Month: May 2016
This week, a new critical Symantec vulnerability has been discovered that enables an attacker to trigger a memory buffer overflow, allowing root-level control over a system to be gained without any user interaction. The cross-platform security vulnerability affects many Symantec and Norton anti-virus software releases.
Critical Vulnerability in Symantec AVE Scan Engine is “As Bad as it Can Possibly Get”
The critical fault has been found in the core scanning engine used in both Norton and Symantec anti-virus software, including Norton antivirus, and Symantec’s Scan Engine, Endpoint Antivirus, and Email Security, although other products may also be affected. The vulnerability affects Windows, Mac, Linux, and UNIX platforms.
Since the scan engine intercepts all system input and output, the vulnerability could be exploited by an attacker by simply sending a file attachment to a user’s inbox. The user would not even be required to open the file in order for the vulnerability to be exploited.
The vulnerability could therefore allow an attacker to take full control of the device on which the software has been installed with no user interaction necessary. The vulnerability has been described as “as bad as it can possibly get” by Tavis Ormandy – the researcher at Google Project Zero who discovered the security flaw.
Ormandy said that if the vulnerability is exploited it causes kernel memory corruption on Windows because “the scan engine is loaded into the kernel (wtf!!!).” It must be said, unpacking malware in the kernel was perhaps not the best decision. Ormandy also discovered a number of other remote code execution security vulnerabilities in Symantec products.
The new critical Symantec vulnerability has now been addressed – AVE version 20184.108.40.206 – although the remaining vulnerabilities have yet to be remediated. Users of Symantec and Norton branded products will have to wait until a patch is made available.
According to an advisory issued by Symantec, the critical vulnerability affects the AVE scanning engine and occurs “when parsing malformed portable-executable header files.” If one of these malformed portable-executable header files is downloaded in an application or document, or if a malicious website is visited which downloads one of these files onto the device, the flaw could be exploited. The flaw could also be exploited if an attacker sends one of these files to the user as an email attachment, or even if a link is sent in an email. The parsing of the malformed file would be triggered.
Symantec reported that “Sufficiently malformed, the code executed at the kernel-level with system/root privileges causing a memory access violation.”
The critical Symantec vulnerability needs to be remediated as soon as possible. If you run Symantec anti-virus software and your system is not set to update automatically, it is essential to perform a manual Symantec LiveUpdate to address the issue. A patch is expected to be released in the next few days to address the other serious vulnerabilities discovered by Ormandy.
The 2012 LinkedIn data breach was believed to have resulted in the theft of 6.5 million emails and encrypted passwords; however, the data breach appears to be worse than previously thought with considerably more data stolen. Those data have now been listed for sale on a darknet marketplace, prompting LinkedIn to contact a substantial percentage of its users to get them to change their passwords.
117 Million Unsalted SHA-1 Hashes and Corresponding Usernames from 2012 LinkedIn Data Breach Listed for Sale
A hacker called “Peace” listed 117 million LinkedIn email and encrypted password combinations for sale this week. LinkedIn believes the data has also come from the 2012 LinkedIn data breach. The data were in the same format as the 6.5 million passwords and email combinations that were previously listed for sale. The latest batch of data has been listed or sale for a reported $2,200.
The passwords stolen in the 2012 LinkedIn data breach were unsalted SHA-1 hashes. While the passwords are encrypted, they are poorly protected and can easily be cracked with relative ease.
Soon after the 2012 LinkedIn data breach the 6.5 million account details were offered for sale on a Russian hacking forum. Motherboard reports that as many as 90% of those passwords were able to be cracked. This now places 18 times as many users at risk of having their accounts compromised.
LinkedIn users that joined the professional networking website after the 2012 data breach will not be affected by the data sale, although older users of the site could be at risk, especially if the password they used for their LinkedIn account has been used other logins elsewhere online.
Individuals who tend to use the same passwords on multiple websites or those who recycle old passwords are advised to change their passwords on their banking websites, social media profiles, email accounts, and other online sites if there is a possibility that they have used the same password as they used on LinkedIn prior to the 2012 breach.
The 2012 LinkedIn data breach was possible because security at the time was not particularly robust, although that has since been addressed. LinkedIn now salts its hashes, uses two factor authentication, and also email challenges. Since being alerted to the listing of the password/username combos, LinkedIn has been contacting affected users and attempting to invalidate passwords and force users to reset.
