Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Plundervolt! A new Intel Processor 'undervolting' Vulnerability

Researchers at the University of Birmingham have identified a weakness in Intel’s processors: by 'undervolting' the CPU, Intel’s secure enclave technology becomes vulnerable to attack.
A little bit of undervolting can cause a lot of problems

Modern processors are being pushed to perform faster than ever before – and with this comes increases in heat and power consumption. To manage this, many chip manufacturers allow frequency and voltage to be adjusted as and when needed – known as ‘undervolting’ or ‘overvolting’. This is done through privileged software interfaces, such as a “model-specific register” in Intel Core processors.

An international team of researchers from the University of Birmingham’s School of Computer Science along with researchers from imec-DistriNet (KU Leuven) and Graz University of Technology has been investigating how these interfaces can be exploited in Intel Core processors to undermine the system’s security in a project called Plundervolt.

Results released today and accepted to IEEE Security & Privacy 2020, show how the team was able to corrupt the integrity of Intel SGX on Intel Core processors by controlling the voltage when executing enclave computations – a method used to shield sensitive computations for example from malware. This means that even Intel SGX's memory encryption and authentication technology cannot protect against Plundervolt.

Intel has already responded to the security threat by supplying a microcode update to mitigate Plundervolt. Further details are of the vulnerability are expected to be released under CVE-2019-11157.

Further Information on Plundervolt
David Oswald, Senior Lecturer in Computer Security at the University of Birmingham, says: “To our knowledge, the weakness we’ve uncovered will only affect the security of SGX enclaves. Intel responded swiftly to the threat and users can protect their SGX enclaves by downloading Intel’s update.”

Monday, 9 December 2019

MoJ Reports Over 400% Increase in Lost Laptops in Three Years

Apricorn, the leading manufacturer of software-free, 256-bit AES XTS hardware-encrypted USB drives, today announced new findings from Freedom of Information (FoI) requests submitted to five government departments into the security of devices held by public sector employees. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) lost 354 mobile phones, PCs, laptops and tablet devices in FY 2018/19 compared with 229 between 2017/2018. The number of lost laptops alone, has risen from 45 in 2016/17 to 101 in 2017/18 and up to 201 in 2018/2019, an increase of more than 400% in three years.

FoI requests were submitted to the MoJ, Ministry of Education (MoE), Ministry of Defence (MoD), NHS Digital and NHS England during September-November 2019. Of the five government departments contacted, three out of five government departments responded. The MoE also reported 91 devices lost or stolen in 2019, whilst NHS Digital have lost 35 to date in 2019.

“Whilst devices are easily misplaced, it’s concerning to see such vast numbers being lost and stolen, particularly given the fact these are government departments ultimately responsible for volumes of sensitive public data. A lost device can pose a significant risk to the government if it is not properly protected” said Jon Fielding, Managing Director, EMEA, Apricorn.

When questioned about the use of USB and other storage devices in the workplace, or when working remotely, all three departments confirmed that employees use USB devices. The MoJ added that all USB ports on laptops and desktops are restricted and can only be used when individuals have requested that the ports be unlocked. Each of the responding departments noted that all USB and storage devices are encrypted.

“Modern-day mobile working is designed to support the flexibility and efficiency increasingly required in 21st-century roles, but this also means that sensitive data is often stored on mobile and laptop devices. If a device that is not secured is lost and ends up in the wrong hands, the repercussions can be hugely detrimental, even more so with GDPR now in full force”, noted Fielding.

In a survey by Apricorn earlier this year, roughly a third (32%) of respondents said that their organisation had already experienced a data loss or breach as a direct result of mobile working and to add to this, 30% of respondents from organisations where the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applies were concerned that mobile working is an area that will most likely cause them to be non-compliant.

All responding sectors did confirm that they have security policies in place that cover all mobile, storage and laptop devices.

“Knowing that these government departments have policies in place to protect sensitive data is somewhat reassuring, however, they need to be doing a lot more to avoid the risk of a data breach resulting from these lost devices. Corporately approved, hardware encrypted storage devices should be provided as standard. These should be whitelisted on the IT infrastructure, blocking access to all non-approved media. Should a device then ‘go missing’ the data cannot be accessed or used inappropriately” Fielding added.

About the FoI Requests
The research was conducted through Freedom of Information requests submitted through Whatdotheyknow.com. The requests, submitted between September and November 2019, along with the successful responses can be found at: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/list/successful.

