is growing at a staggering pace. The IoT market in China alone will hit $121.45 billion by 2022 and industry analysts predict that more than 3.5 billion devices will be connected through IoT globally by 2023. 

Among the most important technologies precipitating this breakneck growth is RFID or Radio Frequency Identification. RFID-tagged devices can help track inventory, improve the efficiency of healthcare and enhance services for customers in a variety of industries. 

For example, many hospitals across the world are beginning to test the use of on-metal RFID tags to not only track their inventory of surgical tools--such as scalpels, scissors, and clamps--but to ensure that each tool is properly sterilized and fully maintained prior to new operations. The implications of the widespread application of RFID tracking in the healthcare system would be a dramatic reduction in the number of avoidable infections due to unsterilized equipment and a sharp increase in the efficiency of surgical procedures.

IDenticard Vulnerabilities in PremiSys ID System

Although passive RFID technology shows much promise for streamlining and improving the management of IoT, unresolved vulnerabilities in the technology’s security remain a bottleneck for both the implementation of RFID and the growth of the IoT industry. 

In January, the research group at Tenable discovered multiple zero-day vulnerabilities in the PremiSys access control system developed by IDenticard, a US-based manufacturer of ID, access and security solutions. 

The vulnerabilities - which included weak encryption and a default username-password combination for database access - would have allowed an attacker to gain complete access to employee personal information of any organization using the PremiSys ID system. Though IDenticard released a patch to resolve the vulnerabilities, the incident points to growing security risks around network-connected, RFID-tagged devices.

In the summer of 2017, these security risks were put on full display when researchers from the KU Leuven university discovered a simple method to hack the Tesla Model S’s keyless entry fob. The researchers claim that these types of attacks were possible (prior to the security patch rolled out by Tesla in June of 2018) because of the weak encryption used by the Pektron key’s system. 

Despite the numerous security concerns that have surfaced in recent years, RFID is still one of the most tenable solutions for increasing the efficiency and safety of IoT. That said, for enterprise to take full advantage of the benefits of RFID technology, stronger security protocols and encryptions must be implemented. 

Compounding the threat is the fact that many RFID-enabled enterprise networks are at an increased risk of breaches (especially those in the Industrial IoT, IIoT) due to their inability to detect vulnerabilities and breaches in the first place. In fact, a recent study published in January by Gemalto discovered that nearly 48% of companies in all industries are unable to detect IoT device breaches. 

The Bain & Co. study pointed to security as the major obstacles to full-scale RFID/IoT adoption. With data breaches costing, on average, more than $3.86 million or $148 per record, new security measures must be taken if IoT is to fulfill its promises of en masse real-time connection between businesses, consumers, and their devices. Unsurprisingly, in the Gemalto survey interviewing 950 of the world’s leaders in IT and IoT businesses, more than 79% of them claim to want more robust guidelines for comprehensive IoT security. 

According to The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP), there are ten primary vulnerabilities present in IoT and many of these risk factors are directly related to the implementation of RFID technology. 

Securing RFID-Enabled Enterprise IoT Devices

Of the many vulnerabilities in RFID/IoT devices and technologies, few impact consumers as directly as those presented by RFID scanners. 

RFID scanners can glean information from any RFID-enabled device, not just credit cards and phones. Our IoT and IIoT, both growing at a breakneck pace and with security features lagging behind, are prime targets for exploitation. 

Security analysts have raised concerns about the safety of data traveling on these networks for years. In fact, in a study conducted by IBM, it was found that fewer than 20% of routinely test their IoT apps and devices for security vulnerabilities. With data breaches growing at an alarming pace--2018 alone resulted in the exposure of more than 47.2 million records--many customers are asking, “What protections do we have against the growing threat against connected devices?” 

As it happens, quite a lot. In 2017, a research group at the IAIK Graz University of Technology created an RFID-based system aiming to secure RFID data on an open Internet of Things (IoT) network. The engineers designed a novel RFID tag that exclusively uses the Internet Protocol Security layer to secure the RFID tag and its sensor data, regardless of what type of RFID scanner attempts to steal the tag data.

Their innovation lies in collecting the RFID sensor data first through a virtual private network (VPN) application. Using the custom RFID tag, communications are routed through the IPsec protocol, which provides secure end-to-end encryption between an RFID-enabled IoT device and the network to which it’s connected. 

Solutions that identify and resolve potential IoT device vulnerabilities still need more work before we can expect widespread implementation. For one thing, the IPsec protocol, which is available on most consumer VPN applications, does not secure networks with 100% certainty.

