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Showing posts from 2010

True Random Numbers from Random.org

Much of security relies on randomness - encryption keys should be random and random passwords are more secure than dictionary words or predictable sequences. The problem is, how do we generate a random number?
Well, actually, this is a trick question. The answer is that you can't generate random numbers, but you can observe them. Most programming languages give you a random number generator, so why not just use that? Well, it's not actually a random number generator, but a Pseudo-Random Number Generator (PRNG), or more accurately a Pseudo-Random Sequence Generator (PRSG). Given the same seed value, it will produce the same output every time. Try seeding the random number function in your favourite programming language then run your program a few times. You should see the same numbers coming out each time.
The reason for this is the function used to produce random numbers is just a mathematical formula that takes an input and gives an output. To have a random number out, you n…

HDD Tools & Other Malware Removal

Recently I had someone come to me with their laptop saying that they had a new anti-virus program that they didn't remember installing and that 'other things' on their laptop didn't seem to work any more. The same thing happened to a corporate desktop machine I was asked about a couple of weeks later, that was originally running McAfee. Finally, two days ago I saw another corporate machine running McAfee that was saying that it had a hard drive failure. A tool, called HDD Tools, then automatically ran to diagnose the problem and stated that if they purchased the full HDD Tools product then it could fix the problem.

Each of these was a piece of malware that had infected the machine and was trying to get the user to enter their credit card details into a website so that money can be taken from their account and maybe their card cloned. These malware programs go along with the fake anti-virus software that the APWG have reported a huge rise in recently. These are a collec…

McAfee Secure Short-URL Service Easy to Foil

McAfee have launched a Beta URL shortening service with added security features. As Brett Hardin pointed out they are a little late to the game. However, there are so many abuses of URL shortening services that I commend them for trying.

Basically, what their service does is allow you to create short easy URLs (like any other service). However, unlike other services, when you click on the link, it opens a frames page with the content in the bottom frame and the McAfee information in the top frame. This information includes details about the domain you are connecting to, the type of company it's registered to and a big green tick or red cross to tell you whether the site is safe or not. This is decided by their 'Global Threat Intelligence', which will block known bad URLs and phishing sites. That's good, if it works.

I said above that I commend them for trying to provide this service. There are some obvious failings in their solution though, that render their protection…

IPICS 2010 Network Security Slides

My slides on Network Security and Steganography, presented at the Intensive Programme on Information and Communication Security (IPICS) 2010 can be downloaded below. The topics covered under Network Security are: Access Control Devices, Firewalls, Network Protection, Network Authentication Protocols, TLS, VPNs & Remote Access. The Steganography slides cover examples of: Image, Network, HTTP and Twitter Steganography.

A PDF of the Network Security slides can be downloaded from here.

A PDF of the Steganography slides can be downloaded from here.

System Recovery with Comodo's Time Machine

Comodo's Time Machine is a software application that runs on your Windows machine and periodically (either manually or automatically) takes snapshots of your system. You are then able to roll back to any of these snapshots in the future. Indeed you can jump backwards and forwards in the tree and new branches appear as you make changes to the system.

The idea behind it is that if you suffer any problems with corrupted software, malware, etc., then you can roll back to a known good state and start again. You can lock snapshots so that they don't get deleted and then clear out the ones that you don't want to keep any more. This is quite important, especially if you take automatic snapshots. You have to remember that every change made to the computer (i.e. every time you run it or change a file) the changes are stored. When a new snapshot is created, if you change a file you will have a new version on your system as well as the old one. Due to this, it requires a fair amount o…

Twitter Steganography

I have recently been thinking about Steganography again and various carriers as well as applications. For those of you that don't know what Steganography is, it simply means 'hidden writing' from the Greek. Some examples of steganography are: tatooing the scalps of messengers and then waiting for their hair to grow back; writing a message on the wood of a wax tablet before pouring the wax in; 'invisible inks'; pin pricks above characters in a cover letter; etc. Basically, we have a 'cover', which could be an image, passage of text, etc., that we are happy for anyone to see and a message that we want to hide within it so that it is undetectable. It turns out that this last part is quite hard.

Anyway, I thought I'd look at techniques to embed data within Twitter as it is popular now and people are starting to monitor it. Hiding within a crowd, however, is a good technique as it takes quite a lot of resources to monitor all activity on a service like Twitt…

Telephone Systems a Hackable Backdoor?

