Archive for the ‘Cybersecurity’ Category

Evolving a Decompiler

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

Evolving a Decompiler by Matt Noonan.

From the post:

Back in 2016, Eric Schulte, Jason Ruchti, myself, Alexey Loginov, and David Ciarletta (all of the research arm of GrammaTech) spent some time diving into a new approach to decompilation. We made some progress but were eventually all pulled away to other projects, leaving a very interesting work-in-progress prototype behind.

Being a promising but incomplete research prototype, it was quite difficult to find a venue to publish our research. But I am very excited to announce that I will be presenting this work at the NDSS binary analysis research (BAR) workshop next week in San Diego, CA! BAR is a workshop on the state-of-the-art in binary analysis research, including talks about working systems as well as novel prototypes and works-in-progress; I’m really happy that the program committee decided to include discussion of these prototypes, because there are a lot of cool ideas out there that aren’t production-ready, but may flourish once the community gets a chance to start tinkering with them.

How wickedly cool!

Did I mention all the major components are open-source?

GrammaTech recently open-sourced all of the major components of BED, including:

  • SEL, the Software Evolution Library. This is a Common Lisp library for program synthesis and repair, and is quite nice to work with interactively. All of the C-specific mutations used in BED are available as part of SEL; the only missing component is the big code database; just bring your own!
  • clang-mutate, a command-line tool for performing low-level mutations on C and C++ code. All of the actual edits are performed using clang-mutate; it also includes a REPL-like interface for interactively manipulating C and C++ code to quickly produce variants.

The building of the “big code database” sounds like an exercise in subject identity doesn’t it?

Topic maps anyone?

Responsible Disclosure: You Lost 5 Months of Pwning Corporate/Government Computers

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

Skype can’t fix a nasty security bug without a massive code rewrite by Zack Whittaker.

From the post:

A security flaw in Skype’s updater process can allow an attacker to gain system-level privileges to a vulnerable computer.

The bug, if exploited, can escalate a local unprivileged user to the full “system” level rights — granting them access to every corner of the operating system.

But Microsoft, which owns the voice- and video-calling service, said it won’t immediately fix the flaw, because the bug would require too much work.

Security researcher Stefan Kanthak found that the Skype update installer could be exploited with a DLL hijacking technique, which allows an attacker to trick an application into drawing malicious code instead of the correct library. An attacker can download a malicious DLL into a user-accessible temporary folder and rename it to an existing DLL that can be modified by an unprivileged user, like UXTheme.dll. The bug works because the malicious DLL is found first when the app searches for the DLL it needs.

Once installed, Skype uses its own built-in updater to keep the software up to date. When that updater runs, it uses another executable file to run the update, which is vulnerable to the hijacking.

Impact of responsible disclosure?

Microsoft sat on its ass for over five months, five months you could have been pwning corporate and government computers, only to say (paraphrase): “It’s too hard.”

It wasn’t too hard for them to completely break Skype for Ubuntu and possibly other flavors of Linux. But fixing a large bug? No, let us introduce some new ones and then we’ll think about the existing ones.

Most corporations and governments maintain secrets only by lack of effort on the part of the public.

Give that some thought when deciding how to spend your leisure time.

Improving Your Phishing Game

Monday, February 12th, 2018

Did you know that KnowBe4 publishes quarterly phishing test analysis? Ranks the top lines that get links in phishing emails followed.

The entire site of KnowBe4 is a reference source if you don’t want to fall for or look like a Nigerian spammer when it comes to phishing emails.

Their definition of phishing:

Phishing is the process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity using bulk email which tries to evade spam filters.

Emails claiming to be from popular social web sites, banks, auction sites, or IT administrators are commonly used to lure the unsuspecting public. It’s a form of criminally fraudulent social engineering.

I think:

It’s a form of criminally fraudulent social engineering.

sounds a bit harsh and not nuanced at all.

For example, these aren’t criminally fraudulent cases of phishing:

  • CIA sends phishing emails to foreign diplomats
  • FBI sends phishing emails to anti-war and social reform groups
  • NSA sends phishing emails to government officials (ours, theirs, etc.)

Phishing is an amoral weapon, just like any other weapon.

If you use phishing to uncover child sex traffickers, is that a criminally fraudulent use of phishing? Not to me.

If you hear a different conclusion in a windy discussion of ethics, don’t bother to write. I’ll just treat it as spam.

Don’t let other people make broad ethical pronouncements on your behalf. They have an agenda and it’s not likely to be one in your interest.

Meanwhile, improve your phishing game!

Fear Keeps People in Line (And Ignorant of Apple Source Code)

Friday, February 9th, 2018

Apple’s top-secret iBoot firmware source code spills onto GitHub for some insane reason by Chris Williams.

From the post:

The confidential source code to Apple’s iBoot firmware in iPhones, iPads and other iOS devices has leaked into a public GitHub repo.

The closed-source code is top-secret, proprietary, copyright Apple, and yet has been quietly doing the rounds between security researchers and device jailbreakers on Reddit for four or so months, if not longer.

We’re not going to link to it. Also, downloading it is not recommended. Just remember what happened when people shared or sold copies of the stolen Microsoft Windows 2000 source code back in the day.

