Heartbleed Bug Places Encrypted User Data and Webservers at Risk

Posted by Michael Coates on 4/8/14 10:44 PM

HTTPS is layered on top of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TLS) to enable a user to securely communicate with a website without tampering or monitoring from intermediate parties.

However, on April 7, 2014 a serious vulnerability (CVE-2014-0160) was uncovered within the TLS heartbeat extension in versions of OpenSSL that places the encrypted communication at risk. Attackers can leverage this bug to obtain the private keys from the webserver and use this information to decrypt and monitor communications that are taking place over SSL/TLS, exposing any sensitive data communicated by the user.


Scope of the vulnerability
 

1.0.1 and 1.0.2-beta releases of OpenSSL are affected including 1.0.1f and 1.0.2-beta1.

Apache, which uses OpenSSL for HTTPS, is used by 66% of all websites according to netcraft.com.  A study of the TLS heartbeat extension by Netcraft also identified that 17.5% of SSL sites may be vulnerable to the Heartbleed bug.



Is a patch available?

Yes - OpenSSL 1.0.1g was released on April 7, 2014 (https://www.openssl.org/source/).

 

Impact of the vulnerability

This vulnerability allows an attacker to extract memory contents from the webserver through the vulnerability in the heartbeat. As a result an attacker may be able to access sensitive information such as the private keys used for SSL/TLS.

  • Active Attack - Equipped with the private key, an attacker can silently monitor and decrypt communications between the user and the web server. As a result, an attacker could view private data such as passwords, credit card data, medical records and any other sensitive data the user exchanges with the website. In addition, the attacker could impersonate the target website to deliver fake, inaccurate or malicious data to the user.

  • Offline Attack - Some well funded attackers gather large amounts of encrypted data and store this data in the event they can later decrypt the information. Using the Heartbleed vulnerability the attackers could decrypt this information if it was obtained when passed between a user and a vulnerable website. This means that sensitive data exchanged up to two years ago could also now be at risk for exposure to attackers. Note: sites implementing Perfect Forward Secrecy are protected against this particular attack.
 

Who might exploit this vulnerability?

In order to decrypt data exchanged between a user and a website, the attacker must have access to network devices along the communication path. This attack could most easily be launched by state actors or criminal enterprises operating in collusion with network operators. In addition, individual attackers could leverage this vulnerability to attack individuals using a shared wifi hotspot.

Can attacks be detected?

Unfortunately, no. An attacker exploiting this vulnerability will leave no trace within the webserver logs. As a result it is not possible to determine if vulnerable web sites have been exploited.

 

What should website owners do?

  1. Verify if you are using a vulnerable version of OpenSSL.

  2. Upgrade OpenSSL as soon as possible.

  3. Reissue your security certificates for SSL/TLS. The vulnerability has been present for two years and there is no way to verify if your private key has been compromised as a result of this vulnerability. In addition, a compromised key would be used to silently monitor communications from your users and the attack would be undetectable. It is prudent to assume a breach and proactively reissue security certificates.

  4. Implement Perfect Forward Secrecy. This additional layer of security protects encrypted data from several potential attacks by using a per session random keys. 


What should users do?

Unfortunately there’s not much a user can do. If you have an account at one of the many large websites that may have been affected, you can proactively change your password just to be safe.

 

Which large websites were impacted?

A partial lists of large websites that are impacted can be found here. This list includes websites such as yahoo.com, stackexchange.com, eventbrite.com, okcupid.com, suning.com, and squidoo.com.

 

What other concerns are there with this vulnerability?

The Heartbleed vulnerability allows an attacker to extract information within the webserver’s memory. As a result, a wide variety of information could be at risk including sensitive user or system data. In addition to placing webservers at risk, OpenSSL is also used by a variety of network appliances. These devices could be subjected to attack to extract sensitive information within memory.