I have been talking to a company that provides telephone exchanges and services to companies this week on behalf of a client and it has highlighted a worrying backdoor. It turns out that many of these companies have a way to remotely connect to their exchange for support purposes - they can remotely control, configure and troubleshoot your system to get you back up and running. Exchanges often have additional modems in them to allow for remote connections. This is all very well and good from a managed service point of view, but what about the rest of your network? Can this be exploited to gain entry to your network? Quite possibly in some cases - it certainly needs to be included in your security audit and perimeter testing.

Talking about a specific company now, they supply the software to monitor and bill phone calls through the exchange. They remotely install, monitor and manage this software. How do they do that? Well, it turns out that they install LogMeIn on your machine. Now thi…

CQC Using Email to Verify Care Workers

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has decided to put registration of Care Providers online to make everything faster and easier for the providers. At least that's what they said. In practice, care providers had to fill in the online forms addressing standards that won't be published for another 5 months after the registration deadline. Ignoring all the problems, ridiculous re-branding to avoid inconsistencies and money wasted, there was a serious problem/lack of understanding that has lead to this blog post.

All care providers and managers have to register online individually and have to agree to particular terms in order to be registered and, therefore, trade. I have no problem with this as these care providers are looking after vulnerable people. However, it became obvious that there are serious problems with their system. First off, it isn't possible to change the owner's name if you make a mistake (they can't change it either apparently). Therefore, if you make…

Series of Demo Videos of Trusteer's Rapport

I am currently producing a series of videos demonstrating the anti-spyware capabilities of Trusteer's Rapport. So far I have looked at keylogging software and screen capture. Specifically, I have demonstrated it with Zemana ScreenLogger, Zemana KeyLogger and SpyShelter. I will be adding more videos over the next few days. The first two videos are embedded below. (Edit: 17/05/10 - I have now added three more videos covering Zemana SSL Logger, AKLT and Snadboy's Revelation V2.)





Links to the YouTube videos are below:
Trusteer's Rapport Demo 1 - Zemana ScreenLoggerTrusteer's Rapport Demo 2 - Zemana KeyLoggerTrusteer's Rapport Demo 3 - SpyShelterTrusteer's Rapport Demo 4 - AKLTTrusteer's Rapport Demo 5 - Zemana SSL LoggerTrusteer's Rapport Demo 6 - Snadboy's Revelation V2Trusteer's Rapport Demo 7 - Pharming AttackTrusteer's Rapport Demo 8 - Amecisco Invisible Keylogger StealthTrusteer's Rapport Demo 9 - Anti-Phishing Protection

InfoSecurity Europe 2010

Once again InfoSecurity Europe was an interesting place to visit. Lots of good sessions and interesting people to talk to. Most of the usual protagonists were there and the organisers have increased the educational part of the exhibition as well, which is good.

I thought I would put down a few things that I thought were noteworthy from the exhibition. I've already blogged about the GrIDsure anti-phishing sender verification and the new 3M mobile phone privacy filters, but there were a few other things I want to mention.

The first one is Panda Security's new Panda Cloud Internet Protection. This is a cloud-based service that provides consistent security and access policies to all machines within an organisation. The key thing is that it will protect mobile machines that are outside the corporate network with the same policies as those within the network. Protecting corporate machines when mobile is a big concern and a good way to reduce malware or hacking problems on the main n…

3M's Mobile Phone Privacy Filter

At this year's InfoSecurity Europe I visited the 3M stand again to see what developments they had for their privacy filters. They had their excellent Gold filter there of course, which is now properly on sale in the UK and the best on the market in my opinion. I previously blogged about this filter in my post "Why do I need a privacy filter? (3M's new Vikuiti Gold Privacy Filter)".

So what's this blog post about? Well, they have now produced privacy filters for mobile phones. Let's add a bit of context to this decision. How many businesses provide mobile devices to their employees that are connected to the corporate network with access to email, contacts, calendars and corporate documents? If you were reading an email from a client or reviewing a sensitive document would you be happy for someone to peer over your shoulder? Maybe you're paranoid like me and try to avoid reading emails in public places and stand with your back to the wall, shielding the scr…

Surveys or Phishing Emails?