Notice that Williams cites scary language about the prior Windows source code but not a single example of an actual prosecution for downloading or sharing that source code. I have strong suspicions why no examples were cited.*


The other thing to notice is “security researchers” have been sharing it for months, but if the great unwashed public gets to see it, well, that’s a five alarm fire.

Williams has sided with access only for the privileged, although I would be hard pressed to say why?

BTW, if you want to search Github for source code that claims to originate from Apple, use the search term iBoot.

No direct link because in the DCMA cat and mouse game, any link will be quickly broken and I have no way to verify whether a repository is or isn’t Apple source code.

Don’t let fear keep you ignorant.

*My suspicions are that anyone reading Microsoft Windows 2000 source code became a poorer programmer and that was viewed as penalty enough.

Introducing HacSpec (“specification language for cryptographic primitives”)

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

Introducing HacSpec by Franziskus Kiefer.

From the post:

HacSpec is a proposal for a new specification language for cryptographic primitives that is succinct, that is easy to read and implement, and that lends itself to formal verification. It aims to formalise the pseudocode used in cryptographic standards by proposing a formal syntax that can be checked for simple errors. HacSpec specifications are further executable to test against test vectors specified in a common syntax.

The main focus of HacSpec is to allow specifications to be compiled to formal languages such as cryptol, coq, F*, and easycrypt and thus make it easier to formally verify implementations. This allows a specification using HacSpec to be the basis not only for implementations but also for formal proofs of functional correctness, cryptographic security, and side-channel resistance.

The idea of having a language like HacSpec stems from discussions at the recent HACS workshop in Zurich. The High-Assurance-Cryptographic-Software workshop (HACS) is an invite-only workshop co-located with the Real World Crypto symposium.

Anyone interested in moving this project forward should subscribe to the mailing list or file issues and pull requests against the Github repository.

Cryptography projects should be monitored like the NSA does NIST cryptography standards. If you see an error or weakness, you’re under no obligation to help. The NSA won’t.

Given security fails from software, users, etc., end-to-end encryption resembles transporting people from one homeless camp to another in an armored car.

Secure in transit but not secure at either end.

Kali Linux 2018.1 Release

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

Kali Linux 2018.1 Release

From the post:

Welcome to our first release of 2018, Kali Linux 2018.1. This fine release contains all updated packages and bug fixes since our 2017.3 release last November. This release wasn’t without its challenges–from the Meltdown and Spectre excitement (patches will be in the 4.15 kernel) to a couple of other nasty bugs, we had our work cut out for us but we prevailed in time to deliver this latest and greatest version for your installation pleasure.

Churn, especially in security practices and software, is the best state imaginable for generating vulnerabilities.

New software means new bugs, unfamiliar setup requirements, newbie user mistakes, in addition to the 33% or more of users who accept phishing emails.

2018 looks like a great year for security churn.

How stable is your security? (Don’t answer over a clear channel.)

Dive into BPF: a list of reading material

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

Dive into BPF: a list of reading material by Quentin Monnet.

From the post:

BPF, as in Berkeley Packet Filter, was initially conceived in 1992 so as to provide a way to filter packets and to avoid useless packet copies from kernel to userspace. It initially consisted in a simple bytecode that is injected from userspace into the kernel, where it is checked by a verifier—to prevent kernel crashes or security issues—and attached to a socket, then run on each received packet. It was ported to Linux a couple of years later, and used for a small number of applications (tcpdump for example). The simplicity of the language as well as the existence of an in-kernel Just-In-Time (JIT) compiling machine for BPF were factors for the excellent performances of this tool.

Then in 2013, Alexei Starovoitov completely reshaped it, started to add new functionalities and to improve the performances of BPF. This new version is designated as eBPF (for “extended BPF”), while the former becomes cBPF (“classic” BPF). New features such as maps and tail calls appeared. The JIT machines were rewritten. The new language is even closer to native machine language than cBPF was. And also, new attach points in the kernel have been created.

Thanks to those new hooks, eBPF programs can be designed for a variety of use cases, that divide into two fields of applications. One of them is the domain of kernel tracing and event monitoring. BPF programs can be attached to kprobes and they compare with other tracing methods, with many advantages (and sometimes some drawbacks).

The other application domain remains network programming. In addition to socket filter, eBPF programs can be attached to tc (Linux traffic control tool) ingress or egress interfaces and perform a variety of packet processing tasks, in an efficient way. This opens new perspectives in the domain.

And eBPF performances are further leveraged through the technologies developed for the IO Visor project: new hooks have also been added for XDP (“eXpress Data Path”), a new fast path recently added to the kernel. XDP works in conjunction with the Linux stack, and relies on BPF to perform very fast packet processing.

Even some projects such as P4, Open vSwitch, consider or started to approach BPF. Some others, such as CETH, Cilium, are entirely based on it. BPF is buzzing, so we can expect a lot of tools and projects to orbit around it soon…

I haven’t even thought about the Berkeley Packet Filter in more than a decade.

But such a wonderful reading list merits mention in its own right. What a great model for reading lists on other topics!

And one or more members of your team may want to get closer to the metal on packet traffic.

PS: I don’t subscribe to the only governments can build nation state level tooling for hacks. Loose confederations of people built the Internet. Something to keep in mind while sharing code and hacks.

