Apr 172014

Heartbleed: routers and phones also at risk, says security expert

Manufacturers must patch routers, video conferencing software and desktop phones, as scale of software vulnerability continues to grow


The Guardian
by Alex Hern
April 14, 2014


The recently uncovered "Heartbleed" bug exposes data to hackers. (Photograph: Pawel Kopzynski / Reuters)

The recently uncovered “Heartbleed” bug exposes data to hackers. (Photograph: Pawel Kopzynski / Reuters)


Heartbleed, the software vulnerability in hundreds of thousands of web servers which laid their contents open to attackers, also affects consumer devices, security experts have warned.

Hardware including smartphones, routers and cable boxes are all potentially affected, posing the risk of anything from data theft to attackers seizing control of the vulnerable device.

“Network-connected devices often run a basic web server to let an administrator access online control panels,” says Philip Lieberman, president of security firm Lieberman Software. “In many cases, these servers are secured using OpenSSL and their software will need updating.

“However, this is unlikely to be a priority. The manufacturers of these devices will not release patches for the vast majority of their devices, and consumers will patch an insignificant number of devices.”

Some manufacturers have confirmed that their devices are not affected. Belkin says that its routers, as well as those of its Linksys subsidiary, are safe: one range does use OpenSSL, the software which contains the Heartbleed vulnerability, but uses a version which predates the flaw.

But others are not so lucky. Networking giant Cisco has confirmed that a number of its products are vulnerable, including desktop phones, video conferencing hardware and VPN software. It is investigating a further 83 products for potential vulnerabilities.

Neither Netgear nor BT returned requests for comment, and have not spoken publicly about whether or not their devices are vulnerable.

For affected devices, operators are slowly releasing patches, which must be downloaded and installed. But many users will not apply the updates, warns Lieberman.

“The list of compromised devices is huge,” he says. “Most of the devices are not going to be patched because their users do not know how to do it since they bought a router or firewall, not OpenSSL (as far as they are concerned).

“Many of the devices are from manufacturers that are no longer supporting the previously shipped devices as a matter of policy and business model,” he adds. “What do you expect in the way of support when you buy a device or embedded system for less than $100 and the company is making $10.00?”

As with affected websites, users should not change passwords until they are sure the vulnerability has been fixed. The best way to be certain is to wait for the affected company to specifically say it is time to change passwords: examples of companies who have done so include Tumblr, Flickr, IFTTT and Dogecoin service DogeAPI.


SSL keys stolen

One potential avenue of hope was blocked off on Friday, when online services company CloudFlare confirmed that four people had successfully stolen SSL certificates from an affected server.

SSL is the basis of security online, and is the protocol that leads to browsers displaying a padlock icon to show that a given website is secure. One of the attacks that the Heartbleed vulnerability allows is theft of the private key for SSL, allowing an attacker to decrypt intercepted messages or impersonate the site.

Cloudflare had previously written that “we have reason to believe… that it may in fact be impossible” to steal the keys from their servers, in contrast to claims made by the researchers who uncovered the flaw. But the company issued a challenge to the outside world to prove them wrong, and four separate researchers managed to steal the information over the next 48 hours.

The result of the challenge underscores that it’s not enough for a site vulnerable to Heartbleed to fix the server: it also needs to treat the SSL key as stolen, and issue a new one. Cloudflare described the possibility of a stolen key as “the disaster scenario, requiring virtually every service to reissue and revoke its SSL certificates. Note that simply reissuing certificates is not enough, you must revoke them as well.”

Since the news of Heartbleed broke on April 6, more than 10,000 sites have revoked and re-issued their certificates, giving some idea of the scale of the problem.



Heartbleed: what you need to know


Direct Link:  http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/apr/14/heartbleed-routers-phones-at-risk-security-expert


Apr 172014

Heartbleed: 95% of detection tools ‘flawed’, claim researchers

Free web tools and not picking up the vulnerability, leaving consumer data exposed


The Guardian (UK)
by Tom BrewsterApril 16, 2014


Tools designed to tackle high-profile Heartbleed bug have their own problematic bugs. (Photograph: Pawel Kopczynski / Reuters)

Tools designed to tackle high-profile Heartbleed bug have their own problematic bugs. (Photograph: Pawel Kopczynski / Reuters)


Some tools designed to detect the Heartbleed vulnerability are flawed and won’t detect the problem on affected websites, a cybersecurity consultancy has warned.

