These are quick first looks and trend and threats


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Archive for the ‘Security news’ Category

Linux and Connected? Don’t Panic!

Friday, August 19th, 2016

This week’s hot news within network security circles is likely to be about the most recent update to the TCP specification which allegedly allows communication channels to be hijacked by a remote attacker. This latest TCP specification has been implemented on Linux systems, but is yet to be on Windows, apparently.

This is essentially an information disclosure flaw. The latest TCP specification may leak information about established, active connections through a side channel. The researchers who discovered the flaw claim it could allow a hacker to insert malicious or unwanted data packets into a data packet series between any two arbitrary machines whose IPs are known. Interestingly this Man-in-the-Middle type scenario would not require the attacker to insert himself/herself on the same communication channel as the connected target machines.

How serious is this flaw to a typical end user, though? To attack an end user, a hacker would need to identify a spoofed IP address to pretend to come from a specific source with which the user has already established a connection, and the user’s own target IP address. Hence, the probability that any specific user gets targeted at random is less, the reason being that there is a huge user base of dynamically-allocated IPs. Exploitation of the flaw could be more likely to succeed in IPv4 cases, but with the introduction of IPv6 the probability that an individual user’s IP would be found at random is small, both in the case of mobile devices and desktop computers.

Given the nature of an attempted attack perhaps this flaw will be more worrisome to web servers, etc., which are required to be ON all the time, and more likely to have predictable IPs.

As for the malware injection claim, it seems less likely that a malware payload by itself would be sent within a data packet. Rather, it could be a malicious URL that redirects the user to download the malware.

Installing a reputed and updated security product like K7 Total Security should block any malicious URLs being accessed or malicious files from being downloaded onto a victim’s computer.

Image courtesy: wakinguptheghost.com

Samir Mody, K7 Threat Control Lab
V.Dhanalakshmi, K7 Threat Control Lab

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Quadrooter: Android Chipped but not Cracked

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

Shattering the period of calm after the discovery of Android Stagefright exploit, Android Quadrooter has become the current hot topic in the mobile security industry. Quadrooter, as its name suggests, is a group of four vulnerabilities in the software drivers for Qualcomm chipsets within certain Android devices.  These drivers are responsible for communication between chipset components in the Android packages developed by the manufacturer.

Exploiting any one of these four vulnerabilities in the drivers would provide a hacker with root access on the device. Unlike Stagefright, which was exploitable via remotely sent crafted messages, these Quadrooter vulnerabilities are apparently exploitable only through apps which must be explicitly downloaded and installed by the user.  Although this is may be considered another dangerous method that hackers can incorporate into their malware to attain root permissions, at the time of writing, not a single actual sample has been found in the wild.

Patching the vulnerable software drivers with appropriate security updates would be the most suitable solution to mitigate the risk caused by these vulnerabilities. However it is a never ending debate whether a security update from Google (or Qualcomm, etc.,) can be customized to suit a handset manufacturer’s model within a reasonable time frame. In fact how quickly does a manufacturer’s customized security update reach its own users’ devices? “ .

The  good news is that Google claims that these exploits can be blocked by the “Verify Apps” feature in the Android OS from version 4.2 (Jelly Bean). Locate this feature at:

Settings>System>Security>Verify Apps

Here are a few steps to follow to help avoid dangerous security issues when downloading an application and other unwanted scenarios:

  • Always prefer to download an application from the official Google Play
  • Think twice before you download an application whether you really need it
  • Check any documented usage of the application to ensure that it does not perform any functionality separate from your expectations
  • Verify the reputation of the application by checking the reviews available
  • Avoid using free Wi-Fi hotspots, in particular those that are not password protected
  • Install a reputed and up-to-date mobile security product like “K7 Mobile Security”
  • Avail of the available application verification features like “verify apps” in recent Android OSs to identify a malware before installation.

V.Dhanalakshmi
Senior Threat Researcher, K7TCL

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K7 @ CARO 2016

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

The CARO Workshop 2016, held in Bucharest, Romania, between May 19-20 featured presentations from notable security vendors and researchers, with a focus on the application of machine learning to security. The keynote speech was by Dr. Ashkan Fardost, who, among other things, talked about connecting reindeer to the internet.

K7’s Gregory Panakkal  and Georgelin Manuel participated in the CARO workshop with their presentation titled “A High-Performance, Low-Cost Approach to Large-Scale Malware Clustering”. Their popular talk suggested a technique to cluster huge numbers of malware files on commodity hardware. This presentation demonstrated clustering 2 million files on a machine with a modest configuration in under 3 minutes. The ideas exhibited were well-received, and attracted considerable attention from researchers who are thirsting for alternatives to distributed computing, which is currently the standard solution for handling large numbers of files.

Image courtesy of 2016.caro.org

Product Engineering Team

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Does Android Nutella Hit the Security Sweet Spot?

