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New Exploit Bypasses Android Lock Screens

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A new exploit can easily bypass the lock screen of Android phones, claims a new report. The bypass can be done on Android phones using versions between 5.0 and 5.1.1, even if encryption is enabled on the particular device. 

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The University of Texas, Austin, in a report, has revealed the shocking news that the lock screen of Android phones can easily be bypassed using a new exploit. However, the method only works on Android phones that use the OS versions between 5.0 and 5.1.1 and have a password-based lock. This puts the number of Android users at a risk to 21% of the total Android users, which is a huge figure considering the humongous share of Android phones in the market.

Also read: Android has been Hit Again Stagefright-style Flaw: 950 Million Devices at Risk

Android Lock Screen VulnerabilitiesThe report clearly describes how the hackers can bypass the lock screen of Android devices. The hackers can gain access to the phone settings by swiping left on the screen to open the camera app and then access the phone settings using the notification panel of the device. The option of prompting a user for a password can be seen on the settings page. Unauthorized changes of the password is prevented by requesting the user to add the current password in order to unlock the feature.

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However, if the hacker would dump a sufficiently long string of characters in this field, it would cause the handset to crash and return to the home screen, thereby unlocking the phone. After this, any app can be run and developer access can be enabled to acquire complete control of the device and mistreat whatever sensitive data it might hold.

Apart from this there is another method that can lead to the same result, according to the report. The emergency calling feature was used by the study to enter a long string to crash the device. The long list of characters was produced by pasting a short string multiple times, which can be copied and pasted on the password prompt for crashing the device and subsequently bypassing the lock screen.

As much as a shock this report gives to Android users, they can breathe a sigh of relief as Google has been swift in making amends to this anomaly. The developers have started working on a fix for the vulnerability which will be added in the monthly Android security update with build number ’LMY48M’. The same build number handled the Stagefright vulnerability in Android devices.

Although Nexus 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10 have started receiving this update, there could be a sufficient amount of time for hackers to go about their business till the update is made available to all threatened devices.  If your device is under threat and you have not received the update, the best you can do is switch to a PIN-based or pattern-based lock:

User must have a password set (pattern / pin configurations do not appear to be exploitable)

Images from Flickr and George Dolgikh / Shutterstock.

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Automaker Fiat Chrysler Announces Bug Bounty Program

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The latest bug bounty program from an automobile manufacturer comes from Fiat Chrysler, more than a year after two white hat hackers proved that they could remotely compromise and take control of its popular selling vehicle, the Jeep Cherokee.

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White hat hackers can now start picking away at cybersecurity flaws in the vehicle software embedded in Fiat Chrysler connected cars. The bounty program is specifically focused on the automaker’s fleet of connected vehicles, including the systems used within them as well as the applications and external services that are connected to them.

The bounty reward is relatively small compared to the bug bounties offered by the likes of Google and Facebook. Fiat Chrysler’s program pays out beween $150 to $1,500 for a bug. In comparison, Tesla Motors’ bug bounty program on the same platform used by Fiat Chrysler (more details below) rewards between $25 and $10,000 for valid bug reports.

The program will be managed and operated by crowd-sourced cybersecurity company Bug Crowd. The platform claims to have nearly 28,000 white hat hackers and security researchers available on its platform.

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In a statement, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ senior manager for security architecture Titus Melnyk said:

We want to encourage independent security researchers to reach out to us and share what they’ve found so that we can fix potential vulnerabilities before they’re an issue for our consumers.

The hacking demonstration of a Jeep Cherokee occurred a year ago in July 2015, when two security researchers hacked and took total control of a car driven by a Wired journalist who penned the report at the time. Hacked reported on the incident which showed a relatively straightforward process in which hackers took control of the vehicle. Altogether, nearly half a million vehicles were revealed to be vulnerable, with multiple variants of the Jeep Cherokee, the Dodge Ram, along with other Fiat Chrysler vehicles.

For its part, Chrysler set about damage control by issuing an official recall of some 1.4 million vehicles by providing vehicle owners with a USB stick that contains a firmware upgrade and a patch to remedy the situation.

Still, that did not stop vehicle owners to launch a class action lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler, due to the hack.

 Featured image from Shutterstock.

