Security vulnerabilities found in support software from Lenovo, Toshiba, and Dell

By | PCWorld

The number of vulnerabilities discovered in technical support applications installed on PCs by manufacturers keeps piling up. New exploits have been published for flaws in Lenovo Solution Center, Toshiba Service Station and Dell System Detect.The most serious flaws appear to be in Lenovo Solution Center and could allow a malicious Web page to execute code on Lenovo Windows-based computers with system privileges.The flaws were discovered by a hacker who uses the online aliases slipstream and RoL and who released a proof-of-concept exploit for them last week. This prompted the CERT Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon University to publish a security advisory.

One of the issues is caused by the LSCTaskService, which is created by the Lenovo Solution Center and runs with SYSTEM privileges. This service opens an HTTP daemon on port 55555 that can receive commands. One of those commands is called RunInstaller and executes files placed in the %APPDATA%\LSC\Local Store folder.

Any local user can write to this directory, regardless of their privilege, but the files are executed as the SYSTEM account. This means that a restricted user can exploit the logic flaw to gain full system access.

Furthermore, there is a directory traversal flaw that can be exploited to trick the Lenovo Solution Center to execute code from arbitrary locations, so an attacker doesn’t even need to place files in the aforementioned Local Store folder.

Finally, the LSCTaskService is vulnerable to cross-site request forgery (CSRF), an attack method through which a malicious website can relay rogue requests through the user’s browser. This means that, in order to exploit the previous two flaws, an attacker doesn’t even need to have local access to the system where the Lenovo Solution Center is installed and can simply trick the user to visit a specially crafted Web page.

In a security advisory on its website, Lenovo said that it is currently investigating the vulnerability report and will provide a fix as soon as possible. Until then, concerned users can uninstall the Lenovo Solution Center in order to mitigate the risk, the company said.

Slipstream also published proof-of-concept exploits for two other, lower-impact, vulnerabilities—one in the Toshiba Service Station and one in Dell System Detect (DSD), a tool that users are prompted to install when they click the “Detect Product” button on Dell’s support website.

The Toshiba Service Station application creates a service called TMachInfo that runs as SYSTEM and receives commands via UDP port 1233 on the local host. One of those commands is called Reg.Read and can be used to read most of the Windows registry with system privileges, according to the hacker.

“I have no idea what to do with it, but someone else might,” slipstream wrote in the exploit comments.

The flaw in DSD apparently stems from the way Dell attempted to fix a previous vulnerability. According to slipstream, the company implemented RSA-1024 signatures to authenticate commands, but put them in a place on its website where attackers can obtain them.

These can be used as a crude bypass method for Windows’ User Account Control (UAC). In this context, the bypass means that “if DSD isn’t elevated, we annoy the user with elevation requests until they click yes,” the hacker said.

This is not the first time when vulnerabilities have been found in support tools installed on Lenovo or Dell computers.

Toshiba and Dell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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State-sponsored cyberspies inject victim profiling and tracking scripts in strategic websites

By | PCWorld

Web analytics and tracking cookies play a vital role in online advertising, but they can also help attackers discover potential targets and their weaknesses, a new report shows.

Security researchers from FireEye have discovered an attack campaign that has injected computer profiling and tracking scripts into over 100 websites visited by business executives, diplomats, government officials and academic researchers.

The researchers believe the compromised websites attract visitors involved in international business travel, diplomacy, energy production and policy, international economics and official government work. They include sites belonging to embassies, educational and research institutions, governments, visa services, energy companies, media organizations and non-profit organizations.

While no exploits or malicious code have been served through the injected scripts, the goal of the attackers appears to be the identification of unique users who can be targeted with attacks tailored for their specific computer and software configurations. FireEye has named the reconnaissance campaign WITCHCOVEN and believe that it’s the work of state-sponsored attackers.

When users visit one of the compromised websites, their browsers get silently redirected to one of several WITCHCOVEN profiling servers. Scripts hosted on those servers collect information like the user’s IP address, their browser type and version, the language setting, the referring website, the version of Microsoft Office and browser plug-ins like Java, Flash Player, etc.

In addition, they also install so-called supercookies or evercookies inside users’ browsers. These cookies are hard to delete and are used to track users across multiple websites.

“We believe that the computer profiling data gathered by the WITCHCOVEN script, combined with the evercookie that persistently identifies a unique user, can – when combined with basic browser data available from HTTP logs – be used by cyber threat actors to identify users of interest, and narrowly target those individuals with exploits specifically tailored to vulnerabilities in their computer system,” the FireEye researchers said in their report.