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

This blog intends to inform the general public about the next version of Android (7.0), expected to be labelled “Android Nutella” focussing on the significance of improved or new security features in the sweet next in line from Google.

The next dessert to taste after Marshmallow, provisionally “Nutella” (Android 7.0), loaded on Nexus devices, is expected to hit the market in Q3, 2016.

Few of the confirmed major new features in Android N as per the Android N Developer Preview version are:

  • Multi-window mode
  • Efficient Doze mode
  • Direct-reply notifications/Quick settings
  • Shifting Android Java language libraries to OpenJDK
  • Faster App optimization by ART
  • Android Beta Program
  • Data Saver mode
  • Video and Picture at the sametime
  • Changing display screen size
  • Dark mode
  • New folder icons
  • Clear All feature in recent apps list
  • Lock screen enhancements

It is to be noted from the above feature list of Android N that there are no major security enhancements in Android N revealed in the Developer Preview versions.

Lock screen enhancements:

  • In Android N, it is possible to enable a setting that allows the user to display user information like name, address, blood group, etc., on the lock screen.
  • The latest developer preview 2 of Android N  allows the user to reply to notifications from the lock screen itself.

Saying that, the enhancements at the lock screen level raises the question of privacy, i.e. data security. Suppose the device is misplaced or lost, it is possible for a third party to know the user’s identity. Credit card and banking divisions always verify a user’s identity for any request of user-profile change or account request, exactly the kind of information which can be obtained from a stolen Android N phone might enable a third party to easily steal or misuse the victim’s account.

It goes without saying that there could be a password protection mechanism to access user’s personal data. However, in that case it might not serve the purpose of helping in an emergency.

As the Android threat landscape seems to have gone a bit silent of late, at least in the IT security  world, after the discovery of the Stagefright exploit, and given Google’s super confidence in the absence of malware for Android, perhaps, the Android N development team might have skipped Security in the major feature enhancement list.

Even though the Android malware landscape has not thrown up too much to write home about in the last few months, it is understood that as there is always a malware threat for any popular OS, and hopefully Google is continuing to take security seriously. Note, apparently not all the features have been revealed in the preview versions of Nutella so let us wait for the release candidate of Android N to have a clear picture of any major security feature changes. The proof will be in the eating…

Image courtesy:
nutella.com

V.Dhanalakshmi
Senior Threat Researcher, K7TCL

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Serve in India? Store in India! Please…

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

The Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh recently requested the likes of Google, Facebook and WhatsApp to base their servers in India for security reasons.

WhatsApp has launched end-to-end encryption which makes snooping on WhatsApp traffic via, say, a Man-in-the-Middle very difficult, thus maintaining high levels of privacy. However, the events in parts of the country over the past few days are a reminder of the power of social media in disinformation campaigns.

Such social media services are regularly abused by terrorist groups to communicate amongst themselves as well as to spread propaganda. Therefore security agencies require access to communication content as per the provisions of the Information Technology Act. Since encrypted traffic makes it difficult to monitor the activities of suspects, it is important that content on the servers is made available when lawfully requested.

Such requests would be acquiesced to more readily if social media services for Indian citizens were hosted on servers within India’s jurisdiction, instead of typically in the US as is the case currently. The high-profile battle between the FBI and Apple in the US demonstrates the difficulties Indian security agencies could face in obtaining data from outside of India’s jurisdiction.

As I had mentioned a couple of years ago, the public’s opposition to the government imposing on their privacy is based on their prevailing threat perception. Given India’s history, geography and an unenviable record of victimhood, one would suggest that the threat perception in India is rather high.

Let us see if and how the social media giants bend to the government’s will.

Image courtesy of gadgets.ndtv.com.

Samir Mody
Senior Manager, K7TCL

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There is an I,o,T in Monetize

Friday, April 15th, 2016

Following part I of the blog series that describes the security problems in IoT, here is the second part of the series that explains technically how the information stolen from IoT users can be monetized.

risk.top_.jpg

The IoT security challenges described in part I give rise to unprecedented risks. Mischievous parties could remotely trigger havoc inside an IoT user’s physical environment: Burning down houses by hacking microwave ovens, or remotely turning off home security systems, or for the sake of fun, just causing devices to work in an irregular manner. These are just a few examples of IoT hacking which can be used by cyber criminals. The possibilities are endless, almost left to one’s imagination.

The associated risks would also extend to the internet used by the  common man. On a daily basis, websites already violate  user privacy by tracking a user’s activity: what you search for, what links you click on, what websites you visit; this valuable data can be sold off to commercial companies. These companies, in turn, use analytics to build user profiles to serve targeted ads to their audience. However, with the data generated by IoT products, these profiles would contain not only cyber-activity logs but also physical activity data for the user. A person using a pacemaker could now be targeted by insurance companies with specific schemes, even though he/she wouldn’t like others to know about their medical condition.

