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Stagefright Bug Won’t Quit, 950 Million Android Devices Still Vulnerable

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Stagefright Bug Foils Android Phone

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Stagefright, an infamous critical vulnerability affecting nearly all Android phones and tablets is sticking around despite Google’s effort of releasing multiple patches, according to independent researchers at a cybersecurity firm.

It’s like an annoying itch that just won’t go away. Researchers at Exodus Intelligence have identified Google’s attempt of issuing a patch to fix the notorious Stagefright vulnerability to be incomplete and flawed, leaving a staggering 950 million Android devices including phones and tablets, still vulnerable.

Quite simply, the Stagefright vulnerability allows an attacker to completely compromise a targeted device through a seemingly harmless multimedia message which injects malicious code into the device. The bug affects all devices on Android 2.2 (Froyo) to Android 5.1 (Lollipop), which adds up to nearly a billion devices running Android.

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The Stagefright Bug is Proving Hard to Squash

The flaw was first discovered by Joshua Drake, a security researcher at mobile security firm Zimperium. Subsequently, the firm submitted a batch of patches along with the corresponding bug report to Google and the tech giant pushed its first 4-line patch to squash Stagefright last week.

Also read: Serious Android exploit “Stagefright” threatens 95% of all Android phones

Google pushed out six patches in a security bundle as a part of the Stagefright security update. One of the six patches needed work, however.

Eight days later, the team of researchers at Exodus spotted the mistake in a source code tweak and were able to trigger a total system crash in a patched Android phone by exploiting it through an encoded .mp4 media file sent using multi-media messaging (MMS).

The summary is that the Stagefright vulnerability is still exploitable and the 4-line patch that was implemented is faulty. We have been able to trigger the fault that still affects over 950 million Android devices – said Exodus Intelligence researchers in a report on Engadget.

Android

There’s gloom around Android’s vulnerability.

Exodus notified Google of the flawed patch on 7 August and decided to make the information public when there was no response from Android’s makers.

The security firm defended its unorthodox disclosure of its blog-post which revealed the botched patch publicly as researchers routinely indulge companies with a standard 30-day notice period after reporting a security issue. Researchers noted that they chose to ignore the 30-day notice because the issue was originally reported over 120 days ago.

“There has been an inordinate amount of attention drawn to the bug – we believe we are likely not the only ones to have noticed it is flawed. Others may have malicious intentions,” warned Aaron Portnoy, a vice president at Exodus in a blog post.

Google promised monthly security updates for Nexus devices at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas earlier this month in direct response to the embarrassment caused by the Stagefright bug. Despite such assurances, the distribution channels meant to deliver these patches to end-users throws up certain logistical difficulties. After Google sends out patches to mobile operators and manufacturers, these companies are then responsible for pushing the patches to their customers. This can be a cumbersome process wherein certain users do not get an update at all if their phones are deemed to be ‘outdated.’

In the meantime, Android users – this writer included, are likely to keep an eye out for the new patch in order to fix the old patch, with a billion consumer-end devices still vulnerable at the time of writing this report.

Images from Twin Design / Shutterstock, StockSnap, and Pixabay.

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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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