I was recently sent a survey from a well-known survey company (actually, on second thoughts, I'll name them: Capita) and it made me very cross. Why so cross? Well, I spend a considerable amount of time trying to educate people about their role in the security of the network and about phishing/social engineering. This is all undone by survey companies such as the one in question. See for yourself the email sent and use it as a template for future 'white-hat' testing.

Have your Say! Fill in your Staff Survey today!

Dear Colleague

It’s important to complete the Staff Survey to ensure your voice is heard! The purpose of the survey is to make further improvements to staffs’ working lives at Target Organisation.

Your responses will come direct to Capita Surveys & Research Unit, and will be totally anonymous. No one outside the research team – and certainly no one at Target Organisation – will know who has responded or be able to identify individual responses. The survey findi…

Which Browser is the Most Secure?

I was recently talking to a fellow security professional who develops secure plug-ins for browsers and we started talking about the security of various different browsers. Most of the talk around browsers centres around how fast they are and what sort of features they have, but rarely do people talk about the security of their browser. Unfortunately, the browser is one of your weak points on the network as users have the ability to navigate to sites containing malware or phishing attacks as well as install plug-ins or run scripts that are malicious. So, which browser is the most secure? Any guesses?

All browsers (and all security products for that matter) have security weaknesses and vulnerabilities. However, the architecture of the browser and certain features can make browsing safer. The feature I'm going to put forward first is web browser protection against socially-engineered malware (phishing sites). According to many of the big AV and security vendors, phishing is on the ri…

Anti-Phishing Sender Verification with GrIDsure

I have tried out GrIDsure with a set of users now to see how easy it was to use. I was using the Windows client 2-factor authentication solution I blogged about here. (If you don't know their product you must read either their website or my other blog post above before reading this post as it won't make a lot of sense otherwise.) It turns out that the users had no problem setting it up and using the login - no training required other than a simple explanation of how it works. Doing this trial reminded me of discussions I had with GrIDsure about their Enterprise version of their product, which is fairly new and has more features being added all the time. One feature that I thought was noteworthy is their anti-phishing verification.

Phishing, as you will know from here, is a big problem and is often spread by obscured links in emails, such as http://www.microsoft.com.phishers.org/, which has absolutely nothing to do with Microsoft, but is just a sub-domain of phishers.org. There…

Why do I need a privacy filter? (3M's new Vikuiti Gold Privacy Filter)

I received my free sample filter from 3M a week ago now - it is one of the first of their new Vikuiti Gold Privacy Filters. Before I tell you about my experiences with it though, I think I ought to cover the question: 'Why do I need a privacy filter?'

So, what is a privacy filter? It is a thin sheet of plastic that fits over your screen to reduce the viewing angle. LCD manufacturers spend all their time increasing the viewing angle of their screens so that many people can view the TV from all over the room or crowd round a computer screen to share information. The problem with this is the advantage itself - what if I have sensitive information on my screen that I don't want everyone to be able to read? The privacy filter reverses the wide angle viewing trend to reduce it as close to straight on as is practical. The point of a privacy filter is to stop prying eyes and shoulder surfing.

Do you need a privacy filter? I was speaking to one professional a little while ago and t…

Coventry Building Society Grid Card

Coventry Building Society have recently introduced the Grid Card as a simple form of 2-factor authentication. It replaces memorable words in the login process. Now the idea is that you require something you know (i.e. your password) and something you have (i.e. the Grid Card) to log in - 2 things = 2 factors. For more about authentication see this post.

How does it work? Very simply is the answer. During the log in process, you will be asked to enter the digits at 3 co-ordinates. For example: c3, d2 and j5 would mean that you enter 5, 6 and 3 (this is the example Coventry give). Is this better than a secret word? Yes, is the short answer. How many people will choose a memorable word that someone close to them could guess? Remember, that this isn't a password as such, it is expected to be a word and a word that means something to the user. The problem is that users cannot remember lots of passwords, so remembering two would be difficult. Also, having two passwords isn't really…

Keylogging Trusteer's Rapport

Let's get some perspective on this first: no security product is 100% secure and just because there may be an obscure way round a product doesn't mean you shouldn't use it and that it won't protect you against a lot of attacks. How secure is your Anti-Virus (AV) product? Certainly not 100%, so we need layers of security. Rapport is another layer of security and could help protect your machine.