The Heartbleed flaw, which undermined the common security software for internet connections called OpenSSL, caused mass panic last week due to the ease with which it could be exploited to acquire passwords or encryption keys, potentially leaking sensitive personal data from popular consumer websites.

A deluge of tools then hit the internet promising to help people determine whether the web services they were using or hosting were affected. But 95% of the most popular ones are not reliable, according to London-based security consultancy and penetration testing firm Hut3.


‘Absolute panic’

“A lot of companies out there will be saying they’ve run the free web tool and they’re fine, when they’re not,” Hut3’s Edd Hardy told the Guardian. “There’s absolute panic. We’re getting calls late at night going ‘can you test everything’.”

Most of the tools checked by Hut3 rely on code designed to highlight the flaw created by developer Jared Stafford, which itself contained problematic bugs, said Hut3 penetration tester Adrian Hayter. These included tools created by major tech companies such as Intel-owned security firm McAfee and password management provider LastPass.

Hayter uncovered three problems with the Heartbleed checkers, which could lead to many cases of sites remaining vulnerable. One of the issues was to do with compatibility with different versions of SSL, the Secure Sockets Layer kind of web encryption affected by the Heartbleed flaw.

“The Heartbleed Checker is designed to work with common system configurations found in the wild,” said Raj Samani, CTO for Europe, the middle east and Asia at McAfee. “There have been reports of detection failure rates of around 2.8% due to these configurations. We were aware of the possibility and have provided a disclosure directly above our checker. We are continually reviewing and revising our code and technique.”

Joe Siegrist, CEO at LastPass, said: “Unlike all other tests, LastPass is not actually attempting to exploit the bug to test if it’s currently present – we’ve been unsure if that’s legal for a US entity to do.

“Our focus has been in ensuring people are updating/revoking their certificates, and that we’re reflecting what major organisations are saying about their exposure. Can you update or make a new certificate and keep the heartbleed bug in place? Sure, but that’s what all the other tests are for.”


Widespread consequences

“It is yet another symptom of the ‘hit the ground running’ approach that has characterised the response to this vulnerability,” said Rik Ferguson, vice president of security research at Trend Micro.

“The consequences are so widespread and the technology involved so arcane or invisible to the average user, that knee-jerk reactions and well-meaning advice have been offered up with little planning. From the initial Tumblr blog advising user to change all passwords everywhere ‘now’, before most of the vulnerable services would have been patched, to self-confessed ‘quick and dirty’ demonstration tools being incorporated into complete vulnerability scanning tools.”

“The key to success with protection and mitigation of Heartbleed is more haste, less speed – otherwise you may well be sitting in the comfortable haze of a false sense of security. Ignorance isn’t bliss, it’s dangerous.”

There are various versions of SSL and servers hosting websites can support some or all of them. If the server doesn’t support the version that the user machine selects, then it will respond by either dropping the connection or trying to use a different type of SSL which the server does support.

Herein lies the problem with the detection tools: in many of them, only one version, known as TLSv1.1, is checked. If the server being tested for Heartbleed doesn’t support TLSv1.1, it will either reject the connection or suggest another version. But the failed detectors do not check for another version and assume any server that does not provide a successful response is not vulnerable, said Hayter.

Similar problems lie in compatibility with “cipher suites”, the selections of algorithms used to set up a secure connection over the internet. “Once again, if the server does not support any of the cipher suites that the client sends, the connection will disconnect,” said Hayter.

Most of the tools he examined only told the server they supported about 51 cipher suites, when there are at least 318 cipher suites that could be used by a website. “Granted, most servers will support at least one of the ciphers in the list of 51, but there could be instances where a server does not support any of them, and in these cases, the server would respond with an error, which the scripts interpret as ‘not vulnerable’.”

The third bug was more simplistic: it meant that on slow internet connections some tools would stop working when processing the response of the server, as they would have a time limit. This would again interpret a server as not vulnerable, even if the partially downloaded response would have been enough to confirm the vulnerability, Hayter added.

Given the panic around Heartbleed, with many prematurely being told to change passwords for all web services, even before those sites had been fixed, the latest findings will do nothing to appease the confusion. Hut3 has created its own tool which it believes could help alleviate some of the pain.



