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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 #5

January 17, 2014

FLASH: The U.S. President announced this morning that the NSA would cease monitoring of some foreign leaders' communications and that the NSA would no longer store large amounts of information on phone and electronic communications. Instead, the president suggests that these data be stored by a third party and queried only after gaining judicial approval. Congress will make the decision on where such data will be stored - possibly at the Internet service providers.


Target Point-of-Sale (POS) Malware
Security Updates from Microsoft, Adobe, and Oracle


Experts Say Still Has Numerous Security Issues
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Official Says Site is Now Secure
Microsoft Will Extend Security Essentials for Windows XP Through July 2015
Cisco Updates Secure Access Control System
Microsoft Acknowledges Syrian Electronic Army Compromised Some Employee eMail Accounts
Pending Legislation Would Require Inspection of Chinese Made IT Equipment
NSA Using Radio Technology to Snoop on Machines Not Connected to Internet
FISC Jurists Oppose Task Force Transparency and Oversight Recommendations
Federal Appeals Court Invalidates Most of FCC's Net Neutrality Rules



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Target Point-of-Sale (POS) Malware (January 15 & 16, 2014)

More details are emerging about the malware used to steal data from payment cards used at Target over an 18-day period late last year. According to sources familiar with the ongoing investigation, the attack used memory-scraping malware in Target's point-of-sale systems. The malware "parses data stored briefly in the memory banks of specific POS devices" and can capture magnetic stripe data. The attackers appear to have used a central server in Target to store stolen data and then transmitted the data to an external FTP server.

Security Updates from Microsoft, Adobe, and Oracle (January 14 & 15, 2014)

Microsoft and Adobe have released security updates for a variety of products. Microsoft four bulletins address a total of six flaws in Windows, Office, Microsoft Server 2003 and 2008, and Microsoft Dynamics AX. The Microsoft bulletins are all rated important. Adobe's fixes for Reader, Acrobat, and Flash, are rated critical. Earlier in the week, Oracle released an update with nearly 150 fixes for a variety of products, including 36 fixes for Java.



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Experts Say Still Has Numerous Security Issues (January 16, 2014)

Experts testifying before congress said that the government's healthcare exchange website still contains many security problems. One of the security issues identified last year has been partially addressed, but the other 17 remain, and 20 new issues have been detected. According to a statement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), "There have been no successful security attacks on and ...
[no one ]
has maliciously accessed personally identifiable information from the site."



[Editor's Note (Shpantzer): I just finished watching the two hours of painful back-and-forth and found it shameful that members of the Congressional committee asked to strike Mr. Kennedy's testimony from the record (around 1:28:00) This is not how vulnerabilities get fixed, rather it is more of the same old shoot-the-messenger ridiculous commentary we've grown accustomed to hearing from people who don't like security researchers pointing out vulnerabilities.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Official Says Site is Now Secure (January 16, 2014)

Teresa Fryer, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) CIO at Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services, told members of the US House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that she believes that the website meets government security standards. Fryer had expressed concerns about the site's security prior to its launch last October. But this week, she said the site passed a security control assessment in December.

[Editor's Note (Murray): While "compliance with requirements" is undoubtedly a good thing, it is a mistake to conclude that that means that a system is "secure." ]

Microsoft Will Extend Security Essentials for Windows XP Through July 2015 (January 16, 2014)

Microsoft now says that it will extend support for Security Essentials for Windows XP for 15 months beyond the date that it plans to stop supporting the popular operating system. One figure suggests that nearly one-third of desktop computers are still running on Windows XP.
[Editor's Note (Pescatore): Good move to extend, the other desktop AV providers have left support for XP open dependent on what Microsoft does. ]

Cisco Updates Secure Access Control System (January 16, 2014)

Cisco has updated its Secure Access Control System (ACS) to fix three security flaws that could be exploited to remotely gain administrative access to vulnerable devices, which would allow the intruders to execute OS-level commands without authorization. The "ACS is a server appliance that enforces access control policies for both wireless and wired network clients."

Microsoft Acknowledges Syrian Electronic Army Compromised Some Employee eMail Accounts (January 15 & 16, 2014)

Microsoft has admitted that a Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) attack compromised several internal email accounts, in addition to an official blog and two of the company's Twitter accounts.

Pending Legislation Would Require Inspection of Chinese Made IT Equipment (January 15, 2014)

US legislators in both houses are expected to approve bills that would prohibit certain agencies from purchasing IT equipment manufactured in China until it is inspected by federal authorities. The provision is part of a 2014 fiscal spending package in the House of Representatives. The agencies that would be affected by the bills are the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice, NASA, and the National Science Foundation.

[Editor's Note (Pescatore): This is similar to what the UK did when Huawei won a competition to provide national telecoms equipment. But, such legislation is a two-way street - I assume many Asian companies will want to do the same for US technology and cloud services. ]

NSA Using Radio Technology to Snoop on Machines Not Connected to Internet (January 14 & 15, 2014)

The NSA has put malware on 100,000 computers that allow it to conduct surveillance, even when the machines are not connected to the Internet. The NSA has been using the technology since 2008. The technology involves the use of small transceivers and in some cases, small circuit boards placed inside targeted machines.




[Editor's Note (Pescatore): I worked for the US Secret Service back in the early 1980's when the Russians did this to IBM electric typewriters used in the US embassy in Moscow. This is what we expect intelligence agencies to do, that is their job. By the way, NSA has the declassified report on that old embassy typewriter incident - you can read it from the website.
(Murray): While not always sufficient, physical security is always a necessary and efficient measure. (Stephen Colbert had a report on this NSA activity last night and should be available here
shortly.) ]

FISC Jurists Oppose Task Force Transparency and Oversight Recommendations (January 14 & 15, 2014)

Current and former Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges says that White House task force recommendations for change to court procedures would place a greater burden on the court and hinder its ability to do its job. The letter, written by former FISC Chief Judge John D. Bates, expresses the jurists' opposition to appointing an independent privacy advocate to represent public interest; requiring the FISC judges' approval for national security letters; broadening the selection process of FISC judges; and the cessation of the NSA's phone call metadata collection program.




Federal Appeals Court Invalidates Most of FCC's Net Neutrality Rules (January 14 & 16, 2014)

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has struck down major portions of the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC's) net neutrality rules. The FCC ran into problems because several years ago, it classified Internet service providers (ISPs) as information services rather than telecommunications services, which means that the commission's authority in regulating ISPs was on shaky legal ground.


Microsoft releases details about twitter/blog compromise

More Target Breach Details

Exposed Network Printers

Google Updates Chrome, Adds Caching for Mobile Browser


Microsoft Updates

Adobe Patches

Oracle Critical Patch Update

SEA Website Defaced by Turkish Hackers

Aidra Botnet Client with Backdoor on port 4028

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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