Tag Archives: Information Security

Malware Analysis and Incident Response Tools for the Frugal and Lazy

I confess: I covet and hoard security tools. But I’m also frugal and impatient, so often look for something free and/or quick. And yes, that frequently means using an online, hosted service. Before the security-purists get their panties in a wad, I’d like to offer this disclaimer: you may mock me for taking shortcuts, but it’s not always about having the best tool, but the one that gets the job done.

Here’s a list that I frequently update. You’ll notice that sometimes I have the same tool in more than one section, but this is because it has multiple functions. If you know of others and would like to contribute or if you think the tool is outdated or bad, please let me know and I’ll adjust the list accordingly.

Many thanks to @grecs for his additions and helping me to organize it. Also to Lenny Zeltzer, author of the REMnux malware analysis and reverse engineering distro, who I’ve borrowed shamelessly from. You’ll find many of these tools and others on his own lists, so I encourage you to check his posts on this topic as well.

Online Network Analysis Tools

Network-Tools.com offers several online services, including domain lookup, IP lookup, whois, traceroute, URL decode/encode, HTTP headers and SPAM blocking list.

Robtex Swiss Army Knife Internet Tool

CentralOps Online Network tools offers domain and other advanced internet utilities from a web interface.

Shadowserver Whois and DNS lookups check ASN and BGP information. To utilize this service, you need to run whois against the Shadowserver whois system or DNS queries against their DNS system.

Netcraft provides passive reconnaissance information about a web site using an online analysis tool or with a browser extension.

Online Malware Sandboxes & Analysis Tools

Malwr: Malware analysis service based on Cuckoo sandbox.

Comodo Instant Malware Analysis and file analysis with report.

Eureka! is an automated malware analysis service that uses a binary unpacking strategy based on statistical bigram analysis and coarse-grained execution tracing.

Joe Sandbox Document Analyzer checks PDF, DOC, PPT, XLS, DOCX, PPTX, XLSX, RTF files for malware.

Joe Sandbox File Analyzer checks behavior of potentially malicious executables.

Joe Sandbox URL Analyzer checks behavior of possibly malicious web sites.

ThreatTrack Security Public Malware Sandbox performs behavioral analysis on potential malware in a public sandbox.

XecScan Rapid APT Identification Service provides analysis of unknown files or suspicious documents. (hash search too)

adopstools scans Flash files, local or remote.

ThreatExpert is an automated threat analysis system designed to analyze and report the behavior of potential malware.

Comodo Valkyrie: A file verdict system. Different from traditional signature based malware detection techniques, Valkyries conducts several analyses using run-time behavior.

EUREKA Malware Analysis Internet Service

MalwareViz: Malware Visualizer displays the actions of a bad file by generating an image. More information can be found by simply clicking on different parts of the picture.

Payload Security: Submit PE or PDF/Office files for analysis with VxStream Sandbox.

VisualThreat (Android files) Mobile App Threat Reputation Report

totalhash: Malware analysis database.

Deepviz Malware Analyzer

MASTIFF Online, a free web service offered by KoreLogic Inc. as an extension of the MASTIFF static analysis framework.

Online File, URL, or System Scanning Tools

VirusTotal analyzes files and URLs enabling the identification of malicious content detected by antivirus engines and website scanners. See below for hash searching as well.

OPSWAT’s Metascan Online scans a file, hash or IP address for malware

Jotti enables users to scan suspicious files with several antivirus programs. See below for hash searching as well.

URLVoid allows users to scan a website address with multiple website reputation engines and domain blacklists to detect potentially dangerous websites.

IPVoid, brought to you by the same people as URLVoid, scans an IP address using multiple DNS-based blacklists to facilitate the detection of IP addresses involved in spamming activities.

Comodo Web Inspector checks a URL for malware.

Malware URL checks websites and IP addresses against known malware lists. See below for domain and IP block lists.

ESET provides an online antivirus scanning service for scanning your local system.