Heartbleed: what you need to know to stay secure

Heartbleed: routers and phones also at risk

Developer who introduced Heartbleed error regrets ‘oversight’

US government denies being aware of Heartbleed bug


Direct Link:  http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/apr/16/heartbleed-bug-detection-tools-flawed




Apr 172014

Tor anonymity network to shrink as a result of Heartbleed flaw


by Lucian Constantin
April 17, 2014



Tor anonymity network to shrink as a result of Heartbleed flaw

Tor anonymity network to shrink as a result of Heartbleed flaw



The Tor Project has flagged 380 Tor relays vulnerable to the critical Heartbleed flaw to be rejected from the Tor anonymity network, reducing the network’s entry and exit capacity.

The decision has already been implemented on a Tor directory authority—a server that maintains a list of Tor relays—controlled by Roger Dingledine, the Tor Project leader, and is likely to be followed by other directory authority operators.

The 380 relays flagged for rejection are trusted entry relays, also known as guards, and exit relays. As a result, the immediate impact of this decision would be a 12 percent reduction in the network’s guard and exit capacity, Dingledine said Wednesday in an email sent to the tor-relays mailing list.

Traffic from clients typically flows through the Tor network in three hops. The first hop is through a guard relay and the final hop, before the traffic is returned on the Internet to reach its intended destination, is through an exit relay.

Twelve percent might not sound like much, but guard and exit relays play an important role on the network and are not easy to replace. Many relays are run by volunteers, but they need to be trusted and need to have enough bandwidth at their disposal to handle traffic from multiple clients.

“I thought for a while about taking away their Valid flag rather than rejecting them outright, but this way they’ll get notices in their logs,” Dingledine said.


Tardy patches seem to be the reason

It seems that the ban might be permanent. Dingledine said that he wouldn’t want those relays back on the Tor network even if they upgraded their versions of OpenSSL because their operators didn’t patch the flaw in a timely manner.

The Heartbleed vulnerability was announced on Apr. 7 and affects versions 1.0.1 through 1.0.1f of OpenSSL, a library that implements the TLS (Transport Layer Security) encrypted communication protocol and which is used by many operating systems, web servers, browsers and other desktop and mobile applications.

The flaw allows attackers to extract information from the memory of an application that relies on OpenSSL for TLS communications, whether that application acts as a client or a server.

Both the Tor client and relay software is potentially vulnerable if the OpenSSL library is not updated on the underlying OS.

“Tor relays and bridges could maybe be made to leak their medium-term onion keys (rotated once a week), or their long-term relay identity keys,” Dingledine wrote in a blog post last week after the Heartbleed flaw was announced.

“An attacker who has your relay identity key, has your onion key, and can intercept traffic flows to your IP address can impersonate your relay (but remember that Tor’s multi-hop design means that attacking just one relay in the client’s path is not very useful). In any case, best practice would be to update your OpenSSL package, discard all the files in keys/ in your DataDirectory, and restart your Tor to generate new keys.”

In addition to the 380 guard and exit relays that have been banned already there are over 1,000 other relays that are also vulnerable and should be added to the rejection list at some point soon, Dingledine said.


Direct Link:  http://www.pcworld.com/article/2145280/tor-anonymity-network-to-shrink-as-a-result-of-heartbleed-flaw.html

Jan 302014

If You Used This Secure Webmail Site, the FBI Has Your Inbox


WIRED / Threat Level
by Kevin Poulsen
January 27, 2014

If You Used This Secure Webmail Site, the FBI Has Your Inbox (Photo: Peter Earl McCollough/WIRED)

If You Used This Secure Webmail Site, the FBI Has Your Inbox (Photo: Peter Earl McCollough/WIRED)


While investigating a hosting company known for sheltering child porn last year the FBI incidentally seized the entire e-mail database of a popular anonymous webmail service called TorMail.

Now the FBI is tapping that vast trove of e-mail in unrelated investigations.

The bureau’s data windfall, seized from a company called Freedom Hosting, surfaced in court papers last week when prosecutors indicted a Florida man for allegedly selling counterfeit credit cards online. The filings show the FBI built its case in part by executing a search warrant on a Gmail account used by the counterfeiters, where they found that orders for forged cards were being sent to a TorMail e-mail account: “platplus@tormail.net.”

Acting on that lead in September, the FBI obtained a search warrant for the TorMail account, and then accessed it from the bureau’s own copy of “data and information from the TorMail e-mail server, including the content of TorMail e-mail accounts,” according to the complaint (.pdf) sworn out by U.S. Postal Inspector Eric Malecki.