It is strongly advisable to login to LinkedIn and change your password as a precaution if you are unsure whether you have changed your password since 2012.
Each year, the Ponemon Institute conducts a benchmark survey on healthcare data privacy and security. The surveys give a picture of the state of healthcare data security, highlight the main threats faced by the healthcare industry, and offer an insight into the main causes of healthcare data breaches. This week, the Ponemon Institute released the results of its 6th annual benchmark study on healthcare data privacy and security.
Over the past 6 years, the main causes of healthcare data breaches have changed considerably. Back in 2010/2011 when the two healthcare data privacy and security surveys were conducted, the main causes of healthcare data breaches were lost and stolen devices, third party errors, and errors made by employees.
Breaches caused by the loss and theft of unencrypted devices such as laptops, smartphones, tablets, and portable storage devices such as zip drives has fallen considerably in recent years. Due to the high risk of loss and theft – and the cost of risk mitigation following a data breach and compliance fines – healthcare organizations are keeping tighter controls on portable devices. Staff have been trained to be more security conscious and many healthcare organizations have chosen to use data encryption on portable devices. However, lost/stolen devices and mistakes by employees and third parties are still the root cause of 50% of healthcare data breaches.
Healthcare Data Privacy and Security Study Shows Criminals Caused 50% of Healthcare Data Breaches
Data breaches caused by the loss and theft of portable devices may be in decline, but the same cannot be said of cyberattacks, which have increased considerably. When the first benchmarking study was conducted in 2010, 20% of data breaches were caused by hackers and other cybercriminals. By 2015, the figure had risen to 45%. This year criminals have been responsible for 50% of healthcare data breaches.
Healthcare data breaches have increased in volume, frequency, and severity. Prior to 2015, the largest healthcare data breach exposed 4.7 million patient health records. Data breaches that exposed more than 1 million healthcare records were very rare. However, in 2015, the Anthem Inc. breach exposed 78.8 million healthcare records, Premera BlueCross recorded a cyberattack that exposed 11 million records, and Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield reported a breach of 10 million records. These data breaches were caused by criminals who gained access to systems using phishing techniques.
Phishing remains a major cause for concern, as is malware, although over the course of the past 12 months a new threat has emerged. Ransomware is now the second biggest cause for concern for healthcare security professionals. DDoS attacks remain the biggest worry as far as cyberattacks are concerned.
The purpose of ransomware and DDoS attacks is to cause widespread disruption. Healthcare IT professionals are right to be concerned. Both of these types of cyberattack have potential to have a hugely detrimental effect on the care that is provided to patients, potentially disrupting healthcare operations to such a degree that patients can actually come to physical harm.
Healthcare organizations have been investing more heavily in data security technologies to prevent breaches, yet these measures have not been sufficient to stop breaches from occurring. The report indicates that 89% of healthcare organizations suffered a data breach in the past two years, 79% suffered more than one breach, and 45% experienced more than five data breaches.
The cost of healthcare data breaches is considerable. The Ponemon Institute calculates the average cost to resolve a data breach to be $2.2 million for healthcare providers. The average cost of a business associate data breach is $1 million. The total cost each year, to mitigate risk and resolve data breaches, has been estimated by Ponemon to be $6.2 billion for the industry as a whole.
Healthcare Organizations Need to Increase Cybersecurity Efforts
Cybersecurity budgets may have increased over the years, but too little is being spent on healthcare data privacy and security data. Even with the increased risk, 10% of healthcare organizations have actually decreased their cybersecurity budgets, and more than half (52%) said their budgets have stayed the same this year.
Further investment is needed to tackle the growing threat and to prevent criminals from gaining access to data and locking it with ransomware.
Education also needs to be improved and greater care taken by healthcare employees to prevent accidental disclosures of data and mistakes that open the door to cybercriminals. Employee negligence was rated as the top cause for concern by both healthcare providers and business associates of healthcare organizations. Unless greater care is taken to prevent data breaches and healthcare organizations are held more accountable, the data breach totals will only rise.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is conducting a study to investigate the security update practices of mobile device manufacturers. The study is being conducted amid concern that mobile device manufacturers are not doing enough to ensure owners of mobile devices are protected from security threats.
Security Update Practices of Mobile Device Manufacturers Leave Mobile Users Exposed to Attack
A number of new and highly serious threats have emerged in recent years which allow attackers to remotely execute malicious code on mobile devices if users visit a compromised website. One of the most serious threats comes from the Stagefright vulnerability discovered last year.