The company has not detected any follow-up exploitation attempts against its customers so far, but this could be because the attackers use a highly-targeted approach to victim selection.

The subsequent exploits could be embedded in malicious documents attached to email spear phishing messages and not necessarily be served through a browser. The gathered information could also be used to assist in traditional spying operations.

Some of the compromised websites suggest that the attackers may have a particular interest in individuals associated with a major Russian energy company, Russian cultural organizations, Russian embassies, Ukraine’s security services and border guards and a media organization in the Republic of Georgia, the FireEye researchers said.

Over 10 million people possibly exposed to malicious ads rigged with exploit kits

Upwards of 10 million people may have visited websites carrying malicious advertisements in the last ten days, possibly infecting their computers with malware, according to computer security company Cyphort.

For the past month, Cyphort has been tracking various malicious advertisement campaigns, which involve duping online advertising providers into distributing their malicious ads.

If someone views a malicious advertisement, it can cause their browser to be automatically redirected to another website that attacks their computer.

Nick Bilogorskiy, director of security research at Cyphort, wrote that the company has discovered over the last week a number of highly trafficked websites that are still carrying malicious ads.

The malicious ads redirected people to websites that were rigged with the Angler exploit kit. An exploit kit is a software package that probes a computer for software vulnerabilities in order to deliver malware.

As with previous attacks observed by Cyphort, the redirection code planted in the malicious advertisements uses SSL/TLS (Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security) encryption, which makes it harder for researchers to figure how users are bounced from the original webpage they were viewing to one hosting an exploit kit.

The malicious ads were delivered to the website publishers by an online marketing company called E-planning. Bilogorskiy wrote that Cyphort had contacted the company, which was working to fix the problem.

Online advertising agencies have been battling to keep miscreants out of their networks, but it’s a hard fight. Even if an ad network scans submitted ads for malicious behavior, hackers often substitute the ads with different ones at a later time or rig the ads to pass initial security checks

via Over 10 million people possibly exposed to malicious ads rigged with exploit kits | PCWorld.

Hacking Team’s arsenal included at least three unpatched exploits for Flash Player

Recently breached surveillance software maker, Hacking Team, had access to three different exploits for previously unknown vulnerabilities in Flash Player. All of them are now out in the open, putting Internet users at risk.

Milan-based Hacking Team develops and sells surveillance software to government agencies from around the world. On July 5, a hacker released over 400GB of data stolen from the company on the Internet, including email communications, business documents, source code and other internal files.

On Tuesday, researchers found a proof-of-concept exploit among Hacking Team’s files that worked against the latest version of Flash Player. Cybercriminals were quick to adopt it and were already using it in large-scale attacks by the time Adobe Systems released a patch for it on Wednesday.

By late Friday, researchers from FireEye revealed that they found a second zero-day exploit for Flash Player in the Hacking Team data cache, prompting Adobe to issue an emergency advisory.

This was followed up Saturday by researchers from Trend Micro with yet another find, putting the number of Flash Player zero-day exploits used by Hacking Team to three—at least so far.

Only one of the vulnerabilities targeted by those exploits has been patched so far, with Adobe planning to release fixes for the other two—CVE-2015-5122 and CVE-2015-5123—later this week.

That’s a problem because the cybercriminals behind the Angler Exploit Kit were already using the exploit discovered by FireEye (CVE-2015-5122) by Sunday. The malicious activity was spotted by a malware researcher known online as Kafeine who specializes in tracking drive-by download attacks.

It’s very likely that attackers are also working on integrating the exploit found by Trend Micro (CVE-2015-5123) in commercial exploit kits, if they haven’t already.

“Until an update is available, users should consider disabling Adobe Flash,” researchers from Trend Micro said in a blog post. “Extra caution should be exercised for the foreseeable future and special attention paid for the possibility of compromised ad servers.”

Web-based exploits are typically used to infect computers when users visit legitimate websites that were compromised or when their browsers load malicious advertisements.

via Hacking Team’s arsenal included at least three unpatched exploits for Flash Player | PCWorld.

iOS security hole allows attackers to poison already installed iPhone apps

Security researchers have warned of a security hole in Apple’s iOS devices that could allow attackers to replace legitimate apps with booby-trapped ones, an exploit that could expose passwords, e-mails, or other sensitive user data.

