MS Word users warned of ongoing attacks exploiting unpatched bug

Microsoft warns Word users of ongoing attacks exploiting unpatched bug – Computerworld

Biggest worry, says expert, is that exploits are triggered just by previewing malicious messages in Outlook 2007, 2010 and 2013

Microsoft today warned users of Word 2010 that in-the-wild attacks are exploiting an unpatched vulnerability in the software.

The company also published an automated tool to protect customers until it issues a patch.

An attacker could cause remote code execution if someone was convinced to open a specially-crafted Rich Text Format (RTF) file or a specially-crafted mail in Microsoft Outlook while using Microsoft Word as the email viewer,” said Dustin Childs, group manager and spokesman for Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing group in a blog Monday.

BOLD in the quote is mine.

Microsoft put out a Security Advisory 2953095 as Corrine noted on her Security Garden Blog including Fix it buttons for enabling and disabling reading email messages in plain text format.

This is one of the things for which both Microsoft in Outlook and Apple in Mail have massively fallen down on the job. This would not be happening if you could easily toggle various view options such as HTML or Plain Text for reading emails, as well as allowing and disallowing images inline.

This is something that I am very thankful that Mozilla Thunderbird got right from the very beginning. Mozilla Thunderbird gives very granular control regarding the various ways to Display email messages such as in PLAIN TEXT, SIMPLE HTML (simple html with javascripting disabled), or ORIGINAL HTML.

You also have control over how images are displayed or not in several ways and differentiating between attached images and remote images.

You can also close to enable do not track in emails. There are Security Add-ons like Adblock PlusEnigmail (OpenPGP), more. As well as lots of specialized Add=ons. One of these that I like is QuickText and a few others. It works on Windows, Mac and Linux.

There is also a pay to play $9.95 I think, but also has a free trial. It was originally for Macs and now there is a Windows version as well. It was created by the original developers of Thunderbird called Postbox. It has some but not all the Add-ons that Thunderbird has.

/rant on

I am not saying everyone should move to Mozilla Thunderbird. What I am saying is that Microsoft Outlook and Apple Mail should give their users these types of granular control so people can choose how they wish emails to be viewed. Both do some things but they stop way short of what is really needed in this day and age with emails.

HTML is like a venetian blind. It hides what is behind it. You can’t see what is behind all that HTML. You can’t decide to see HTML only if you trust the email after viewing what is in that email. This makes it way too easy for phishing emails to look like your bank, PayPal, your credit card company, etc. It also allows companies to track you with web beacons, transparent gif images and other remotely loaded images so they know if and when you view their email.

Something needs to be done about all this. Mozilla Thunderbird makes it so easy for folks to be able to toggle images so they can’t track you, use SIMPLE HTML to keep the ‘form’ of an email message without the more dangerous javascripting. Or allows you to totally view the email in plain text so you can see that that link that appears to be going to your bank actually goes to some strange URL that has nothing to do with your bank or a store you may or may not do business with.

People need these tools. Some may or may not realize it, but they really do.

I have heard so many people say that the email look just like it was from their bank and they fell for it. Or a store they frequent and gave up their login credentials by clicking on the link rather than going to the website because it looked like it was the store’s promotion.

Sure, no one should click on links in email, but if it looks legit, many do. Sure, if you like something in a promotion for a store, it might be better to just go to the store’s website but some stores really don’t have a page on their website that is clickable to get you there, unless you click on the link in an email. Also, the links are often obfuscated by third party trackers and campaign tracking sites, etc. This all makes life very difficult for email users to know what’s good and what’s not.

OK, I will get off my soap box now.

/rant off

 

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A few security lessons from the Target breach

A few security lessons from the Target Breach by Susan Bradley, WindowsSecrets.com

The Target breach points out some facts of life on the Web: We’re all targets (pun intended) of cyber thieves.

Fortunately, there are steps we can take to protect ourselves. Here’s how to protect yourself from the next big breach.

I am a target. I shop online, I shop in large department stores, and I regularly use credit and debit cards. Shopping at large stores that process thousands of sales daily makes me even more of a target, because my transaction information (name, account number, etc.) gets combined with that of all other shoppers. And I became a potential victim when I shopped at Target this past Christmas shopping season.

These days, every time I swipe my credit card on a point-of-sale system, I think to myself: “Is this vendor doing all they can to keep me safe?” Retail companies believe they are; claiming that by following the Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards, they’re doing all they can to keep customer credit-card information safe. But I’m not convinced — especially in the U.S. European credit cards are considered more difficult to hack because they use an onboard security chip rather than the magnetic stripe common on U.S. cards.