I have said in my previous post about this issue how well Trusteer dealt with me. So, now to the method of keylogging Trusteer. It's quite simple really, but requires a special setup. Rapport hooks onto the keyboard driver to prevent keylogging. However, if you invoke the remote desktop feature in Windows then a different keyboard driver is invoked, which Rapport cannot hook onto. So, if you're using a remote desktop connection into your machine then Rapport will not be giving you the full protection (it still has other layers of protection that work in this scenario).

Is…

Trusteer's Response to Issues with Rapport

I have been getting a lot of hits on this blog relating to Trusteer's Rapport, so I thought I would take a better look at the product. During my investigations, I was able to log keystrokes on a Windows 7 machine whilst accessing NatWest. However, the cause is as yet unknown as Rapport should be secure against this keylogger, so I'm not going to share the details here yet (there will be a video once Trusteer are happy there is no further threat).

I have had quite a dialogue with Trusteer over this potential problem and can report that their guys are pretty switched on, they picked up on this very quickly and are taking it extremely seriously. They are also realistic about all security products and have many layers of security in place within their own product. No security product is 100% secure - it can't be. The best measure of a product, in my opinion, is the company's response to potential problems. I have to admit that Trusteer have been exemplary here.

Why do I ke…

Cisco TACACS+ Password Length

I have recently come up against a problem with using the 'new' wireless network at work. We are using Cisco kit and TACACS+ to interface onto Microsoft's AD in the back end. Technically, usernames should be able to be up to 31 bytes long (not a problem there) and the password up to 254 bytes. However, the web portal implementation that we are running has a problem with my password. It would appear that passwords of up to 16 characters are fine, but passwords in excess of 16 characters don't work.

We are currently investigating this, as it seems like a real problem, especially as we are recommending that people switch to using longer pass phrases, in excess of 16 characters. Hopefully vendors will catch up with this soon, as many still have problems with so-called 'special characters' such as punctuation and other common symbols.

Cookieless Browser Tracking

We all know about tracking cookies and privacy. However, according to EFF it isn't necessary to use cookies to do a fair job of tracking your browser activities. According to their research browsers give 10.5 bits of identifying information in the userAgent string, which is supplied to the web server with every request. This is around a third of the information required to uniquely identify you.

They have set up a website to gather more data and give you a 'uniqueness' indicator for your browser, which you can find here. This data set is growing quite rapidly and will tell you how many of the userAgent strings they have received that are the same as yours. I managed to find a machine to test that was unique amongst the 195,000 machines they have tested. This means that someone could potentially track that machine even if cookies are disabled. Even if you come out with the same userAgent string as others, you can be narrowed down by using geolocation of your IP, browser plu…

How secure is your AV Product?

We all use (or at least we should all use) an Anti-Virus (AV) product on our computer to protect it from malware (yes, that includes you Mac and Linux users as well). Rogue Anti-Malware is on the increase and users should be wary of what they install, but if we do choose a big vendor and pay money for it, does it protect our machine from all threats?

Well the answer is no. No security product can be 100% secure, but how secure are they actually? There have been a number of recent surveys and their results show that things are probably improving, but there's still a significant gap. AV-Comparatives.org showed that in their tests, G Data was the best with a 99.8% detection rate of known malware, with Norman being the worst of the 16 at 84.8%. Known malware was taken to be malware from a period of one year that ended 8 months prior to the test. This is important to stress; these weren't new malware instances, these were old known malware that all vendors will have seen and had ti…

Pragmatic Approach to Security

When dealing with security, we must be pragmatic. The resources that an organisation can dedicate to security are limited in terms of time, staff, budget, expertise, etc. Also, perfectly secure systems do not exist - accidents, attacks and penetrations will happen in the end, so plan to deal with them at the outset. Recovery after a breach must be just as much of the planning as the mitigation of the breach in the first place. We all insure our cars, hoping never to call on it, and then try desperately to avoid having any accidents, getting the car stolen or vandalized. However, in the end, a lot of us will end up claiming on the insurance at some point, no matter how careful we are. The same is true of security.



We have to see the bigger picture and align the use of resources with the company's mission. There comes a point when a small amount more security costs a lot more money, time, management effort and is much less user-friendly. Wouldn't it impact the business less if w…