The “Masque” attack, as described by researchers from security firm FireEye, relies on enterprise provisioning to replace banking, e-mail, or other types of legitimate apps already installed on a targeted phone with a malicious one created by the adversary. From there, the attacker can use the malicious app to access sent e-mails, login credential tokens, or other data that belonged to the legitimate app.

“Masque Attacks can replace authentic apps, such as banking and e-mail apps, using attacker’s malware through the Internet,” FireEye researchers wrote in a blog post published Monday. “That means the attacker can steal user’s banking credentials by replacing an authentic banking app with an malware that has identical UI. Surprisingly, the malware can even access the original app’s local data, which wasn’t removed when the original app was replaced. These data may contain cached e-mails or even login-tokens which the malware can use to log into the user’s account directly.”

The attack works by presenting a targeted phone with a same sort of digital certificate large businesses use to install custom apps on employees’ iPhones and iPads, as long as both the legitimate app and the malicious app use the same bundle identifier. The attack requires some sort of lure to trick a target into installing the malicious app, possibly by billing it as an out-of-band update or a follow-on to an already installed app. Recently, the researchers uncovered evidence the attacks may be circulating online, they said without elaborating. The technique doesn’t work against iOS preinstalled apps such as Mobile Safari. FireEye researchers said they reported the vulnerability to Apple in July.

“By leveraging Masque Attack, an attacker can lure a victim to install an app with a deceiving name crafted by the attacker (like New Angry Bird), and the iOS system will use it to replace a legitimate app with the same bundle identifier,” Monday’s report stated. “Masque Attack couldn’t replace Apple’s own platform apps such as Mobile Safari, but it can replace apps installed from App Store.” From there attackers can:

Mimic the login interface of the replaced app to steal the victims’ login credentials

Access local data caches assigned to the replaced app to steal e-mails, login tokens, or other sensitive data

Install custom programming interfaces not approved by Apple onto victims’ phones

Bypass the normal app sandbox architecture built into iOS and possibly get root access by exploiting known iOS vulnerabilities, such as those recently targeted by the Pangu team.

Read more: iOS security hole allows attackers to poison already installed iPhone apps | Ars Technica.

Does the Internet of Things leave you vulnerable to cyber attack?

At the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas earlier this month, researchers demonstrated how a Nest thermostat can be hacked, to show how easily connected appliances—the household technologies that make up the Internet of Things—can be compromised. When you look beyond the demo’s hyperbolic headlines, it turns out the hack requires physical access to the Nest device, but the questions remains, “How vulnearable is IoT?”

To find out, David Jacoby, a security researcher with Kaspersky Lab, hacked his own living room.

In a blog post detailing the exercise, Jacoby describes the array of connected devices in his home. He has two different NAS (network-attached storage) units, a smart TV, satellite receiver, printer, and the router from his Internet provider. Aside from the NAS units, it’s all technology you can find in just about any house.

Jacoby identified 14 vulnerabilities just in the two NAS units, one in the smart TV, and several concerning issues with his Internet router. He found remote code execution flaws and weak passwords on the NAS devices, a potential for a man-in-the-middle attack on unencrypted traffic between the smart TV and the TV vendor’s servers, and hidden backdoors in the router designed to provide the Internet provider support personnel to remotely access any device on the private network.

The results are concerning. It took Jacoby less than 20 minutes to find and verify extremely serious vulnerabilities that expose his home to significant risk. He explained, “Individuals and also companies need to understand the security risks around connected devices. We also need to keep in mind that our information is not secure just because we have a strong password, and that there are a lot of things that we cannot control.”

Unfortunately, securing IoT devices is a bigger challenge in many cases than patching and securing traditional computing devices. Many IoT technologies lack any sort of direct user interface, so you are dependent on the vendor to make it as secure as possible off the shelf and to deploy updates in a timely manner when flaws are discovered.

There are a few things you can do yourself, though. Jacoby says users should keep devices that do offer firmware and security patches up to date. He also stresses that all default passwords should be changed. Finally, Jacoby recommends exploring more advanced features in some routers that will enable you to restrict access so that only designated devices on your network are allowed to connect to the network or access other resources.

via Does the Internet of Things leave you vulnerable to cyber attack?.

Research team creates undetectable malware bound to legitimate software downloads

Most cyber attacks from your typical home hacker, come by way of techniques used 10 years ago or more like phishing scams, poor password management, and things of that nature. But now it seems as though a research team from Germany has developed on all new strain of malware.

The team from Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany has developed a new kind of malware that is able to tuck itself secretly beside legitimate software downloads. The malware isn’t in the the trusted software, but rather bound to it, enabling it to bypass many of the security measures in place for this kind of malicious software.

