Attackers exploit latest Flash bug on large scale

[tweetmeme source=”franscomputerservices” only_single=false]Attackers exploit latest Flash bug on large scale, says researcher (Computerworld):

Hackers are aggressively exploiting a just-patched Flash vulnerability, serving attack code “on a fairly large scale” from compromised sites as well as from their own malicious domains, a security researcher said Friday.

The attacks exploit the critical Flash Player bug that Adobe patched June 14 with its second “out-of-band,” or emergency update, in nine days.

Check your current version of Adobe Flash and make sure you have their latest version. They have put out 2 out of band updates recently, so we all need to really be sure.

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New Flash Player Zero Day

[tweetmeme source=”franscomputerservices” only_single=false]ZDNet reports, Adobe warns of new Flash Player zero-day attack:

Hackers are embedding malicious Flash Player files in Microsoft Word documents to launch targeted attacks against select businesses, according to a warning from Adobe.

These are being used to steal secrets from corporations, likely through downloaded and emailed MS Word documents such as Excel.

Adobe is working on patches for Flash 10.2.x and for earlier versions as well, for just about every OS out there.

Adobe Reader X protected mode will “prevent an exploit of this kind from executing.” The actual fix won’t come till their normal patch cycle in June for Adobe Reader. So be sure to get the latest version (Adobe Reader X)!

Much more in the article including information and links to Adobe’s security release.

Beware the emails bearing Adobe updates!

[tweetmeme source=”franscomputerservices” only_single=false]CNET article entitled, “Phishing scam masquerades as Adobe upgrade” reports, “Phishers use all kinds of come-ons to lure their victims. But one persistent piece of spam tries to trick people by offering an upgrade to Adobe Acrobat.

Detailed by security provider Cloudmark in a blog posted yesterday, this type of advertising spam e-mails users a notice to upgrade to the new Adobe Acrobat Reader. Those who click on the link are directed to a Web site touting the benefits of the software.”

Beware of emails bearing Adobe gifts – as Cloudmark blog entry shows, Do not download now!! They get so tricky!

Internet Explorer Search Bar Malware Hijack

[tweetmeme source=”franscomputerservices” only_single=false]Recently, the Google Gala malware has been hijacking the Google Search engine in Internet Explorer’s Search Bar. In addition, Fast Browser Searching apparently has been being installed through some means and stealing the Google Homepage of other users.

Google Gala and Fast Search hijacks is nothing new, but they are making a serious comeback. I am not sure how they are injecting themselves into the Google Search on IE8 Search Bar, but they definitely are corrupting the Google Search engine in the IE8 Search Bar. This has been known to happen in Firefox in the past as well. And who knows how long it will be till Google Chrome and other browsers will be hit the same way, if not already.

Browser makers need to harden their Search Bar against this type of attack, but until they do, we have to take matters into our own hands.

If you feel the need to use Internet Explorer, I would strongly suggest hiding or removing the IE8 Search Box and going directly to Google website instead.

As shown at w7forums link above, to hide/remove the IE8 Search Box:

Start -> run -> gpedit.msc

Or better yet, change to an alternative browser, like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.

The advantages of Google Chrome with built-in Flash player that is updated automatically through Google Chrome’s update mechanism is quite attractive. In addition, Google Chrome is fast to load and now has extensions such as Adblock Plus, WOT, FlashBlock and others, like Mozilla Firefox has had for a long time. In addition, Google Chrome has a built-in ‘sandbox’ feature which can save a world of hurt while browsing the web. Although it is not perfect, it is a great feature.

I have to say for years now, I have not used any built-in browser search bar. I go directly to the Google website, or other favorite search engine websites directly. I would suggest that, until browser developers harden their search bars, it would be wise to not make use of search bars for searching.

In addition, I would strongly suggest you install and run, CCleaner frequently. Close your browser after every use and right click on the Recycle Bin and choose Run CCleaner after every use of the browser.