IDA v7.0 Released as Freeware – Comparison to The IDA Pro Book?

Saturday, February 3rd, 2018

IDA v7.0 Released as Freeware

From the download page:

The freeware version of IDA v7.0 has the following limitations:

  • no commercial use is allowed
  • lacks all features introduced in IDA > v7.0
  • lacks support for many processors, file formats, debugging etc…
  • comes without technical support

Copious amounts of documentation are online.

I haven’t seen The IDA Pro Book by Chris Eagle, but it was published in 2011. Do you know anyone who has compared The IDA Pro Book to version 7.0?

Two promising pages: IDA Support Overview and IDA Support: Links (external).

How To Secure Sex Toys – End to End (so to speak)

Friday, February 2nd, 2018

Thursday began innocently enough and then I encountered:

The tumult of articles started (I think) with: Internet of Dildos: A Long Way to a Vibrant Future – From IoT to IoD, covering security flaws in Vibratissimo PantyBuster, MagicMotion Flamingo, and Realov Lydia, reads in part:

The results are the foundations for a Master thesis written by Werner Schober in cooperation with SEC Consult and the University of Applied Sciences St. Pölten. The first available results can be found in the following chapters of this blog post.

The sex toys of the “Vibratissimo” product line and their cloud platform, both manufactured and operated by the German company Amor Gummiwaren GmbH, were affected by severe security vulnerabilities. The information we present is not only relevant from a technological perspective, but also from a data protection and privacy perspective. The database containing all the customer data (explicit images, chat logs, sexual orientation, email addresses, passwords in clear text, etc.) was basically readable for everyone on the internet. Moreover, an attacker was able to remotely pleasure individuals without their consent. This could be possible if an attacker is nearby a victim (within Bluetooth range), or even over the internet. Furthermore, the enumeration of explicit images of all users is possible because of predictable numbers and missing authorization checks.

Other coverage of the vulnerability includes:

Vibratissimo product line (includes the PantyBuster).

The cited coverage doesn’t answer how to incentivize end-to-end encrypted sex toys?

Here’s one suggestion: Buy the PantyBuster or other “smart” sex toys in bulk. Re-ship these sex toys, after duly noting their serial numbers and other access information, to your government representatives, sports or TV figures, judges, military officers, etc. People whose privacy matters to the government.

If someone were to post a list of such devices, well, you can imagine the speed with sex toys will be required to be encrypted in your market.

Some people see vulnerabilities and see problems.

I see the same vulnerabilities and see endless possibilities.

Weird Machines, exploitability, and proven unexploitability – Video

Friday, February 2nd, 2018

Thomas Dullien/Halvar Flake’s presentation Weird Machines, exploitability, and proven unexploitability won’t embed but you can watch it on Vimeo.

Great presentation of the paper I mentioned at: Weird machines, exploitability, and provable unexploitability.

Includes this image of a “MitiGator:”

Views “software as an emulator for the finite state machine I would like to have.” (rough paraphrase)

Another gem, attackers don’t distinguish between data and programming:

OK, one more gem and you have to go watch the video:

Proof of unexploitability:

Mostly rote exhaustion of the possible weird state transitions.

The example used is “several orders of magnitude” less complicated than most software. Possible to prove but difficult even with simple examples.

Definitely a “watch this space” field of computer science.

Appendices with code:

NSA Exploits – Mining Malware – Ethics Question

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

New Monero mining malware infected 500K PCs by using 2 NSA exploits

From the post:

It looks like the craze of cryptocurrency mining is taking over the world by storm as every new day there is a new malware targeting unsuspecting users to use their computing power to mine cryptocurrency. Recently, the IT security researchers at Proofpoint have discovered a Monero mining malware that uses leaked NSA (National Security Agency) EternalBlue exploit to spread itself.

The post also mentions use of the NSA exploit, EsteemAudit.

A fair number of leads and worth your time to read in detail.

I suspect most of the data science ethics crowd will down vote the use of NSA exploits (EternalBlue, EsteemAudit) for cyrptocurrency mining.

Here’s a somewhat harder data science ethics question:

Is it ethical to infect 500,000+ Windows computers belonging to a government for the purpose of obtaining internal documents?

Does your answer depend upon which government and what documents?

Governments don’t take your rights into consideration. Should you take their laws into consideration?


Wednesday, January 31st, 2018


From the webpage:

As the name might suggest AutoSploit attempts to automate the exploitation of remote hosts. Targets are collected automatically as well by employing the API. The program allows the user to enter their platform specific search query such as; Apache, IIS, etc, upon which a list of candidates will be retrieved.

After this operation has been completed the ‘Exploit’ component of the program will go about the business of attempting to exploit these targets by running a series of Metasploit modules against them. Which Metasploit modules will be employed in this manner is determined by programatically comparing the name of the module to the initial search query. However, I have added functionality to run all available modules against the targets in a ‘Hail Mary’ type of attack as well.

The available Metasploit modules have been selected to facilitate Remote Code Execution and to attempt to gain Reverse TCP Shells and/or Meterpreter sessions. Workspace, local host and local port for MSF facilitated back connections are configured through the dialog that comes up before the ‘Exploit’ component is started.