ThreatExpert Memory Scanner is a prototype product that provides a “post-mortem” diagnostic to detect a range of high-profile threats that may be active in different regions of a computer’s memory.

Composite Block List can check an IP to see if it’s on multiple block lists and it will tell you if blocked, then who blocked it or why.

AVG LinkScanner Drop Zone: Analyzes the URL in real time for reputation.

BrightCloud URL/IP Lookup: Presents historical reputation data about the website

Web Inspector: Examines the URL in real-time.

Cisco SenderBase: Presents historical reputation data about the website

Is It Hacked: Performs several of its own checks of the URL in real time and consults some blacklists

Norton Safe Web: Presents historical reputation data about the website

PhishTank: Looks up the URL in its database of known phishing websites

Malware Domain List: Looks up recently-reported malicious websites

MalwareURL: Looks up the URL in its historical list of malicious websites

McAfee TrustedSource: Presents historical reputation data about the website

MxToolbox: Queries multiple reputational sources for information about the IP or domain

Quttera ThreatSign: Scans the specified URL for the presence of malware

Reputation Authority: Shows reputation data on specified domain or IP address

Sucuri Site Check: Website and malware security scanner

Trend Micro Web Reputation: Presents historical reputation data about the website

Unmask Parasites: Looks up the URL in the Google Safe Browsing database. Checks for websites that are hacked and infected.

URL Blacklist: Looks up the URL in its database of suspicious sites

URL Query: Looks up the URL in its database of suspicious sites and examines the site’s content

vURL: Retrieves and displays the source code of the page; looks up its status in several blocklists

urlQuery: a service for detecting and analyzing web-based malware.

Analyzing Malicious Documents Cheat Sheet: An excellent guide from Lenny Zeltser, who is a digital forensics expert and malware analysis trainer for SANS.

Qualys FreeScan is a free vulnerability scanner and network security tool for business networks. FreeScan is limited to ten (10) unique security scans of Internet accessible assets.

Zscaler Zulu URL Risk Analyzer: Examines the URL using real-time and historical techniques

Hash Searches

VirusTotal allows users to perform term searches, including on MD5 hashes, based on submitted samples.

Jotti allows MD5 and SHA1 hash searches based on submitted samples.

Malware Hash Registry by Team Cymru offers a MD5 or SHA-1 hash lookup service for known malware via several interfaces, including Whois, DNS, HTTP, HTTPS, a Firefox add-on or the WinMHR application.

Domain & IP Reputation Lists

Malware Patrol provides block lists of malicious URLs, which can be used for anti-spam, anti-virus and web proxy systems.

Cisco SenderBase Reputation data about a domain, IP or network owner

Malware Domains offers domain block lists for DNS sinkholes.

Malware URL not only allows checking of websites and IP addresses against known malware lists as described above but also provides their database for import into local proxies.

ZeuS Tracker provides domain and IP block lists related to ZeuS.

Fortiguard Threat Research and Response can check an IP or URL’s reputation and content filtering category.

CLEAN-MX Realtime Database: Free; XML output available.

CYMRU Bogon List A bogon prefix is a route that should never appear in the Internet routing table. These are commonly found as the source addresses of DDoS attacks.

DShield Highly Predictive Blacklist: Free but registration required.

Google Safe Browsing API:  programmatic access; restrictions apply

hpHosts File:  limited automation on request.

Malc0de Database

MalwareDomainList.com Hosts List

OpenPhish: Phishing sites; free for non-commercial use

PhishTank Phish Archive: Free query database via API

ISITPHISHING is a free service from Vade Retro Technology that tests URLs, brand names or subnets using an automatic website exploration engine which, based on the community feeds & data, qualifies the phishing content websites.