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Zero Day Offer To Attack Windows For Profit Part Of A Rising Trend

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Microsoft Windows 10

SpiderLabs, a team of ethical hackers that fights cybercrime, recently posted a blog about a recent zero day offer to attack Windows that demonstrates how such offerings are marketed and becoming more common.

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Zero day is a disclosed software vulnerability that hackers can exploit to attack computer programs, data, additional computers or a network, according to Wikipedia. SpiderLabs is a part of Trustwave, a company that helps businesses fight cybercrime, protect data and reduce security risk.

SpiderLabs notified Microsoft about the zero day offering and continues to monitor the situation. The blog is titled, “Zero Day Auction for the Masses.”

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Cyber Crime Evolves

By way of background, the blog noted cyber criminals have evolved from individuals and small groups to big networks. Small malware campaigns have become malware-as-a-service that can deliver instant revenue in the form of ransomware.

Criminal enterprises have splintered. Groups used to develop malware, seek victims, launch a campaign, and monetize the stolen data. Nowadays, they prosper by focusing on one thing and selling it as a service.

The underground malware market is profitable and the development of zero days has become a bigger part of it.

Zero Day Pays Big

Hacking blogger Vlad Tsyrklevich noted in a post on the zero day market that a Eugene Ching received $80,000 USD for a working zero day offering. The payment was split into a contract fee and a delivery bonus.

Zerodium, a cyber security company that pays premium rewards to security researchers to acquire their original and previously unreported zero-day exploits affecting major operating systems, will pay $5,000 to $500,000 USD.

Last year, Angler Exploit Kit introduced four zero-day exploits as a part of its offering, and because of the continuously refreshed list of new exploits, it became the most popular exploit kit last year, representing 40% of all exploit kit-related incidents observed.

A Current Offer

A zero day being offered for sale stood out to SpiderLabs among the other offerings in an underground market for Russian-speaking cyber criminals. The forum serves as a collaboration platform for hiring malware coders, leasing exploit kits, buying web shells for compromised websites, or renting botnets. Finding a zero day listed in between these fairly common offerings is an anomaly, the blog noted. It indicates zero days are becoming a commodity for the masses.

The zero day claims to be a Local Privilege Escalation (LPE) vulnerability in Windows. Below is a screen shot of the original offer, posted on May 11, 2016:

SpiderLabs image 1

The offer refers to a vulnerability in the incorrect handling of Windows objects. The exploit is implemented for all OS architectures from Windows XP up to current variants of Windows 10. The exploit successfully escapes all existing protection mechanisms.

What Is Offered

The buyer will receive:
1. Source code with all the source code of the exploit and a demo for the exploit.
2. Free updates to address any Windows version the exploit might not work.
3. A detailed write up of the vulnerability details.
4. Complementary consultation on integrating the exploit.
5. On request – convert the source code project to a different MSVC version.

The seller was willing to accept offers starting from $95,000 [USD]

The seller insisted on doing the deal using the forum’s admin as the escrow. In an update on May 23, the seller said the exploit will be sold exclusively to a single buyer.

The seller provided two proof videos for potential buyers who might be concerned with the offer’s validity. The first one showed an updated Windows 10 machine being successfully exploited successfully.

The second one showed the exploit bypassing all of Microsoft’s protections for the latest version of the product.

Despite indications of the offer’s authenticity, there’s no way to be certain without purchasing the exploit or waiting for it to appear.

What’s Ahead?

Local Privilege Escalation (LPE) vulnerabilities are likely next in line in popularity, even though the most coveted zero day would be a Remote Code Execution (RCE) exploit.

An LPE exploit paired with a client-side RCE exploit can enable an attacker to escape an application that deploys sandbox protection, such as Adobe Reader, Google Chrome, etc. An LPE exploit provides a way to persist on an infected machine, a crucial aspect when considering advanced persistent threats. Such an exploit can be leveraged in nearly every kind of attack.

