tssci security

Client-side attacks: protecting the most vulnerable

Chris Hoff published his 2008 Security Predictions, which offer a very dim future for the security industry.

His first attack vector is regarding the virtualization hypervisor attacks. Didn't Ptacek prove that this vector is useless? I'm starting to see new work in this area, but it's not focused on attacks - it's more on defense/analysis. Expect to see kernel debuggers that get into the hypervisor, ready for CanSecWest and BlackHat next year.

The second attack vector is listed as a major privacy breach of a social networking site, which has already happened over and over and over again. How much more major is it going to get?

His others I'm going to have to agree with, only that I'm a little more positive-thinking about the future for 2008. Many of these are bound to happen sooner or later, so preparing now really isn't a bad idea. Hoff has a lot of insight into this, citing specific technology that works / doesn't work.

All except his #8 prediction, "Expect to see compromise of the RF you hold so dear". RF has already been compromised before. What exactly is new about this sort of attack?

Hoff states, you fire up that Verizon EVDO card plugged into your laptop or tether to your mobile phone instead because it's "secure"

I wonder if he is saying that EVDO's use of CAVE (128-bit AES) isn't properly sophisticated in the same way that WEP or WPA-PSK are also insecure? Or maybe Hoff is more forwarding thinking than I am. Could it be that there will be even more advanced attacks on EVDO such as the forthcoming work by Josh Wright on PEAP?

Now, if Hoff had used the words "GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, or HSDPA", I would be more likely to believe about a viable RF attack. GSM has had numerous problems in the past. I am not saying EVDO is flawless, but of all of these RF-based technologies, I expect EVDO to hold out the longest and have the least severe vulnerabilities of the bunch. WiFi and EDGE are likely to continue to be the focus area of RF attacks, not only because of their popularity (read: iPhone), but because of the existing work already done to reverse engineer their protocols, scan their networks, and provide packet dumps in Wireshark.

I use EVDO to connect to the Internet whenever possible, with my built-in WiFi turned off. When I use WiFi, I'm unable to bring myself to login to anything sensitive unless I'm already using an SSL VPN (SSL-Explorer is an open-source SSL VPN server) for the rest of my traffic. With attack tools such as WiFiZoo available for platforms such as the Nokia N800, I'm afraid that even turning on wireless will immediately send "something" to later WiFi fingerprint me or provide a source of sensitive information leakage.

At Toorcon 9 there was a talk about the Caffe Latte Attack, and there will be more to come at Shmoocon, judging by the recently released speaker lineup. What I find interesting about the Caffe Latte Attack is that they recommend using a "wireless security agent" to protect yourself. This reminds me of the Shmoo Group's Hot Spot Defense Kit, which was released at DefCon 12.

Haven't we shown that agents are an insecure approach to the problem? If this had changed, then Cisco wouldn't be announcing a remote buffer overflow in their Cisco Security Agent product. This is a product which claims protection against zero-day attacks. Does anyone have a problem with this besides moi?

It's uncanny how wireless attacks and browser attacks are so similar in nature. Both are relatively new, almost everyone uses them everyday without thinking about the consequences, and both have gaping huge vulnerabilities that developers seemingly refuse to fix. When simple solutions are provided (e.g. WPA-PSK) to fix the problem, stupid users pick dictionary passwords that are cracked within seconds and developers don't salt the passwords on the server-side. Everyone chooses usability over security, especially when it comes to WiFi and Firefox/IE/Safari. Don't forget the backwards compatibility!

Instead of solving these problems at the root-cause of the issue, we rely on "agents" such as anti-virus, host intrusion-protection systems, or WiFi-HIPS to provide the protection against wireless and browser attacks. Millions of malware spreads everyday through web browsers, while some of the largest data breaches like TJX were due to wireless attacks. Yet nobody is willing to take the risk of slightly "changing" the browser or wireless technology, lest face the wrath of the masses that would be unwilling to "buy into / upgrade to" the more secure solutions.