Researchers at Horst Görtz Institute for IT Security (HGI) at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) recently discovered a Bleichenbacher vulnerability in numerous commercial VPNs, including those used by Cisco, Clavister, Huawei and Zyxel.

RFID Breaking Big in the Enterprise Market

When it comes to RFID security, conversations gravitate toward consumer applications like contactless payment fraud or bugs in wearable technology. Though RFID spending is mostly business-to-consumer, the next largest spending category is the enterprise, comprising nearly 30% of the total RFID market.

RFID’s market size is projected to grow an additional 30% through 2020, as enterprise embraces RFID tags in everything from supply-chain management to security keycard systems. One of the big enablers of IoT in enterprises has been the simple addition of “passive” RFID tags for day-to-day operational functions. 

Passive RFID systems are comprised of RFID tags, readers/antennas, middleware, and (in many cases), RFID printers.  

With the rate the technology has evolved, the modern market now has access to thousands of tag-types with increased range and sensitivity and a plethora of substance-specific designs (e.g. tags made specifically for metal, liquid, and other materials). This technology allows for unprecedented tracking for and security of inventory, personnel, and other company assets.

Passive RFID tags, which have no electronic components, cost roughly 1/100th of the price of their “active” counterparts. And, although they have a much lower range than their active counterparts, they require no internal power source and instead draw their power from electromagnetic energy emitted by the local RFID readers. Though a tag cannot be assigned an IP address, the reader is actually part of the IoT network and is identified by its IP address, which makes the latter vulnerable, as we’ve seen, to the same kinds of hacks that affect other devices when steps have not been taken to hide the IP address.

Because of these factors, passive RFID tags are ideal for companies and supply chains operating in extreme heat and cold, dust, debris and exposure to other elements.

Final Thoughts

With all of this taken into consideration, the question still remains, “What can the average consumer do to protect their IoT devices from hackers?”

One of the simplest solutions is to make a minor investment into some kind of blocking or wallet jamming card. If you have first generation contactless cards, ask your bank or credit card company to upgrade you to the encrypted second generation. While your data might be skimmed, it will be unreadable to the perpetrator due to the power of modern encryption protocols. 

For example, a standard 256-bit protocol would take 50 supercomputers many billions of years to decrypt and the impracticalities of such an attack lead cybercriminals to target easier prey. 

Ultimately, the accelerating pace of RFID tech will make our lives more convenient. With greater convenience, however, comes a greater need for security solutions. When it comes to RFID, one can only hope that the good guys stay one step ahead in the ongoing crypto arms race.

About the author: A former defense contractor for the US Navy, Sam Bocetta turned to freelance journalism in retirement, focusing his writing on US diplomacy and national security, as well as technology trends in cyberwarfare, cyberdefense, and cryptography.


Copyright 2010 Respective Author at Infosec Island
Categories: InfoSec Island

Android RAT Exclusively Targets Brazil

InfoSec Island - Mon, 09/02/2019 - 10:59am

A newly discovered Android remote access Trojan (RAT) is specifically targeting users in Brazil, Kaspersky reports. 

Called BRATA, which stands for Brazilian RAT Android, the malware could theoretically be used to target any other Android user, should the cybercriminals behind it want to. Widespread since January 2019, the threat was primarily hosted in Google Play, but also in alternative Android app stores. 

The malware targets Android 5.0 or later and infects devices via push notifications on compromised websites, messages delivered via WhatsApp or SMS, or sponsored links in Google searches.

After discovering the first RAT samples in January and February 2019, Kaspersky has observed over 20 different variants to date, in Google Play alone, most posing as updates to WhatsApp. 

One of the topics abused by BRATA is the CVE-2019-3568 WhatsApp patch. The infamous fake WhatsApp update had over 10,000 downloads in the official Android store when it was removed, Kaspersky says.

As soon as it has infected a device, BRATA enables its keylogging feature and starts abusing Android’s Accessibility Service feature to interact with other applications.

The commands supported by the malware allow it to capture and send user’s screen output in real-time, or turn off the screen or give the user the impression that the screen is off while performing actions in the background. 

It can also retrieve Android system information, data on the logged user and their registered Google accounts, and hardware information, and can request the user to unlock the device or perform a remote unlock.

What’s more, BRATA can launch any application installed with a set of parameters sent via a JSON data file, send a string of text to input data in textboxes, and launch any particular application or uninstall the malware and remove traces of infection.

“In general, we always recommend carefully review permissions any app is requesting on the device. It is also essential to install an excellent up-to-date anti-malware solution with real-time protection enabled,” Kaspersky concludes. 

