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New security flaws discovered in JBoss application server

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November 19, 2013

System admins that are given the task of managing JBoss application servers are advised to get busy hardening their systems, since a sudden increase in the number of attacks against the system has been reported by internet security firm Imperva.

The JBoss attacks are based on an exploit that was published last month by Andrea Micalizzi. The exploit code gave remote attackers arbitrary code execution access to HP's PCM Plus and Application Lifecycle Management systems without authentication.

The attack also works against McAfee, Symantec and IBM systems using JBoss 4.x and 5.x. Imperva's advisory states that the compay is now seeing an increasing amount of attack traffic using the exploit.

What's surprising, Imperva says, is that while the Micalizzi exploit code only hit the waiting world this year, the security vulnerability has been known since 2011.

The attack works by exploiting the HTTP invoker service in JBoss, used to provide access to Enterprise Java Beans. Imperva says the Micalizzi exploit “abuses invoker/EJBInvokerServlet to deploy a web shell code that enables the hacker to execute arbitrary Operating System commands on the victim sever’s system.”

In the HP environment, this would provide access to the PCM Plus and ALM management consoles. There are currently about 23,000 servers exposing their JBoss management interfaces to the Internet, up from 7,000 in 2011, Imperva says, with several infections spotted in the wild.

Last month, HP said that it updated its JBoss implementation, although we're still waiting for the details. We should have them soon, the company said.

In other internet security news

Internet security agency FireEye has identified specific links between 11 APT campaigns, including the utilization of the same malware tools, shared code, binaries with the same timestamps, and signed binaries with the same digital certificates.

To be sure, state-sponsored hackers are looking less like traditional hacking crews and more like well organized military units as they share infrastructure and adopt strict hierarchies, according to new data released late yesterday.

The 11 APT campaigns targeted a wide range of various industries and appeared unrelated at first, until cyber-sleuths uncovered digital evidence that clearly linked the attacks.

The shared development and logistics operation used to support several APT actors in distinct but overlapping campaigns points to the role of a digital quartermaster.

The role of this cyber organiser is different from that occupied by exploit brokers (firms and/or individuals who discovered or re-sell security vulnerabilities and exploits), according to FireEye.

"The main difference between the quartermaster that we identified and exploit-brokers is that we have no evidence to show the quartermaster also develops exploits for known or unknown vulnerabilities," said Ned Moran, a senior malware researcher from FireEye.

"We know specifically that the quartermaster develops custom remote access tools but we don't know if they also develop and supply operators with exploits," Moran added.

The emergence of a common development and logistics centre means that attackers are adopting an industrialized approach to cyber-spying, something that defenders of trade secrets and other digital assets are facing more organized and capable adversaries.

The mission of the digital quartermaster is to supply and maintain malware tools and weapons to support cyber espionage. The digital quartermaster also might be a cyber arms dealer, a common supplier of tools used to conduct attacks and establish footholds in targeted systems.

But common features in the campaigns tied together by FireEye suggest it's more likely that we're dealing with someone who works exclusively with Chinese hacking groups, rather than the hi-tech equivalent of an arms dealer.

"Based on the Chinese language user interface of the 9002 Builder, the tool used to build the 9002 remote access Trojans, we believe the digital quartermaster spoke or read Chinese," Moran added.

"It's also possible that the operators of the eleven different campaigns also spoke or read Chinese," he said. FireEye's report revealing the emergence of malware cyber arms dealer, entitled Supply Chain Analysis: From Quartermaster to Sunshop, can be found on their website.

In other internet security news

Adobe said earlier this morning that it has released a new series of scheduled security patches to better address critical issues in its Flash Player and ColdFusion software.

Adobe says the security updates are necessary, and the company will tackle a pair of additional security vulnerabilities in the two platforms which could be exploited remotely by attackers.

Adobe has had more than its share of security issues in 2013. For Flash Player, the update applies to Windows, Linux and OS X systems, and solves the issue of remote code execution flaws.