 

Additional information

http://heartbleed.com/

https://cve.mitre.org/cgi-bin/cvename.cgi?name=CVE-2014-0160

 

Botnets and the Windows XP End-of-Support

Posted by Wade Williamson on 4/8/14 3:07 AM

Today marks the official end-of-support for Windows XP, which means no more security updates and no more bug fixes for users. And while many organizations are focused on upgrading to more modern operating systems, it's the devices that they have no control over that may end up doing the most damage.

It boils down to this: while an enterprise may do everything right to upgrade and protect its own computers, they don't control the millions of devices still running XP in the wild. Vulnerable devices get compromised, and compromised devices become parts of a botnet. Botnets provide cybercriminals with a platform for everything from DDoS against websites to sophisticated account takeover and fraud. As official support for XP runs out, attackers will naturally rush in to take advantage of those left behind.

Here is a quick breakdown of the numbers to help quantify the significance.


Windows XP Usage Remains High

Industry statistics of operating system usage can vary wildly, and current estimates of XP usage range from 10% to 28% of the total operating systems used worldwide. With an estimated 2 billion PCs in world, that means that somewhere between 200 million to 580 million devices will be vulnerable by definition.

 

Screen_Shot_2014-04-07_at_5.24.45_PM
Source: NetMarketShare 2014


Windows XP Vulnerabilities Remain High

2013 was a busy year for new Windows XP vulnerabilities, with a total of 88 new vulnerabilities reported. For comparison, this is twice as many vulnerabilities as were observed in 2012. The comparative view of Microsoft CVEs shows that while XP is not the leading source of vulnerabilities, it remains a very significant source of new vulnerabilities.



Windows_CVEs
Source: CVEDetails.com


Windows XP Infection Rates Remain High

Microsoft’s latest Security Intelligence Report shows that while the popularity of XP is on par with other Windows operating systems, the infection rate is almost double that of more modern operating systems.


Screen_Shot_2014-04-07_at_1.41.55_PM
Source: Microsoft Security intelligence Report Volume 15

These statistics certainly favor the attackers. Even if enterprises manage the Windows XP end-of-life perfectly, all of the unprotected XP devices in the wild remain. This is why deflecting bots and automated threats has become so important for virtually any organization with an Internet-facing site or application. While a perfectly maintained website may not be vulnerable to a known vulnerability exploit, it must still weather every attempt by a botnet to hijack an account, steal data, or otherwise disrupt the operation of a site. As XP goes out of support, we will likely only see more of those attempts.


Shape at RSA® Conference 2014

Posted by Neal Mueller on 2/5/14 4:07 PM

We are less than 3 weeks away from RSA® Conference 2014, the largest security conference in the world. Whether you're new to the industry or an RSA veteran, you can be sure that 2014 will be a big year for new and exciting technologies, with cybersecurity at the forefront of issues faced by organizations everywhere.

If you would like to meet the Shape team and see the ShapeShifter in San Francisco, we are offering a $75 RSA 2014 expo pass for free. We also have a packed schedule of events planned, listed below.

To schedule a meeting with us at RSA, please send an email to contact@shapesecurity.com or use our contact form.

 


SHAPE AT RSA

RSA® Conference 2014 | February 24-27

Shape Security, Booth #2001, South Hall, Moscone Center, 747 Howard St, San Francisco, CA


FREE EXPO PASSES FROM SHAPE

If you don't already have a pass for RSA, please enjoy this exhibits-only pass with our compliments ($75 value).

Registration: http://bit.ly/1c7WLO4

Code: EC4SHAPE

Deadline to redeem Expo Pass Code: February 21, 2014


SHAPE EVENTS AT RSA

Monday, February 24

06:00 PM – 08:00 PM RSA Expo Welcome Reception at Shape Security Booth #2001

Google CalendariCal

 

Tuesday, February 25

11:00 AM – 06:00 PM Show Hours

02:45 PM – 03:45 PM Book Signing by Allan Friedman's, author of Cybersecurity and Cyberwar, the #1 book on security and encryption, at Shape Security Booth #2001. 