On the Dark Internet, a major chunk of content is based upon selling stolen credit card information and user credentials. The Dark Internet provides services for DDoS attacks and hacking accounts/websites for a fee. With the increasing adoption of IoT, we might see the rise of a new kind of data on these sites. Data stolen from IoT products would provide an entirely new set of data to be used for malicious purposes. There could be malware and viruses written specifically for IoT products which may go on to cause physical damage to life and property. Consider a botnet, capable of infecting a pacemaker device. It requires only a single command to cause irregularities in the pacemaker’s functionality thereby giving malicious parties the nefarious power to carry out mass murder.

We, as a security concern, believe that industry  can definitely reduce the risks associated in using IoT devices by tackling the afore-mentioned known security problems in the IoT ecosystem at different stages such as  manufacturing and custom-designed security quality assurance testing to ensure the maximum security of the IoT devices at the software level, up until the device reaches the user.

Image credits:
www.vipinkhandelwal.com

Priyal Viroja, Vulnerability Researcher, K7TCL

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Problems (In)Securing IoT Ecosystem

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

Here is the first part of a two-part blog that covers the security problems in the Internet of Things (IoT) in more technical terms than our previous series .

Imagine that you are on your way back home in a self-driven car, browsing the internet on your mobile. As you come within a 2-mile radius of your house, the air-conditioner switches itself on at the temperature of your choice. You enter your garage, the doors opening automatically, and walk into your room. The lighting dynamically adjusts according to the weather outside, and the lasagna that was in the oven is now all warmed up.

Twenty years ago, if somebody told me such a tale, I’d have laughed and said “you watch too much science fiction”. But today, this scenario is within the scope of modern reality. The IoT revolution is finally here, and it is supposedly bringing joy and comfort to people. But there’s a downside to IoT: it is increasingly becoming an attractive target for cybercriminals. The increase in the sheer number and variety of connected devices has opened up possibilities for coming up with new and more diverse attack techniques.

IoT.security.JPG

Security flaws in IoT products have been brought to light by hackers and security researchers. Some of the hacks which made security news were: Smart home, Surveillance cameras, Jeep car (accessed remotely and its engine killed remotely). In addition an airplane’s cockpit controls were accessed via the in-flight entertainment system. As if these weren’t enough, even pacemakers and insulin pumps were demonstrated as being hackable.

If one were to take a closer look into these hacks, a bunch of recurrent fundamental security problems with the IoT ecosystem come forth. Let’s take a look at some of those problems.

Communication Channels

IoT devices mostly communicate wirelessly using protocols like LTE Advanced, Cellular 4G/LTE, 3G GPS/GPRS, 2G/GSM/EDGE, CDMA, EVDO, WIMAX, Weightless, Wifi, Bluetooth, UWB, Z-Wave, Zigbee, 6L0wpan, NFC and RFID. There are known security flaws associated with these protocols, and yet they continue to be widely used. This leaves us with two non-trivial choices:

  1. Fix the issues with these protocols
  2. Come up with better and more secure protocols

Both of the above choices are non-trivial to execute.

Authentication and Authorization

Credentials/tokens are essential in the traditional authentication and authorization approach. However, IoT has added new modes: biometrics, sensors, NFC, RFID, and sometimes, surprise surprise: no authentication at all! All these years industry has been struggling with securely storing credentials in one way or another. But now we have a whole new array of authentication and authorization approaches to take care of.

End-to-End Encryption

Mobile apps, messaging apps in particular, first encrypt the user’s data on the device using state-of-the-art industry-standard encryption algorithms. Then anti-snooping, end-to-end encryption techniques are deployed. However, the same approach can’t be taken with IoT devices as the modes of communication are fundamentally different. Here, the communication is not one-to-one but, one-to-many or many-to-many. Data travels through many communication channels and nodes. Also, the security protocols used by devices might vary.

Minor faults in end-to-end encryption may lead to exposure of credentials, tokens, and other sensitive informations. Imagine that you have a router using a state-of-the-art encryption algorithm. This router then communicates with a thermometer, which stores the network password in plaintext. Now, to break into the network, all one would need to do is target the thermometer, thereby bypassing the entire robust network security framework.

Insecure Web/App Interface

Web/App interfaces are infamous for being targets of choice for hackers. This can be attributed to the bugs/defects present in the underlying frameworks that these interfaces run on. A vulnerable interface could provide a hacker with access to the server or to the cloud itself. The common problems associated with this are:

  1. A lack of robust password recovery mechanisms
  2. No protection against cross-site scripting (XSS), code/SQL injections, etc.,

Hardware Failures

Preoccupied with creating a sleek and minimalistic design, some manufacturers tend to neglect hardware bugs. These bugs, in turn, can allow attackers to reboot the device(s) and their corresponding hotspots. It is not possible to deliver hardware patches over the air.