Adobe warns that if targeted, the security holes could allow a potential attacker to execute attack code on a targeted system without requiring any user notification or interaction.

To install the update, Adobe recommends that users update to the latest versions of Adobe Flash Player and, if necessary, Adobe AIR. The company noted that users running Google Chrome and Internet Explorer on Windows 8 and 8.1 will automatically receive the update when they update to the latest versions of their browser.

Additionally, Adobe has released an update to its Cold Fusion application server. The security patch addresses a security hole in the platform which could potentially allow an attacker to remotely gain read access to a targeted system, as well as another vulnerability which could potentially allow an attacker to perform a cross-site-scripting attack.

Adobe added that the security update needs to be installed for all systems running Windows, Mac OS X and Linux Cold Fusion versions 10, 9.0.2 and 9.0.1.

ColdFusion was among the platforms affected in mid-October when a major security breach on Adobe's systems lead to the mass loss of user account credentials.

An Adobe spokesperson noted that yesterday's update addresses an entirely different set of security risks which have yet to be targeted by attackers in the field.

In other internet security news

The IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) has vowed that the U.S. NSA won't be allowed to get away with its questionable surveillance of the internet any more, as soon as about 1,100 engineers of its group can agree on a PRISM-proofing scenario.

The IETF met this week in Canada and the communiqué that it issued makes it very clear that the internet standards body is very angry about the way that the NSA carries out its online surveillance and won't allow it anymore.

“Several discussions over the past few months, including many in the more than 100 working group sessions this week, are carefully and systematically reviewing internet security and exploring several ways to improve privacy and other aspects of web security for different applications," IETF chair Jari Arkko said in the communiqué.

Stephen Farrell, an IETF security area director, added “There are many challenges isolating the specific areas of attack that IETF protocols can mitigate” but added that “all of the working groups that considered the topic have started planning to address the threat using IETF tools that can efficiently address several aspects of the issue."

Notes taken from the Vancouver meetings considered a few ways to harden the internet, including transport layer security (TLS) and “possibilities to get the TLS-secured versions more widely and consistently deployed.”

“Plans for upgrading the handling of mail, instant messaging and voice-over-IP protocols, in each case with a view to improving the resistance of the deployed base to pervasive monitoring,” also received some consideration, as did opportunistic encryption of multipath TCP/IP protocol.

So exactly what will emerge, and when if any, isn't known at this time. But the NSA can consider itself warned-- the internet standards committee has decided to make their lives very difficult for the next ten to fifteen years. The very popular (or unpopular, depending which side you're on) NSA leaker Edward Snowden must be happy.

In other internet security news

Whatever you may have heard or read about Bitcoin, whether good or bad, some observers still view it as a high-quality intellectual achievement.

So much so that now, a group of researchers from Johns Hopkins University are suggesting that its cryptographic implementation could actually help solve the certificate issue for ordinary users.

Apart from whether or not they could be universally compromised by it, an issue with Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) certificates is that they depend on users' trust of the certification authority (CA) that sits at the top of the trust hierarchy.

But as we know from several incidents such as the DigiNotar hacking attempt, any loss of trust is fatal to a CA, and Bitcoin is no different.

Bitcoin did away with its centralized trust system in favor of its own cryptographic model, relying instead on a distributed transaction ledger.

In that paper, published at the International Association for Cryptologic Research, researchers Christina Garman, Matthew Green and Ian Miers of Johns Hopkins University's Department of Computer Science propose a similar model in which anonymous credentials could exist without a centralized CA acting as a trusted issuer.

Their concept is that the distributed, public, append-only ledger model used by Bitcoin could be used “by individual nodes, to make assertions about identity in a fully anonymous fashion” – while doing away with CAs as a single point of failure.

“Using this decentralized ledger and standard cryptographic primitives, we propose and provide a proof of security for a basic anonymous credential system that allows users to make flexible identity assertions with strong privacy guarantees,” they write.