Project Honey Pot’s Directory of Malicious IPs: Free, but registration required to view more than 25 IPs

Scumware.org

Shadowserver IP and URL Reports: Free, but registration and approval required

SRI Threat Intelligence Lists: Free, but re-distribution prohibited

ThreatStop: Paid, but free trial available

URL Blacklist: Commercial, but first download free

Additional tools for checking URLs, files, IP address lists for the appearance on a malware, or reputation/block list of some kind.

Malware Analysis and Malicious IP search are two custom Google searches created by Alexander Hanel. Malware Analysis searches over 155 URLS related to malware analysis, AV reports, and reverse engineering. Malicious IP searches CBL, projecthoneypot, team-cymru, shadowserver, scumware, and centralops.

Vulnerability Search is another custom Google search created by Corey Harrell (of Journey into Incident Response Blog). It searches specific websites related to software vulnerabilities and exploits, such as 1337day, Packetstorm Security, Full Disclosure, and others.

Cymon Open tracker of malware, phishing, botnets, spam, and more

Scumware.org in addition to IP and domain reputation, also searches for malware hashes. You’ll have to deal with a captcha though.

ISC Tools checks domain and IP information. It also aggregates blackhole/bogon/malware feeds and has links to many other tools as well.

Malc0de performs IP checks and offers other information.

OpenMalware: A database of malware.

Other Team Cymru Community Services  Darknet Project, IP to ASN Mapping, and Totalhash Malware Analysis.

viCheck.CA provides tools for searching their malware hash registry, decoding various file formats, parsing email headers, performing IP/Domain Whois lookups, and analyzing files for potential malware.

AlienVault Reputation Monitoring is a free service that allows users to receive alerts of when domains or IPs become compromised.

Web of Trust: Presents historical reputation data about the website; community-driven. Firefox add-on.

Shodan: a search engine that lets users find specific types of computers (routers, servers, etc.) connected to the internet using a variety of filters.

Punkspider: a global web application vulnerability search engine.

Email tools

MX Toolbox  MX record monitoring, DNS health, blacklist and SMTP diagnostics in one integrated tool.

Threat Intelligence and Other Miscellaneous Tools

ThreatPinch Lookup Creates informational tooltips when hovering oven an item of interest on any website. It helps speed up security investigations by automatically providing relevant information upon hovering over any IPv4 address, MD5 hash, SHA2 hash, and CVE title. It’s designed to be completely customizable and work with any rest API. Chrome and Firefox extensions.

ThreatConnect: Free and commercial options.

Censys: A search engine that allows computer scientists to ask questions about the devices and networks that compose the Internet. Driven by Internet-wide scanning, Censys lets researchers find specific hosts and create aggregate reports on how devices, websites, and certificates are configured and deployed.

RiskIQ Community Edition: comprehensive internet data to hunt for digital threats.

Threatminer Data mining for threat intelligence.

IBM X-Force Exchange  a threat intelligence sharing platform that you can use to research security threats, to aggregate intelligence, and to collaborate with peers.

Recorded Future: Free email of trending threat indicators.

Shadowserver has lots of threat intelligence, not just reputation lists.

The Exploit Database: From Offensive Security, the folks who gave us Kali Linux, the ultimate archive of Exploits, Shellcode, and Security Papers.

Google Hacking Database: Search the database or browse GHDB categories.

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse: Data breach database.

Breach Level Index: Data breach database.

AWStats: Free real-time log analyzer

AlienVault Open Threat Exchange

REMnux: A Linux Toolkit for Reverse-Engineering and Analyzing Malware: a free Linux toolkit for assisting malware analysts with reverse-engineering malicious software.

Detection Lab: collection of Packer and Vagrant scripts that allow you to quickly bring a Windows Active Directory online, complete with a collection of endpoint security tooling and logging best practices.

SIFT Workstation: a group of free open-source incident response and forensic tools designed to perform detailed digital forensic examinations in a variety of settings.

Security Onion: free and open source Linux distribution for intrusion detection, enterprise security monitoring, and log management.

Kali Linux: Penetration testing and security auditing Linux distribution.