RelatedMalware Found in Google Play App With 100 Million Downloads

RelatedResearchers Discover Android Surveillance Malware Built by Russian Firm

Copyright 2010 Respective Author at Infosec Island
Categories: InfoSec Island

Three Strategies to Avoid Becoming the Next Capital One

InfoSec Island - Thu, 08/29/2019 - 11:53am

Recently, Capital One discovered a breach in their system that compromised Social Security numbers of about 140,000 credit card customers along with 80,000 bank account numbers. The breach also exposed names, addresses, phone numbers and credit scores, among other data.

What makes this breach even more disconcerting is Capital One has been the poster child for cloud adoption and most, if not all, of their applications are hosted in the cloud. They were one of the first financial companies - a very technologically conservative industry -- to adopt the cloud and have always maintained the cloud has been a critical enabler of their business success by providing incredible IT agility and competitive strengths.

So, does this mean companies should rethink their cloud adoption? In two words: hell o! The agility and economic value of cloud are intact and accelerating.  Leading edge companies will continue to adopt the cloud and SaaS technologies. The breach does, however, put a finer point on what it means to manage security in the cloud.

So how do you avoid becoming the next Capital One? At Sumo Logic, we are fully in the cloud and work with thousands of companies who have (or are planning to) adopt the cloud. Our experience enables us to offer three strategies to our enterprise CISO/security teams:

1. Know the “shared security” principles in the cloud environment.

The cloud runs on a shared security model. If you are using the cloud and building apps in the cloud, you should know that your app security is shared between you (the application owner) and the cloud platform. .

Specifically, the cloud security model means that:

  • the cloud vendor manages and controls the host operating system, the virtualization layer, and the physical security of its facilities.
  • To ensure security within the cloud, the customer configures and manages the security controls for the guest operating system and other apps (including updates and security patches), as well as for the security group firewall. The customer is also responsible for encrypting data in-transit and at-rest.
  • Have a strong IAM strategy, access control and logging are key to stopping inseider threats
  • Consider a Bug Bounty program, this was an essential point in what Capital One did right to identify the breach.

Hence, running in the cloud does not absolve you of managing the security of your application or its infrastructure, something all cloud enterprises should be aware of. It is also a good time to step up you security to invite ethical hacking on your services. At Sumo Logic, we have been running Bounties on our platform for two years using both HackOne and BugCrowd to open the kimono and gain trust from our consumers that we are doing everything possible to secure their data in the cloud.

Your call to action: Know the model. Know what you are responsible for (at the end of the day, almost everything!).

2. Know and use the cloud native security services

Some elements of cloud infrastructure and systems are opaque -- all cloud providers provide native security services to help you get control of access/security in the cloud. It’s imperative enterprises in the cloud use these foundational services. In Sumo Logic’s third annual State of the Modern App Report, we analyzed the usage of these services in AWS and saw significant usage of these services.

Your call to action: Implement the cloud platform security services. They are your foundational services and help implement your basic posture.

3. Get a “cloud” SIEM to mind the minder

A security information event management (SIEM) solution is like a radar system pilots and air traffic controllers use. Without one, enterprise IT is flying blind in regard to security. Today’s most serious threats are distributed, acting in concert across multiple systems and using advanced evasion techniques to avoid detection. Without a SIEM, attacks are allowed to germinate and grow into emergency incidents with significant business impact.

Cloud security is radically different from traditional SIEM’s. There are many key differences:

  • The architecture of cloud apps (microservices, API based) is very different from traditional apps
  • The surface area of cloud applications (and therefore security incidents) is very large
  • The types of security incidents (malware, ransomware etc.) in the cloud could also be very different from traditional data center attacks

While you consider a SIEM, consider one focused on new threats in the cloud environment, built in the cloud, for the cloud.

So, there you have it -- three strategies to preventing catastrophic cloud security issues. These strategies will not fix everything, but they are the best starting points to improve your security posture as you move to the cloud.

About the author: As Sumo Logic's Chief Security Officer, George Gerchow brings over 20 years of information technology and systems management expertise to the application of IT processes and disciplines. His background includes the security, compliance, and cloud computing disciplines.

Copyright 2010 Respective Author at Infosec Island
Categories: InfoSec Island

Why a Business-Focused Approach to Security Assurance Should Be an Ongoing Investment

InfoSec Island - Thu, 08/29/2019 - 9:14am

How secure is your organization’s information? At any given moment, can a security leader look an executive in the eye and tell them how well business processes, projects and supporting assets are protected?   

