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Hackers release large chunks of data from banks, government agencies

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September 2, 2012

A prominent group of hackers has released large quantities of sensitive data from banks, government agencies and consulting firms and has promised even more data leaks in the near future.

"Team Ghost Shell's final form of protest this summer against the banks, politicians and for all the fallen hackers this year," wrote in a Pastebin post titled "Project Hell Fire" this weekend.

"With the help of it's various divisions, MidasBank & the newest branch, OphiusLab. One million accounts/records leaked. We are also letting everyone know that more releases, collaborations with Anonymous and others, plus two more projects are still scheduled for this fall and winter. It's only the beginning," wrote the site's blog post.

It's still unclear how much data was published and from how many organizations, but security firm Imperva analyzed the data and said some of the breached databases contain more than 30,000 records.

"It's hard to say with precision just how much data was stolen, but you can say this is a pretty significant breach," said Rob Rachwald, director of security strategy at Imperva.

Whoever stole that data mostly used SQL injection attacks, common attacks that are easy for Web sites to protect against.

The data includes administrator login information, usernames and passwords and files from content management systems, although it didn't appear to have much sensitive information in those files, Imperva said.

"There was some vulnerability with a content management system that they were able to exploit across multiple locations and download file upon file upon file," Rachwald said.

Team GhostShell also offered six billion databases from a Chinese mainframe that it claims contained technology from China, Japan and possibly other countries. More than 100 billion databases from a mainframe at an unnamed U.S. stock exchange mainframe and access points to three or four Department of Homeland Security servers were also offered.

"The sensitive information isn't that great but it may be good for street cred," the post says. The leak, like so many others, highlights some of the amazingly lax password practices people and companies follow. "The passwords show the usual '123456' common issue," the Imperva blog post said.

"But one law firm implemented an interesting password system where the root password, 'law321' was pre-pended with your initials. So if your name is Mickey Mouse, your password is 'mmlaw321'. Worse, the law firm didn't require users to regularly change the password either."

In other internet security news

A critical Java security vulnerability that first appeared earlier this week actually leverages two zero-day security holes within Java itself. This most recent revelation comes as it was discovered that Oracle knew about the security flaw as early as April of this year.

To be sure, Windows, Mac OS X and Linux desktops running multiple browser platforms are all vulnerable to outside attacks. Exploit code already in circulation first uses a security hole to gain access the restricted sun.awt.SunToolkit class before a second flaw is used to disable the Security Manager, and ultimately to break out of the Java sandbox.

Unpatched vulnerabilities to the so-called Gondvv exploit were introduced in Java 7.0, released in July 2011. All versions of Java 7 are also vulnerable but older Java 6 versions appear to be immune, at least for now.

This means that Mac OS X users who follow best practices and apply the latest version of software applications are actually more at risk of attacks.

As a result of these two security vulnerabilities in the most recent version of Java, potential hackers and attackers can spread viruses and malware simply by tricking users into visiting booby-trapped websites.

Worse, malicious code can be loaded onto vulnerable computers without user interaction. The zero-day exploit has already made its way into the infamous Blackhole Exploit kit.

"Due to the Java zero-day, Black Hole exploitation success rates increased from 10 percent to 25 percent," says Aviv Raff, chief technology officer at Seculert.

Modules to test for the exploit have also been folded into Metasploit, the widely used penetration testing framework. In addition, the Java exploit has already appeared in targeted attacks originating on Chinese-hosted domains, security researchers at FireEye warn. AlienVault has also spotted examples of active malfeasance.

Oracle, which has maintained the Java code since it acquired Sun Microsystems in 2007, has yet to issue an advisory note on the issue. In the absence of a security patch for a potent and already abused vulnerability, the best advice is to disable Java in all web browsers, the most obvious attack route.

Instructions on how to do this can be found in an advisory by the U.S. CERT and on F-Secure's website. Sean Sullivan, a security adviser at F-Secure, commented: "The perpetual vulnerability machine that is Oracle's Java Runtime Environment (JRE) has yet another highly exploitable vulnerability (Bulletin CVE-2012-4681). And it's being commoditised at this very moment. There being no latest patch against this, the only solution is to totally disable Java."

When you disable Java in Chrome, it's still possible to enable the technology for a specific site that users trust. This is a useful exception for banking sites and the like that require the use of Java. The site exception controls built into Chrome are explained in a Google knowledge base article on its site.

In other internet security news

We're starting to get some reports that a recent release of an app from Facebook may violate user's rights. Facebook is accused by a consumer lobby group of breaching Germany's privacy laws with the launch of its App Center last week.

To be sure, Facebook has been threatened with possible legal action if it fails to respond to the Federation of German Consumer Organizations within the next seven days.

The lobby group says that Facebook was farming out customer information without informing its users that their data was being used, according to the Associated Press.

Facebook has until September 4th, 2012, to resolve this matter, the group said, or else it could face potential litigation.

Data protection officials in Germany have been strong-arming Facebook for quite some time now. Most recently, Hamburg's data protection commissioner Dr Johannes Caspar confirmed earlier this month that his office had reopened its probe of Facebook's facial recognition technology, complaining that the network was building a massive biometric database of its users without obtaining permission.