Pentoo: a security-focused livecd based on Gentoo

Tails:live operating system with a focus on preserving privacy and anonymity.

Parrot: Free and open source GNU/Linux distribution designed for security experts, developers and privacy aware people.

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A Cautionary Security Tale

Early this morning a Facebook acquaintance, henceforth known as “S,” reached out to me with an interesting problem. Some time ago, she bought a laptop from a liquidation auction at Living Social. When she finally got around to booting it up, she discovered something concerning. What follows is our conversation:

S: Hey there! have a tech question for you….I bought a laptop from an auction at Living Social a couple of months ago. Said laptop was supposed to have been wiped clean, but it wasn’t (requires the former users password). Tried calling/emailing Living social, but they’ve been completely non responsive. How can I reboot it?

Mrs. Y: that’s quite frightening, that someone’s personal data is on a laptop that was resold. I can try reaching out to contacts at Living Social, but probably won’t get you much. Was it supposed to come with an operating system already installed?

S: When it boots up it MS7 Enterprise. It’s not supposed to come with an operating system.

Mrs. Y: Yikes. Okay, I would just reinstall, unless you want me to break into it and figure out which organization or individual was silly enough to give an unwiped laptop over to an auction. If it’s MS 7 enterprise, I’m betting that it was an organization and it might have confidential data on it. FYI this is every security professional’s nightmare

S: it was Living Social. They were liquidating from their 9th street office. That’s why I tried reaching out to them. Thought it made sense to let them know and I could bring it back to them so they could wipe it.

Mrs. Y: (Where I finally realize that the laptop formerly BELONGED to Living Social, not simply being resold by them.) holy crap!

hahahhahhaha

OMG

that’s friggin’ hysterical

Mrs. Y: You are so honest. Most would have already broken into it. I can reach out to contacts, but you can probably wipe. I mean, that’s probably the safest thing for you to do. Honestly, they probably won’t have time to deal with it or care since they’re downsizing. They won’t have the staff to deal with it. Worst part is that it doesn’t seem to be encrypted.

S: If you want to break into it, I’m fine with that! I feel I did my due diligence in alerting them.

Mrs. Y: (Yielding to my better nature) I reached out to them via Twitter. BTW, is there anything that identifies the system as previously having belonged to Living Social? An asset tag or branding when the OS boots up? Feel free to send me screenshots.

living_social_2living_social_invoice
Mrs. Y: #FACEPALM. I’m horrified.
S: I’m so annoyed. But I also wondered how many other units weren’t wiped.
Mrs. Y: You’re trying to do the right thing by letting them know.

 Moral of the story: Make sure your organization has a disposal policy and procedure. Here endeth the lesson.
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OPM Hack: What We Can Learn

I frequently write for actual publications and my latest article is an analysis of the OPM breach. What I hope makes mine different is that I tried to avoid the schadenfreude so common in the industry and focus on what we could all learn and correct in our own organizations.

From TechTarget SearchNetworking

When Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Katherine Archuleta gave her cringe-worthy testimony before Congress earlier this summer, it felt like a nightmare from the IT collective unconscious. A series of embarrassing appearances revealed she didn’t seem to know essential details of the OPM hack or understand the problems that allowed OPM to be compromised twice in one year. Her resignation seemed a forgone conclusion and a relief for the .GOV crowd.

So what went wrong?

It would be a mistake to categorize the compromise as simply a failure in OPM’s security strategy, because the agency’s entire information technology program was a management catastrophe — a guidebook in what not to do. In watching testimony and reading reports from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), it isn’t only the security failures that stand out, but clueless leadership that flunked at basic strategy and risk management. This kind of negligence is all too familiar to those of us with any tenure in IT. Reading those OIG reports feels like déjà vu, because they could be about almost any enterprise.

Full article continued here.

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PCI Purgatory*

*Updated: Now with Extra Snark!

