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DNSSEC Usage in Switzerland is on the rise after widespread attacks on the Domain Name System

Attacks on the DNS System

Cyber attacks on the DNS system are not new. Cache poisoning, Domain Hijacking and BGP injections of routes to public DNS resolvers happen regularly, but they usually don’t get much attention as they target the Internet’s core infrastructure and are not directly visible to end users in most cases. This time it was different. The recent widespread DNS hijacking attacks on several Mid East, North African and European and North American governments and infrastructure providers, published by Ciscos Talos showed that DNS attacks are a real threat to cyber security. Netnod, one of the affected infrastructure providers issued a statement, that called, amongst other domain security mechanisms, for the implementation of the DNS Security Extensions (DNSSEC).

The analysis of these attacks also convinced the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) that there is an ongoing and significant risk to key parts of the System (DNS) infrastructure. ICANN issued a call for “Full DNSSEC Deployment to Protect the Internet” across all unsecured domain names.

The question is if  these attacks and the awareness that DNSSEC is an absolute essential base layer protection for domain names had some effects on the Implementation of DNSSEC Switzerland?

More DNSSEC signed domain names

As a ccTLD operator SWITCH publishes the number of DNSSEC signed .ch and .li domain names every month. While the number of signed domain names is still very low at around 3-4% we see a rise in the numbers of signed domain names for two years now.

DNSSEC signed .ch domain names 1.4.2019

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The January/February 2019 issue of our SWITCH Security Report is available!

Dear Reader!

A new issue of our bi-monthly SWITCH Security Report is available!

The topics covered in this report are:

  • Company networks at serious risk: recent waves of malspam have been spreading the multifunctional trojan Emotet, targeting Windows devices in particular
  • Phishing, porn, data theft: rogue apps appearing as a new and harmful type of ‘non-sellers’ on Google Play and other app stores
  • Spy Time now also available for Apple devices – Serious security vulnerabilities allow outsiders to eavesdrop on FaceTime conversations and steal passwords from Keychain in MacOS
  • Alexa home alone, nuclear attack via Nest and a new password law in California – what happens when IoT gadgets run amok?

The Security Report is available in both English and German.

»»  Download the english report.      »»  Download the german report.

Did you miss our previous Security Report? Click here to go to the archive.

Mobile Malware


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Rogue Mobile App

Rogue mobile apps are counterfeit apps designed to mimic trusted brands or apps with non-advertised malicious features. In both cases, the goal is that unaware users install the app in order to steal sensitive information such as credit card data or login credentials.

The common way to install apps is to use the official app store. By default, neither Android nor Apple’s iPhone allow users to install apps from unknown sources. However, this does not mean we can just trust the official app store. SWITCH-CERT has been monitoring Apple’s App Store and Google Play for some time and noticed that many rogue apps are able to sneak into Google Play especially.

Google Play

Attackers are abusing the weak app testing procedure of Google to sneak their rogue apps into Google Play. One can find counterfeit apps of Swiss brands on a regular basis. Typically, the apps reside on Google Play for some time until it is removed because of take down requests from security researchers. Until that happens, unaware users are likely to install such apps and put their data at risk.

The screenshot below shows apps found when searching for Bluewin. During the last months, Bluewin has been a common target for rogue counterfeit apps. The red circle indicates the rogue app.

Play Store result for the search key word “Bluewin”

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A new issue of our SWITCH Security Report is available!

Dear Reader!

A new issue of our bi-monthly SWITCH Security Report is available!

The topics covered in this report are:

  • Meltdown and Spectre: security meltdown directly from the processor
  • Leaks, fakes and cryptocurrency hacks: business models of a different kind
  • Italianitá in the smartphone – state trojan monitors smartphone users
  • Kaspersky shut out of Lithuania as well
  • Strava leaks – fitness secrets of a different kind

The Security Report is available in both English and German.

»»  Download the english report.      »»  Download the german report.


Safer Internet

Anna is the director of a small kindergarten in Zurich. To give the kindergarten a home on the Internet, she registered a domain name and put up a website where parents can get up-to-date information about the kindergarten. A friend helped her to install a popular open-source content management system (CMS) for the website, so that she can change the menu every week and perform other updates herself. The parents of the kids were delighted to have access to this information online.

Three months after the website went online, one of the parents called her, telling her that the website was no longer available, and a warning was displayed instead. He also told her that he had a virus on his home PC and had to reinstall his operating system and change all his Internet passwords. When she talked to other parents that day, they told her the same.

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So Long, and Thanks for All the Domains

While Trojans like Dyre and Dridex are dominating malware-related news, we take the time to have a closer look at Tinba (Tiny Banker, Zusy, Illi), yet another Trojan which targets Windows users. In the first part of this post, we give a short historical review, followed by hints about how to detect (and remove) this threat on an infected system. In the second part, we have a look at a portion of the Trojan’s code which enhances its communication resilience, and how we can leverage these properties for defensive purposes.

Tinba is a fine piece of work, initially purely written in assembly. CSIS discovered it back in May 2012, and it contained WebInject capability and rootkit functionality in a binary of just 20 KB. The source code of Tinba leaked in July 2014, helping bad guys to create their own, extended versions.

Tinba Rootkit ZwQueryDirectoryFile

The source code of Tinba leaked in July 2014. Shown are some preparations to hook ZwQueryDirectoryFile.

Tinba on steroids was discovered in September 2014. Two main features are worth noting: First, each binary comes with a public key to check incoming control messages for authenticity and integrity. Second, there is a domain generation algorithm (DGA), which we will discuss later. In October 2014, Tinba entered Switzerland, mainly to phish for credit card information.

Tinba Inject

Tinba tried to phish credit card information.

Like other commodity Trojans, Tinba checks whether it is running in a virtual machine/sandboxed environment by checking the hard-disk size or looking for user interaction. According to abuse.ch, there was an intense distribution of Tinba in Switzerland early this year. Such spam campaigns can happen again at any time, so it is of use to know how to detect Tinba on an infected system and remove it.

Even though Tinba has the ability to hide directories and files (rootkit functionality), cybercriminals were wondering why they should bother using it. Why not simply hide directories and files with the “hidden” flag, which works for most users? Thus, it is relatively simple for a computer-savvy user to remove this version of Tinba from an infected (see instructions below).

Tinba Directory Hidden

A randomly named directory, which contains the Trojan itself, can be hidden by setting its attributes to “hidden”.

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Protect your network with DNS Firewall

If you run your own mail server, you will quickly find out that 90% of the e-mails you receive are spam. The solution to this problem is e-mail filtering, which rejects or deletes unwanted spam. This solution is generally well accepted, and most users would not want the old days back when your inbox was filled with scams. Those people who want spam can also work around it by disabling spam filtering for their e-mail address or opting to run their own mail server.

Spam, scammers and other malicious abuse are not unique to e-mail. One possible approach is to invent a filtering technology for every protocol or service and allow the service owners to block misuse according to their policy. On the other hand, most services on the Internet make use of the Domain Name System (DNS). If you control DNS name resolution for your organisation, you can filter out the bad stuff the same way you filter out spam on e-mail. The difference and the advantage of DNS is that DNS filtering is independent of the service you use.

Back in 2010, ISC and Paul Vixie invented a technology called Response Policy Zones (RPZ) (See CircleID Post Taking back the DNS). While it has always been possible to block certain domain names from being resolved on your DNS resolver, adding host names manually as an authoritative zone does not scale.

(Illustration Christoph Frei)

(Illustration Christoph Frei)

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