The tactic suggests the FBI is adapting to the age of big-data with an NSA-style collect-everything approach, gathering information into a virtual lock box, and leaving it there until it can obtain specific authority to tap it later. There’s no indication that the FBI searched the trove for incriminating evidence before getting a warrant. But now that it has a copy of TorMail’s servers, the bureau can execute endless search warrants on a mail service that once boasted of being immune to spying.

“We have no information to give you or to respond to any subpoenas or court orders,” read TorMail’s homepage. “Do not bother contacting us for information on, or to view the contents of a TorMail user inbox, you will be ignored.”

In another e-mail case, the FBI last year won a court order compelling secure e-mail provider Lavabit to turn over the master encryption keys for its website, which would have given agents the technical ability to spy on all of Lavabit’s 400,000 users – though the government said it was interested only in one. (Rather than comply, Lavabit shut down and is appealing the surveillance order).

TorMail was the webmail provider of choice for denizens of the so-called Darknet of anonymous and encrypted websites and services, making the FBI’s cache extraordinarily valuable. The affair also sheds a little more light on the already-strange story of the FBI’s broad attack on Freedom Hosting, once a key service provider for untraceable websites.

Freedom Hosting specialized in providing turnkey “Tor hidden service” sites — special sites, with addresses ending in .onion, that hide their geographic location behind layers of routing, and can be reached only over the Tor anonymity network. Tor hidden services are used by those seeking to evade surveillance or protect users’ privacy to an extraordinary degree – human rights groups and journalists as well as serious criminal elements.

By some estimates, Freedom Hosting backstopped fully half of all hidden services at the time it was shut down last year — TorMail among them. But it had a reputation for tolerating child pornography on its servers. In July, the FBI moved on the company and had the alleged operator, Eric Eoin Marques, arrested at his home in Ireland. The U.S. is now seeking his extradition for allegedly facilitating child porn on a massive scale; hearings are set to begin in Dublin this week.

According to the new document, the FBI obtained the data belonging to Freedom Hosting’s customers through a Mutual Legal Assistance request to France – where the company leased its servers – between July 22, 2013 and August 2 of last year.

That’s two days before all the sites hosted by Freedom Hosting , including TorMail, began serving an error message with hidden code embedded in the page, on August 4.

Security researchers dissected the code and found it exploited a security hole in Firefox to de-anonymize users with slightly outdated versions of Tor Browser Bundle, reporting back to a mysterious server in Northern Virginia. Though the FBI hasn’t commented (and declined to speak for this story), the malware’s behavior was consistent with the FBI’s spyware deployments, now known as a “Network Investigative Technique.”

No mass deployment of the FBI’s malware had ever before been spotted in the wild.

The attack through TorMail alarmed many in the Darknet, including the underground’s most notorious figure — Dread Pirate Roberts, the operator of the Silk Road drug forum, who took the unusual step of posting a warning on the Silk Road homepage. An analysis he wrote on the associated forum now seems prescient.

“I know that MANY people, vendors included, used TorMail,” he wrote. “You must think back through your TorMail usage and assume everything you wrote there and didn’t encrypt can be read by law enforcement at this point and take action accordingly. I personally did not use the service for anything important, and hopefully neither did any of you.” Two months later the FBI arrested San Francisco man Ross William Ulbricht as the alleged Silk Road operator.

The connection, if any, between the FBI obtaining Freedom Hosting’s data and apparently launching the malware campaign through TorMail and the other sites isn’t spelled out in the new document. The bureau could have had the cooperation of the French hosting company that Marques leased his servers from. Or it might have set up its own Tor hidden services using the private keys obtained from the seizure, which would allow it to adopt the same .onion addresses used by the original sites.

The French company also hasn’t been identified. But France’s largest hosting company, OVH, announced on July 29, in the middle of the FBI’s then-secret Freedom Hosting seizure, that it would no longer allow Tor software on its servers. A spokesman for the company says he can’t comment on specific cases, and declined to say whether Freedom Hosting was a customer.

“Wherever the data center is located, we conduct our activities in conformity with applicable laws, and as a hosting company, we obey search warrants or disclosure orders,” OVH spokesman Benjamin Bongoat told WIRED. “This is all we can say as we usually don’t make any comments on hot topics.”

(Hat-Tip: Brian Krebs)


Direct Link:  http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2014/01/tormail/