Let me clarify, I’m not a QSA, ISA or any other type of SA**. But as the senior architect for a security team, I’m usually expected to have the last word on technical implementations. Like many, I’ve been stuck in PCI purgatory since the release of the 3.0 standard. New requirements to interpret, countless discussions with the QSA and the acquirer, arguments with the rest of the organization who barely understand payments and think they get to have an opinion: it makes me want to shred all my own credit cards. In addition to the scoping changes with ecommerce, the Service Provider definition was modified.

Business entity that is not a payment brand, directly involved in the processing, storage, or transmission of cardholder data on behalf of another entity. This also includes companies that provide services that control or could impact the security of cardholder data. Examples include managed service providers that provide managed firewalls, IDS and other services as well as hosting providers and other entities. If an entity provides a service that involves only the provision of public network access—such as a telecommunications company providing just the communication link—the entity would not be considered a service provider for that service (although they may be considered a service provider for other services).
Okay, I admit it, I didn’t pay much attention to this. It didn’t really seem that different. But the devil is in the nuanced PCI details. We recently engaged a contractor who performs third-party security for my organization. He was new to PCI DSS and we wanted to modify our TSP questionnaire to capture PCI DSS status if the partner was capturing payment card data for us and interacting with our payment processor on our behalf, using our merchant ID. He actually READ the new standard, pointing out that these entities were now considered service providers and to my horror, I discovered he was correct. I also realized that EVERYONE seems to be freaking out over this, most getting it completely wrong.

If there was even one iota of doubt left in my mind, this section from the PCI DSS Information Supplement: Third Party Security Assurance resolved it:

Examples of ThirdParty Service Providers

Below are examples of types of services and providers with which an entity may work:

  • Organizations involved in the storage, processing, and/or transmission of cardholder data (CHD). Third-party service providers in this category may include:
    • Call centers
    •  E-commerce payment providers
    •  Organizations that process payments on behalf of the entity, such as a partner or reseller
    • Fraud verification services, credit reporting services, collection agencies
    • Third-party processors
    • Entities offering processing-gateway services
  • Organizations involved in securing cardholder data. TPSPs in this category may include:
    • Companies providing secure destruction of electronic and physical media
    • Secure storage facilities for electronic and physical media
    • Companies that transform cardholder data with tokenization or encryption
    • E-commerce or mobile-application third parties that provide software as a service
    • Key-management providers such as key-injection services or encryption-support organizations (ESO)
  •  Organizations involved in the protection of the cardholder data environment (CDE). TPSPs in this category may include:
    • Infrastructure service providers
    • Managed firewall/router providers
    • Secure data-center hosting providers
    • Monitoring services for critical security alerts such as intrusion-detection systems (IDS), anti- virus, change-detection, compliance monitoring, audit-log monitoring, etc.
  • Organizations that may have incidental access to CHD or the CDE. Incidental access is access that may happen as a consequence of the activity or job. TPSPs in this category may include:
    • Providers of managed IT delivery channels and services
    • Companies providing software development, such as web applications
    • Providers of maintenance services

So stop arguing with reality (and me). Oh and for the record, I don’t care what you, your mom, your dry cleaner, or another merchant thinks about PCI. I love those people who spend 30 minutes going through the standard and think they understand it because they’ve read the words. As most of us know who’ve worked with PCI for any amount of time, it’s a bit like pornography. Everyone has a different definition. As far as security and compliance teams are concerned, the only opinions that matter come from the acquirer, the QSA and the organization’s ISA. Moreover, a security team for an organization usually has thousands of hours of combined experienced in PCI DSS. A non-practitioner offering us “suggestions” is the equivalent of someone offering Misty Copeland advice about her grand jetes after taking one ballet class.

**Qualified Security Assessor, Internal Security Assessor

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Being the Security Asshole

Yes, I have become a security asshole. The one who says “no” to a technology. But I say it because of risk, and not just security risk.  And I’m angry, because my “no” is a last resort after many struggles with developer, engineering and operations teams in organizations that struggle to get the basics right.