Operational Security Consideration

Receiving back connections on your local machine might not be the best idea from an OPSEC standpoint. Instead consider running this tool from a VPS that has all the dependencies required, available.

What a great day to be alive!

“Security experts,” such as Richard Bejtlich, @taosecurity, are already crying:

There is no need to release this. The tie to Shodan puts it over the edge. There is no legitimate reason to put mass exploitation of public systems within the reach of script kiddies. Just because you can do something doesn’t make it wise to do so. This will end in tears.

The same “security experts” who never complain about script kiddies that work for the CIA for example.

Script kiddies at the CIA? Sure! Who do you think uses the tools described in: Vault7: CIA Hacking Tools Revealed, Vault 7: ExpressLane, Vault 7: Angelfire, Vault 7: Protego, Vault 8: Hive?

You didn’t think CIA staff only use tools they develop themselves from scratch did you? Neither do “security experts,” even ones capable of replicating well known tools and exploits.

So why the complaints present and forthcoming from “security experts?”

Well, for one thing, they are no longer special guardians of secret knowledge.

Ok, in practical economic terms, AutoSploit means any business, corporation or individual can run a robust penetration test against their own systems.

You don’t need a “security expert” for the task. The “security experts” with all the hoarded knowledge and expertise.

Considering “security experts” as a class (with notable exceptions) have sided with governments and corporations for decades, any downside for them is just an added bonus.

Don’t Mix Public and Dark Web Use of A Bitcoin Address

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Bitcoin payments used to unmask dark web users by John E Dunn.

From the post:

Researchers have discovered a way of identifying those who bought or sold goods on the dark web, by forensically connecting them to Bitcoin transactions.

It sounds counter-intuitive. The dark web comprises thousands of hidden services accessed through an anonymity-protecting system, usually Tor.

Bitcoin transactions, meanwhile, are supposed to be pseudonymous, which is to say visible to everyone but not in a way that can easily be connected to someone’s identity.

If you believe that putting these two technologies together should result in perfect anonymity, you might want to read When A Small Leak Sinks A Great Ship to hear some bad news:

Researchers matched Bitcoin addresses found on the dark web with those found on the public web. Depending on the amount of information on the public web, identified named individuals.

Black Letter Rule: Maintain separate Bitcoin accounts for each online persona.

Black Letter Rule: Never use a public persona on the dark web or a dark web persona on the public web.

Black Letter Rule: Never make Bitcoin transactions between public versus dark web personas.

Remind yourself of basic OpSec rules every day.

Better OpSec – Black Hat Webcast – Thursday, February 15, 2018 – 2:00 PM EST

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

How the Feds Caught Russian Mega-Carder Roman Seleznev by Norman Barbosa and Harold Chun.

From the webpage:

How did the Feds catch the notorious Russian computer hacker Roman Seleznev – the person responsible for over 400 point of sale hacks and at least $169 million in credit card fraud? What challenges did the government face piecing together the international trail of electronic evidence that he left? How was Seleznev located and ultimately arrested?

This presentation will review the investigation that will include a summary of the electronic evidence that was collected and the methods used to collect that evidence. The team that convicted Seleznev will show how that evidence of user attribution was used to finger Seleznev as the hacker and infamous credit card broker behind the online nics nCuX, Track2, Bulba and 2Pac.

The presentation will also discuss efforts to locate Seleznev, a Russian national, and apprehend him while he vacationed in the Maldives. The presentation will also cover the August 2016 federal jury trial with a focus on computer forensic issues, including how prosecutors used Microsoft Windows artifacts to successfully combat Seleznev’s trial defense.

If you want to improve your opsec, study hackers who have been caught.

Formally it’s called avoiding survivorship bias. Survivorship bias – lessons from World War Two aircraft by Nick Ingram.

Abraham Wald was tasked with deciding where to add extra armour to improve the survival of airplanes in combat. Abraham Wald and the Missing Bullet Holes (An excerpt from How Not To Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg).

It’s a great story and one you should remember.

Combating State of the Uniom Brain Damage – Malware Reversing – Burpsuite Keygen

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

Malware Reversing – Burpsuite Keygen by @lkw.

From the post:

Some random new “user” called @the_heat_man posted some files on the forums multiple times (after being deleted by mods) caliming it was a keygen for burpsuite. Many members of these forums were suspicious of it being malware. I, along with @Leeky, @dtm, @Cry0l1t3 and @L0k1 (please let me know if I missed anyone) decided to reverse engineer it to see if it is. Surprisingly as well as containing a remote access trojan (RAT) it actually contains a working keygen. As such, for legal reasons I have not included a link to the original file.

The following is a writeup of the analysis of the RAT.

In the event you, friend or family member is accidentally exposed to the State of the Uniom speech night, permanent brain damage can be avoided by repeated exposure to intellectually challenging material. For an extended time period.

With that in mind, I mention Malware Reversing – Burpsuite Keygen.

Especially challenging if you aren’t familiar with reverse engineering but the extra work of understanding each step will exercise your brain that much harder.

How serious can the brain damage be?

A few tweets from Potus and multiple sources report Democratic Senators and Representatives extolling the FBI as a bulwark of democracy.

Really? The same FBI that infiltrated civil rights groups, anti-war protesters, 9/11 defense, Black Panthers, SCLC,, etc. That FBI? The same FBI that continues such activities to this very day?

