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 News flash: if you're pwned, you're pwned {Dark Reading}

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Pattern_Juggled
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PostSubject: News flash: if you're pwned, you're pwned {Dark Reading}   Wed Aug 15, 2012 12:21 pm

Quote :
Airport VPN Targeted By Citadel Trojan
Attackers target international airport's employees for their credentials to internal applications

Aug 14, 2012 | By Kelly Jackson Higgins


A popular misconception is that virtual private networks (VPNs) are foolproof and impenetrable ways for users to securely access their applications, but a newly discovered attack targeting a major international airport's VPN users demonstrates just how vulnerable these connections can be.

Researchers at Trusteer more than a week ago discovered a variant of the Citadel Trojan -- typically associated with stealing financial credentials -- targeting a major international airport's employees accessing their enterprise applications via the organization's VPN. The airport, which employs more than 15,000 people, has taken down its VPN site in response to the attack, and an investigation is under way.

"The configuration was not just targeting VPN access [to the airport's network], but a specific type of authentication" being used there, says Oren Kedem, director of product marketing for Trusteer, which is not naming the airport that was attacked.

"Somebody took the time to [set up] this attack," he says.

The airport is dropping its existing multifactor authentication method that the attackers were able to cheat, and looking at even stronger authentication methods. They had employed multifactor authentication that combined a PIN, CAPTCHA for selecting a known code by the user, and a one-time password generator.

Kedem says the use of Citadel in this manner rather than specifically for financial information-stealing was "unique."

The attackers used form-grabbing and screen capture methods to pilfer the victim user's username, password, and one-time passcode generated by the airport's authentication system. "The first part of the attack uses form grabbing to steal the username and password entered into the login screen. The second part of the attack relies on screen capture capabilities to take a snapshot of the image presented to the victim by the strong authentication product," Trusteer's Amit Klein wrote in a blog post today.

It's unclear just how the users were initially infected with the screen-grabbing malware, which targets Windows systems and kicks in when the user logs in and authenticates. "Once they have the credentials, they can use any computer anywhere in the world to access [the airport's] VPN," Kedem says. "Once they are in, they could go into other systems and get lists of employees."

Trusteer doesn't know who the attackers are and what they are after, but Kedem says they could be trying to gather intelligence on airport security processes, or even the border customs service.

He says the attack appears to be very targeted, and the bottom line is that VPN connections are not safe. "Since we've published this blog, we've had a lot of questions, such as if you added some additional tokens or SMS or some form of device fingerprinting, would that help here? The short answer is 'no,'" he says. "As long as an endpoint is infected, the VPN is simply not secure."
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PostSubject: Re: News flash: if you're pwned, you're pwned {Dark Reading}   Wed Aug 15, 2012 12:29 pm

Normally, Dark Reading is a reasonably competent resource... but I find this article to be pretty disappointing. If you read it closely, here's what's going on: someone's slotting malware/Trojans onto employee computers and using that access to jump up a VPN into the corporate network. However, the article writes this up as if it's some sort of VPN vulnerability. To wit:

Quote :
A popular misconception is that virtual private networks (VPNs) are foolproof and impenetrable ways for users to securely access their applications, but a newly discovered attack targeting a major international airport's VPN users demonstrates just how vulnerable these connections can be.

When in fact, later in the article the reality is acknowledged:

Quote :
"As long as an endpoint is infected, the VPN is simply not secure."

..to which the only cogent reply is really: "duh - of course!" So what you're saying is that if someone totally and absolutely pwns your computer then anything you do with that computer is compromised? Yeah, that's pretty much true. Is this not something folks understand, really?

I suppose it's possible that there's a form of magick-thinking that assumes that a VPN can magickally protect against having an endpoint (i.e. the customer's PC/smartphone/whatever) infected with serious malware. It can't. If you are pwned on the client-side then there's nothing a VPN - or any encryption, actually - can do to protect you from whatever your attacker wants to do.

Folks remember the FBI Mafia case from back in the 1990s, the PGP one... right? The goons couldn't crack PGP - math works - so they did a "sneak 'n peek" and installed a keystroke logger (a physical one, on the keyboard) on the target's PC. Then they came in a few weeks later and took it out. The logger, of course, logged all keystrokes... including the passphrase used to log into PGP. Note the same attack works against TrueCrypt or any other FDE application - by definition. This isn't a "flaw" in encryption - it's a reality of upstream vulns.

Anyway, this Dark Reading article isn't actually about VPNs or anything related to network security. It's just a reminder that if you get malware on your PC (or phone, or whatever), then everything you do is exposed. Everything. I suppose folks do tend to forget about that, so it's worth reinforcing. That's also, incidentally, why the market for OS or client software zero-days is so robust: that's the weakest link.

Forewarned is prepared... eh?

Pt_Jd
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