If you do get hit with malware like Security Shield for any reason, but especially in this case, due to the redirection/hijack of search results in the IE8 Search Bar, you will need to use rkill or the Task Manager (if available) to find/kill the Security Shield oddball named process and then update and run Malwarebytes Antimalware to get rid of related registry entries, hidden files, etc., as shown at BleepingComputers Forum Security Shield (Uninstall Guide).

Or call your computer expert to help you with removal of the malware.

The most important thing is not to continue to use the computer on the Internet until it is removed to keep from getting hit with more malware. Redirection to malware sites posing as legitimate websites and searches is a strong possibility while infected with malware.

EDIT: I started writing this post yesterday morning and got it published at 12:06PM. Within hours, there was a security advisory by Microsoft and articles about:

Microsoft Security Advisory (2501696)
Vulnerability in MHTML Could Allow Information Disclosure

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the scope of the advisory?
Microsoft is investigating new public reports of a vulnerability in MHTML on all supported editions of Microsoft Windows. This vulnerability manifests itself in Internet Explorer.

Is this a security vulnerability that requires Microsoft to issue a security update?
Upon completion of this investigation, Microsoft will take the appropriate action to help protect our customers. This may include providing a security update through our monthly release process, or providing an out-of-cycle security update, depending on our customer needs.

What is MHTML?
MHTML (MIME Encapsulation of Aggregate HTML) is an Internet standard that defines the MIME structure that is used to wrap HTML content. The MHTML protocol handler in Windows provides a pluggable protocol (MHTML:) that permits MHTML encoded documents to be rendered in applications.

What causes this threat?
The vulnerability exists due to the way MHTML interprets MIME-formatted requests for content blocks within a document. It is possible for this vulnerability to allow an attacker to run script in the wrong security context.

What might an attacker use this vulnerability to do?
An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could inject a client-side script in the user’s Internet Explorer instance. The script could spoof content, disclose information, or take any action that the user could take on the affected Web site on behalf of the targeted user.

How could an attacker exploit the vulnerability?
In a Web-based attack scenario, an attacker could convince a user to click a specially crafted link that would inject a malicious script in the response of the Web request.

Sure sounds like this may be the problem I was writing about in this posting.

BetterPrivacy Firefox Addon

[tweetmeme source=”franscomputerservices” only_single=false]BetterPrivacy Firefox Addon

Ever wondered why you are still tracked though you tried everything to prevent it?

BetterPrivacy is a safeguard which protects from usually not deletable LSO’s on Google, YouTube, Ebay…

This is a great addon. I had no idea I had so many of these and some dated back to 2006!

They don’t show up in your normal cookies area of the browers.

So what are LSOs (wikipedia.org):

Local Shared Objects (LSO), commonly called flash cookies, are collections of cookie-like data stored as a file on a user’s computer. LSOs are used by all versions of Adobe Flash Player and Version 6 and above of Macromedia’s now-obsolete Flash MX Player.

Privacy concerns

LSOs can be used by web sites to collect information on how people navigate those web sites even if people believe they have restricted the data collection. More than half of the internet’s top websites use LSOs to track users and store information about them. There is relatively little public awareness of LSOs, and they can usually not be deleted by the cookie privacy controls in a web browser. This may lead a web user to believe a computer is cleared of tracking objects, when it is not.

Several services even use LSOs as surreptitious data storage to reinstate traditional cookies that a user deleted, a policy called “re-spawning” in homage to video games where adversaries come back to life even after being “killed”. So, even if a user gets rid of a website’s tracking cookie, that cookie’s unique ID will be assigned back to a new cookie again using the Flash data as “backup.” In USA, at least five class-action lawsuits have accused media companies of surreptitiously using Flash cookies.

In certain countries it is illegal to track users without their knowledge and consent. For example, in the UK, customers must consent to use of cookies/LSOs as defined in the “Guidance on the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003”:

Cookies or similar devices must not be used unless the subscriber or user of the relevant terminal equipment:

* is provided with clear and comprehensive information about the purposes of the storage of, or access to, that information; and
* is given the opportunity to refuse the storage of, or access to, that information.