A few tweets produce that level of brain dysfunction. Imagine the impact of 20 to 30 continuous minutes of exposure.

State of the Uniom is scheduled for 9 PM EST on 30 January 2018.

Readers are strongly advised to turn off all TVs and radios, to minimize the chances of accidental exposure to the State of the Uniom or repetition of the same. The New York Times will be streaming it live on its website. I have omitted that URL for your safety.

Safe activities include, reading a book, consensual sex, knitting, baking, board games and crossword puzzles, to name only a few. Best of luck to us all.

Eset’s Guide to DeObfuscating and DeVirtualizing FinFisher

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Eset’s Guide to DeObfuscating and DeVirtualizing FinFisher

From the introduction:

Thanks to its strong anti-analysis measures, the FinFisher spyware has gone largely unexplored. Despite being a prominent surveillance tool, only partial analyses have been published on its more recent samples.

Things were put in motion in the summer of 2017 with ESET’s analysis of FinFisher surveillance campaigns that ESET had discovered in several countries. In the course of our research, we have identified campaigns where internet service providers most probably played the key role in compromising the victims with FinFisher.

When we started thoroughly analyzing this malware, the main part of our effort was overcoming FinFisher’s anti-analysis measures in its Windows versions. The combination of advanced obfuscation techniques and proprietary virtualization makes FinFisher very hard to de-cloak.

To share what we learnt in de-cloaking this malware, we have created this guide to help others take a peek inside FinFisher and analyze it. Apart from offering practical insight into analyzing FinFisher’s virtual machine, the guide can also help readers to understand virtual machine protection in general – that is, proprietary virtual machines found inside a binary and used for software protection. We will not be discussing virtual machines used in interpreted programming languages to provide compatibility across various platforms, such as the Java VM.

We have also analyzed Android versions of FinFisher, whose protection mechanism is based on an open source LLVM obfuscator. It is not as sophisticated or interesting as the protection mechanism used in the Windows versions, thus we will not be discussing it in this guide.

Hopefully, experts from security researchers to malware analysts will make use of this guide to better understand FinFisher’s tools and tactics, and to protect their customers against this omnipotent security and privacy threat.

Beyond me at the moment but one should always try to learn from the very best. Making note of what can’t be understood/used today in hopes of revisiting it in the future.

Numerous reports describe FinFisher as spyware sold exclusively to governments and their agencies. Perhaps less “exclusively” than previously thought.

In any event, FinFisher is reported to be in the wild so perhaps governments that bought Finfisher will be uncovered by FinFisher.

A more deserving group of people is hard to imagine.

Games = Geeks, Geeks = People with Access (New Paths To Transparency)

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Critical Flaw in All Blizzard Games Could Let Hackers Hijack Millions of PCs by Mohit Kumar.

From the post:

A Google security researcher has discovered a severe vulnerability in Blizzard games that could allow remote attackers to run malicious code on gamers’ computers.

Played every month by half a billion users—World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Diablo III, Hearthstone and Starcraft II are popular online games created by Blizzard Entertainment.

To play Blizzard games online using web browsers, users need to install a game client application, called ‘Blizzard Update Agent,’ onto their systems that run JSON-RPC server over HTTP protocol on port 1120, and “accepts commands to install, uninstall, change settings, update and other maintenance related options.”
… (emphasis in original)

See Kumar’s post for the details on “DNS Rebinding.”

Unless you are running a bot net, why would anyone want to hijack millions of PCs?

If you wanted to rob for cash, would you rob people buying subway tokens or would you rob a bank? (That’s not a trick question. Bank is the correct answer.)

The same is true with creating government or corporate transparency. You could subvert every computer at a location but the smart money says to breach the server and collect all the documents from that central location.

How to breach servers? Target sysadmins, i.e., the people who play computer games.

PS: I would not be overly concerned with Blizzard’s reported development of patches. No doubt other holes exist or will be created by their patches.

Stop, Stop, Stop All the Patching, Give Intel Time to Breath

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

Root Cause of Reboot Issue Identified; Updated Guidance for Customers and Partners by Navin Shenoy.

From the post:

As we start the week, I want to provide an update on the reboot issues we reported Jan. 11. We have now identified the root cause for Broadwell and Haswell platforms, and made good progress in developing a solution to address it. Over the weekend, we began rolling out an early version of the updated solution to industry partners for testing, and we will make a final release available once that testing has been completed.

Based on this, we are updating our guidance for customers and partners:

  • We recommend that OEMs, cloud service providers, system manufacturers, software vendors and end users stop deployment of current versions, as they may introduce higher than expected reboots and other unpredictable system behavior. For the full list of platforms, see the Security Center site.
  • We ask that our industry partners focus efforts on testing early versions of the updated solution so we can accelerate its release. We expect to share more details on timing later this week.
  • We continue to urge all customers to vigilantly maintain security best practice and for consumers to keep systems up-to-date.

I apologize for any disruption this change in guidance may cause. The security of our products is critical for Intel, our customers and partners, and for me, personally. I assure you we are working around the clock to ensure we are addressing these issues.

I will keep you updated as we learn more and thank you for your patience.