At least for wireless, there exists a WVE, or a single place to go to learn about the latest in wireless attacks. There's no place to go for browser vulnerability information. Let me repeat that. There is no place to go for browser vulnerability information. One would have to enumerate all the plugins, add-ons, and extensions for all of the browsers that one uses. This would only cover some of the vulnerability management problems inherent with browser vulnerability information. Patch management systems such as Lumension Security and Configuresoft fail to provide vulnerability management for these sorts of applications as well.

I've always been especially interested in the cross-over between browser and wireless attacks, such as airpwn, Ettercap filters, and KARMA. Imagine the consolidation of attack tools such as W3AF, Metasploit, and Wicrawl. It is very likely that all of these attacks tools will make it into the upcoming beta release of BackTrack 3 on December 14th.

I dislike solving problems with architectural recommendations and fixes to operational process, as using development process such as my recommended CPSL will eventually increase security above and beyond the recommendations I give below. At the same time, people do need to know about ways to protect themselves without asking their favorite Anti-Virus vendor whether or not they support Web 2.0. If you know anything about Javascript or Flash security - and how this influences/changes signature-based defense - then you'll know it's easy to infect a web browser with only whitespace, completely randomized alphanumerics, or whatever the attacker chooses. Nobody can build a signature for this.

Who are you going to turn to next? Patch management vendors to make sure that browsers and browser plug-ins are updated? How about protection against zero-day attacks using anomaly detection? Let's just add more agents that have inherent security weaknesses because they weren't properly tested into the mix, why not? Add a DLP host agent as well! That'll do the trick!

Protecting against the latest in browser attacks will mean providing some sort of Browser Vulnerability Enumeration project (BVE). I recently read from a few sources that OWASP (because of RSnake's talk at AppSec 2007 in San Jose) is going to start up a new project to concentrate on browser-related vulnerabilities, a "browser security group".

Until such a platform and group exists, there are a few ways in Firefox to provide safer browsing. Usually these defenses aren't going to prevent a vulnerability in an outdated version of your browser or plugin. Detecting these is normally a job for vulnerability management, but since the OS and Patch Management vendors leave this job up to the user, it's the user that suffers when he/she doesn't know how/when to patch what. Operators or inline devices must be able to provide this vulnerability management themselves, usually by passive analysis (e.g. packet capture of browser information) or via transparent proxy logs.

Jay Beale gave an extremely exciting presentation at Toorcon 9 that I can't stop talking about. His defense strategies (and soon, running code) are available on his ClientVA website. The basic idea behind the concept is to inject a once-a-day HTML iframe that carries RSnake's Master Recon Tool to enumerate browser plugin versions. The iframe injection can be done with airpwn, Ettercap filters, and/or a transparent proxy such as Squid. He also alludes to using similar techniques just by sniffing, digging through log files, and concepts for non-browser clients such as mail clients, and office/productivity applications (although I would add entertainment/creativity applications to this list). For office applications, he suggests using file share scanning combined with Metagoofil, which will scan documents for metadata (which contains MS-Office and similar version numbers) along with MACE "last-modified" file times. Richard Bejtlich presents some great concepts for testing instead of using these as controls that would work well along with this concept.

I've always wondered why router, firewall, or proxy-server vendors haven't included such functionality in their products. Palo Alto Networks is taking on some of the client-side issues, but addressing them a bit differently. I have also heard of Trusteer.com, but do not know of anyone using their products. Some people claim to browse with multiple browser instances or run their browsers in virtualized environments. Microsoft says you'll be fine if you use IE7 under Vista in protected-mode. I think for 2008, we'll start to see protections for client-side attacks start to catch on - but which of these will emerge as the most viable (or money-making) solution is not quite as easily predicted.

Posted by Dre on Wednesday, December 5, 2007 in Defense, Hacking and Security.

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