There is more information in the links at the bottom of that wikipedia article on LSOs. Here’s just one from EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) called EPIC Flash Cookie Page

If you install BetterPrivacy Firefox Addon, they have a very nice writeup on LSOs from the HELP button when looking at the options.

NOTE: The best part about BetterPrivacy is that you choose which ones to keep and which ones to delete. There are some sites that you likely will want to keep them and set them to be protected, but you certainly don’t need sites that you casually visit setting them and having them for years tracking your activities.

Race Conditions aka TOCTOU and now KHOBE

[tweetmeme source=”franscomputerservices” only_single=false]There is a ‘supposedly new’ threat on the horizon for Windows XP users, and more so on multi-core systems called KHOBE (Kernel HOok Bypassing Engine).

Although this is a threat, it is not a new threat — in fact, this type of thing has been a threat to computing since 1998 when it was written about in PDF format: RaceConditions.pdf, and in 1996 in this PDF: racecond.pdf and many times since then in articles online about TOCTOU (noted below in this posting).

It definitely sounds pretty bad when it is reported that this ‘new’ KHOBE can bypass EVERY Windows security product in an article by the respected Adrian Kingsley-Hughes at ZDNet Blogs and as reported and tested by MATOUSEC here. And it certainly isn’t a non-issue…

However, let’s look at this objectively. First this is not the first, last or only situation that has or will arise. Race Conditions as noted above have been created by TOCTOU (Time of check to time of use) situations since the dawn of computing and yes, they are not easy to test for in all situations/hardware prior to release of software/Operating Systems, but these types of conditions have been a potential threat for a very long time in all kinds of software.

A time-of-check-to-time-of-use bug (TOCTTOU − pronounced “TOCK too”) is a software bug caused by changes in a system between the checking of a condition (such as a security credential) and the use of the results of that check. It is a kind of race condition.

Before Windows was capable of true multi-tasking/multi-threading, it was possible to create these conditions on UNIX machines as noted in this 2001 article at InformationWorld.

So, why the fuss now? Windows 7 is basically claimed to be immune — by its omission in the ‘affected Windows Operating Systems’ list. Apparently only Windows XP (ONLY about 60% of Windows users –eeek! — per Adrian Kingsley-Hughes article above), or earlier Windows OSes are affected and in this particular case, and then only by security software that use the KHOBE (Kernel HOok Bypassing Engine).

Graham Cluely at his Sophos Blog notes,

Because KHOBE is not really a way that hackers can avoid detection and get their malware installed on your computer. What Matousec describes is a way of “doing something extra” if the bad guys’ malicious code manages to get past your anti-virus software in the first place.

In other words, KHOBE is only an issue if anti-virus products such as Sophos (and many others) miss the malware. And that’s one of the reasons, of course, why we – and to their credit other vendors – offer a layered approach using a variety of protection technologies.

In addition, Paul Ducklin’s Sophos blog notes,

The security panic of the week is the widely-reported story of a “vulnerability” called KHOBE. One news headline goes so far as to announce that this “new attack bypasses virtually all AV protection”.

I disagree.

The sample “attack”, which claims to be an 8.0 earthquake for desktop security software, describes a way in which the tamper protection implemented by some anti-malware products might potentially be bypassed. Assuming you can get your malicious code past the anti-malware product in the first place, of course.

Much more in his blog entry. All of these links are must read if you wish to understand as much as is possible what the real threat is.

So, given all this, is the game over on security software because this is now disclosed to be possible (READ: it was always possible) — at least till they figure out how to prevent Race Conditions in security software?

Hardly. But due to the release of the information, this situation may make life interesting security-wise for Windows XP users (earlier Windows OSes like Win2K, Win98, WinME, WinNT shouldn’t even be on the net at this point for many reasons, the least of which is this situation).

So, if you are a Windows user what can you do in the meantime?