Essence of Shenoy’s advice:

…OEMs, cloud service providers, system manufacturers, software vendors and end users stop deployment of current versions, as they may introduce higher than expected reboots and other unpredictable system behavior.

Or better:

Patching an Intel machine makes it worse.

That’s hardly news.

Unverifiable firmware/code + unverifiable patch = unverifiable firmware/code + patch. What part of that seems unclear?

WebGoat (Advantage over OPM)

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Deliberately Insecure Web Application: OWASP WebGoat

From the webpage:

WebGoat is a deliberately insecure web application maintained by OWASP designed to teach web application security lessons. You can install and practice with WebGoat in either J2EE or WebGoat for .Net in ASP.NET. In each lesson, users must demonstrate their understanding of a security issue by exploiting a real vulnerability in the WebGoat applications.

WebGoat for J2EE is written in Java and therefore installs on any platform with a Java virtual machine. Once deployed, the user can go through the lessons and track their progress with the scorecard.

WebGoat’s scorecards are a feature not found when hacking Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Hacks of the OPM are reported by its inspector general and more generally in the computer security press.

EFF Investigates Dark Caracal (But Why?)

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Someone is touting a mobile, PC spyware platform called Dark Caracal to governments by Iain Thomson.

From the post:

An investigation by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and security biz Lookout has uncovered Dark Caracal, a surveillance-toolkit-for-hire that has been used to suck huge amounts of data from Android mobiles and Windows desktop PCs around the world.

Dark Caracal [PDF] appears to be controlled from the Lebanon General Directorate of General Security in Beirut – an intelligence agency – and has slurped hundreds of gigabytes of information from devices. It shares its backend infrastructure with another state-sponsored surveillance campaign, Operation Manul, which the EFF claims was operated by the Kazakhstan government last year.

Crucially, it appears someone is renting out the Dark Caracal spyware platform to nation-state snoops.

The EFF could be spending its time and resources duplicating Dark Caracal for the average citizen.

Instead the EFF continues its quixotic pursuit of governmental wrong-doers. I say “quixotic” because those pilloried by the EFF, such as the NSA, never change their behavior. Unlawful conduct, including surveillance continues.

But don’t take my word for it, the NSA admits that it deletes data it promised under court order to preserve: NSA deleted surveillance data it pledged to preserve. No consequences. Just like there were no consequences when Snowden revealed widespread and illegal surveillance by the NSA.

So you have to wonder, if investigating and suing governmental intelligence organizations produces no tangible results, why is the EFF pursuing them?

If the average citizen had the equivalent of Dark Caracal at their disposal, say as desktop software, the ability of governments like Lebanon, Kazakhstan, and others, to hide their crimes, would be greatly reduced.

Exposure is no guarantee of accountability and/or punishment, but the wack-a-mole strategy of the EFF hasn’t produced transparency or consequences.

A “no one saw” It Coming Memory Hack (Schneider Electric)

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

Schneider Electric: TRITON/TRISIS Attack Used 0-Day Flaw in its Safety Controller System, and a RAT by Kelly Jackson Higgins.

Industrial control systems giant Schneider Electric discovered a zero-day privilege-escalation vulnerability in its Triconex Tricon safety-controller firmware which helped allow sophisticated hackers to wrest control of the emergency shutdown system in a targeted attack on one of its customers.

Researchers at Schneider also found a remote access Trojan (RAT) in the so-called TRITON/TRISIS malware that they say represents the first-ever RAT to infect safety-instrumented systems (SIS) equipment. Industrial sites such as oil and gas and water utilities typically run multiple SISes to independently monitor critical systems to ensure they are operating within acceptable safety thresholds, and when they are not, the SIS automatically shuts them down.

Schneider here today provided the first details of its investigation of the recently revealed TRITON/TRISIS attack that targeted a specific SIS used by one of its industrial customers. Two of the customer’s SIS controllers entered a failed safe mode that shut down the industrial process and ultimately led to the discovery of the malware.

Teams of researchers from Dragos and FireEye’s Mandiant last month each published their own analysis of the malware used in the attack, noting that the smoking gun – a payload that would execute a cyber-physical attack – had not been found.

Perhaps the most amusing part of the post is Schneider’s attribution of near super-human capabilities to the hackers:

Schneider’s controller is based on proprietary hardware that runs on a PowerPC processor. “We run our own proprietary operating system on top of that, and that OS is not known to the public. So the research required to pull this [attack] off was substantial,” including reverse-engineering it, Forney says. “This bears resemblance to a nation-state, someone who was highly financed.”

The attackers also had knowledge of Schneider’s proprietary protocol for Tricon, which also is undocumented publicly, and used it to create their own library for sending commands to interact with Tricon, he says.

Alternatives to a nation-state:

  • 15 year old working with junked Schneider hardware and the Schneider help desk
  • Disgruntled Schneider Electric employee or their children
  • Malware planted to force a quick and insecure patch being pushed out

I discount all the security chest beating by vendors. Their goal: continued use of their products.

Are your Schneider controllers are air-gapped and audited?

Bludgeoning Bootloader Bugs:… (Rebecca “.bx” Shapiro – job hunting)

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

Bludgeoning Bootloader Bugs: No write left behind by Rebecca “.bx” Shapiro.

