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SANS NewsBites is a semiweekly high-level executive summary of the most important news articles that have been published on computer security during the last week. Each news item is very briefly summarized and includes a reference on the web for detailed information, if possible.

Spend five minutes per week to keep up with the high-level perspective of all the latest security news. New issues are delivered free every Tuesday and Friday.

Volume XI - Issue #79

October 06, 2009

Ooops. The Security Automation Conference I told you about last time does have a small fee. Sorry for the error. Definitely worth going.




CIO Council to Develop Outcome-Based Security Metrics
Amazon.com Agrees to Pay US $150,000 to Settle Kindle eBook Removal Lawsuit
US Dept. of Homeland Security to Hire 1,000 Cyber Security Specialists


RIM Issues Update to Fix Security Certificate Flaw in BlackBerry Handset Software
Null-Prefix Certificate Could be Used to Exploit Vulnerability in Browsers
Missing Hard Drive Contains US Military Veterans' Records
Google Apologized for Temporarily Removing Pirate Bay From Search Results
Windows LiveID Credentials Posted on Internet
Careless Security Practices Result in Dropped Charges Against Former Employee
California Joins Cyber Security Challenge
Australian Energy Supplier Computer Network Infected
Injunction Served Over Twitter

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CIO Council to Develop Outcome-Based Security Metrics (October 2 & 5, 2009)

The US Chief Information Officer Council has established a Security Metrics Taskforce that has been given the objective of developing "new metrics for information security performance for federal agencies that are focused on outcomes." The metrics are expected to be complete by the end of this calendar year. Federal CIO Vivek Kundra noted in a blog post that "FISMA metrics need to be rationalized to focus on outcomes over compliance."


Amazon.com Agrees to Pay US $150,000 to Settle Kindle eBook Removal Lawsuit (October 1 & 2, 2009)

Amazon.com has agreed to a settlement that would have the company pay US $150,000 to a Michigan high school student who sued the company after his copy of 1984 was deleted from his Kindle reading device without notice. In June of this year, Amazon deleted copies of 1984 and Animal Farm from users' devices after learning that the entity that had made the e-books available did not have proper authorization to do so. Justin D. Gawronski sued Amazon, in part because when the file was deleted from his Kindle, he lost annotations he had been making as part of his summer homework for an Advanced Placement class. The settlement also mandates that Amazon will not delete e-book files from users' Kindles unless the user agrees, the user seeks a refund or the payment does not clear, a court orders that the file be deleted, or the deletion is deemed necessary to protect users from malware. In September, Amazon offered to return the books to customers' Kindles along with any annotations that had been made or give them credit at Amazon.com or a check.


US Dept. of Homeland Security to Hire 1,000 Cyber Security Specialists (October 1, 2 & 5, 2009)

The US Department of Homeland Security has announced that it plans to hire up to 1,000 cyber security experts over the next three years. The positions will be available at different agencies throughout the department. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano noted that "Cyber security is one of our most urgent priorities." DHS is seeking experts in areas of cyber risk and strategic analysis; cyber incident response; vulnerability detection; and network and systems engineering.


[Editor's Note (Schultz): This should be interesting. Given the US government's dismal track record in efficiency, I wonder how long it will take to hire 1000 cyber security specialists. At the same time, however, DHS should be given credit for realizing its dire need for cyber security specialists.]

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RIM Issues Update to Fix Security Certificate Flaw in BlackBerry Handset Software (October 6, 2009)

Research In Motion (RIM) has issued an update to address a security flaw in the way the BlackBerry reports security certificate mismatches. The flaw could be exploited to launch a phishing attack. The vulnerability affects versions 4.5 to 4.7 of the Blackberry software, but not Blackberry Server or Desktop software.

Null-Prefix Certificate Could be Used to Exploit Vulnerability in Browsers (October 5, 2009)

A phony PayPal SSL certificate has been released, making it easy for cyber criminals to dupe users running Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Apple Safari web browsers with man-in-the-middle attacks. The null-prefix certificate exploits a vulnerability in a Microsoft library used by all three browsers. The vulnerability was disclosed in July, but Microsoft has yet to fix it. Mozilla fixed the vulnerability in its browsers days after the flaw was disclosed.

Missing Hard Drive Contains US Military Veterans' Records (October 1, 2 & 5, 2009)

A hard drive containing personally identifiable information of US military veterans was sent to a contractor to be repaired without first being erased. The contractor determined that the drive could not be repaired and sent it to another company to be recycled. The National Archives and Records Administration is investigating the breach, which may affect more than 70 million people. The hard drive contains data used by a system through which veterans can request copies of their health records and discharge papers.



[Editor's Note (Ranum): Distributed data is distributed vulnerability. Accessability from everywhere means leakage everywhere. But, strangely, whenever one of us "old school" security practitioners says that, the rejoinder is "data compartmentalization is an impediment to doing business." Ultimately it will sink in - you either have impediments to doing business, or you have leaks.]

Google Apologized for Temporarily Removing Pirate Bay From Search Results (October 5, 2009)

Google has issued a public apology for removing The Pirate Bay from its search results. Google removed Thepiratebay.org in response to a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown request that mistakenly included the site's address. Takedown notices are used to let companies know that they are hosting copyrighted material and that they must remove it or face legal repercussions. The Pirate Bay has been restored to Google's search index.


Windows LiveID Credentials Posted on Internet (October 5, 2009)

The leak of more than 10,000 Microsoft Windows Live ID account usernames and passwords is being blamed on a phishing attack; Microsoft maintains that the leak "was not a breach of internal Microsoft data." Microsoft is "help(ing) customers regain control of their accounts," and is recommending that all customers change their passwords. The stolen information was posted on a web site over the weekend. Microsoft Windows Live ID allows users to access Hotmail, Messenger, Xbox LIVE and other services.

