Google Security Blog

New Research: Lessons from Password Checkup in action

Google Security Blog - Thu, 08/15/2019 - 8:00am
Posted by Jennifer Pullman, Kurt Thomas, and Elie Bursztein, Spam and Abuse research

Back in February, we announced the Password Checkup extension for Chrome to help keep all your online accounts safe from hijacking. The extension displays a warning whenever you sign in to a site using one of over 4 billion usernames and passwords that Google knows to be unsafe due to a third-party data breach. Since our launch, over 650,000 people have participated in our early experiment. In the first month alone, we scanned 21 million usernames and passwords and flagged over 316,000 as unsafe---1.5% of sign-ins scanned by the extension.
Today, we are sharing our most recent lessons from the launch and announcing an updated set of features for the Password Checkup extension. Our full research study, available here, will be presented this week as part of the USENIX Security Symposium.

Which accounts are most at risk?

Hijackers routinely attempt to sign in to sites across the web with every credential exposed by a third-party breach. If you use strong, unique passwords for all your accounts, this risk disappears. Based on anonymous telemetry reported by the Password Checkup extension, we found that users reused breached, unsafe credentials for some of their most sensitive financial, government, and email accounts. This risk was even more prevalent on shopping sites (where users may save credit card details), news, and entertainment sites.

In fact, outside the most popular web sites, users are 2.5X more likely to reuse vulnerable passwords, putting their account at risk of hijacking.
Anonymous telemetry reported by Password Checkup extension shows that users most often reuse vulnerable passwords on shopping, news, and entertainment sites.

Helping users re-secure their unsafe passwords

Our research shows that users opt to reset 26% of the unsafe passwords flagged by the Password Checkup extension. Even better, 60% of new passwords are secure against guessing attacks—meaning it would take an attacker over a hundred million guesses before identifying the new password.
Improving the Password Checkup extension

Today, we are also releasing two new features for the Password Checkup extension. The first is a direct feedback mechanism where users can inform us about any issues that they are facing via a quick comment box. The second gives users even more control over their data. It allows users to opt-out of the anonymous telemetry that the extension reports, including the number of lookups that surface an unsafe credential, whether an alert leads to a password change, and the domain involved for improving site coverage. By design, the Password Checkup extension ensures that Google never learns your username or password, regardless of whether you enable telemetry, but we still want to provide this option if users would prefer not to share this information.


We're continuing to improve the Password Checkup extension and exploring ways to implement its technology into Google products. For help keeping all your online accounts safe from hijacking, you can install the Password Checkup extension here today.
Categories: Google Security Blog

Making authentication even easier with FIDO2-based local user verification for Google Accounts

Google Security Blog - Mon, 08/12/2019 - 12:06pm
Posted by Dongjing He, Software Engineer and Christiaan Brand, Product Manager 

Passwords, combined with Google's automated protections, help secure billions of users around the world. But, new security technologies are surpassing passwords in terms of both strength and convenience. With this in mind, we are happy to announce that you can verify your identity by using your fingerprint or screen lock instead of a password when visiting certain Google services. The feature is available today on Pixel devices and coming to all Android 7+ devices over the next few days.


Simpler authentication experience when viewing your saved password for a website on passwords.google.com

These enhancements are built using the FIDO2 standards, W3C WebAuthn and FIDO CTAP, and are designed to provide simpler and more secure authentication experiences. They are a result of years of collaboration between Google and many other organizations in the FIDO Alliance and the W3C.

An important benefit of using FIDO2 versus interacting with the native fingerprint APIs on Android is that these biometric capabilities are now, for the first time, available on the web, allowing the same credentials be used by both native apps and web services. This means that a user only has to register their fingerprint with a service once and then the fingerprint will work for both the native application and the web service.

Note that your fingerprint is never sent to Google’s servers - it is securely stored on your device, and only a cryptographic proof that you’ve correctly scanned it is sent to Google’s servers. This is a fundamental part of the FIDO2 design.
Here is how it works
Google is using the FIDO2 capability on Android to register a platform-bound FIDO credential. We remember the credential for that specific Android device. Now, when the user visits a compatible service, such as passwords.google.com, we issue a WebAuthn “Get” call, passing in the credentialId that we got when creating the credential. The result is a valid FIDO2 signature.

High-level architecture of using fingerprint or screen lock on Android devices to verify a user’s identity without a password
Please follow the instructions below if you’d like to try it out.
Prerequisites
  • Phone is running Android 7.0 (Nougat) or later
  • Your personal Google Account is added to your Android device
  • Valid screen lock is set up on your Android device
To try it
  • Open the Chrome app on your Android device
  • Navigate to https://passwords.google.com
  • Choose a site to view or manage a saved password
  • Follow the instructions to confirm that it’s you trying signing in
You can find more detailed instructions here.

