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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 XII - Issue #70

September 03, 2010


Judge Says FBI Must Obtain Warrant Before Requesting Suspect's Cell Phone Location Data
Connecticut Insurance Dept. Imposes Strict New Data Breach Rules
Rootkit Infects 64-bit Windows


EC Backs Off From Data Sharing Plan With Israel
India Wants RIM and Other Communications Companies to Place Servers in the Country
Establish Clearinghouse for ISP Security and Privacy Metrics
China Now Requires Identification for Cell Phone and SIM Card Purchases
Heartland Will Pay Discover US $5 Million for Breach Costs
Microsoft Issues Tool to Protect Users from DLL Flaw Attacks
Ten Arrested for Alleged Involvement in Ransomware Scam
ACH Thieves Steal Funds From Iowa Diocese, Virginia College

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Judge Says FBI Must Obtain Warrant Before Requesting Suspect's Cell Phone Location Data (August 31, 2010)

A federal magistrate in New York has ruled that government investigators must obtain a warrant before using cell phone information to track a suspect's location. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein's ruling comes close on the heels of an appeals court decision that a suspect's rights were violated when federal investigators used a surreptitiously attached GPS device on his car to track his whereabouts. The prosecutors in the case Orenstein heard cites a precedent of a 1983 case that ruled that tracking individuals' alocations outside the home is the equivalent of physical surveillance, but Judge Orenstein said he "believe
[s ]
that magistrate judges presented with ex parte requests for authority to deploy various forms of warrantless location-tracking must carefully re-examine the constitutionality of such investigative techniques, and that it is no longer enough to dismiss the need for such analysis by relying on" precedents.

Connecticut Insurance Dept. Imposes Strict New Data Breach Rules (August 30, 2010)

A new policy introduced by the Connecticut state insurance department requires all insurance companies conducting business in Connecticut to report data breaches to state authorities within five calendar days. The new policy applies to both paper and electronic records and applies whether or not the compromised data are encrypted. The rule supersedes rules in the HITECH Act which require that breaches of health insurance information be reported within 60 days and does not require companies to report breaches of encrypted data. Connecticut is gaining a reputation for being hard on healthcare data breaches; state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal recently became the first attorney general to sue a company for violating HIPAA. While the new policy applies to health maintenance organizations, preferred provider organizations and other health insurers, property and casualty insurers and medical discount plans, physicians and hospitals are not subject to the requirements. Under the new policy, organizations do not have the option of deciding whether or not the extent of the breach merits notification; all breaches are subject to notification.

Rootkit Infects 64-bit Windows (August 26, 27 & 30, 2010)

Researchers have detected a variant of the TDL3 rootkit that is capable of infecting 64-bit Windows installations. TDL3, also known as Alureon, was the culprit behind a rash of Windows crashes that occurred after users installed a particular Windows patch earlier this year. Microsoft released a new version of the patch that detected whether the rootkit was there and offered help in removing the malware from users' computers. The significance of the rootkit infecting 64-bit windows is that the 64-bit versions are considered to be more secure than 32-bit versions. The new version of this particular rootkit has been detected in the wild.


[Editor's Note (Schultz): This is a very significant and negative development. 64-bit Windows systems have until the most recent version of TDL3 been resistant to rootkit infections, primarily because of two Windows OS protections: 1. A digital signature check prevents malicious drivers from getting into kernel memory, and 2. Windows Kernel Patch Protection keeps kernel mode drivers from making changes in the Windows kernel. The fact that this rootkit can bypass these two protections means that Pandora's Box has just been opened with respect to malware in 64-bit Windows systems.]

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EC Backs Off From Data Sharing Plan With Israel (September 2, 2010)

The European Commission (EC) has put the brakes on a plan to share information about European Union citizens with Israel in light of issues raised by the Irish government. Assassins allegedly used forged Irish passports in a plot that took the life of a Hamas operative in Dubai. The operation was allegedly carried out by Israeli agents. The EC withdrew a procedure that would recognize Israeli protection standards as being consistent with EU standards. In Israel, manually gathered data are not held to the same level of protection as digital information.

India Wants RIM and Other Communications Companies to Place Servers in the Country (August 31 & September 2, 2010)

India is now asking not only for Blackberry parent company Research in Motion (RIM) to put a server in the country so it can monitor Blackberry communications, but has now asked Google and Skype to provide servers in India as well. The Associated Press is reporting that Indian Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said "people who operate communication services in India should
[install a ]
server in India as well as make available access to law enforcement agencies." India is seeking to access Gmail data, which are encrypted. According to an Indian government press release, "Any communication through the telecom networks should be accessible to the law enforcement agencies and all telecom service providers, including third parties, have to comply with this." In a separate story, a UN official who heads the organization's International Telecommunication Union said that all governments engaged in combating terrorism have the right to request access to RIM customer data.