Friday, 6 December 2019

Accelerated Digital Innovation to impact the Cybersecurity Threat Landscape in 2020

Its December and the Christmas lights are going up, so it can't be too early for cyber predictions for 2020.   With this in mind, Richard Starnes, Chief Security Strategist at Capgemini, sets out what the priorities will be for businesses in 2020 and beyond.


Accelerated digital innovation is a double-edged sword that will continue to hang over the cybersecurity threat landscape in 2020.  As businesses rapidly chase digital transformation and pursue the latest advancements in 5G, cloud and IoT, they do so at the risk of exposing more of their operations to cyber-attacks. These technologies have caused an explosion in the number of end-user devices, user interfaces, networks and data; the sheer scale of which is a headache for any cybersecurity professional. 

In order to aggressively turn the tide next year, cyber analysts can no longer avoid AI adoption or ignore the impact of 5G. 

AI Adoption
Hackers are already using AI to launch sophisticated attacks – for example AI algorithms can send ‘spear phishing’ tweets six times faster than a human and with twice the success. In 2020, by deploying intelligent, predictive systems, cyber analysts will be better positioned to anticipate the exponentially growing number of threats.

The Convergence of IT and OT
At the core of the Industry 4.0 trend is the convergence of operations technology (OT) and information technology (IT) networks, i.e. the convergence of industrial and traditional corporate IT systems. While this union of these formerly disparate networks certainly facilitates data exchange and enables organisations to improve business efficiency, it also comes with a host of new security concerns.

5G and IoT
While 5G promises faster speed and bandwidth for connections, it also comes with a new generation of security threats. 5G is expected to make more IoT services possible and the framework will no longer neatly fit into the traditional security models optimised for 4G. Security experts warn of threats related to the 5G-led IoT growth anticipated in 2020, such as a heightened risk of Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks.

Death of the Password
2020 could see organisations adopt new and sophisticated technologies to combat risks associated with weak passwords.

More Power to Data Protection Regulations
In 2020, regulations like GDPR, The California Consumer Privacy Act and PSD2 are expected to get harsher. We might also see announcements of codes of conduct specific to different business sectors like hospitality, aviation etc. All this will put pressure on businesses to make data security a top consideration at the board level.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Cyber Security Roundup for November 2019

In recent years political motivated cyber-attacks during elections has become an expected norm, so it was no real surprise when the Labour Party reported it was hit with two DDoS cyber-attacks in the run up to the UK general election, which was well publicised by the media. However, what wasn't well publicised was both the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats Party were also hit with cyber attacks. These weren't nation-state orchestrated cyberattacks either, black hat hacking group Lizard Squad, well known for their high profile DDoS attacks, are believed to be the culprits.

The launch of Disney Plus didn’t go exactly to plan, without hours of the streaming service going live, compromised Disney Plus user accounts credentials were being sold on the black market for as little as £2.30 a pop. Disney suggested hackers had obtained customer credentials from previously leaked identical credentials, as used by their customers on other compromised or insecure websites, and from keylogging malware. It's worth noting Disney Plus doesn’t use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), implementing MFA to protect their customer's accounts would have prevented the vast majority of Disney Plus account compromises in my view.

Trend Micro reported an insider stolen around 100,000 customer accounts details, with the data used by cyber con artists to make convincing scam phone calls impersonating their company to a number of their customers. In a statement, Trend Micro said it determined the attack was an inside job, an employee used fraudulent methods to access its customer support databases, retrieved the data and then sold it on. “Our open investigation has confirmed that this was not an external hack, but rather the work of a malicious internal source that engaged in a premeditated infiltration scheme to bypass our sophisticated controls,” the company said. The employee behind it was identified and fired, Trend Micro said it is working with law enforcement in an on-going investigation.

Security researchers found 4 billion records from 1.2 billion people on an unsecured Elasticsearch server. The personal information includes names, home and mobile phone numbers and email addresses and what may be information scraped from LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media sources.

T-Mobile reported a data breach of some their prepaid account customers. A T-Mobile spokesman said “Our cybersecurity team discovered and shut down malicious, unauthorized access to some information related to your T-Mobile prepaid wireless account. We promptly reported this to authorities”.

A French hospital was hit hard by a ransomware attack which has caused "very long delays in care". According to a spokesman, medical staff at Rouen University Hospital Centre (CHU) abandon PCs as ransomware had made them unusable, instead, staff returned to the "old-fashioned method of paper and pencil". No details about the strain of the ransomware have been released.

