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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 #63

August 08, 2014


Billions of Digital Credentials Stolen
UK's Information Commissioner Voices Concerns About Data Security in Legal Profession
Google Boosts Search Result Rankings for HTTPS Sites


Man Arrested in UK for Allegedly Running Proxy Server
WordPress Plug-In Flaw Leaves Sites Vulnerable to Remote Takeovers
FinFisher Business Details Leaked to Internet
Black Hat: TSA Security Equipment Has Backdoors
Microsoft Update Will Block Out-of-Date Java Plug-ins in Internet Explorer
Security Companies Team Up to Help Users Recover Files Locked by CryptoLocker
DHS Contractor Breach
FBI Using Drive-by Downloads to Catch Criminals
Wireless Emporium Notifying Customers of Possible Data Breach
Oracle Offers Fix for Problem with Recent Java Update
Reservists Trounced CYBERCOM Cyber Specialists in War Game Exercise



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Billions of Digital Credentials Stolen (August 5 & 6, 2014)

A group of Russian thieves has collected a stash of Internet account credentials: 1.2 billion user name and password combinations and 500 million email addresses. The data were taken from more than 420,000 websites. The group believed to be responsible for the massive data heist appears to be using the information to send spam.
[Alan: In light of all the noise being made about this story, before you read the articles, you might find value in Brian Kreb's validation at






UK's Information Commissioner Voices Concerns About Data Security in Legal Profession (August 5, 2014)

The UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has received reports of 15 incidents in the past three months involving mishandling of client data by those in the legal profession. The ICO is warning that barristers and solicitors who do not take adequate precautions to protect their clients' data would face fines of up to GBP 500,000 (US $840,000).

[Editor's Note (Paller): I have first hand evidence that US law firms have lost huge troves of their clients' data; the FBI disclosed that US law firms were targets of nation-state attacks in 2009; and the head of MI5 made it clear that the same was happening in the UK in a disclosure the year before. Nation states (as well as economic competitors) have figured out that organizations run by lawyers (as well as the consulting companies run by ex Federal officials) are the most cost-effective way to steal intellectual property from companies seeking to do business in their countries because those companies share the crown jewels with their lawyers and consultants and think they will protect the information. ]

Google Boosts Search Result Rankings for HTTPS Sites (August 7, 2014)

Google has acknowledged that is giving HTTPS sites a small boost to in search-engine rankings. The encryption is currently a small portion of Google's search result ranking algorithm, but may play a larger role in the future.


[Editor's Note (Northcutt): Bravo for Google. Encryption does not solve all problems, but it beats plain text any day. ]

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Man Arrested in UK for Allegedly Running Proxy Server (August 6 & 7, 2014)

Police in the UK have arrested a man for his alleged role in a music and movie piracy scheme. The unnamed 20-year-old allegedly ran a proxy server that allowed users to connect to Internet services, such as the Pirate Bay, that Internet service providers (ISPs) have been ordered to ban.
[Editor's Note (Murray): It is not an offense to run a proxy server. It may not even be an offense to do so for the purpose of bypassing controls. ]

WordPress Plug-In Flaw Leaves Sites Vulnerable to Remote Takeovers (August 7, 2014)

Another critical flaw in a WordPress plug-in affects thousands of websites. The flaw in the Custom Contacts Form plug-in could be exploited to take control of vulnerable sites. Attackers can exploit a certain function to create new administrative users and modify the contents of databases. Custom Contacts Form has been downloaded more than 600,000 times.

FinFisher Business Details Leaked to Internet (August 5, 6, & 7, 2014)

An attacker has posted confidential business documents detailing operations of Gamma Group, the company that makes and sells spyware known as FinFisher. The product is sold only to governments and law enforcement agencies. The software has allegedly been used by governments in authoritarian regimes to spy on journalists and dissidents.




Black Hat: TSA Security Equipment Has Backdoors (August 6 & 7, 2014)

According to a presentation given by Billy Rios at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, a US Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) system in use at airport checkpoints contains default backdoor passwords. The technician accounts are hardwired into the software, and changing the associated passwords would be disruptive to the system.



Microsoft Update Will Block Out-of-Date Java Plug-ins in Internet Explorer (August 6 & 7, 2014)

Microsoft will update Internet Explorer to block outdated ActiveX controls - in particular, the update will block outdated Java plug-ins. The changes will be included in the updates scheduled for release on Tuesday, August 12. When web pages try to launch an out-of-date plug-in, IE users will see a warning that allows them to choose either to ignore the alert and run the out-of-date control, or to update the Java plug-in. The changes in the update apply to users running Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8.x. Microsoft advance notification indicates that there will be nine bulletins released on Tuesday, two of which have maximum severity ratings of critical. One of those is the IE update. Business users running Windows 8.1 have to have installed Update 1, which was released in April, before August 12 if they want to receive the updates.





Security Companies Team Up to Help Users Recover Files Locked by CryptoLocker (August 6, 2014)

Researchers at FireEye and Fox-IT have managed to obtain the private encryption keys that the malware uses to lock files. They are offering people whose files have been locked by CryptoLocker ransomware a free service to recover those files. Until now, those who had the misfortune of being victims of the malware had to choose to pay the ransom demanded or consider the files gone forever. CryptoLocker first emerged last fall.



DHS Contractor Breach (August 6, 2014)

A data breach at a contractor doing work for the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) likely exposed employees' personal information. US Investigations Services (USIS) conducts background checks on individuals for DHS; its contract has been suspended pending the outcome of an FBI investigation. USIS said that "experts ... believe it has all the markings of a state-sponsored attack."




FBI Using Drive-by Downloads to Catch Criminals (August 5, 2014)

The FBI has been using drive-by downloads to identify people who visit certain suspicious websites. Specifically, the Justice Department is attempting to identify people who visit child pornography websites hiding in the Tor network. The tactic has paid off - more than a dozen people are now facing trial. However, critics say that the FBI has "glossed over the technique when describing it to judges" and has hidden its use from defendants. The FBI calls the method a network investigative technique (NIT) and has been using some form of it since 2002. There is also concern about mission creep, because the technology's deployment has grown from targeted operations to a dragnet-like approach. Others are worried about weakening a technology useful to human rights and other activists.

Wireless Emporium Notifying Customers of Possible Data Breach (August 5, 2014)

The Wireless Emporium website has been notifying customers that malware detected on the site could have compromised their personal data, including payment card information. The breach appears to affect people who made purchases through the site between December 24, 2013 and January 19, 2014.

Oracle Offers Fix for Problem with Recent Java Update (August 5, 2014)

Oracle has fixed an issue in a recent Java update that caused problems with some web applications. Java 7 Update 65 contained a bug that prevented some applications from launching. Oracle has issued Java 7 Update 67 to address the issue.


Reservists Trounced CYBERCOM Cyber Specialists in War Game Exercise (August 4, 2014)

At a cyber war exercise pitting members of the Pentagon's CYBERCOM force against reservists last year, the reservists came out on top. Although the outcome of the exercise is classified, a Capitol Hill staffer who attended the event noted, "The active-duty team didn't even know how they'd been attacked."


BGP Hijacking of Crypto-currency Mining Pool

Stay up to date with Internet Explorer

OpenSSL Patches

Symantec Endpoint Protection Exploit

Mozilla Outlines Plans for Future Certificate Revocation Implementations

Center for Internet Security Releases VMWare ESXi 5.5 Benchmark

Multi Function Devices used to compromise Networks

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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