For additional security
Remember, Google's automated defenses securely block the overwhelming majority of sign-in attempts even if an attacker has your username or password. Further, you can protect your accounts with two-step verification (2SV), including Titan Security Keys and Android phone’s built-in security key.

Both security keys and local user verification based on biometrics use the FIDO2 standards. However, these two protections address different use cases. Security keys are used for bootstrapping a new device as a second factor as part of 2SV in order to make sure it’s the right owner of the account accessing it. Local user verification based on biometrics comes after bootstrapping a device and can be used for re-authentication during step-up flows to verify the identity of the already signed-in user.

What’s next
This new capability marks another step on our journey to making authentication safer and easier for everyone to use. As we continue to embrace the FIDO2 standard, you will start seeing more places where local alternatives to passwords are accepted as an authentication mechanism for Google and Google Cloud services. Check out this presentation to get an early glimpse of the use cases that we are working to enable next.
Categories: Google Security Blog

Awarding Google Cloud Vulnerability Research

Google Security Blog - Thu, 08/08/2019 - 5:02pm
Posted by Felix Groebert, Information Security Engineering

Today, we’re excited to announce a yearly Google Cloud Platform (GCP) VRP Prize to promote security research of GCP. A prize of $100,000.00 will be paid to the reporter of the best vulnerability affecting GCP reported through our Vulnerability Reward Program (g.co/vulnz) and having a public write-up (nominations will be received here).

We’ve received vulnerability reports for various application security flaws in GCP over the years, but we felt research of our Cloud platform has been under-represented in our Vulnerability Reward Program. So, with the GCP VRP Prize, we hope to encourage even more researchers to focus on GCP products and help us identify even more security vulnerabilities.

Note that we will continue to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to our top bug hunters through our Vulnerability Research Grants Program even when no bugs are found, and to reward up to tens of thousands of dollars per bug to the most impactful findings. This prize is meant to create an additional incentive for more people to focus on public, open security research on GCP who would otherwise not participate in the reward program.

This competition draws on our previous contests, such as Pwnium and the Project Zero Prize, and rather than focusing bug hunters on collecting vulnerabilities for complex bug chains, we are attempting a slightly different twist and selecting a single winner out of all vulnerabilities we receive. That said, this approach comes with its own challenges, such as: defining the right incentives for bug hunters (both in terms of research as well as their communications with our team when reporting vulnerabilities); or ensuring there are no conflicting incentives, either when our own team is looking for similar vulnerabilities (since we aren't eligible for collecting the prize).

For the rest of the year, we will be seeking feedback from our top bug hunters and the security community to help define what vulnerabilities are the most significant, and we hope we can work together to find the best way to incentivize, recognize, and reward open security research. To further incentivize research in 2019, we will be issuing GCP VRP grants summing up to $100,000 to our top 2018 researchers.

Head over here for the full details on the contest. Note that if you have budget constraints for access to testing environments, you can use the free tier of GCP.

We look forward to our Vulnerability Rewards Programs resulting in even more GCP customer protection in the following years thanks to the hard work of the security research community. Follow us on @GoogleVRP.
Categories: Google Security Blog

Understanding why phishing attacks are so effective and how to mitigate them

Google Security Blog - Thu, 08/08/2019 - 1:46pm
Posted by Elie Bursztein, Security & Anti-abuse Research Lead, Daniela Oliveira, Professor at the University of Florida


Phishing attacks continue to be one of the common forms of account compromise threats. Every day, Gmail blocks more than 100 million phishing emails and Google Safe Browsing helps protect more than 4 billion devices against dangerous sites. 

As part of our ongoing efforts to further protect users from phishing, we’re partnering with  Daniela Oliveira from the University of Florida during a talk at Black Hat 2019 to explore the reasons why social engineering attacks remain effective phishing tactics, even though they have been around for decades.


Overall, the research finds there are a few key factors that make phishing an effective attack vector:
  • Phishing is constantly evolving: 68% of the phishing emails blocked by Gmail today are new variations that were never seen before. This fast pace adversarial evolution requires humans and machines to adapt very quickly to prevent them.
  • Phishing is targeted:  Many of the campaigns targeting Gmail end-users and enterprise consumers only target a few dozen individuals. Enterprise users being 4.8x more targeted than end-users.
  • Phishers are persuasion experts: As highlighted by Daniela’s research with Natalie Ebner et al. at the University of Florida, phishers have mastered the use of persuasion techniques, emotional salience and  gain or loss framing to trick users into reacting to phishing emails.
  • 45% of users don’t understand what phishing is: After surveying Internet users, we found that 45% of them do not  understand what phishing is or the risk associated with it. This lack of awareness increases the risk of being phished and potentially hinders the adoption of 2-step verification. 