Security assurance should provide relevant stakeholders with a clear, objective picture of the effectiveness of information security controls. However, in a fast-moving, interconnected world where the threat landscape is constantly evolving, many security assurance programs are unable to keep pace. Ineffective programs that do not focus sufficiently on the needs of the business can provide a false level of confidence.  

A Business-Focused Approach

Many organizations aspire to an approach that directly links security assurance with the needs of the business, demonstrating the level of value that security provides. Unfortunately, there is often a significant gap between aspiration and reality.

Improvement requires time and patience, but organizations do not need to start at the beginning. Most already have the basics of security assurance in place, meeting compliance obligations by evaluating the extent to which required controls have been implemented and identifying gaps or weaknesses. 

Taking a business-focused approach to security assurance is an evolution. It means going a step further and demonstrating how well business processes, projects and supporting assets are really protected, by focusing on how effective controls are. It requires a broader view, considering the needs of multiple stakeholders within the organization.

Business-focused security assurance programs can build on current compliance-based approaches by:

  • Identifying the specific needs of different business stakeholders
  • Testing and verifying the effectiveness of controls, rather than focusing purely on whether the right ones are in place
  • Reporting on security in a business context
  • Leveraging skills, expertise and technology from within and outside the organization

A successful business-focused security assurance program requires positive, collaborative working relationships throughout the organization. Security, business and IT leaders should energetically engage with each other to make sure that requirements are realistic and expectations are understood by all.

A Change Will Do You Good

The purpose of security assurance is to provide business leaders with an accurate and realistic level of confidence in the protection of ‘target environments’ for which they are responsible. This involves presenting relevant stakeholders with evidence regarding the effectiveness of controls. However, common organizational approaches to security assurance do not always provide an accurate or realistic level of confidence, nor focus on the needs of the business.

Security assurance programs seldom provide reliable assurance in a dynamic technical environment, which is subject to a rapidly changing threat landscape. Business stakeholders often lack confidence in the accuracy of security assurance findings for a variety of reasons.

Common security assurance activities and reporting practices only provide a snapshot view, which can quickly become out of date: new threats emerge or existing ones evolve soon after results are reported. Activities such as security audits and control gap assessments typically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of controls at a single point in time. While these types of assurance activities can be helpful in identifying trends and patterns, reports provided on a six-monthly or annual basis are unlikely to present an accurate, up-to-date picture of the effectiveness of controls. More regular reporting is required to keep pace with new threats.

Applying a Repeatable Process

Organizations should follow a clearly defined and approved process for performing security assurance in target environments. The process should be repeatable for any target environment, fulfilling specific business-defined requirements.

The security assurance process comprises five steps, which can be adopted or tailored to meet the needs of any organization. During each step of the process a variety of individuals, including representatives from operational and business support functions throughout the organization, might need to be involved.

The extent to which individuals and functions are involved during each step will differ between organizations. A relatively small security assurance function, for example, may need to acquire external expertise or additional specialists from the broader information security or IT functions to conduct specific types of technical testing. However, in every organization:

  • Business stakeholders should influence and approve the objectives and scope of security assurance assessments
  • The security assurance function should analyze results from security assurance assessments to measure performance and report the main findings

Organizations should:

  • Prioritize and select the target environments in which security assurance activities will be performed
  • Apply the security assurance process to selected target environments
  • Consolidate results from assessments of multiple target environments to provide a wider picture of the effectiveness of security controls
  • Make improvements to the security assurance program over time

An Ongoing Investment

In a fast-moving business environment filled with constantly evolving cyber threats, leaders want confidence that their business processes, projects and supporting assets are well protected. An independent and objective security assurance function should provide business stakeholders with the right level of confidence in controls – complacency can have disastrous consequences.

Security assurance activities should demonstrate how effective controls really are – not just determine whether they have been implemented or not. Focusing on what business stakeholders need to know about the specific target environments for which they have responsibility will enable the security assurance function to report in terms that resonate. Delivering assurance that critical business processes and projects are not exposed to financial loss, do not leak sensitive information, are resilient and meet legal, regulatory and compliance requirements, will help to demonstrate the value of security to the business.

In most cases, new approaches to security assurance should be more of an evolution than a revolution. Organizations can build on existing compliance-based approaches rather than replace them, taking small steps to see what works and what doesn’t.

Establishing a business-focused security assurance program is a long-term, ongoing investment.

About the author: Steve Durbin is Managing Director of the Information Security Forum (ISF). His main areas of focus include strategy, information technology, cyber security and the emerging security threat landscape across both the corporate and personal environments. Previously, he was senior vice president at Gartner.

Copyright 2010 Respective Author at Infosec Island
Categories: InfoSec Island