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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 XIII - Issue #35

May 03, 2011


Sony Shuts Down Online Gaming Site
Apple Filed Patent Application for Tracking Technology
LimeWire Trial Set to Start This Week
Malware Targets Macs


Employees Have Internet Access at Oak Ridge National Labs Again
Some Claim to be Selling PSN Customers' Credit Card Data
Papers Warns of Dangers of Alarmist Cyberthreat Rhetoric
Amazon Provides Details About Cloud Outage
Mozilla Releases Update for Firefox 4
Seattle School District Officials Suspect Students in Online Grade Changes



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Sony Shuts Down Online Gaming Site (May 2, 2011)

Late Sunday night, Sony shut down Sony Online Entertainment, its online PC games site, fueling speculation that the attack that prompted the PSN outage gained a deeper grasp in company systems than has been acknowledged. Sony did not provide much information about their reasons beyond having "discovered an issue that warrants enough concern ... to take the service down effective immediately."


Apple Filed Patent Application for Tracking Technology (April 27 & 29, 2011)

In 2009, Apple filed a patent application for technology to track users through smartphones. Apple has recently been the focus of attention because it was found that iPhones were tracking and storing user location data. Apple had said that it was not tracking users and that a bug was to blame for the retained data. The September 2009 patent application refers to "Location Histories for Location Aware Devices."


LimeWire Trial Set to Start This Week (April 28, 2011)

The copyright infringement lawsuit brought against LimeWire by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is scheduled to start on Tuesday, May 3. It's the first such lawsuit against a file-sharing software company since the Supreme Court ruled against Grokster in 2005. A federal jury will decide how much LimeWire should pay for copyright infringement conducted through its service. The record companies say LimeWire owes more than US $1 billion in damages. US District Judge Kimba Wood noted that the infringement was "willful," which significantly increases the penalty for each track that was shared illegally. Judge Wood ordered LimeWire to stop "file-distribution functionality" in October 2010.
[Editor's Comment (Northcutt): We talk about the Grokster case in my class, Security Leadership Essentials, but these LimeWire folks were really cheeky.

Malware Targets Macs (May 2, 2011)

Malware targeting Mac OS X has been detected, though it is not widespread. Those spreading the malware are exploiting users' interest in late breaking news about Bin Laden's death. MacDefender claims to be security software and tries to trick users into paying up to US $80 for what amounts to useless software. This marks the first time that rogue antivirus software has targeted Mac users. The program generates a stream of messages on users' computers that malware has been detected on their machines, and urges them to download security software. Safari users who have selected the "open 'safe' files after downloading" setting will have the malware installed immediately upon visiting one of the malicious pages. In other cases, for users to become infected, they have to open a ZIP file and manually install the malware. There is a legitimate software developer with the same name as the malware; they are not in any way connected. Internet Storm Center:
(ISC has reports of $99 (via Paypal) for a price on this in addition to the $80 from other sources.)



[Editor's Comment (Northcutt): As a public safety announcement, please warn your people not to open any mail messages with attachments that claim to have video, pictures etc of Bin Laden, the Navy Seal team, Amazing Grace at Ground Zero, the wife that was a human shield etc. This doesn't only apply to Macs, PCs, iPhones, Androids, just do not do it. I will bet the botnets add a million compromised systems from people clicking on this one. ]

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Employees Have Internet Access at Oak Ridge National Labs Again (May 2, 2011)

Internet connectivity has been restored at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, more than two weeks after employee access to the Internet was severed to limit damage from a cyber attack. An investigation into the incident that led to the restrictions indicates that malware infiltrated laboratory systems on April 7, 2011 following a targeted phishing attack against lab employees that exploited a vulnerability in Internet Explorer. The lab became aware of the situation on April 11 and monitored systems until the decision was made to sever Internet access on April 15.

Some Claim to be Selling PSN Customers' Credit Card Data (April 28 & 29, 2011)

While Sony says that the credit card information compromised in the PSN attack were encrypted, those apparently involved with the attack claim that they are already selling the information in online carder forums. It is possible that both claims could be true; Sony has not said what sort of encryption was used, and the attackers could conceivably have broken it by now.

Papers Warns of Dangers of Alarmist Cyberthreat Rhetoric (April 29, 2011)

A paper published by researchers at the Mercatus Institute at Virginia's George Mason University says that the US government's "alarmist rhetoric" about cyber threats facing the country's critical infrastructure could result in the enactment of policy based on evidence that may not have a foundation in fact. The researchers, Jerry Brito and Tate Watkins, compared the dangerous possibilities of ill-informed policy to what happened in Iraq - a decision was made to invade the country based on rumors, not hard evidence, that the country's political regime was connected to the September 11 attacks and that it possessed weapons of mass destruction. Decisions based on faulty information could lead to unnecessary regulation of network, and overspending on cyber security.

[Editor's Comment (Northcutt): At first glance the paper appears to be political and sensational, however it is well researched and more even toned that I first felt. Anyone with government or governance responsibility is encouraged to read it and draw your own conclusions.
(Schultz): I am sure that these researchers are very smart, but they do not appear to be very well-informed. They speculate that the US government might overspend on cyber security. The day that happens will be the day hell freezes over, trust me. ]

Amazon Provides Details About Cloud Outage (April 29, 2011)

Amazon has apologized for the outage experienced in portions of its cloud services platform and has released a statement offering more detail about the cause of the incident. The problem arose because of a configuration error that was made during a network upgrade. The error caused traffic that should have been directed to a primary network to be routed to a lower-capacity network. Amazon also detailed steps it is taking to prevent a recurrence.

[Editor's Note (Pescatore): Back in the day, what we called the cloud was the telecoms cloud. And back in 1990, ATT had a self-inflicted software bug that brought down just about all their 4ESS switches and the majority of US long distance calls for over 24 hours. Anyone who plans on using cloud without planning on workarounds for outages is not doing their due diligence. ]

Mozilla Releases Update for Firefox 4 (April 29 & May 2, 2011)

Mozilla has released security updates for Firefox 4, Firefox 3.5 and Firefox 3. In all, Mozilla fixed 53 flaws in the browsers, 12 of which were rated critical. The flaws addressed in the new version of Firefox 4 include a pair of issues in WebGLES graphics libraries that could be exploited to bypass certain security protections in Windows.


Seattle School District Officials Suspect Students in Online Grade Changes (April 28 & May 1, 2011)

School district officials suspect students at Seattle area high schools of breaking into school computer systems. Systems at three Seattle high schools have been affected. Although some grades in an online grade book system were altered, no final grades were changed. The district has begun monitoring systems for anomalous activity. Teachers received a memo that told them "network login credentials are being stolen and used to inappropriately access district systems." Officials suspect the information was stolen through the use of a keystroke logging device. The district is checking to see if other information was stolen.



The Editorial Board of SANS NewsBites

Eugene Schultz, Ph.D., CISM, CISSP, GLSC 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,

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 ( and a Director at the incident response company Mandiant.

Rohit Dhamankar is a security professional currently involved in independent security research.

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 founder with Secure Anchor Consulting.

Ron Dick directed the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) at the FBI and served as President of the InfraGard National Members Alliance - with more than 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, Chief Security Officer, North American Electric Reliability Corporation (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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