Protecting users against phishing requires a layered defense approach that includes:
  • Educating users about phishing so they understand what it is, how to detect it and how to protect themselves.
  • Leveraging the recent advances in AI to build robust phishing detections that can keep pace with fast  evolving phishing campaigns.
  • Displaying actionable phishing warnings that are easy to understand by users so they know how to react when they see them.
  • Using strong two factor authentication makes it more difficult  for phishers to compromise accounts. Two-factor technologies, as visible in the graph above, can be effective against the various forms of phishing, which highlights the importance of driving awareness and adoption among users.  
While technologies to help mitigate phishing exist, such as FIDO standard security keys, there is still work to be done to help users increase awareness understand how to protect themselves against phishing.
Categories: Google Security Blog

Adopting the Arm Memory Tagging Extension in Android

Google Security Blog - Fri, 08/02/2019 - 11:40am
Posted by Kostya Serebryany, Google Core Systems, and Sudhi Herle, Android Security & Privacy Team

As part of our continuous commitment to improve the security of the Android ecosystem, we are partnering with Arm to design the memory tagging extension (MTE). Memory safety bugs, common in C and C++, remain one of the largest vulnerabilities in the Android platform and although there have been previous hardening efforts, memory safety bugs comprised more than half of the high priority security bugs in Android 9. Additionally, memory safety bugs manifest as hard to diagnose reliability problems, including sporadic crashes or silent data corruption. This reduces user satisfaction and increases the cost of software development. Software testing tools, such as ASAN and HWASAN help, but their applicability on current hardware is limited due to noticeable overheads.

MTE, a hardware feature, aims to further mitigate these memory safety bugs by enabling us to detect them with low overhead. It has two execution modes:

  • Precise mode: Provides more detailed information about the memory violation
  • Imprecise mode: Has lower CPU overhead and is more suitable to be always-on.

Arm recently published a whitepaper on MTE and has added documentation to the Arm v8.5 Architecture Reference Manual.

We envision several different usage modes for MTE.

  • MTE provides a version of ASAN/HWASAN that is easier to use for testing and fuzzing in laboratory environments. It will find more bugs in a fraction of the time and at a lower cost, reducing the complexity of the development process. In many cases, MTE will allow testing memory safety using the same binary as shipped to production. The bug reports produced by MTE will be as detailed and actionable as those from ASAN and HWASAN.
  • MTE will be used as a mechanism for testing complex software scenarios in production. App Developers and OEMs will be able to selectively turn on MTE for parts of the software stack. Where users have provided consent, bug reports will be available to developers via familiar mechanisms like Google Play Console.
  • MTE can be used as a strong security mitigation in the Android System and applications for many classes of memory safety bugs. For most instances of such vulnerabilities, a probabilistic mitigation based on MTE could prevent exploitation with a higher than 90% chance of detecting each invalid memory access. By implementing these protections and ensuring that attackers can't make repeated attempts to exploit security-critical components, we can significantly reduce the risk to users posed by memory safety issues.

We believe that memory tagging will detect the most common classes of memory safety bugs in the wild, helping vendors identify and fix them, discouraging malicious actors from exploiting them. During the past year, our team has been working to ensure readiness of the Android platform and application software for MTE. We have deployed HWASAN, a software implementation of the memory tagging concept, to test our entire platform and a few select apps. This deployment has uncovered close to 100 memory safety bugs. The majority of these bugs were detected on HWASAN enabled phones in everyday use. MTE will greatly improve upon this in terms of overhead, ease of deployment, and scale. In parallel, we have been working on supporting MTE in the LLVM compiler toolchain and in the Linux kernel. The Android platform support for MTE will be complete by the time of silicon availability.

Google is committed to supporting MTE throughout the Android software stack. We are working with select Arm System On Chip (SoC) partners to test MTE support and look forward to wider deployment of MTE in the Android software and hardware ecosystem. Based on the current data points, MTE provides tremendous benefits at acceptable performance costs. We are considering MTE as a possible foundational requirement for certain tiers of Android devices.

Thank you to Mitch Phillips, Evgenii Stepanov, Vlad Tsyrklevich, Mark Brand, and Serban Constantinescu for their contributions to this post.

Categories: Google Security Blog

Titan Security Keys are now available in Canada, France, Japan, and the UK

Google Security Blog - Wed, 07/31/2019 - 8:01pm
Posted by Christiaan Brand, Product Manager, Google Cloud
Credential compromise as a result of phishing is one of the most common causes of security breaches. Security keys provide the strongest protection against these types of attacks, and that’s one of the main reasons why Google requires them as a second factor of authentication for our employees.

Last year, we launched Titan Security Keys in the United States and were excited to see strong demand from users and businesses choosing to protect their personal and work Google Accounts. Starting today, Titan Security Keys are also available on the Google Store in Canada, France, Japan, and the United Kingdom (UK).