Slides from ShmooCon 2018.

If you are new to bootloading, consider Shapiro’s two blog post on the topic:

A History of Linux Kernel Module Signing

A Toure of Bootloading

both from 2015, and her resources page.

Aside from the slides, her most current work is found at:

ShmooCon 2018 just finished earlier today but check for the ShmooCon archives to see a video of Sharpio’s presentation.

I don’t normally post shout-outs for people seeking employment but Shario does impressive work and she is sharing it with the broader community. Unlike some governments and corporations we could all name. Pass her name and details along.

Are You Smarter Than A 15 Year Old?

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

15-Year-Old Schoolboy Posed as CIA Chief to Hack Highly Sensitive Information by Mohit Kumar.

From the post:

A notorious pro-Palestinian hacking group behind a series of embarrassing hacks against United States intelligence officials and leaked the personal details of 20,000 FBI agents, 9,000 Department of Homeland Security officers, and some number of DoJ staffers in 2015.

Believe or not, the leader of this hacking group was just 15-years-old when he used “social engineering” to impersonate CIA director and unauthorisedly access highly sensitive information from his Leicestershire home, revealed during a court hearing on Tuesday.

Kane Gamble, now 18-year-old, the British teenager hacker targeted then CIA director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, FBI deputy director Mark Giuliano, as well as other senior FBI figures.

Between June 2015 and February 2016, Gamble posed as Brennan and tricked call centre and helpline staff into giving away broadband and cable passwords, using which the team also gained access to plans for intelligence operations in Afghanistan and Iran.

Gamble said he targeted the US government because he was “getting more and more annoyed about how corrupt and cold-blooded the US Government” was and “decided to do something about it.”

Your questions:

1. Are You Smarter Than A 15 Year Old?

2. Are You Annoyed by a Corrupt and Cold-blooded Government?

3. Have You Decided to do Something about It?

Yeses for #1 and #2 number in the hundreds of millions.

The lack of governments hemorrhaging data worldwide is silent proof that #3 is a very small number.

What’s your answer to #3? (Don’t post it in the comments.)

What Can Reverse Engineering Do For You?

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

From the description:

Reverse engineering is a core skill in the information security space, but it doesn’t necessarily get the wide spread exposure that other skills do even though it can help you with your security challenges. We will talk about getting you quickly up and running with a reverse engineering starter pack and explore some interesting x86 assembly code patterns you may encounter in the wild. These patterns are essentially common malware evasion techniques that include packing, analysis evasion, shellcode execution, and crypto usages. It is not always easy recognizing when a technique is used. This talk will begin by defining the each technique as a pattern and then the approaches for reading or bypassing the evasion.

Technical keynote at Shellcon 2017 by Amanda Rousseau (@malwareunicorn).

Even if you’re not interested in reverse engineering, watch the video to see a true master describing their craft.

The “patterns” she speaks of are what I would call “subject identity” in a topic maps context.

Tips for Entering the Penetration Testing Field

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

Tips for Entering the Penetration Testing Field by Ed Skoudis.

From the post:

It’s an exciting time to be a professional penetration tester. As malicious computer attackers amp up the number and magnitude of their breaches, the information security industry needs an enormous amount of help in proactively finding and resolving vulnerabilities. Penetration testers who are able to identify flaws, understand them, and demonstrate their business impact through careful exploitation are an important piece of the defensive puzzle.

In the courses I teach on penetration testing, I’m frequently asked about how someone can land their first job in the field after they’ve acquired the appropriate technical skills and gained a good understanding of methodologies. Also, over the past decade, I’ve counseled a lot of my friends and acquaintances as they’ve moved into various penetration testing jobs. Although there are many different paths to pen test nirvana, let’s zoom into three of the most promising. It’s worth noting that these three paths aren’t mutually exclusive either. I know many people who started on the first path, jumped to the second mid-way, and later found themselves on path #3. Or, you can jumble them up in arbitrary order.

Career advice and a great listing of resources for any aspiring penetration “tester.”

If you do penetration work for a government, you may be a national hero. If you do commercial penetration testing, not a national hero but not on the run either. If you do non-sanctioned penetration work, life is uncertain. Same skill, same activity. Go figure.

Updated Hacking Challenge Site Links (Signatures as Subject Identifiers)

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

Updated Hacking Challenge Site Links

From the post:

These are 70+ sites which offer free challenges for hackers to practice their skills. Some are web-based challenges, some require VPN access to private labs and some are downloadable ISOs and VMs. I’ve tested the links at the time of this posting and they work.

Most of them are at but if I missed a few they will be there.

WeChall is a portal to hacking challenges where you can link your account to all the sites and get ranked. I’ve been a member since 2/2/14.

Internally to the site they have challenges there as well so make sure you check them out!

To find CTFs go to

On Twitter in the search field type CTF

Google is also your friend.

I’d rephrase “Google is also your friend.” to “Sometimes Google allows you to find ….”

When visiting hacker or CTF (capture the flag) sites, use the same levels of security as any government or other known hostile site.

What is an exploit or vulnerability signature if not a subject identifier?

Introduction to reverse engineering and Assembly (Suicidal Bricking by Ubuntu Servers)

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

Introduction to reverse engineering and Assembly by Youness Alaoui.