The Stagefright vulnerability could potentially be exploited to allow attackers to gain control of Android smartphones. It has been estimated that as many as one billion devices are prone to attack via this vulnerability. Google released an Android update to fix the vulnerability, yet many mobile phone users were unable to update their devices as the manufacturer of their device, or the mobile carrier they used, did not allow the updates to be installed. Because of this, many smartphone owners are still vulnerable to attack.
Even when device manufacturers do update their devices there are often long delays between the issuing of the fix and the rolling out of updates. When a rollout is executed, it can take a week or more before all device owners receive their updates. During that time users are left vulnerable to attack.
The FTC wants to find out more about the delays and the rationale behind the slow rolling out of updates.
FTC and FCC Join Forces and Demand Answers from Carriers and Device Manufacturers
The FTC has joined forces with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the study and has ordered smartphone manufacturers and developers of mobile device operating systems to explain how security updates are issued, the reasoning behind the decision to delay the issuing of security updates, and for some device manufacturers, why security updates are not being issued.
While the study is primarily being conducted on manufacturers of devices running the Android platform, although Apple has also been ordered to take part in the study, even though its devices are the most secure. Apple’s security update practices are likely to serve as a benchmark against which other manufacturers will be judged. Manufacturers that use the Android platform that will take part in the study include Blackberry, HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung. Google and Microsoft will also take part.
The FTC is asking operating system developers and mobile manufacturers to disclose the factors that are considered when deciding whether to issue updates to correct known vulnerabilities. They have been asked to provide detailed information on the devices they have sold since August 2013, if security vulnerabilities have been discovered that affect those devices, and if and when those vulnerabilities have been – or will be – patched.
The FCC has asked questions of mobile phone carriers including the length of time that devices will be supported, the timing and frequency of updates, the process used when developing security updates, and whether device owners were notified when the decision was taken not to issue a security update for a specific device model.
Whether the study will result in better security update practices of mobile device manufacturers remains to be seen, although the results of the study, if published in full, will certainly make for interesting reading.
Last week, the website of a major toy manufacturer was discovered to have been compromised and was being used to infect visitors with ransomware. The website of Maisto was loaded with the Angler exploit kit that probed visitors’ browsers for exploitable vulnerabilities. When vulnerabilities were discovered, they were exploited and ransomware was downloaded onto visitors’ devices. In this case, the ransomware used was CryptXXX.
Many ransomware infections require a system rebuild and restoration of data from a backup. If a viable backup does not exist there is no alternative but to pat the attackers for an encryption. Fortunately, in this case there is an easy fix for a CryptXXX infection. The ransomware-encrypted files can be decrypted for free according to Kaspersky Lab. However, there are many malicious strains of ransomware that are not so easy to remove.
While decrypting files locked by CryptXXX is possible, that is not the only malicious action performed by the ransomware. CryptXXX is also an information stealer and can record logins to FTP clients, email clients, and steal other data stored in browsers. It can even steal bitcoins from local wallets.
CryptXXX is now being used in at least two major exploit kit attack campaigns according to researchers from Palo Alto Networks. While Locky ransomware was extensively used in March this year – deployed using the Nuclear exploit kit – the attackers appear to have switched to the Angler exploit kit and the Bedep/CryptXXX combo.
How to Block Exploit Kits from Downloading Malware
To protect end users’ devices and networks from malware downloads and to block exploit kits, system administrators must ensure that all browser plugins are kept up to date. Exploit kits take advantage in security vulnerabilities in a wide range of plugins, although commonly vulnerabilities in Flash and Java are exploited. These two browser plugins are used on millions of machines, and new zero-day vulnerabilities are frequently discovered in both platforms. Cybercriminals are quick to take advantage. As soon as a new vulnerability is identified it is rapidly added to exploit kits. Any machine that contains an out-of-date plug in is at risk of attack.
It takes time for patches to be developed and released when a new zero-day vulnerability is discovered. Keeping all devices up to date is a time consuming process and sys admins are unlikely to be able to update all devices the second a patch is released. To effectively protect devices and networks from attacks using exploit kits, consider using a web filtering solution.
A web filter can be used to block websites containing exploit kits and thus prevent the downloading of malware, even if patches have not been installed. The best way to block exploit kits from downloading malware is to ensure that end users never visit a website containing an exploit kit!
A web filter should not be an excuse for poor patch management practices, but web filtering software can ensure devices and networks are much better protected.