Cyber Security Month with GÉANT – “Become a cyber hero”
The European data network for the research and education community GÉANT interconnects national research and education networks (NRENs) like SWITCH across Europe, enabling collaboration virtually and accelerate research, drive innovation and enrich education.
Also this year GÉANT joins the European Cyber Security Month, an initiative launched by ENISA, EC DG CONNECT and a variety of partners, to raise security awareness within the European community. With the tagline «Become a cyber hero» GÉANT publishes practical tips, case studies and articles on social engineering, phishing, password security and ransomware throughout October. The content is provided by experts within the community.
SWITCH-CERT is proud to share with you one of the interesting contributions from the Swiss NREN. Read about Björn Abt, IT Security Officer at the Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI), talking about their approach to security awareness:
Open security standards are essential for a secure and resilient Internet in Switzerland and protect the privacy of Swiss Internet users. The adoption rate for Internet security standards like DNSSEC, DANE and DMARC in Switzerland is still low compared to the leading countries in Europe, but there is more and more support from the Internet industry, authorities and not for profit organizations in Switzerland.
Why are open security standards so important?
The implementation of open security standards that come out of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), reduce the attack surface of the domain/service owner. But even more important, a growing implementation rate reduces the attack surface of the internet as a whole and makes the life of cyber criminals and state actors more challenging. Open security standards provide different mechanisms to secure our communication on the internet, most important encryption and authentication. Encryption keeps our communication on the internet confidential and prevents third parties from reading our emails and tracking on which web sites users spend their time. Authentication allows us to identify and authenticate our communications partners, it makes sure that we are not on a fake website or send emails or our login credentials to a rogue email server. Continue reading “Growing support for open security standards in Switzerland”
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.
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 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.
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).
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.
In 2014, about 1,800 Swiss websites were cleaned from drive-by code, compared with 2,700 in 2013, a decline of 33%. At the same time, the number of phishing cases affecting .ch and .li top-level domains rose from only a handful in 2013 to more than 300.
Drive-by code on Swiss websites in 2014
Last year, 35,796 suspicious drive-by URLs in the .ch and .li top-level domains were reported to SWITCH. Security experts from SWITCH-CERT automatically sent requests to these servers and analysed the responses, looking for malicious code injected into the HTML source code. When an expert identified malicious code, the registrar or domain name holder and the web hoster were notified and asked to remove it within one working day. This was done for 1,839 domain names in 2014. In 1,493 (81%) cases, the code was removed by the web hoster or domain holder within one day. For the other 346 domains, the deadline was not met, and the domain name was temporarily suspended to prevent further damage to website visitors. Some 264 (14%) of the infected websites were cleaned of malicious code, with the remaining 82 domain names having to be reactivated after five days, the maximum suspension time by law. A request for identification was sent to the holders of all 82 domains, resulting in an additional 59 (3.2%) of websites being cleaned. A total of 23 (1.3% of all notified) domain names were deleted after 30 days because the domain holder failed to respond to the identification request.
Yesterday we came across a phishing website under .ch where we were able to download the phishing kit. A phishing kit is an archive file which contains all the relevant files for hosting a phishing website. In this case, the archive contained some static HTML, JS and image files for hosting the phishing form, but also a PHP file for sending the data to the perpetrator, and – most interestingly –an .htaccess file. The .htaccess file is a configuration file used by some popular web servers, which allows the user of a website to override a subset of the server’s global configuration for the directory that the file is located in and all its sub-directories.
A phishing website is frequently only accessible from the targeted country. In our case, this was controlled by the .htaccess file which contained a large list of IP address ranges from where it is allowed to access the site. As an incident handler, we often get reports of malicious websites that we cannot verify with IP addresses from Swiss ISPs. An unwary user might think that the phishing website has already been taken down, but that is not the case. The user is just not allowed to access the phishing website from its IP address.