From the post:

Recently, I’ve finished reverse engineering the Intel FSP-S “entry” code, that is from the entry point (FspSiliconInit) all the way to the end of the function and all the subfunctions that it calls. This is only some initial foray into reverse engineering the FSP as a whole, but reverse engineering is something that takes a lot of time and effort. Today’s blog post is here to illustrate that, and to lay the foundations for understanding what I’ve done with the FSP code (in a future blog post).

Over the years, many people asked me to teach them what I do, or to explain to them how to reverse engineer assembly code in general. Sometimes I hear the infamous “How hard can it be?” catchphrase. Last week someone I was discussing with thought that the assembly language is just like a regular programming language, but in binary form—it’s easy to make that mistake if you’ve never seen what assembly is or looks like. Historically, I’ve always said that reverse engineering and ASM is “too complicated to explain” or that “If you need help to get started, then you won’t be able to finish it on your own” and various other vague responses—I often wanted to explain to others why I said things like that but I never found a way to do it. You see, when something is complex, it’s easy to say that it’s complex, but it’s much harder to explain to people why it’s complex.

I was lucky to recently stumble onto a little function while reverse engineering the Intel FSP, a function that was both simple and complex, where figuring out what it does was an interesting challenge that I can easily walk you through. This function wasn’t a difficult thing to understand, and by far, it’s not one of the hard or complex things to reverse engineer, but this one is “small and complex enough” that it’s a perfect example to explain, without writing an entire book or getting into the more complex aspects of reverse engineering. So today’s post serves as a “primer” guide to reverse engineering for all of those interested in the subject. It is a required read in order to understand the next blog posts I would be writing about the Intel FSP. Ready? Strap on your geek helmet and let’s get started!
… (emphasis in original)

Intel? Intel? I heard something recently about Intel chips. You? 😉

No, this won’t help you specifically with Spectre and Meltdown, but it’s a step in the direction of building such skills.

The Project Zero team at Google did not begin life with the skills necessary to discover Spectre and Meltdown.

It took 20 years for those vulnerabilities to be discovered.

What vulnerabilities await discovery by you?

PS: Word on the street is that Ubuntu 16.04 servers are committing suicide rather than run more slowly with patches for Meltdown and Spectre. Meltdown and Spectre Patches Bricking Ubuntu 16.04 Computers. The attribution of intention to Ubuntu servers may be a bit overdone but the bricking part is true.

Tails With Meltdown and Spectre Fixes w/ Caveats

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

Tails 3.4 is out

From the post:

In particular, Tails 3.4 fixes the widely reported Meltdown attack, and includes the partial mitigation for Spectre.

Timely security patches are always good news.

Three caveats:

1. Meltdown and Spectre patches originate in the same community that missed these vulnerabilities for twenty-odd years. How confident are you in these patches?

2. Meltdown and Spectre are more evidence for the existence of other fundamental design flaws than we have for life on other planets.

3. When did the NSA become aware of Meltdown and Spectre?

Are LaTeX Users Script Kiddies?

Monday, January 8th, 2018

NO! Despite most LaTeX users not writing their own LaTeX engines or many of the packages they use, they are not script kiddies.

LaTeX users are experts in mathematics, statistics and probability, physics, computer science, astronomy and astrophysics, (François Brischoux and Pierre Legagneux 2009), as well as being skilled LaTeX authors.

There’s no shame in using LaTeX, despite not implementing a LaTeX engine. LaTeX makes high quality typesetting available to hundreds of thousands of users around the globe.

Contrast that view of LaTeX with making use of cyber vulnerabilities more widely available, which is dismissed as empowering “script kiddies.”

Every cyber vulnerability is a step towards transparency. Government and corporations fear cyber vulnerabilities, fearing their use will uncover evidence of their crimes and favoritism.

Fearing public exposure, it’s no surprise that governments prohibit the use of cyber vulnerabilities. Governments that also finance and support rape, torture, murder, etc., in pursuit of national policy.

The question for you is:

Do you want to assist such governments and corporations to continue hiding their secrets?

Your answer to that question should determine your position on the discovery, use and spread of cyber vulnerabilities.

Bait Avoidance, Congress, Kaspersky Lab

Monday, January 8th, 2018

Should you use that USB key you found? by Jeffrey Esposito.

Here is a scenario for you: You are walking around, catching Pokémon, getting fresh air, people-watching, taking Fido out to do his business, when something catches your eye. It’s a USB stick, and it’s just sitting there in the middle of the sidewalk.

Jackpot! Christmas morning! (A very small) lottery win! So, now the question is, what is on the device? Spring Break photos? Evil plans to rule the world? Some college kid’s homework? You can’t know unless…

Esposito details an experiement leaving USB keys about at University of Illinois resulted in 48% of them being plugged into computers.

Reports like this from Kaspersky Lab, given the interest in Kaspersky by Congress, could lead to what the pest control industry calls “bait avoidance.”

Imagine members of Congress or their staffs not stuffing random USB keys into their computers. This warning from Kaspersky could poison the well for everyone.

For what it’s worth, salting the halls and offices of Congress with new release music and movies on USB keys, may help develop and maintain insecure USB practices. Countering bait avoidance is everyone’s responsibility.