04:00 PM – 06:00 PM RSA Expo Craft Beer at Shape Security Booth #2001

Google CalendariCal

 

Wednesday, February 26

11:00 AM – 06:00 PM Show Hours


Thursday,  February 27

11.00 AM –  3:00 PM Show Hours (RSA Expo Last Day) at Shape Security Booth #2001

Google CalendariCal


See you at RSA.

 

 




 

 

 

Introducing Shape Security

Posted by Sumit Agarwal on 1/21/14 3:31 AM

We founded Shape Security two years ago to tackle one of the hardest problems in web security: how to protect the front door of modern websites. The pervasive rise of malware-infected desktops, botnets and automated attacks threaten the foundation of the new Internet economy. We realized this called for a new approach to security—one that dealt with the reality that we can never truly eliminate malware from the desktop. The security industry has focused largely on preventing malware infections, yet has failed to protect websites against attacks from hundreds of millions of infected consumer computers. Our core strategy is to provide technology to protect websites even when they are serving infected desktops. In military terms, this is called “continuing to operate in a denied and degraded environment.” The ubiquity of malware-compromised desktops creates a degraded environment within which we must still find ways to enable everyday online activities like banking, shopping, socializing, and checking health records.

To accomplish these goals, today we unveil the ShapeShifter, a web security product that protects websites from malware, botnets and scripts. 

appliance

Fig 1. The ShapeShifter appliance
 


Botnets: A Massive Criminal Infrastructure of Infected Computers

Today’s cybercriminals assemble massive networks of infected computers (botnets) to attack websites. Most security products fail to block such attacks because criminals are able to make their botnet-based attacks look like legitimate usage.

These botnets are the backbone for a wide variety of high-volume, automated attacks against websites. Some of these attacks are well-known, such as when banking botnets steal millions of dollars across many online banking sessions, or when bots abuse basic website functionality, crippling websites with traffic that is almost impossible to block. Other attacks are much more subtle but just as damaging. For example, a botnet can slowly test stolen usernames and passwords against an e-commerce site in order to take over millions of accounts and defraud end-users. In fact, the same underlying mechanism is likely how miscreants will turn the the vast trove of over 100 million credit cards stolen from Target into money: they will use automated scripts running on botnets to purchase things like gift cards and other easy-to-sell goods from e-commerce websites.

There are many examples of attacks that use botnets and automated scripts to exploit websites, but they all target the same inherent vulnerability: the fact that most websites are created from publicly viewable common building blocks (HTML, Javascript, and CSS). This allows criminals to treat websites as implicit APIs, meaning the website can be operated by bots and scripts that can perform any action the website supports.

Older security technologies do very little to deal with this problem. Traditional threat signatures and reputation scoring don’t work very well, because most attacks look and feel like normal usage from computers belonging to legitimate human users. Rate limits are easy to avoid by distributing an attack across thousands of IP addresses in a botnet.  The ineffectiveness of these and other traditional techniques led us to seek a solution that could disable attacks from malware, botnets and scripts. So we built the ShapeShifter. 


Introducing the ShapeShifter

The ShapeShifter uses real-time polymorphism as a defense—it dynamically changes website code to break automated attacks. Cybercriminals have long used polymorphism to hide malware by making the malware appear to be different upon every new infection. We harness polymorphism to make the source code of websites appear differently on every page view, which has the effect of defeating malware, botnets and scripts.

All of this happens without creating any user-visible changes. The website looks and feels exactly the same to legitimate users, but the underlying site code (HTML, JavaScript, and CSS) is different on every pageview. Because bots must reference the content is some manner, this never-ending modulation of the site code breaks scripts and deflects attacks. Ultimately, the ShapeShifter aims to stop non-human visitors from executing large-scale automated attacks. This may help break the economics of breaches like the one Target experienced in late 2013, by eliminating the monetization path. 

Many web attacks are only profitable if automated. Criminal enterprises pursue profit: without automated scripts, many of today’s attacks cease to be economically viable. Instead of constantly detecting and reacting to threats, the ShapeShifter targets the economics of web hacking, and makes the preferred approach of criminals—automation, too expensive. This provides broad protection from automated attacks against websites and represents a completely new approach to security.