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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 XVI - Issue #15

February 21, 2014

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ICS-CERT Report Says Many Attacks on Critical Infrastructure Go Undetected
HSBC Bank USA Requiring Two-Factor Authentication for Some Transactions
Windows Crash Report Analysis Reveals New Advanced Persistent Threat and Point-of-Sale Attacks


Microsoft Provides Stopgap Security Measure for IE Vulnerability
Adobe Issues Emergency Patch for Flash Vulnerabilities
NIST Releases Draft Proposal for Revising Cryptographic Standard Development
Online Gaming Site Offers Cash Reward for Attackers' Conviction
University of Maryland Database Breach Affects More Than 300,000 Students and Staff
How Forbes Responded to the Recent Attack
French Defense Contractor Network Breached
Target Breach Has Cost Banks and Credit Unions More than US $200 Million
Routers and Home Automation Tool Vulnerabilities



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ICS-CERT Report Says Many Attacks on Critical Infrastructure Go Undetected (February 19, 2014)

A report from the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS's) Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) says that many attacks against the networks of organizations that operate elements of the US's critical infrastructure remain undetected because of insufficient detection and logging. ICS-CERT recommends that organizations improve their incident detection, monitoring, and response capabilities and that they report incidents to develop a broader understanding of attacks. Some of the most common method of initiating breaches were watering-hole attacks (planting malware on a site that targeted users are likely to visit); spear phishing, and SQL injection.

[Editor's Note (Assante): Lack of a clear security view into ICS networks and on devices results in unbounded attacker free time. ICS networks are special-purpose networks that can be understood and managed well enough to determine predictability. Being able to detect unnecessary communications and attempts to exploit weaknesses in protocols and software should be a priority along with outbound filtering and monitoring. Simply creating a fence around these systems is insufficient, as we all must accept, a prevention only defense is not an adequate protection strategy.
(Paller): The boards of directors of most large power companies understand the risk. The challenge they now face is that their control systems were engineered decades ago and can neither be fully protected nor separated from corporate networks. An innovative few power companies are following Mike Assante's recommendation by establishing small teams of full-time watchers to find intrusions quickly and eliminate them. A practical approach to a difficult problem. ]

HSBC Bank USA Requiring Two-Factor Authentication for Some Transactions (February 20, 2014)

HSBC Bank USA now requires retail customers to use two-factor authentication for certain online transactions. Retail customers will be required to use the additional technology for money transfers, wire transfers, and account beneficiary changes. Customers may choose between a hardware token or a mobile application to generate the additional security code. The bank will supply the technology at no extra charge.

[Editor's Note (Murray): The report describes this action as "ground breaking." Not. Many banks have been requiring strong authentication of commercial customers for years and offering it as an option to retail customers. However, what may be novel is that HSBC is REQUIRING this strong authentication for at least some sensitive retail transactions.
(Honan): Nice to see HSBC Bank USA take security seriously and introduce two factor authentication for their US clients, something they have been offering for UK clients since 2006
(Northcutt): This is not magic, modern malware waits till you are authenticated and then executes transactions, but it is a HUGE step in the right direction. I will look into closing a bank account that does not have two factor and opening one with HSBC. eTrade and Schwab also have banks that offer two factor authentication. If readers know of others please drop me a note: (, thank you! ]

Windows Crash Report Analysis Reveals New Advanced Persistent Threat and Point-of-Sale Attacks (February 19, 2014)

Websense's analysis of Microsoft Windows crash reports has turned up evidence of a new advanced persistent threat attack and a new point-of-sale (POS) attack. Websense recently revealed that Windows crash reports could be abused by attackers because the system reports log data in cleartext. Websense has now released free source code that allows companies to analyze crash reports to detect breaches.


[Editor's Note (Ullrich): Great step forward by Websense to provide this tool. Crash reports have too long been overlooked. In particular for an enterprise scenario, crash reports can be a very efficient and automated way to learn about new malware. ]

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Microsoft Provides Stopgap Security Measure for IE Vulnerability (February 20, 2014)

Microsoft has released a temporary "Fixit" for a vulnerability in Internet Explorer (IE) that is being actively exploited. The flaw affects IE9 and IE10. Microsoft is working on a patch for the issue, but has not said when it will be available. The temporary fix instructs affected services to go into a restricted mode that blocks the current attacks.




Adobe Issues Emergency Patch for Flash Vulnerabilities (February 20, 2014)

Adobe has released an emergency fix for three critical vulnerabilities in Flash Player. One of the flaws is being exploited in active drive-by attacks on three non-profit websites. This is the second time in less than a month that Adobe has patched Flash outside of its regular update cycle.