Since the original application is not modified in anyway, not only does it allow the malware to sneak through, but it can also be a much larger file than usual, allowing for a much deeper feature set. The researchers explain, “upon starting the infected application the binder is started. It parses its own file for additional embedded executable files, reconstructs and executes them, optionally invisible for the user.”

With some simple network redirecting, anyone making use of tactics like this only needs to man a single network point between the download server and the client to complete the process. While the team has suggested VPNs and HTTPs could be altered to catch bound malware like this, it doesn’t require any buffering while downloading and can easily pass through current malware fail-safe mechanisms undetected.

While this is a research project and you are likely in no immediate danger of bound malware at this point, lets just hope it stays that way.

via Research team creates undetectable malware bound to legitimate software downloads – TechSpot.

Android attack improves timing, allows data theft

Android attack improves timing, allows data theft | Ars Technica

A malicious application could enable the theft of login credentials, sensitive images, and other data from Android smartphones by making use of a newly discovered information-leakage weakness in the operating system, according to a team of researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of California at Riverside.

The attack, known as a user interface (UI) inference attack, makes use of the design of programming frameworks that share memory, allowing one application to gather information about the state of other applications. The information can be gathered without any special Android permissions or by grabbing screen pixels, according to a paper presented at the USENIX Security Conference on Friday.

The technique gives attackers the ability to infer the state of a targeted application, enabling more convincing attacks. If malware knows that the targeted user has just clicked on a “login” button, then it can throw up a dialog box asking for a username and password. If the malware can infer that a user is about to take a picture of a check or sensitive document, it can quickly take a second picture.

“Although UI state knowledge does not directly reveal user input, due to a lack of direct access to the exact pixels or screenshots, we find that it can effectively serve as a building block and enable more serious attacks such as stealing sensitive user input,” the researchers stated in the paper.

An attack application must be running in the background, where it can determine the foreground activity of a targeted app with 80 to 90 percent accuracy in most applications, the researchers said. The technique detects transitions in the UI state of the targeted app and then uses a signature to identify the new state. The signature is created from four different events–input from the user, content provided by another application, CPU utilization of any drawing event, and size of any packets sent–that together can represent, quite accurately it appears, the state of the targeted program.

“The assumption has always been that these apps can’t interfere with each other easily,” Zhiyun Qian, an associate professor of computer security at UC Riverside and co-author of the paper, said in a statement. “We show that assumption is not correct and one app can in fact significantly impact another and result in harmful consequences for the user.”

Any attack that is more convincing if actions are tied to specific user-interface events will benefit from the UI inference technique, the researchers said. The leakage of information about purportedly isolated applications is an example of what is known as a side-channel attack.

In videos demonstrating the UI inference attack, the research group showed the malicious software stealing a username and password from the H&R Block application, copying an image of a check taken by the Chase Bank application, and stealing credit-card information from the NewEgg store.

“By design, Android allows apps to be preempted or hijacked,” Qian said in a statement. “But the thing is you have to do it at the right time so the user doesn’t notice. We do that and that’s what makes our attack unique.”

Because the attack does not focus on any specific vulnerability in the operating system, hardening the software to attack will be difficult, according to the paper.

While the researchers focused on the Android operating system, the operating-system architecture that they exploit is present on most other major OSes, including MacOS X, iOS and Windows, the paper stated.

“We believe our attack on Android is likely to be generalizable to other platforms,” the paper stated.

via Android attack improves timing, allows data theft | Ars Technica.

US warns ‘significant number’ of major businesses hit by Backoff malware

Over a thousand major enterprise networks and small and medium businesses in the U.S. have been compromised by a recently discovered malware package called “Backoff” and are probably unaware of it, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a cybersecurity alert on Friday.

Backoff first appeared in October 2013 and is capable of scraping the memory contents of point of sales systems—industry speak for cash registers and other terminals used at store checkouts—for data swiped from credit cards, from monitoring the keyboard and logging keystrokes, from communicating with a remote server.

“Over the past year, the Secret Service has responded to network intrusions at numerous businesses throughout the United States that have been impacted by the “Backoff” malware,” the alert said. “Seven PoS system providers/vendors have confirmed that they have had multiple clients affected.”

The malware is thought to be responsible for the recent data breaches at Target, SuperValu supermarkets and UPS stores, and the Secret Service is still learning of new infections.