It appears that this breach extends to other email providers including Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail and AOL to name a few.
Some analysis of the compromised passwords are available at



[Editor's Note (Honan): As users tend to use the same password for multiple accounts, be they personal or business, you should monitor your organisation's access logs for any unusual behaviour, e.g. remote logins from foreign IP addresses, and react accordingly. Now may be a good time to push out that security awareness program on how to select secure passwords.]

Careless Security Practices Result in Dropped Charges Against Former Employee (October 3, 2009)

A Deputy Merrimack County (New Hampshire) Attorney has dropped theft and computer crime charges against a Concord, NH-area Local Government Center employee. Ruthanne Bradley was arrested last year on charges that she concealed and altered data on computer backup tapes at her office. Deputy County Attorney George Waldron said his office would not seek a grand jury indictment because "the Local Government Center's careless security practices created a situation where reasonable doubt exists." The tapes in question were located promptly and were found to be unharmed. Bradley has maintained her innocence and that the tapes were simply mislabeled.

[Editor's Note (Ranum): It doesn't sound like these were careless security practices. Reading between the lines it sounds like an organization that made a mistake, wrongly accused an employee, and then decided to "drop the charges" when they realized that they were, in fact wrong. And apology might be appropriate.

(Honan): This should be used as a case study on how not to conduct an investigation. Remember incident response is not just about the technology, it is about the processes and procedures to use to identify if you have an incident in the first place and then how to gather and preserve any evidence you will need.]

California Joins Cyber Security Challenge (October 2, 2009)

US Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and the California Office of Information Security have announced that California will join the US Cyber Challenge, a program aimed at identifying and nurturing the next generation of cyber security professionals. The Cyber Challenge comprises three competitions: the Digital Forensics competition, the CyberPatriot Defense competition, and the NetWars capture the Flag Competition. Winners will be invited to attend Cyber camps at California State University, Sacramento. Delaware and New York announced their participation in the program earlier this year.



Australian Energy Supplier Computer Network Infected (October 1 & 2, 2009)

Malware has infected the computer network at Integral Energy, a major Australian energy supplier. The "particularly sinister" infection spreads quickly and has been difficult to remove from infected computers The company had to rebuild more than 1,000 desktop computers to thwart the malware's spread. The infection appears not to have affected power supplies or business data, although it did "spread to the operator display consoles in the control room." The infected Windows computers were switched out for Linux boxes. Signatures for this particular strain of malware have been available since early this year, leading to speculation that Integral Energy has been lax in updating its antivirus software.


[Editor's Note (Honan): One would also have to question why do Integral appear to not have their critical control systems air gapped from their corporate network?]

Injunction Served Over Twitter (October 2, 2009)

The UK High Court has allowed an injunction to be served via Twitter. The decision was made because it appeared to be the best way to reach the individual who was posting comments while posing as Conservative blogger Donal Blaney. The unknown account owner will receive the writ the next time the owner visits the site; the writ says that the impostor should cease the deceptive activity and reveal his or her identity to the court.

The Editorial Board of SANS NewsBites

Eugene Schultz, Ph.D., CISM, CISSP is CTO of Emagined Security and the author/co-author of books on Unix security, Internet security, Windows NT/2000 security, incident response, and intrusion detection and prevention. He was also the co-founder and original project manager of the Department of Energy's Computer Incident Advisory Capability (CIAC).

John Pescatore is Vice President at Gartner Inc.; he has worked in computer and network security since 1978.

Stephen Northcutt founded the GIAC certification and currently serves as President of the SANS Technology Institute, a post graduate level IT Security College, www.sans.edu.

Dr. Johannes Ullrich is Chief Technology Officer of the Internet Storm Center.

Ed Skoudis is co-founder of Inguardians, a security research and consulting firm, and author and lead instructor of the SANS Hacker Exploits and Incident Handling course.

Rohit Dhamankar is the Director of Security Research at TippingPoint, where he leads the Digital Vaccine and ThreatLinQ groups. His group develops protection filters to address vulnerabilities, viruses, worms, Trojans, P2P, spyware, and other applications for use in TippingPoint's Intrusion Prevention Systems.

Prof. Howard A. Schmidt is the President of the Information Security Forum (ISF) and author who has served as CSO for Microsoft and eBay and as Vice-Chair of the President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board.

Tom Liston is a Senior Security Consultant and Malware Analyst for Inguardians, a handler for the SANS Institute's Internet Storm Center, and co-author of the book Counter Hack Reloaded.

Dr. Eric Cole is an instructor, author and fellow with The SANS Institute. He has written five books, including Insider Threat and he is a senior Lockheed Martin Fellow.

Ron Dick directed the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) at the FBI and is the incoming President of the InfraGard National Members Alliance - with 22,000 members.

Mason Brown is one of a very small number of people in the information security field who have held a top management position in a Fortune 50 company (Alcoa). He is leading SANS' global initiative to improve application security.

David Hoelzer is the director of research & principal examiner for Enclave Forensics and a senior fellow with the SANS Technology Institute.

Mark Weatherford, CISSP, CISM, is Chief Information Security Officer of the State of California.

Alan Paller is director of research at the SANS Institute.

Marcus J. Ranum built the first firewall for the White House and is widely recognized as a security products designer and industry innovator.

Clint Kreitner is the founding President and CEO of The Center for Internet Security.

Brian Honan is an independent security consultant based in Dublin, Ireland.

David Turley is SANS infrastructure manager and serves as production manager and final editor on SANS NewsBites.

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