Unprotected Client Devices

IoT users’ use of desktops, laptops, tablets, mobiles, etc to operate IoT devices, in turn, opens a remote door to devices. All these devices have a long and notorious history of severe vulnerabilities. Consider a scenario of a company building a smart bulb with all these fancy remote control features. They have a highly compatible, secured mobile app, web interface and embedded hardware. But what if customers have a weak wireless setup, outdated mobile operating system, vulnerable desktop applications? On whom are we going to pin the blame for a breach??!

Image credits:
www.eweek.com

… to part II: risks from stolen user’s information

Priyal Viroja, Vulnerability Researcher, K7TCL

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Don’t Read That Ransomware Spam Script! Seriously Bad Story.

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

Beware of two aggressive ransomware spam campaigns which have been active for the past few weeks.

The above screenshot of my own spam folder exemplifies the typical theme used by the new ransomware kid on the block, “Locky”, and the latest version of an established ransomware called “TeslaCrypt“.

Although both ransomware spam runs pretend to be an “Invoice”, the next stage of the infection vector for Locky and TeslaCrypt differ significantly from each other. Locky spam mails contain an attachment such as ‘scan_<number>.doc’, whereas the current TeslaCrypt spam contains a ZIP archive wrapping a JavaScript file, e.g. ‘invoice_<random alphanumeric>.js’.

The Locky DOC file contains a password-protected macro VBA script. Please note, since macros can contain malicious code they are disabled by default in Microsoft Word, and should remain so. The objective of the Locky macro script as well as the TeslaCrypt JavaScript is to download and execute the respective ransomware payload EXE.

Typical malicious spam campaigns deliver the payload directly in a ZIP attachment containing an EXE. However such attachments are easier to block at the email gateway level since they are considered “high risk”. It is more difficult to block non-EXE files at the gateway as a matter of policy, hence the Locky and TeslaCrypt attachments are more likely to get past gateway filters onto the local computer. Thereafter, given their script context rendered by standard interpreting applications, the download and execution of the ransomware payload is less likely to be blocked by behavioural protection mechanisms such as HIPS and the firewall.

K7 has robust protection at multiple levels against both ransomware campaigns, however, as always, prevention is much better than cure. In the case of spam, it is best to completely avoid emails from unknown sources, especially those which expect one to open an attachment or click on a link.

Samir Mody
Senior Manager, K7TCL

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K7 Computing’s Security Alpha Geeks Introduce Generic Anti-Ransomware Prototype at VB Conference 2015

Friday, October 9th, 2015

So last week, Samir Mody and Gregory Panakkal, security experts from K7 Computing, showcased a generic anti-ransomware framework at this year’s Virus Bulletin International Conference. It garnered quite an excited bunch of fellow security enthusiasts at Prague, Czech Republic, where the conference was held, to listen to the duo talk about this prototype.

This presentation addressed majorly on file encrypting ransomware variants. A demo followed to display the capability of this generic anti-ransomware prototype in defending ransomware through samples obtained from valid sources.

K7 Computing is extremely proud of the team behind the idea to develop a simple solution to thwart complex ransomware menace. This generic framework is on the process of being incorporated into our products, and we are super excited. We also would take this opportunity to thank our readers, for sending ransomware samples requested by them to test our prototype.

For curious souls who want extensive information on this, please find the complete slides here.

Archana Sangili, Content Writer

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Tearing Down the Wall

Thursday, October 1st, 2015


In all likelihood, the ransom note above is possibly what an already overworked IT technician of a corporate network is staring at at this moment. In addition to their woes, IT administrators are now burdened with the task of dealing with Cryptowall; a troublesome breed of malware which until now restricted itself to infecting mostly home users.

With gigabytes of confidential data available on network storage devices & tormented users willing to do whatever it takes to retrieve the company’s data back, life has never been easier for Cryptowall authors. Needless to say, it is only a matter of time before things take a turn for the worse.

To enlighten our users, we have already dissected the infection vector of this category of malware, discussed the possibility of retrieving the original files, advocated that paying the ransom is a bad idea and advised that prevention is better than cure, through blog entries available here and here.

To assist our customers, researchers at K7 Threat Control Lab have come up with reinforcements in this fight against Cryptowall. We have developed a heuristic anti-ransomware prototype which will allow monitoring, identifying and eliminating this menacing enemy based on run-time behaviour.

Samir Mody and Gregory Panakkal from K7 TCL will be discussing this prototype & presenting their paper titled “Dead and buried in their crypts: defeating modern ransom-ware“ tomorrow, the 2nd of October 2015 at the Virus Bulletin International security conference held at Prague.

We hope to see you all there !!

Lokesh Kumar
K7 TCL Systems Manager

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