This is so true! The article covers some great topics regarding malware designed to attack retail point-of-sale systemsWhen fishing, go for the biggest catch, and Ways to help protect yourself from POS attacks. 

Must read article.

There is also another excellent article from Wired.com that is also a must read:

Target Got Hacked Hard in 2005. Here’s Why They Let It Happen Again by Kim Zetter – Wired Threat Level

A gang of shadowy hackers tears through the systems of big-box retailers, making off with millions of credit and debit card numbers in a matter of weeks and generating headlines around the country.

Target and Neiman Marcus last week? Nope. This oh-so-familiar attack occurred in 2005.

That’s when Albert Gonzalez and cohorts – including two Russian accomplices — launched a three-year digital rampage through the networks of Target, TJ Maxx, and about half a dozen other companies, absconding with data for more than 120 million credit and debit card accounts. Gonzalez and other members of his team eventually were caught; he’s serving two concurrent sentences for his role, amounting to 20 years and a day in prison, but the big-box breaches go on.

The latest string of hacks attacking Target, Neiman Marcus, and others raise an obvious question: How is it that nearly a decade after the Gonzalez gang pulled off its heists, little has changed in the protection of bank card data?

Oh, and just in case you have forgotten them all, here is a list of all the others:

Target got off easy in the first breach: A spokeswoman told Reuters an “extremely limited” number of payment card numbers were stolen from the company by Gonzalez and his gang. The other companies weren’t as lucky: TJX, Hannaford Brothers grocery chain, the Dave & Busters restaurant chain, Office Max, 7-Eleven, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Barnes & Noble, JC Penney, and, most severely, Heartland Payment Systems, were hit hard.

BOLD emphasis mine.

Again, much more in the must read article including sections; What the Target Thieves GotInherent Flaws In the System, and the most telling section, Retailers Oppose Tougher Standards.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, just yesterday on January 25th, Michael‘s too:

Sources: Card Breach at Michaels Stores by Brian Krebs – KrebsOnSecurity.com

Multiple sources in the banking industry say they are tracking a pattern of fraud on cards that were all recently used at Michaels Stores Inc., an Irving, Texas-based arts-and-crafts retailer that maintains more than 1,250 stores across the United States.

Update 1:34 p.m. ET: The U.S. Secret Service confirmed that it is investigating a potential data breach at Michaels. Also, Michaels has just issued a statement stating that it “recently learned of possible fraudulent activity on some U.S. payment cards that had been used at Michaels, suggesting that the Company may have experienced a data security attack.”

I think Gartner’s analyst Avivah Litan’s quote in the January 17 2014 Wired Threat Level article was spot on:

“It’s a big failure of the whole industry,” says Gartner analyst Avivah Litan. “This is going to keep getting worse, and this was totally predictable a few years ago and no one did anything. Everyone got worked up, and no one did anything.”

Often these days, I will get cash from the bank and use that instead of the card if I plan on visiting any retailers that have been a part of a security breach, which sadly leaves few you can actually feel comfortable using your credit/debit cards online and off.

I wonder how many others will do the same rather than chance the annoyance, the fear of loss of your hard earned money, the frustration of being without a card while it’s replaced when they disable the current one that’s compromised in a security breach or is used in a fraudulent transaction after a breach (even if it’s limited to $50 or whatever, that’s really not much help for the anxiety it puts people through), and finally of course dealing with the aftermath of your information being at large and the potential of someone using that information to impersonate you…believe me, a 6 month or 12 month credit monitoring does not help that much, or help you sleep at night knowing all that information being out there could be used to do as more and more of your information is made available through these breaches.

If retailers and credit/debit card companies want our ‘faith’ in them, and have us get the warm fuzzies regarding them being responsible enough to be trusted with other people’s money, they need to do what’s needed to get that faith back. Period.

And skimping on it like they did in 2005 won’t cut it, nor will the PCI compliance standards and the blame game. Something really needs to be done about this. People need to feel comfortable using credit/debit cards or they will go the way of the dodo.

Fix the problem, not the blame.*

Thanks to the movie, Rising Sun for the quote.

BTW: Might want to check out the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and their page on data breaches since 2005. There have been quite a few more than just those noted in this posting!

EDIT 1-26-2014 8:508PM: @SecurityGarden posted the following and linked to this article; Exclusive: FBI warns retailers to expect more credit card breaches – Reuters:

@SecurityGarden Status regarding expanding on this posting on the security breaches

@SecurityGarden Status regarding expanding on this posting on the security breaches