The investigation had been suspended to allow time for the Irish data protection authority to conclude its talks with Facebook, whose European office is headquartered in Ireland.

Nevertheless, that probe had included an audit of the company's data policy. Come early autumn, the Irish district prosecutor will rule on whether Facebook should face legal action under existing EU privacy laws.

We spoke to a Facebook spokeswoman in Germany, who declined to comment, saying only that the company is "currently looking into the letter." We will update you when and if we hear more from Facebook.

On top of these privacy issues, Facebook has some serious security issues with its site. Cim Stordal, a fifteen years old teenager has discovered some critical security flaws in Facebook's programming code. When he's not in school, Cim spends part of his time playing the Team Fortress video game, shooting his Airsoft pellet gun, and working in a fish store in Bergen, Norway.

Stordal started looking for security vulnerabilities in software when he was just 14 years old last year. "I have always loved being on the PC and I already was programming some C++," he said. "So I wanted to do something new and constructive, so I searched around and learned Basic programming."

In other internet security news

Adobe Systems said late yesterday that is has released six additional security patches for new vulnerabilities discovered in its software affecting its Flash multimedia application and AIR runtime, five of which could allow for remote code execution on a computer system.

Those new patches are on top of last Tuesday's security fixes that were issued as part of Microsoft's Windows regular Patch Tuesday program.

The updates affect Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Google Chrome and all users of Android version 2.x, 3.x and 4.x mobile devices, Adobe said in its security advisory.

The bug fixes address four memory corruption vulnerabilities-- CVE-2012-4163, CVE-2012-4164, CVE-2012-4165 and CVE-2012-4166 and an integer overflow vulnerability, bulletin number CVE-2012-4167.

Also repaired is a cross-domain information leak vulnerability, bulletin CVE-2012-4168. "These security updates directly address various vulnerabilities that could cause a system crash and potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system," Adobe said in its advisory.

Windows and Apple users should use Flash version 11.4.402.265, and the up-to-date Linux version is For Adobe's Air runtime, which allows internet applications to perform various functions outside of a Web browser, Windows and Apple users should move to version

Last week, Adobe pushed out a fix for Flash for CVE-2012-1535, which the company said had been used in limited attacks. The issue can cause Flash to crash, or worse, allow an attacker to take over the complete control of a computer.

The attack is initiated by sending targets a malicious Word document, which contains an exploit targeting the ActiveX version of Flash for the Internet Explorer browser, Adobe said.

Security vendor Symantec wrote on Tuesday that it had detected and blocked more than 1,300 attacks since August 10 using the security vulnerability.

In other internet security news

Controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange now has a bit of help, but not much. He’s actually surrounded by a very hostile British government threatening to storm the embassy in Ecuador where he’s currently being held.

Until it's revoked, Ecuador’s government has granted Assange political asylum for now and is calling the Brits’ bluff, pointedly reminding them they’re not a colony and haven’t been for quite a long time.

If he does manage to escape and get his feet safely planted on Ecuadoran soil, Assange has a fair chance of being able to eventually return to his home in Australia, where he has a rather strong support base there.

For now, the British government is unlikely to follow through on its threatened raid. That would set a dangerous precedent. Ernest Canning, writing as a guest on The Brad Blog, explained the danger the threat exposes: “How ironic! Only last year, both the U.S. and the U.N. Security Council formally condemned an Iranian attack on the British embassy in Tehran, drawing a comparison to the widely condemned 1979 Iranian assault on the U.S. embassy in Tehran and the ensuing hostage crisis."

“Yet, now we see the British government threatening to engage in the very same lawless behavior in order to seize an individual who has never been formally charged with a crime. To the contrary, as Guardian writer Mark Weisbrot correctly notes, Sweden has sought extradition solely to question Assange–an extradition which former Stockholm prosecutor Sve-Erik Alhem described as ‘unreasonable and unprofessional, as well as unfair and disproportionate’ because Assange has always been available to answer questions in the U.K.,” writes Canning.

The Brits seem to have Assange locked down, but they still don’t dare make a move to get him out. Escaping through their net, however, would seem to be next to impossible. It’s a good old fashioned Ecuadoran stand-off.

As grim a picture as this may be, this is actually an improvement of circumstances for Assange. Although he has many supporters, especially among free speech proponents, until now he’s had no sovereign entity behind him. Yes, he’s still in turmoil, but at least now he has the Ecuadorans watching his back.

The granting of asylum was a bold move on Ecuador’s part. The U.S. State Department might want to take note of the fact that Ecuador is an American nation not led by Castro, Chavez or any of the other leaders of the western hemisphere the U.S. likes to demonize for not buying the American plan.

Outside of Europe and Israel, there hasn’t been a groundswell of support for the U.S. position against Assange and WikiLeaks, least of all from Ecuador’s South American neighbors who understand from experience that the U.S.’s anger is primarily born out of embarrassment.

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Source: Team Ghost Shell.

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