NIST Releases Draft Proposal for Revising Cryptographic Standard Development (February 20, 2014)

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released a draft of a proposal to revise the way it develops cryptographic standards. The proposal is a response to concern that the NSA had a hand in the development of earlier standards; NIST is committed to making the standard development process transparent, open, and impartial.


Online Gaming Site Offers Cash Reward for Attackers' Conviction (February 19 & 20, 2014)

Online role-playing game website Wurm is offering a 10,000 euro (US $13,700) reward for information that leads to the conviction of those responsible for knocking the site offline earlier this week. Wurm was rendered unreachable by a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that was launched just after Wurm updated to version 1.2. Wurm's web hosting company took the site offline because the attack was affecting other customers. Wurm is now back online on new servers with a new web host.



University of Maryland Database Breach Affects More Than 300,000 Students and Staff (February 19, 2014)

University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh has disclosed a breach of a university database that compromised personal information of more than 300,000 students and staff members. The incident affects anyone who was associated with the university's College Park and Shady Grove campuses dating back to 1998. The exposed data include birth dates, Social Security numbers (SSNs) and school ID numbers, but not financial, academic, or health data. Forensic investigators are examining the breached files and logs. University CIO Brian Voss said the intruder copied the information in the database.



Letter from President Loh:
[Editor's Note (Murray): Resign! Resign! Resign! We have tried transparency without accountability and it is not working. It is time for stronger measures.]

How Forbes Responded to the Recent Attack (February 18, 2014)

Forbes Media Chief product Officer Lewis DVorkin describes in detail how responded to a recent attack against its publishing system that compromised user login credentials and hindered contributors' ability to publish stories. The attack began on February 13 and persisted through the next day. The attacker or attackers provided information to Forbes making clear that they had gained access to the company's publishing platform. Forbes locked down the publishing platform while making adjustments to security and twice attempted to reopen the system, only to discover that the attack was still ongoing. The company decided to shut down the publishing process for the weekend. was still available to the public the whole time, but was not able to post new content. The company mapped computers in the New York office to a "safe haven" server and established a special mailbox where contributors could submit posts. Forbes used social media to let readers know about the attack and is contacting users, urging them to change their passwords.

[Editor's Note (Honan): This is an excellent read for incident handlers and offers lessons that can be applied in your own organization. ]

French Defense Contractor Network Breached (February 18, 2014)

Attackers breached the network of French aerospace engine manufacturer Snecma. The intruders exploited a vulnerability in Internet Explorer to gain access to the network. The attack on Snecma reportedly used different malware than was recently used to exploit the same vulnerability in the VFW site.


Target Breach Has Cost Banks and Credit Unions More than US $200 Million (February 18, 2014)

The Target breach that affected more than 40 million payment cards has cost financial institutions more than US $200 million so far. That figure comes from information released by the Consumer Bankers Association and the Credit Union National Association. There are doubtless additional costs incurred by financial institutions that are not members of either association. The costs are those associated with issuing replacement cards for customers affected by the breach. The Target breach exposed personal information of as many as 110 customers.


[Editor's Note (Murray): I have little sympathy for the banks here. For reasons of cost, they have chosen to accept fraud losses rather than move to a payment system (e.g., EMV for POS, out-of-band authentication for on-line commerce) more resistant to replay. Merchant breaches are inevitable. Fraudulent reuse of credit card numbers is not. ]

Routers and Home Automation Tool Vulnerabilities (February 18 & 20, 2013)

Recently, two families of routers have been found to be vulnerable to attacks. Nearly 1,000 Linksys routers have been infected with malware dubbed TheMoon. The routers are vulnerable if the Remote Management Access feature is enabled; Linksys ships the devices with that feature switched off by default. Some ASUS routers along with storage devices connected directly to them may be open to anyone online; again, the issue exists when users have enabled the remote access features. ASUS has released firmware to address the problem. Similar issues have also been found in Belkin WeMo Home Automation tools. The flaws in these devices allow anyone on the Internet to remotely take control of the devices. Belkin has issued updates to address the issues.
[Editor's Note (Ullrich): Turn off remote access to devices. We have been talking about this for too long, time to take action. Over the last month, every major router/device vendor had to deal with major security flaws in widely deployed devices, and for many, a patch will never be released. ]


Cisco Unified SIP Phone 3905 root access

Cisco UCS Default SSH admin account credentials

Metasploit Module added for Android WebView Vulnerability

More Details About "TheMoon" Linksys Worm

Belkin Wemo Vulnerabilities

WordPress Two Factor Authentication Vulnerability

Adobe Zero Day Used in Waterhole Attack (and Patch Available)

Linksys WRT120N Buffer Overflow

Namecheap DDoS Attack

Chrome Update

Bitcrypt Malware Encryption Broken

Zeus Trojan Using Images for Covert Communication

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 operations manager and serves as production manager and final editor on SANS NewsBites.

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