Titan Security Keys

Titan Security Keys are built with a hardware chip that includes firmware engineered by Google to verify the keys’ integrity. Each key leverages FIDO standards to cryptographically verify your identity and URL of the login page, preventing an attacker from accessing your account even if you are tricked into providing your username and password. Security keys are appropriate for any security-conscious user or enterprise, and we recommend that all users, especially those at higher risk such as IT administrators, executives, politicians, and activists consider signing in via security keys.

Bundles of two Titan Security Keys (one USB/NFC and one Bluetooth) are available on the Google Store in Canada, France, Japan, and the UK in addition to the US. To set up your security keys with your personal or work Google Account, sign in and navigate to the 2-Step Verification page. In addition, you can enroll in the Advanced Protection Program, which provides Google’s strongest security for anyone at risk of targeted attacks. Titan Security Keys can also be used anywhere FIDO security keys are supported, including Coinbase, Dropbox, Facebook, GitHub, Salesforce, Stripe, Twitter, and more

Enterprise administrators can require security keys for their users in G Suite and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Bulk orders of unbundled Titan Security Keys are available in Canada, Japan, and the US.
Categories: Google Security Blog

Chrome Fuzzer Program Update And How-To

Google Security Blog - Tue, 07/30/2019 - 1:07pm
Posted by Max Moroz, Fuzzing Evangelist, and Ned Williamson, Fuzzing Entrepreneur

TL;DR We increased the Chrome Fuzzer Program bonus from $500 to $1,000 as part of our recent update of reward amounts.

Chrome Fuzzer Program is a part of the Google Chrome Vulnerability Reward Program that lets security researchers run their fuzzers at scale on the ClusterFuzz infrastructure. It makes bug reporting fully automated, and the fuzzer authors get the same rewards as if they reported the bugs manually, plus an extra bonus ($1,000 as of now) on top of it for every new vulnerability.

We run fuzzers indefinitely, and some of the fuzzers contributed years ago are still finding security issues in ever changing Chrome code. This is a win-win for both sides, as security researchers do not have to spend time analyzing the crashes, and Chrome developers receive high quality bug reports automatically.

To learn more about the Chrome Fuzzer Program, let’s talk to Ned Williamson, who’s been a participant since 2017 and now works on the Google Security team.

Q: Hey Ned! It looks like you’ve received over $50,000 by participating in the Google Chrome Vulnerability Reward Program with your quic_stream_factory_fuzzer.

A: Yes, it’s true. I wrote a fuzzer for QUIC which helped me find and report two critical vulnerabilities, each worth $10,000. Because I knew my fuzzer worked well, I submitted it to the Chrome Fuzzer Program. Then, in the next few months, I received that reward three more times (plus a bonus), as the fuzzer caught several security regressions on ClusterFuzz soon after they happened.

Q: Have you intentionally focused on the areas that yield higher severity issues and bigger rewards?

A: Yes. While vulnerabilities in code that is more critical to user security yield larger reward amounts, I actually started by looking at lower severity bugs and incrementally began looking for more severe bugs until I could find critical ones. You can see this progression by looking at the bugs I reported manually as an external researcher.

Q: Would you suggest starting by looking for non-critical bugs?

A: I would say so. Security-critical code is generally better designed and more thoroughly audited, so it might be discouraging to start from there. Finding less critical security bugs and winning bounties is a good way to build confidence and stay motivated.

Q: Can you share an algorithm on how to find security bugs in Chrome?

A: Looking at previous and existing bug reports, even for non-security crashes, is a great way to tell which code is security-critical and potentially buggy. From there, if some code looks like it’s exposed to user inputs, I’d set up a fuzzing campaign against that component. After you gain experience you will not need to rely on existing reports to find new attack surface, which in turn helps you find places that have not been considered by previous researchers. This was the case for my QUIC fuzzer.

Q: How did you learn to write fuzzers?

A: I didn’t have any special knowledge about fuzzing before I started looking for vulnerabilities in Chrome. I followed the documentation in the repository and I still follow the same process today.

Q: Your fuzzer isn’t very simple compared to many other fuzzers. How did you get to that implementation?

A: The key insight in the QUIC fuzzer was realizing that the parts of the code that handled plaintext messages after decryption were prone to memory corruption. Typically, fuzzing does not perform well with encrypted inputs (it’s pretty hard to “randomly” generate a packet that can be successfully decrypted), so I extended the QUIC testing code to allow for testing with encryption disabled.

Q: Are there any other good examples of fuzz targets employing a similar logic?

A: Another example is pdf_formcalc_context_fuzzer that wraps the fuzzing input around with a valid hardcoded PDF file, therefore focusing fuzzing only on the XFA script part of it. As a researcher, you just need to choose what exactly you want to fuzz, and then understand how to execute that code properly. Looking at the unit tests is usually the easiest way to get such an understanding.

Useful links:

Happy fuzzing and bug hunting!

Categories: Google Security Blog