Establish Clearinghouse for ISP Security and Privacy Metrics (September 1, 2010)

In this editorial, Brian Krebs responds to the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) request for help in creating a cyber security roadmap. Krebs would like to see the FCC put pressure on Internet service providers (ISPs) to keep their networks clear of malware, spam, and scams. Various organizations across the country are compiling metrics on different aspects of ISPs and hosting providers' "Internet badness." Krebs suggests that "what is needed is a single place that gathers together information from various, trusted sources of reputation data to build a well-rounded and timely picture of which ISPs and hosting providers have the most work to do in cleaning up their networks."

[Editor's Note (Liston): Krebs hit the nail squarely on the head. I send an inordinate number of incident reports to ISPs, web hosting providers, companies, and individuals from hits on honeypot systems I run, and oftentimes it seems like I'm yelling at a big brick wall. Any shared resource requires users to act responsibly and in a manner that doesn't interfere with (or endanger) others. If someone recklessly drives an unsafe car on our highways, we don't tolerate it. Why are we so tolerant of bad behavior on the Internet?
(Honan): While this may seem in theory to be a good idea there are many issues that need to be considered. Cybercrime is an international issue so this clearinghouse may only be useful for those providers within the United States. In a number of countries it would be illegal for ISPs to monitor the traffic of their clients. We also need to consider who would manage such a clearing house and what rights to appeal ISPs and providers would have. Those who have been innocent victims of spam blacklists will appreciate the impact an incorrect report can have on their business. ]

China Now Requires Identification for Cell Phone and SIM Card Purchases (September 1, 2010)

As of September 1, people purchasing cell phones or SIM cards in China will need to provide identification, according to a government order. The rule applies to people setting up new accounts; people holding accounts already will eventually be required to provide identification as well. The Chinese government says the new rule is aimed at combating spam, pornography and telecommunications fraud, but it has been observed that it will also expand the government's ability to monitor communications. China is not alone in seeking access to communications data. India has asked BlackBerry to allow the government to monitor BlackBerry communications (see story above) and proposed legislation in the US would require people purchasing prepaid cell phones to provide identification.


This article, and the one describing India vs. RIM should give all thinking people pause.
[Editor's Note (Liston): Increasingly, channels for private communication are being openly "tapped" by governments in the name of the "terrorism" bogyman. (Anyone besides me remember when it was the "pedophile" bogyman? That one didn't "sell" quite as well as "terrorism"...) While I certainly don't advocate allowing bad people to do bad things, I believe that there must be other law enforcement avenues that can be explored *before* a government chips away at its citizen's privacy. ]

Heartland Will Pay Discover US $5 Million for Breach Costs (September 1, 2010)

Heartland Payment Systems will pay Discover US $5 million to settle claims related to the data breach that exposed details of millions of payment cards. Heartland acknowledged the breach in January 2009. The settlement "resolves all issues." Heartland has agreed to pay US $60 million to banks that issued Visa cards that were compromised, US $41 million to MasterCard-issuing banks and US $3.6 million to American Express.

Microsoft Issues Tool to Protect Users from DLL Flaw Attacks (September 1, 2010)

Microsoft has released a tool to help users protect their computers from attacks that exploit a flaw in the way certain applications load dynamic link library (DLL) files. The tool will be effective only on machines where a workaround issued by Microsoft last week has been installed.


Ten Arrested for Alleged Involvement in Ransomware Scam (August 31 & September 1, 2010)

Police in Russia have arrested 10 people in connection with a ransomware scheme that allegedly brought in US $16 million. The group was allegedly involved with the distribution and deployment of the WinLock Trojan horse program that locked up infected computers and displayed pornography. The gang informed victims that their computers could be unlocked by sending premium rate SMS messages at a cost of about US $10 to US $30.

ACH Thieves Steal Funds From Iowa Diocese, Virginia College (August 30 & September 1, 2010)

The Catholic Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa and a University of Virginia satellite campus are two of the latest victims of automated clearinghouse (ACH) fraud. The thieves who stole more than US $600,000 from the diocese employed dozens of money mules; one was told that the funds were being distributed to victims of church sexual abuse. The fraudulent withdrawals occurred between August 13 and 16, 2010. Approximately US $180,000 has been recovered. The University of Virginia's College at Wise found that nearly US $1 million had been transferred in one lump sum to the Agricultural Bank of China. School officials have declined to comment beyond acknowledging that the school is investigating a hacking incident.



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.

Prof. Howard A. Schmidt is the Cyber Coordinator for the President of the United States

Dr. Johannes Ullrich is Chief Technology Officer of the Internet Storm Center and Dean of the Faculty of the graduate school at the SANS Technology Institute.

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.

Rob Lee is the curriculum lead instructor for the SANS Institute's computer forensic courses (computer-forensics.sans.org) and a Director at the incident response company Mandiant.

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.

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 at the North American Energy Reliability Commission (NERC).

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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