Microsoft released patches for 74 vulnerabilities in November, including 13 which are rated as critical. One of which was for a vulnerability with Internet Explorer (CVE-2019-1429), an ActiveX vulnerability known to be actively exploited by visiting malicious websites.

It was a busy month for blog articles and threat intelligence news, all are linked below.

BLOG
NEWS
VULNERABILITIES AND SECURITY UPDATES
AWARENESS, EDUCATION AND THREAT INTELLIGENCE HUAWEI NEWS AND THREAT INTELLIGENCE

Monday, 2 December 2019

Three Consequences of a Misaddressed Email

Article by Andrea Babbs, UK General Manager, VIPRE SafeSend

With the number and sophistication of cyber attacks increasing significantly, organisations have had to become aware and adapt to new and evolving digital threats. Yet, many would still consider the simple error of sending an email to the wrong contact trivial, at most embarrassing, but not of concern when it comes to data security. However, misaddressed emails have far-reaching consequences that can seriously impact an organisation, especially in highly regulated industries such as healthcare and finance. From fines to data breaches, what are the potential ramifications of sending an email to the wrong address?

Reputational and Financial Damage

While accidentally dialling a wrong number can be a little embarrassing, the same cannot be said for sending an email to the wrong contact. You could try to correct the error with a follow-up email to apologise and request that the recipient delete the message, but even if you’ve spotted the error it’s often too late. Moreover, the misuse of CC and BCC functions could expose your entire contact database, potentially giving your competitors an opportunity to lure your customers or employees away, or worse – exposing customer emails to potential hackers.

BitMEX, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency trading platforms accidentally leaked thousands of private customer email addresses when they sent out a mass mailshot without using the BCC function. While the company maintains that customer privacy remains a top priority, its customers were left wondering how they could trust BitMEX with huge personal assets in the aftermath of this data protection failure.

A similar incident in 2018 led to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) being fined £200,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for failing to protect the identity of possible victims of child abuse after a human error accidentally exposed victim identities to third parties, when they included their email addresses in the ‘To’ rather than ‘BCC’ field. In the age of increased data protection regulations, this example demonstrates just how seriously the ICO takes these types of data breaches. The pain of embarrassment from sending an email to the wrong contact pales in comparison to the business pain from financial penalties.

Intellectual Property Loss
Should confidential corporate information fall into the wrong hands, the consequences could be devastating. Crucial company information such as trade secrets or blueprints of an unpatented new product leaking into the public domain could easily be intercepted by the competition, resulting in a lost competitive advantage.

All it takes is a simple missed or added character in the email address, autocorrect taking over, or simply pressing send too soon and the information that was once confidential is sitting in the wrong inbox. It could be that of an unknown individual, competitor, or even a cyber-criminal.

In 2018, Commonwealth Bank staff inadvertently sent 651 emails to an overseas company as they forgot to include ‘.au’ at the end of the domain that should have read ‘cba.com.au’. This data leak occurred over a long period without anyone noticing, so could have potentially exposed sensitive company data or private customer information to competitors, putting the company at serious risk. However, luckily on this occasion, the company confirmed that no customer data had been compromised.

Data Breach
The ICO found that misaddressed emails are the largest source of data loss for organisations – over 269 billion emails are sent around the world each day. Gone are the days when employees operated from a single office-based computer, the modern workforce is now working from potentially several locations across a number of devices. Combine this with increasing pressures on staff juggling deadlines and deliverables to perform better and faster, it’s no surprise that most don’t spend time verifying the accuracy of the email address they are about to send confidential information to – no organisation is immune to human error.

Hackers can capitalise on this complacent email culture by cleverly disguising emails to look like they are coming from inside the company, but actually, have a similar spoofed domain name that the employee would probably fail to spot on a first glance. Potentially opening the organisation up to a devastating hacking, malware or ransomware attack and a clear reason why Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams continue to be popular with cybercriminals.

Conclusion

The ramifications of misaddressed emails go far beyond just an embarrassing mishap – the threat that comes from accidental data leakage can be just as damaging as the external threat of cybercrime, especially as these leaks often go unnoticed for a period of time. Businesses need a clear strategy to address the issue of misaddressed emails and mitigate the associated risks to remain compliant and secure. What is required is a tool that prompts users for a double-check of their email based on set parameters, who it is being sent to, the contents and attachments. But this isn’t about adding time or delay to employees that are already under pressure – it’s about increasing awareness and improving email culture where mistakes can so easily be made.