What This Zero Day Can Do

The possible capabilities presented to an attacker purchasing this exploit are as follows:
1. Escape from sandbox if the initial compromise vector is an RCE for a sandboxed app, e.g., Adobe Reader, Google Chrome, etc. – converting a limited RCE exploit into a functional takeover tool.
2. Because this zero day exploit offers a way to execute code in ring0, the purchaser will be able to use it to install a root kit on the victim’s machine, shielding itself more efficiently. This enables the attacker to escape detection and prolong control of the infected system.
3. The seller noted the exploit was tested on Windows Server OS versions. This allows a new possibility should an attacker already have a type of limited control over a web server (SQLi, web shell with restricted privileges – as all modern web servers run under a designated user account with limited privileges).
4. Modify system properties allowing persistence on the system. An example posted by FireEye demonstrates how criminals used a zero day LPE for Windows to persist on POS systems and rob credit card data.
5. Install more malicious software – a privilege that is reserved for administrative accounts on OSs, including Windows.

There are not many public records of what the price of such exploit should be. But one can consider the prices offered by Zerodium and discussed by Vlad Tsyrklevich. While the price of the zero day was lowered 12 days following the initial post, it was only lowered 5.3% from $95,000 to $90,000. On June 6, it was lowered again, to $85,000.

Based on what prices are known, this price seems high but within a realistic range, particularly considering the return on investment buyers are likely to make using this exploit.

A base assumption for anyone who has worked with code is that all software has bugs. Trustwave SpiderLabs, having worked with Microsoft years, recognizes the lengths Microsoft takes to prevent zero days. This includes independent research, bug bounty programs and establishing the MAPP program with transparency of its patching process. Criminals sometimes find those bugs before the “good guys” do.

Also read: More Kaspersky zero days revealed by Google hacker

What Can Be Done About It?

Given all the unknowns connected with zero days, it’s difficult to give protection advice. There are use lessons learned from previous cases to provide general guidance:
1. Keep software up-to-date. LPE is one of several components that constitute a successful compromise. Break one link in the chain and you will likely thwart the attack. Consider the scenario where this LPE exploit occurs in tandem with an RCE exploit to break out of a sandbox. A machine may not be patched against the zero day LPE, but it may be patched against the RCE component.
2. A chain link can be broken in different parts of security infrastructure. Deploy a full stack of security products to improve the odds of breaking a link.
3. Use common sense. Many attacks rely on user interaction, like clicking a link or opening an attachment. Avoid suspicious links or attachments sent from unsolicited sources.

The company will update the blog with new developments.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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FBI: Newfound iPhone Unlocking Technique Won’t Work On Newer Devices

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The technique the FBI used to unlock an Apple iPhone used in the San Bernardino, Calif. terror attack cannot be used on new devices, FBI Director James Comey told students at Kenyon College in Ohio recently, according to AppleInsider.com.

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Comey did not reveal the process the FBI used to unlock the phone, but he said it would not work on the 6S or the 5S. He said the tool only works on a “narrow slice of phones.”

Will The Technique Be Revealed?

Comey was noncommittal regarding Apple’s request to reveal the method the bureau used to unlock the phone. He said he is concerned about the FBI losing the access it currently possesses.

Since announcing its success unlocking the iPhone last month, speculation about the method has focused on an “IP Box” tool that emerged last spring. The tool latches onto an iPhone’s power circuitry and enters PIN numbers over USB. The tool retails for under $300.

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When the tool detects an incorrect guess, it cuts the power to the phone’s logic board before the guess is recorded, which defeats the 10-try limit.

Some believe Apple has patched the vulnerability in older iPhones with iOS 8.1.1. Because the iPhone 5c is believed to run iOS 9, the FBI has chosen either a different method or has found an unreported software vulnerability.

The iPhone 5S manages PIN guesses in the hardware Secure Enclave, which neutralizes an attack.

Comey said he is confident both the FBI and the third party that provided the unlocking technique could keep it secret if government officials decide they want it to remain so, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Also read: FBI tests its new phone unlocking technique on other devices

FBI/Apple Conflict Subsides

The FBI’s announcement last week that it found a way to open the phone ended for the moment a legal fight with Apple about whether the government could force the company to write software that would help investigators open the phone and examine its data.

The FBI is using its newfound ability to crack the San Bernardino terrorist iPhone to see if it can open other versions of the phone, CCN reported. The American Civil Liberties Union said the FBI is taking a chance that no other entity will discover the capability. Government officials said it could take months for the FBI to decide whether and how to disclose the security gap.

Featured image from Pexels.

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