I try to work with teams to build a design. I bring my own architecture documents and diagrams, which include Powerpoint presentations with talking points. I create strategy road maps explaining my vision for the security architecture in an organization. I detail our team’s progress and explain how we want to align with the rest of enterprise strategy and architecture. I stress that our team exists to support the business.

What do I get in return? Diagrams so crude, they could be drawn in crayon or made with Legos. They usually don’t even have IP addresses or port numbers. I have to argue with sysadmins about whether Telnet is still an acceptable protocol in 2015. I’m subjected to rehashed Kool-Aid about how some product is going to rescue the organization even though I found significant vulnerabilities during the assessment, which the vendor doesn’t want to fix.

And if this means that you hate me, fine. I’ll be the asshole. I’ll embrace it. But at least I can have a clear conscience, because I’ve done my best to safeguard the organization that’s paying me.

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Are You There Business? It’s Me, Information Security

Are you there Business? It’s me, Information Security. We need to talk. I know you’re busy generating revenue and keeping the lights on, but we’ve got some critical matters to discuss. I feel like everyone hates me and thinks I’m a nag. Every time I want to talk to you about patching and vulnerabilities, I’m ignored. I’m so scared, because I’m always trying to secure the network so the bad guys don’t get into it, but no one wants to help me make sure that doesn’t happen. Honestly, I don’t feel heard. It seems like everything is about you all the time. I get it. I wouldn’t have a job without you, but I really need to feel respected in this relationship. Because let’s be honest with each other for once, if you’re breached, I’m probably the one that’s getting fired.

I understand that you don’t always remember passwords, which is why you write them down or use your pet’s name. I know that it’s takes a lot of time to follow rules that don’t always make sense. But this is important, so could you find a way to work with me?  I’d really appreciate it, because I feel so frightened and alone.

Yours Truly,

Infosec

P.S. Could you please stop using the word “cyber”in everything? I really hate that term.

P.P.S. And yes, I’m blocking porn because it really does have malware. But also because HR told me to. So please don’t get mad at me.i-wonder-if-9jgrq0

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Cognitive Dissonance and Incident Response

“In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.”

Festinger, L. (1957). A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. California: Stanford University Press.

For your consideration, what follows is the hypothetical discussion between a Pointy Haired Fearless Leader and a Security Analyst regarding the possibility of an organization’s large, web application having been breached. The Frankenapp in question was creatively duct-taped together around the same time that dinosaurs roamed the earth. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons living or dead, is because truth is often much funnier than fiction.

SA: There’s a possibility our Super Amazing Custom Web Application has been breached.

PHFL: (Breathes into paper bag as starts to hyperventilate. In between breaths) How did this happen?!

SA: Same way it always does. A user was phished.

PHFL: But why didn’t our Extraordinarily Powerful Security Tools that cost $$$$$ stop this?!

SA: Because they don’t always work. Especially when they don’t have all the data necessary to identify malicious activity.

PHFL: But we paid $$$$$ because the vendor said it would stop APTs!

SA: This isn’t an APT.

PHFL: But we have Super Powerful Web Application Firewalls!

SA: They’re still in learning mode, because the web developers won’t work with us to identify false positives. And a WAF won’t detect phished credentials. We need multi-factor authentication to prevent this.

PHFL: But MFA annoys the users. What about the network firewalls?!

SA: Our firewalls wouldn’t have caught this and our web filtering system hasn’t worked for months.

PHFL: Do we know what accounts were compromised?

SA: We don’t have enough data. We don’t really have many application logs and the ones we do have aren’t being sent to the  SOC to be correlated.

PHFL: Why wasn’t I told about this tragic and desperately horrible situation?!

SA: I’ve been telling you every week since I took the job. I even hired someone to sky-write it twice. I’m also working on an off-Broadway musical called, We’re About to be Pwned Because Our Visibility Stinks and Our Security Tools Are Broken.

PHFL: Well, this is clearly your fault.

