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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 #60

July 29, 2014


Russian Government Seeking Technology to Break Tor Anonymity
Court Fines Phony Antivirus Purveyors US $5.1 Million


Dept. of Commerce IG Report Finds "Significant" Security Issues at NOAA
Attackers Exploiting Flaws in Elasticsearch to Use Amazon's Cloud Service for DDoS Attacks
Siemens Releases Updates to Fix Flaws in Two SIMATIC Builds
Apple iOS Diagnostics Tool Could be Exploited to Access Personal Data
Cloud Services Can Impede Forensic Investigations
Pentagon's Cyber Warfare Lexicon
Company Informs Customers of Breach Three Years After the Fact



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Russian Government Seeking Technology to Break Tor Anonymity (July 25 & 28, 2014)

The Russian government is offering a 3.9 million rubles (US $109,500) contract for a technology that can be used to identify Tor users. Tor was initially developed by the US Naval Research Laboratory and DARPA, but is now developed by The Tor Project, a non-profit organization. Tor is used by journalists and others who need to keep their identities hidden for their own safety; it is also used by criminals for the same purposes. The entrance fee for the competition is 195,000 rubles (US $5,500).


[Editor's Note (Murray): In his most recent novel, Richard Clarke implied that NSA had targeted and broken TOR. ]

Court Fines Phony Antivirus Purveyors US $5.1 Million (July 28, 2014)

A federal court in New York has issued default judgments against 14 companies for selling phony antivirus products. The companies have been ordered to pay a total of US $5.1 million in fines. The schemes involved selling so-called antivirus products over the phone. Once the targets had paid for the fake product, they were told to install software that actually gave those running the scheme remote access to their computers.

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Dept. of Commerce IG Report Finds "Significant" Security Issues at NOAA (July 28, 2014)

According to a report from the US Department of Commerce's office of inspector general, satellite data were stolen from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) contractor's personal computer last year, but there has not been an investigation because the employee refused to allow NOAA to conduct a forensic investigation on the laptop. The report also noted other "significant security deficiencies" at NOAA, including unauthorized use of smartphones and thumb drives on sensitive systems.

[Editor's Note (Pescatore): This report reads like a "How to *Not* Implement the Critical Security Controls" tutorial - the deficiencies are pretty much the security 101 controls focused on by the Critical Controls. However, the systems looked at are legacy applications that have been in use for more than a decade and poorly managed/maintained - sprinkling security on top of that doesn't work and it sure wasn't built in. The report also points out that the assessments done to give Authority to Operate were very lightweight.
(Murray): "Finding significant security issues" is what auditors do. "Inspectors general" publish theirs in the newspaper. These reports have become so routine and generic as to be interchangeable. Even the examples happened in your enterprise too.
(Honan): Before introducing BYOD into your organization remember to implement a policy and the tools that will enable you to ensure any data stored on these devices is secured to your organisation's requirements and that you can forensically seize and examine the device in the event of a security breach. ]

Attackers Exploiting Flaws in Elasticsearch to Use Amazon's Cloud Service for DDoS Attacks (July 28, 2014)

Attackers have discovered a way to use Amazon cloud services to launch distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on other websites by exploiting flaws in Elasticsearch, an open-source analytics application.


[Editor's Note (Pescatore): The use of "Amazon Cloud Service" in the headlines is largely just for hype - this is really a vulnerability in an application that is run on servers and cloud instances, nothing really cloud specific. Looks like Elastisearch has issued both a newer version to address the vulnerability, and guidelines on how to deploy securely. ]

Siemens Releases Updates to Fix Flaws in Two SIMATIC Builds (July 25, 2014)

Siemens has released security updates for two SIMATIC builds to address five vulnerabilities, four of which can be exploited remotely. The flaws could be exploited to gain elevated privileges and access data without authorization.
[Editor's Note (Assante): "Hardening attack surfaces by deploying security updates is becoming more accepted in ICS. The implementation of updates requires broader decision, planning, and testing. Many OT environments have fewer available options than enterprise systems to quickly roll out compensating measures. Real-time systems rarely have real-time defenses." ]

Apple iOS Diagnostics Tool Could be Exploited to Access Personal Data (July 25, 2014)

Diagnostic services built into Apple's iOS mobile operating system could be used to access personal data in iPhones. The services, which Apple says are designed for engineers, are not documented. Apple says that the feature was not designed to let the NSA access data in the devices.


[Editor's Note (Murray): If an attacker has physical control of your device for a sufficient time, it will leak. Tools provided for a benign purpose can be misused. Poor or incomplete documentation will embarrass you. However, in the light of the leaked NSA boast, this goes beyond merely embarrassing. Still one should not attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity.
(Northcutt): I still think the iPhone is the safest mobile device, but this is not good news. ]

Cloud Services Can Impede Forensic Investigations (July 24, 2014)

As governments have moved to cloud services, they have saved money and improved efficiency, but the technology holds some challenges to forensic investigations. A draft report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) describes 65 "challenges" forensic investigators encounter when dealing with cloud computing. The report classifies the challenges into nine categories, including data collection, analysis, and architecture. One example of a challenge is email. On non-cloud systems, deleted email messages can often be recovered because they are not truly deleted until they are over-written. Because of the shared nature of the cloud, deleted files are more likely to be overwritten.

[Editor's Note (Pescatore): This is an "evergreen" story: "New Technology X Can Impede Old Security Process Y" - I'm trying to think of an instance where Old Security Process Y won this battle, largely drawing a blank. The next headline generally has to be "Enterprises Move to Security Process Z to Secure New Technology X." ]

Pentagon's Cyber Warfare Lexicon (July 23, 2014)

The Cyber Warfare Lexicon, published by the US Strategic Command in 2009, defines terms normally used to describe physical combat in ways that make sense in the context of cyber warfare. The document was recently obtained by research group Public Intelligence.

[Editor's Note (Pescatore): Looks more like someone got paid to sprinkle "cyber" into an old definition list, but I would like to point out: "(U) collateral effect: Unintentional or incidental effects, including injury or damage, to persons or objects that would not be lawful military targets in the circumstances ruling at the time." This is where cyberwarfare needs to be thought of like Weapons of Mass Destruction vs. ballistic munitions. ]

Company Informs Customers of Breach Three Years After the Fact (July 19, 2014)

Australian daily bargain website Catch of the Day recently revealed that it suffered a security breach in 2011. The incident compromised user passwords and payment card data. While the breach was reported to police, banks, and credit card issuers shortly after it occurred, the company delayed informing the Australian Privacy Commissioner. Customers with accounts created before May 7, 2011 are now being advised to change their passwords.

[Editor's Note (Murray): One would like to think that the notified issuers did send out new credit cards on a timely basis, a more important remedy. Changing passwords after three years is not likely to have much effect. Perhaps the most important remedy will be sanctions invoked by the Australian Privacy Commission. ]


Odd User-Agent Used to Scan Web Servers

Kaspersky Analysis of Koler Android Ransomware

BugCrowd Publishes Bug Bounty Program Guidelines

Flashbang: Tool to analyze Flash scripts

TAILS published advisory for I2P Problem

Synology Patches for DSM 4.2

New Version of Honeydrive

How a Bot Can Use Internet Explorer to Learn More about a Victim

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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