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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 XV - Issue #68

August 27, 2013


FBI and DHS Concerned About Android Vulnerabilities
New EU Rule Requires Breach Notification Within 24 Hours
HITECH Act Compliance Deadline Four Weeks Away


DDoS Attack Against China's Top-Level Domain
Amazon Cloud Problems Cause Web Services Outages
Exploit for Unpatched Java 6 Flaw in the Wild
How Did Snowden Access All That Data?
NSA Paid Millions for Tech Companies' Compliance with PRISM
PayPal Fixes Account Hijacking Flaw
Orbit Downloader Has Surreptitious DDoS Component

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FBI and DHS Concerned About Android Vulnerabilities (August 26, 2013)

According to an unclassified US government document, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are concerned about security flaws in the Android operating system. Specifically, the document outlines concerns about threats faced by law enforcement officers and officials who are using devices running older versions of the operating system. The document says, "Android is the world's most widely used mobile operating system and continues to be a primary target for malware attacks due to its open source architecture." It also offers mitigation advice for certain types of threats.

[Editor's Note (Murray): Ironic. DHS has favored Android over iOS for exactly this reason. That the government has consistently used its buying power to favor "open" over "secure" is at least partially accountable for our current state. ]

New EU Rule Requires Breach Notification Within 24 Hours (August 22, 23, & 26, 2013)

As of August 25, telecommunications operators and Internet service providers (ISPs) in the European Union (EU) must notify authorities within 24 hours of detecting a data security breach. While notification is already required, the mandatory 24-hour window is raising concerns because organizations will not have adequate time to conduct forensics. There is also movement toward broadening the scope of the requirement to include all industries.



[Editor's Note (Honan): The requirement is that notification is given to the relevant authorities within 24 hours of detecting the breach, and not as some reports are suggesting from when the breach occurred. Sharing such information can be quite beneficial as the recent Major Incidents in 2012 Report by ENISA demonstrates

. That report highlighted that 8% of the incidents reported were due to cyber-attacks with 75% being attributed to system failures. Independent and verified hard data and facts is what we need better design our systems rather than marketing reports and surveys.
(Murray): The Verizon Data Breach Incident Report and other intelligence suggest that many, not to say most, breaches are not detected for weeks to months. ]

HITECH Act Compliance Deadline Four Weeks Away (August 26, 2013)

As of September 23, 2013, U.S. organizations that handle healthcare data must be in compliance with the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. The law establishes new breach notification standards and restrictions on how personal health information is shared and/or disclosed. Previously, breach notification was required only if there was a serious risk of harm. The new law requires that notifications be made unless the organization can demonstrate that there is a low probability of such risk. Companies handling the data will also be required to make sure that their subcontractors and business associates are compliant with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements.

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DDoS Attack Against China's Top-Level Domain (August 26, 2013)

A Sunday morning distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack against the domain servers for the country's top-level domain, .cn, is reportedly the largest ever attack against that domain. The first wave of the attack occurred at midnight Beijing time on Sunday, August 25. A second wave was launched four hours later. Service to the affected websites was largely restored by 10 a.m. on Sunday. Because of the country's regulation and censorship practices, not many details about the attacks have been released.




[Editor Comment (Northcutt): This is not a new problem and will repeat. Here is some interesting research on countermeasures:

Amazon Cloud Problems Cause Web Services Outages (August 25 & 26, 2013)

A packet loss issue at an Amazon cloud services data center caused outages for several high profile web services including Instagram, Netflix, and Vine. The issue has been resolved. Amazon says the problems were caused by "partial failure of a networking device."

Exploit for Unpatched Java 6 Flaw in the Wild (August 26, 2013)

An exploit targeting an unpatched vulnerability in Java 6 has been found in the wild. The flaw was disclosed earlier this year when Oracle released Java 7 Update 25. Java 6 was not patched because Oracle has discontinued support for that version.

How Did Snowden Access All That Data? (August 24 & 26, 2013)

The US government is having difficulty figuring out exactly what data Edward Snowden took while working as a contractor at the NSA because Snowden was careful to hide his digital footprints by deleting or bypassing electronic logs. The incident illustrates problems inherent in the structure of the data systems if they were so easily defeated. It also appears to refute assurances from the government that NSA surveillance programs are not subject to abuse because they are so tightly protected.

[Editor's Note (Murray): If the user can cause or prevent entries in a log or journal, then it is not reliable. Admittedly, the process-to-process isolation problem was difficult when we tried to solve it with software in expensive hardware. Perhaps their contractors have not told the NSA that hardware is now cheap.]

NSA Paid Millions for Tech Companies' Compliance with PRISM (August 23, 2013)

Although major US technology companies have denied their knowing participation in the NSA's surveillance program known as PRISM, recently disclosed documents show that the NSA footed the bill for the companies' compliance to the tune of millions of dollars.

PayPal Fixes Account Hijacking Flaw (August 23, 2013)

PayPal has fixed a vulnerability that could have been exploited to delete accounts and replace them with a new one in the same name, but with a different email address. Attackers could add email addresses to targeted PayPal accounts, which then allowed them to delete the account.

Orbit Downloader Has Surreptitious DDoS Component (August 22 & 26, 2013)

Versions of Orbit Downloader released in December 2012 and later have the capability to turn computers into bots to be used in distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. The issue affects Orbit Downloader versions and newer. The software surreptitiously downloads a DLL (dynamic link library) component.


The Editorial Board of SANS NewsBites

John Pescatore was Vice President at Gartner Inc. for fourteen years. He became a director of the SANS Institute in 2013. He has worked in computer and network security since 1978 including time at the NSA and the U.S. Secret Service.

Shawn Henry recently retired as FBI Executive Assistant Director responsible for all criminal and cyber programs and investigations worldwide, as well as international operations and the FBI's critical incident response. He is now president of CrowdStrike Services.

Stephen Northcutt teaches advanced courses in cyber security management; he founded the GIAC certification and was the founding 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 CounterHack, 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.

Michael Assante was Vice President and Chief Security Officer at NERC, led a key control systems group at Idaho National Labs, and was American Electric Power's CSO. He now leads the global cyber skills development program at SANS for power, oil & gas and other critical infrastructure industries.

Mark Weatherford is a Principal at The Chertoff Group and the former Deputy Under Secretary of Cybersecurity at the US Department of Homeland Security.

William Hugh Murray is an executive consultant and trainer in Information Assurance and Associate Professor at the Naval Postgraduate School.

Sean McBride is Director of Analysis and co-founder of Critical Intelligence, and, while at Idaho National Laboratory, he initiated the situational awareness effort that became the ICS-CERT.

Rob Lee is the SANS Institute's top forensics instructor and director of the digital forensics and incident response research and education program at SANS (

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.

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 leads SANS' efforts to raise the bar in cybersecurity education around the world.

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

Gal Shpantzer is a trusted advisor to CSOs of large corporations, technology startups, Ivy League universities and non-profits specializing in critical infrastructure protection. Gal created the Security Outliers project in 2009, focusing on the role of culture in risk management outcomes and contributes to the Infosec Burnout project.

Alan Paller is director of research at the SANS Institute.

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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