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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 XIV - Issue #24

March 23, 2012


US ISPs Agree to FCC-Recommended Security Measures
Verizon Report: Hacktivisim Accounts for More Than Half of Data Theft
US Dept. of Defense to Issue Rules of Cyber Engagement


Changes to Data Retention Guidelines Concern Civil Liberties Groups
Google Releases Sixth Update for Chrome 17
House Subcommittee Hearing Focuses on DoD's Role in Cyber Security
Megaupload's Server Host Seeking Relief
Mozilla Switches to Default SSL Google Searches
University of Tampa Student Data Compromised
DuQu Variant Detected
Russian Police Arrest Eight in Connection with Carberp Trojan

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US ISPs Agree to FCC-Recommended Security Measures (March 22, 2012)

Eight US Internet service providers (ISPs) in the US, including the four largest in the country, have committed to implementing cyber security measures recommended by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) advisory board. The recommended steps are aimed at fighting botnets, domain name fraud, and Internet route hijacking. In all, eight ISPs committed to the measures, which include alerting customers when their machines show signs of being infected with botnet malware and helping them clean those computers. The eight ISPs provide service to approximately 80 percent of broadband users in the US.

[Editor's Note (Pescatore): This is a needed step in the right direction, but it will need to avoid trying to rely on alerting customers and focus more on active protection. In 2010 Australian ISPs did a similar thing called iCode and there has been some "in the cloud" actions taken but mostly more web sites explaining threats vs. making those "Internet tubes" cleaner. I think the growth of wireless data access makes the carriers more incentivized to do more filtering on their end than when the focus is purely on the wired Internet side.
(Paller): The commitments are, for all but two ISPs, merely statements of intent. What the FCC has not yet established is a method of measuring the effectiveness of security improvements. FCC Commissioner Julius Genachowski told the FCC Advisory Board that developed the code of conduct that such measures of effectiveness are essential. Sadly, the ISPs are deeply antagonistic to measuring their individual effectiveness in reducing the threat of botnets (or to doing the filtering that John Pescatore describes in the previous editor's comment). Once effectiveness is measured, however the public would know which ISPs are the best places to practice safe Internet activities and ISPs would compete to get the bot count down quickly. If the FCC cannot get a measurement system in place, the US initiative will be no more effective that the ICode in Australia where the effectiveness is at best spotty. ]

Verizon Report: Hacktivisim Accounts for More Than Half of Data Theft (March 22, 2012)

According to Verizon's 2012 Data Breach Investigations Report, the majority of data stolen last year was the doing of hacktivists rather than cyber criminals out to profit from their spoils. Fifty-eight percent of data stolen in 2011 were pilfered by hackers with a political or social agenda. The report analyzes 855 incidents worldwide; those attacks accounted for 174 million stolen records. Verizon director of research and intelligence Wade Baker said that hacktivists are harder to defend against because they tailor their attacks for specific targets.


US Dept. of Defense to Issue Rules of Cyber Engagement (March 21, 2012)

The US Department of Defense may issue rules of cyber engagement within the next few months, according to military officials. The rules will set forth how the military should respond to cyber attacks describe when they can take proactive defensive measures. The policy is a cooperative effort between the Joint Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense's Office of Policy.

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Changes to Data Retention Guidelines Concern Civil Liberties Groups (March 22, 2012)

US Attorney General Eric Holder has approved guidelines that allow the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) to retain information for up to five years. Prior guidelines requited NCTC to destroy data within 180 days unless they were clearly connected to terrorism. Civil liberties groups are concerned about the length of time that people's information will be held. Officials say that the changes are being made to ensure that analysts have ready access to the information, and that in some cases, information that did not appear to be pertinent at first glance turned out later to be important evidence.

Google Releases Sixth Update for Chrome 17 (March 22, 2012)

Google has released another security update for Chrome 17, the sixth in as many weeks. The update addresses nine vulnerabilities, six of which are rated critical. Four researchers were paid a total of US $5,500 for alerting Google to five vulnerabilities. The other four flaws either found by Google's own team or were not significant enough to merit a bounty. Google uses silent updates for Chrome, so machines running the browser will be automatically updated.


House Subcommittee Hearing Focuses on DoD's Role in Cyber Security (March 21, 2012)

Some US legislators are arguing for the military to take a larger role in the nation's cyber security. Currently, the role of protecting private and civil government network is under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Representative Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), who chairs the House Armed services emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee said at a hearing on March 20 that US citizens expect that the DoD will "defend the country in whatever domain it is attacked. That means that Cyber Command must be ready, and Congress and the administration must find a way to ensure that it has the legal authorities it needs and at the same time ensure that the constitutional rights of Americans are protected." Army General Keith Alexander, Commander of the US Cyber Command, said that while the threats in cyberspace have become more dangerous, he does not believe that DoD should assume the roles that DHS has been filling, and that the best way DoD can help both DHS and private sector organizations is through sharing cyber threat information.

Megaupload's Server Host Seeking Relief (March 21, 22, & 23, 2012)

Megaupload's server host Carpathia is asking a judge for help; the company has been stuck paying for retaining the 25 petabytes of data at a cost of about US $9,000 a day. Carpathia wants permission to reallocate the more than 1,000 servers used to store the data for other customers who are able to pay for the service. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has asked a federal judge to ensure the data are retained. Megaupload wants the data preserved and has asked that some of its seized funds be used to pay Carpathia.


[Editor's Comment (Northcutt): A cautionary tale. No matter where you stand on the copyright law discussion, this is a company that is paying real money to preserve the data they collected by their business relationship with Megaupload. And the requirements to keep the 25 Petabytes of data could easily go on several more years.]

Mozilla Switches to Default SSL Google Searches (March 21, & 22, 2012)

Mozilla's Firefox browser now uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) by default on Google searches. The change currently affects only the beta version of the browser, but will eventually be introduced more broadly in a stable version of Firefox some time later this year. The shift means that Internet service providers (ISPs) will not be able to look at users' search query information, and websites visited after users conduct searches will not be able to access the information, either.

University of Tampa Student Data Compromised (March 21, 2012)

Personally identifiable information belonging to more than 6,800 University of Tampa students was exposed on the Internet for eight months, according to the Florida university. The breach was discovered as part of an in-class project on advanced search techniques. Two other files containing information about nearly 23,000 additional people may also have been exposed during the same time period.


DuQu Variant Detected (March 21, 2012)

A variant of the driver for the DuQu intelligence-gathering malware has been detected on computers in Iran. The DuQu driver variant is altered enough from the earlier version so that it evades detection. Researchers say it seems that the attacker may use the information gathered by DuQu to take other action.


Russian Police Arrest Eight in Connection with Carberp Trojan (March 20, 2012)

Russian authorities have arrested eight people believed to have stolen more than 60 million rubles (US $2.04 million) using the Carberp Trojan horse program. Carperb steals online banking login credentials, which the suspects allegedly used to transfer funds from targeted accounts to accounts opened by members of the group; the money was them withdrawn from those accounts through ATMs. The number of compromised accounts is estimated to be 90. The malware was allegedly placed on Russian newspaper and other frequently visited websites.

The Editorial Board of SANS NewsBites
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 is President of STI, The Premier Skills-Based Cyber Security Graduate School,
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 CounterHackChallenges, the nation's top producer of cyber ranges, simulations, and competitive challenges, now used from high schools to the Air Force. He is also author and lead instructor of the SANS Hacker Exploits and Incident Handling course, and Penetration Testing course..
William Hugh Murray is an executive consultant and trainer in Information Assurance and Associate Professor at the Naval Postgraduate School.
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.
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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