  • Keep your systems up to date
  • Make sure you have a hardware NAT or SPI Firewall/Router on your local network, and a software firewall in place and working properly and updated (if it’s a third party firewall – Windows Firewall is updated with your Windows Updates)
  • Keep your browsers up to date
  • Keep your browser plugins (Adobe products, Apple products, Java, etc.) and extensions (like Firefox’s AdBlock Plus, etc.) up to date
  • Keep all Internet facing programs (Adobe, Microsoft, etc.) up to date
  • Run your CCleaner (or other Temporary Files/Temporary Internet Files cleaner program) frequently (I actually run mine several times a day) – Fully close any browsers before running your ‘cleaner’ and then re-open it as needed after you run the ‘cleaner’
  • Make sure your antivirus software is updating as it should and doing its scheduled scans
  • Update and Run any cleaner software and secondary anti-malware programs (like Malwarebytes Anti-malware) at least once a week or more often and immediately if something seems odd on your computer
  • Don’t open suspicious emails, even from known senders
  • Be careful where you go on the Internet. Even some legitimate sites have been hacked
  • Be careful about links and friends on Facebook (if you haven’t deactivated your account yet), Twitter, LinkedIn, and other Web 2.0/dynamic Social Networking sites.

In short, do what you should always be doing to keep yourself safe. Because this isn’t over. It was always a possibility whether we were aware or not, and it will likely be a possibility for a long time to come.

You might also consider installing a preventative program like BillP’s WinPatrol on your system to make you aware of potential changes to your system. *See EDIT below for a note from BillP about WinPatrol and kernel hooks.

And as I noted earlier, the focus of this issue, at this time, is apparently Windows XP, but any operating system is vulnerable to this type of attack and always has been — and that is not likely going to change any time soon.

EDIT: Added the following comment from BillP who developed WinPatrol:

* Thanks! I’m honored by the mention.
It’s a great topic and mentioning WinPatrol is appropriate since I don’t use any kernel hooking to detect changes. Thumbs Up!

Bill

Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, Firefox, more

[tweetmeme source=”franscomputerservices” only_single=false]Finally getting back to this blog! Sheesh, time sure gets away from ya!

iPad

The iPad looks great! But…

Why couldn’t Apple have done a Mac OS X tablet! Mac OS X which really does just work but is still much more open than iPhone OS. I absolutely love my Mac, and I love my iPod Touch, but I wouldn’t want my iPod Touch’s iPhone OS on my Mac!

Apple’s new iPad coming soon and already introduced by Steve Jobs in the Keynote; but it is basically a tablet in the form of a larger iPod Touch. Including no Flash player still (but can you blame Apple for not including Flash – yes and no LOL!)? Also, apparently, including still only allowing single apps to run at a time?

Also playing games with eBooks and their customers and retailers, and basically saying that their fiddling will only mean that all eBooks will be the same price (albeit Apple’s higher pricing worked out by playing games with the publishers) — kinda a reversal of what they did with the music labels, by the way.

EDIT (added this paragraph): Speaking of single apps only at a time like the iPhone OS … I remember the Windows 7 Starter on netbooks which restricted users to 3 concurrent apps at a time and people were very upset about it. (Thanks to @Blair_42 for reminding me about it. We talked about this on the JimmyLee and Bambi Show Saturday night on CNIRadio, or JimmyLee and I talked about it before the show…will have to go back and listen to the show to be sure LOL!)

… all instead of a Mac OS X tablet that would be able to do so much more, and be more open than the TOTALLY closed environment of the iPhone OS.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my iPod Touch, but it is not the venue I would want for a tablet computer.

Microsoft

Security Garden reports;

Microsoft released thirteen security bulletins addressing twenty-six vulnerabilities. Windows is affected by eleven of the bulletins and older versions of Office by the remaining two bulletins. Of the bulletins, the following are rated as Critical: MS10-006, MS10-007, MS10-008, MS10-013, and MS10-015.

Much more in the Security Garden article.

But this is after next to nothing in January, mind you.

And Researchers warn of likely attacks against Windows, PowerPoint;

Hackers will jump on several of the bugs Microsoft patched today

And of course, there’s also The Windows 7 honeymoon is over as well.

Joy…Windows XP is long in the tooth, Vista is a total dud, and now the only contender for Windows is Windows 7. I personally love Windows 7, but it does have some oddities that are quite annoying.