Dilbert On Incident Response

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Security Karma

The Hacking Team debacle continues to make life miserable for defenders everywhere. Any vestige of organizational good will I  may have built up over the last year, is gone after issuing five emergency patch requests over ten days. I’m exhausted and still wondering how many more 0-days are lurking around the corner.

The compromise was epic, with hackers releasing approximately 400GB of data, including thousands of internal emails and memos which were posted on Wikileaks. Reuters reported that all this mayhem was caused by six disgruntled former employees who also released Hacking Team source code.  Frankly, I don’t have much sympathy for David Vincenzetti and his circle of douchery that includes government clients using Hacking Team’s brand of malware to spy on dissidents. While following the story, a Confucian proverb came to mind. “When you ride a tiger, it’s hard to get off.”

And so it has been for The Hacking Team, now bitten by that proverbial tiger and broken, a casualty of their own hubris. Whether they can recover from this disaster is questionable. Their arrogance only surpassed by that other sad sack of the security industry, HBGary, taken down by Anonymous.

There is a story of a soldier who went to see a famous Buddhist Monk, Ajahn Chah, to ask why he had been shot on the battlefield. Why had he been chosen to suffer, was it something he had done in a past life? Ajahn Chah answered that it was the karma of a soldier to be wounded. The real meaning of karma isn’t punishment, it’s simple cause and effect. With the Hacking Team it’s a case of security karma: they chose to enter the arena of offensive security and use the tools of attackers for questionable purposes. By doing so, they increased the odds that they would themselves become an object of retaliation.

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Security’s Bad Boys

This week’s latest stunt hacking episode seemed to cement the security community’s reputation as the industry bad boy. The Wired car hacking story demonstrated an absence of the responsible disclosure most security researchers strive to follow. While the story indicated that Miller and Valasek have been working with Chrysler for nine months and that they’re leaving out a key element of the published exploit, there’s still going to be enough left to cause some mayhem when released at Black Hat USA next month. Moreover, the story’s writer and innocent bystanders were often in harm’s way during the demonstration on a major highway in St. Louis.

The annual Black Hat conference in Vegas is an adult version of “look what I can do” for the security set, perfectly placed in the city’s carnival atmosphere. A grand spectacle where every breaker competes to get Daddy’s attention by taking apart the toaster, or car in this case. The media loves this stuff and floods outlets with paranoia-inducing stories the few weeks before and during the conference.  What’s so disturbing about these events isn’t the frailty of our technology-enabled stuff aka “Internet of Things,” but the need for a subset of people to focus on its faults. The typical rationale from many of these researchers for their theatrical, hype-infested releases during Black Hat and other security conferences, is that they can’t get any attention from manufacturers when going the path of responsible disclosure. I would argue that this behavior is more about ego than concern for the safety of consumers, because there are plenty of principled researchers, quiet heroes who slog along filing bugs with vendors, unknown and overlooked by the general public.

Most idiots can blow up a cathedral with enough C-4. But it takes a Bernini or Michelangelo with hundreds of talented, dedicated artisans, to design and build one. People who will never be remembered by tourists standing in the middle St. Peter’s, glorying in the majesty of such an achievement.

St. Peter's

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Dear Flash, It’s Over

Dear Adobe Flash,

It’s probably insensitive of me to do this in a blog post, but I can’t trust myself to be alone with you anymore. The relationship started out great. Those cute kitten and puppy videos would get me through the most stressful days, when I just needed to turn off my brain off after a day of navigating the network poopfest at work. I wish we could go back and start over again, but after three patches in a week, I’m done. This just isn’t working for me anymore. Okay, I know we could still have some fun times, but I simply don’t feel safe with you anymore. So I’m going to have to end it. And to be clear, it’s not me, it’s you.

P.S. I’d just like to point out the irony of a recent Wired article, “Flash.Must.Die.” It has a Flash popup.

Screenshot 2015-07-16 09.31.52

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