Key components of the system are:

  • A Decentralized Direct Anonymous Attestation
  • Anonymous resource management in ad hoc networks
  • Credential auditability
  • And while the researchers present an implementation, they note that this work (still very much pre-Alpha) needs further development in the security of the transaction ledger, and in the efficiency of the algorithms.

    In other internet security news

    Do you remember that Adobe security breach in early October that leaked the account records of some 3 million customers? Well that number is totally wrong-- the real number was at least 38.3 million and still counting, news have emerged in the last few days.

    Three weeks ago, Adobe warned of sophisticated attacks on its network in which hackers gained access to data for what was then believed to be about 2.9 million customers. That data included names, encrypted credit or debit card numbers, expiration dates, and other sensitive and personal information relating to customer orders.

    Additionally, Adobe said that hackers managed to abscond with source code for numerous Adobe products as well. But in a blog post yesterday, investigative journalist Brian Krebs said that those early estimates were far too low, and that the actual list of accounts that had been compromised numbered in the tens of millions.

    How does Krebs know? Because he's seen the list. Over the weekend, he says posted a 3.8 GB file called "users.tar.gz" that contained more than 150 million user and password pairs that had apparently been lifted from Adobe's system.

    Adobe spokeswoman Heather Edell has since confirmed the breach to Krebs, adding that the company has contacted the owners of the affected accounts and has reset the passwords for all of the Adobe IDs that it believes were involved in the security breach.

    "But so far, our own investigation has confirmed that the attackers obtained access to Adobe IDs and (that were at the time valid) encrypted passwords for approximately 38 million active users," Edell said. "We are still in the process of investigating the number of inactive, invalid and test accounts involved in the incident."

    Edell also said that the attackers were able to gain full access to at least some of the source code for Adobe Photoshop. Krebs was able to confirm that as well, since a second 2.56 GB file posted to contained what appeared to be new Photoshop code.

    Source code for Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Reader and the ColdFusion web application server software is also believed to have leaked during the incident, but at least some of this data appears to have been password protected and may not be readily accessible, at least it is hoped by Adobe.

    Adobe has offered one year's worth of free credit monitoring by Experian to any customer whose account was compromised in the attack.

    But as Krebs points out, this kind of service isn't guaranteed to spot all of the forms of identity theft that might arise from such incidents, so Adobe customers are advised to place fraud alerts on their accounts and monitor their credit reports very closely. In all honesty, that sounds like good advice.

    In other internet security news

    Internet security researchers sais today they have discovered a hidden backdoor in all wireless routers made by Chinese hardware maker Tenda.

    Craig Heffner, the same security researcher who uncovered a backdoor in routers from D-link, discovered the latest issue. He uncovered the functionality, which ships with Tenda's products, after unpacking firmware updates and locating what he described as suspicious code at the outset.

    Hackers can take over the router and execute commands by sending a UDP packet with a special string, The Hacker News claims.

    "The backdoor only listens on the LAN, thus it is not exploitable from the WAN. But it is exploitable over the wireless network, which has WPS enabled by default with no brute force rate limiting,” Heffner explains in a detailed advisory.

    “My new ReaverPro box made relatively short work of cracking WPS,” he claimed, “providing access to the WLAN and a subsequent root shell on the router, and that's very bad.”

    Heffner also says that the backdoor exists on Tenda’s W302-R and W330-R router models as as well as re-branded models, such as the Medialink MWN-WAPR150N.

    "They all use the same 'w302r_mfg' magic packet string," he notes. Follow-up work by other internet security researchers also uncovered a more comprehensive list of potentially backdoored products.

    Source code for the GoAhead web server used in Tenda products has been made available on GitHub. We've asked Tenda for its reaction but have yet to hear back from the company. We'll update this story as and when we hear more.

    If you need reliability when it comes to SMTP servers, get the best, get Port 587.

    Get a powerful Linux Dual-Core dedicated server for less than $2.67 a day!

    Share on Twitter.

    Source: Imperva Security.

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