Flash

Back to the part about no Flash on the iPad, as I say, who can blame Apple’s decision on Flash when you have things like Adobe screw-up leave Flash flaw unpatched for 16 months?

Firefox

Those that know me, know that I highly suggest that folks use Firefox due to the lack if Active-X and it’s related vulnerabilities, as well as the extension system which has been very helpful; NoScript, Adblock Plus, MyWOT, and so many more wonderful extensions.

But there is the recent concern about Firefox Add-ons Infected;

Perhaps you read the Mozilla blog at http://blog.mozilla.com/addons/2010/02/04/please-read-security-issue-on-amo/ where it was revealed that two add-ons for Firefox were infected with Trojans. In this case the distribution was very small, so not many users were infected, but this type of attack is likely to grow.

And then there is the outright annoyance of HTML 5 and NO H.264 support in Firefox 3.6

Just when HTML 5 is finally breaking ground…We have Firefox 3.6, which supports HTML 5, but which is also a step backward in compatibility with video sites?! Huh?!

What good is HTML 5 support in Firefox if they take away H.264 support?! I understand ADDING Ogg Theora support, but removing H.264 support?

I applaud YouTube, Vimeo, Blip.TV, etc. (hopefully Hulu too), for going to a more open standard like HTML 5 (instead of Flash) for their delivery method of their video content, but they are staying with the same H.264 codec for the videos themselves.

So, why would Firefox, at this particular juncture, remove the ability to play H.264 from Firefox so all their Firefox 3.6 users (even on a computer with the proper codecs installed) get greeted with this:

Firefox 3.6 and YouTube HTML 5 breakage

Or is Flash the ONLY way to get H.264 compatibility?! Which would really stink big time.

I predict, sadly that many will move from Firefox to other browsers as their main browser due to this major annoyance to browsers such as Google Chrome, or Safari who also support HTML 5 but also support H.264.

I am very disappointed about this. And the only way to get around this is what to stay with Firefox? Stay with Firefox 3.5.7? Brilliant move Mozilla. And this from a Firefox user who has been thrilled with Firefox all the way since before it was Firefox in the Beta days. *Sigh*

Me? I don’t know. For general surfing, Firefox with the security addons that I use and other addons that make life easier, I may stay with Firefox. But now I will have to look elsewhere for video rendering of H.264 on all the video sites?!

More…

Oh, and apparently there may be some malware that is currently corrupting DNS or redirecting results for any of the built-in or toolbar search engines in both Firefox and Internet Explorer.

I am not sure which combination appears to do it, but one client got hit by malware (and removed it with Malwarebytes Antimalware), and found that even after the malware was gone — and BTW the host file was clean — they would get misdirected to bogus sites if they used the built-in search engine for Google or use the Yahoo Toolbar in both Firefox or Internet Explorer. However, correct results would happen when going directly to the search engine website like google.com, ixquick.com or yahoo.com. Very interesting.

Buying a new computer? Here’s some great information from Bits from Bill Pytlovany (creator of WinPatrol — great program by the way!) and the article has nothing to do with buying or using WinPatrol. 😉

Here’s the lead in to his article over Bits from Bill blog:

Bits from Bill Pytlovany: Brand New Computer? Read Me First!

Did you think I was going to start out by telling you all to install WinPatrol as soon as you opened up your new computer? Guess again. I always try to write my articles from a different point of view and today may not be what you expect.

For the 2nd time I’ve had to return the Dell All-in-One Multi-Touch computer system that I’ve been dreaming about for months. The first unit had to go back because Dell shipped the wrong configuration. The 2nd system had to go back due to internal hardware failure. I should have known something was wrong when I could hear loose parts when I took the computer out of the box.

My point today is take a little time to insure your brand new computer is everything it should be or you may be sorry. Before you install your favorite software on your brand new system I have a few recommendations.

Great article.

The Bits from Bill blog also has some great posts. One in particular is Who Gets Your Personal Information on Facebook?

Well that’s enough for today, I think…

EDIT: Added inline edit about concurrent apps