DHS first warned of Backoff in late July, when it noted the malware was not detectable my most antivirus software. That made it particularly difficult to stop, because much of the fight against computer viruses and malware rests on antivirus applications.

Most antivirus packages now detect Backoff, but DHS is advising network operators take immediate action to ensure they haven’t been affected.

“DHS strongly recommends actively contacting your IT team, antivirus vendor, managed service provider, and/or point of sale system vendor to assess whether your assets may be vulnerable and/or compromised,” it said. “The Secret Service is active in contacting impacted businesses, as they are identified, and continues to work with and support those businesses that have been impacted by this PoS malware.”

In many cases, hackers gained access to machines through brute-force attacks on remote log-in systems offered through companies like Microsoft, Apple, Google and other third-party vendors. Once inside, they were able to copy the malware to the machine and set it capturing credit card data.

The DHS asked that instances of it are reported to a local Secret Service field office.

The Target data breach was one of the largest in recent memory, resulting in tens of millions of credit and debit cards being compromised. In the last couple of weeks, SuperValu said that at least 180 of its stores had been hit by a data breach and earlier this week UPS said 51 of it UPS Store locations had been hit.

via US warns ‘significant number’ of major businesses hit by Backoff malware | PCWorld.

Hacker coalition sets out to improve critical device security, challenges car makers

A collective of security researchers issued a letter Friday from the DefCon hacker conference in Las Vegas urging the automotive industry to adopt five principles for building safer computer systems in vehicles.

The group is operating under the name I Am the Cavalary and includes researchers and others concerned about the security of devices that have a direct impact on public safety. Over the last few years, a growing number of security researchers have investigated potential vulnerabilities in the electronic devices built into modern cars to control everything from entertainment systems to critical safety functions like brakes, steering and lights.

As automakers rush to build wireless functionality in some car systems to connect them with mobile phones and the larger Internet, there are increasing concerns that potential vulnerabilities combined with a lack of segmentation of internal car networks could open up attack vectors that expose vehicles to remote hacking, endangering driver safety.

“In its open letter to the auto industry, the I Am the Cavalry group urged car makers to build computer systems with security considerations in mind based on the principle of safety by design. ”

At the Black Hat security conference Wednesday, researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek presented an analysis of wireless attack surfaces in 24 car models from different manufacturers. They ranked the 2014 models of the Infiniti Q50 and Jeep Cherokee and the 2015 model of the Cadillac Escalade as the most hackable cars.

In its open letter to the auto industry, the I Am the Cavalry group urged car makers to build computer systems with security considerations in mind based on the principle of safety by design.

Vehicle computer networks should use isolation and segmentation mechanisms to ensure that non-critical systems cannot impact the performance of critical systems, the group said.

This segmentation should be physical rather than through logical controls, as past security research has shown that logical isolation can often be bypassed, said Joshua Corman, chief technology officer at Sonatype and co-founder of I Am The Cavalry.

Car makers should also make sure that they can easily deploy security updates for computer systems if needed without requiring car recalls, the research group said in its letter. Finally, in case something does go wrong and a forensic investigation is required, car systems should have logging features that preserve evidence.

tesla model s Image: Sarah Jacobsson Purewal

Tesla’s approach to disclosing security vulnerabilities is ahead of the curve in the automotive world, according to I Am the Cavalary.

Automakers should encourage third-party collaboration by publishing clear vulnerability disclosure policies for security researchers to follow. Tesla Motors is one company that has already done this, but others should follow suit, the group said.

Members of I Am the Cavalry aim to provide their technical expertise to various industries and legislators as a public service, but they also invite participation from the public itself. The group’s open letter to the automotive industry was also published as a petition on Change.org.

The group is not only focused on the safety of car computer systems and is actually interested in three other groups of devices that can impact human life: medical devices including implantable, diagnostic, imaging and radiological ones; home devices like consumer electronics, alarm systems, door and garage locks, thermostats and heating and ventilation systems; and public infrastructure systems like those used in aircraft, public transportation, power and electricity, aviation, traffic monitoring, utility services and waste and sewage.

During a talk at DefCon Saturday, I Am the Cavelry co-founders Joshua Corman and Nicholas Percoco, the vice president for strategic services at Rapid7, will provide an overview of the group’s first year of activity and the strategies it has built to advance its public safety goals.

“This initiative is not only about finding bugs,” Corman said. It’s about building relationships between researchers, industry and government, which is much harder, he said.

via Hacker coalition sets out to improve critical device security, challenges car makers | PCWorld.