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The very four digits that Amazon considers unimportant...

"The very four digits that Amazon considers unimportant enough to display in the clear on the Web are precisely the same ones that Apple considers secure enough to perform identity verification..." Honan wrote. Four digits, when combined with my home address and bank account number were all it took for me to gain on line access to a dormant checking account at my bank and enable fund transfers. If I were fond of the various auto-pay options, there would be a dozen or so companies that would have my checking account number, any pretty much anyone in the world can find out my home address (I own a house, so it's in various public records).

Segmenting ones on line life into non-overlapping buckets seems like the best way to break the daisy chain that led to the hack and data loss. I've followed that principle. I try to maintain separate, non-overlapping e-mail addresses and passwords for any on line account that either is connected to something that could cost me mone…

In MumbleWare versions 8.2 and below, the SA password must be set to propq

An e-mail from a vendor, somewhat anonymized:

From: ****
Sent: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 08:22 AM
To: ****
Subject: MumbleWare Case 123456789


Hello ****,
Thank you for contacting MumbleWare Product Support.  I am writing to you in reference to case number 123456789 regarding your request to change your SA password. In MumbleWare versions 8.2 and below, the SA password must be set to propq. If a different password is used, MumbleWare may not be able to communicate with the database and error messages will be generated. The attached KB article references the fact that the SA password must be set to propq in MumbleWare versions 8.2 and below. The second KB article lists the steps involved in moving from MumbleWare 8.2 to 8.3.    It's only been a decade since we first asked  the obvious question "Can we change our SQL Server SA password without breaking your application".

I guess we finally can.

A letter to our Apple Account Exec

A couple of days ago myself and a colleague of mine ran into our Apple account exec.  The conversation ended up in the security space, as is probably appropriate considering Apples recent performance in that area. Our account exec quickly followed up with a request for our contact information (good), a press-release style announcement on how much more secure Safari 5.1.7 was going to be (interesting), and a month old article on how to remove Flashback (amusing).

I figured he was missing the point of our conversation. Here's my reply:

Thursday, May 10, 2012 8:31 AM ***** -

The context of our conversation was really strategic, not tactical. The short term issue of a specific malware incident isn't important. (We knew about Flashback and how to remove it  shortly after it was discovered.)

What is an interesting discussion is Apple's strategic, corporate wide attitude towards enterprise desktop security and desktop management and the question of whether or not Apple, as a…

OT: A plan.

Aaron Smith posted this story about the kindness of an NYC cab driver. It's a good read, and it reminds me of something vaguely similar that happened to be a few decades ago.

I had just moved 400 miles from home to a small town in Minnesota near where my grandfathers sister had moved in the 1930's. He didn't get to see her very often, so when I moved near her farm he had an excuse to make the trip.

The house I bought needed a ton of work, my youngest brother needed an excuse to skip high school, my grandfather needed a ride to Minnesota, so I ended up with a couple hard working helpers once weekend or so per month. Good deal for me.

One weekend my grandfather insisted on coming out to Minnesota. He had just been out a few weeks earlier, I didn't need any help and my brother wasn't enthused about another road trip.

He insisted.

They made the trip.

While he was helping me strip wallpaper that weekend, I noticed that he was hitting the nitro pills pretty regularly. H…

Apple joins the big leagues

I've been hearing 'OS X is secure' for a decade now. For a decade, I've been challenging that assertion.

The challenges to that assertion generally end up with a response of'because it's Unix' or 'because it's not Microsoft'. I don't recall 'OS X is secure' assertions being backed up by detailed explanations of anything in the kernel, operating system, development tools or coding practices that assures a higher level of security than competing operating systems, and I don't hold that a Unix history automatically ensures a more secure platform. My first forensic examinations were Unix, not Windows, and I can easily assert that the reason that we have more compromised Windows servers and desktops is because we have more Windows servers and desktops.
Unfortunately the 'OS X is more secure' fantasy has left some (or many) with the impression that they don't need to practice safe computing on Macs. It is OK to run as admi…

Twenty percent of all households have at least one bot-infected computer

...and 5% of all enterprise 'assets' are infected.

From Gunter Ollmann, VP of Research at Damballa in this post on CircleID:
"...on average, between 3-7% of assets within enterprise networks are identified as being infected...""Within the ISP/Telco world that have chosen to deploy the Damballa CSP product, between 18-22% of unique subscriber IP addresses are actively seeking to connect to known C&C servers." Ouch.

Note that this is bot-net infections only, not the broader category of computers infected with malware in general. 

When I first started securing systems a couple decades ago there were no external threats. We had Netware, IPX and Arcnet. The only path to a compromise of confidentiality or integrity originated on a keyboard withing the campus. There were no external threats. The threat to our systems was from the inside, and the risk from insiders was mitigated by the assumption that we'd be able to pin the actions initiated a keyboard…

Micrsoft and its partners seize servers...

Microsoft press release on their Zeus botnet server seizure:

"This disruption was made possible through a successful pleading before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, which allowed Microsoft and its partners to conduct a coordinated seizure of command and control servers running some of the worst known Zeus botnets."

"As a part of the operation, on March 23, Microsoft and its co-plaintiffs, escorted by the U.S. Marshals, seized command and control servers in two hosting locations, Scranton, Pa., and Lombard, Ill., to seize and preserve valuable data and virtual evidence from the botnets for the case."

Emphasis is mine.

From the actual seizure order:

"There is good cause to believe that the Defendants have engaged in…Trademark Infringement, False Destination Origin, and Trademark Dilution…"

Emphasis is mine.

So if I'm reading this correctly, Microsoft seized the servers, not federal law enforcement. Individuals who work for…

I thought I had this privacy thing figured out, but…

…maybe not. I’m trying out the Collusion plugin for Firefox and the results are interesting. After a couple evenings of my normal surfing routine, the plugin looks like:Yuk.As expected, Google appears at or near the center of attraction.I use the Google suite for anything related to my profession and I use Google’s competition for anything unrelated to my role as an IT professional. My theory is that as a public employee in Minnesota, pretty much everything I do professionally is public anyway, so I figure that there is no net loss to using the Google stack. The Collusion plugin shows that I’m merging the two realms far more than I thought.Also unexpected are several domains that I’ve never heard of, including something called imrworldwide:I have no idea who they are, but they know more about me than I’d like. I use Adblock Plus and NoScript plugins and I accept third party cookies, but I clear all cookies each time I close Firefox (once every few weeks), so I’ve assumed that I’m les…

I’ve always wondered how many vulnerable devices

are out there. Now I know.

Oracle Support portal: HTML 5 replaces Flash

Oracle Support is upgrading their web interface from Flash to HTML5. I’m happy. I no longer have to twiddle my thumbs waiting for Flash to load:



That was really annoying.  The consolation prize was that the Flash UI was still two orders of magnitude faster than the call back from support on a Sev 1, so the Flash interface really didn’t affect MTTR.

My major complaints about the Flash interface were:

Managing Flash plugins on critical data center servers & management infrastructure. Adobe simply has not been able to keep Flash from being exploited, so having to rely on an exploitable plugin for daily operations never made me comfortable. It is really nice to be able to gather data on an incident and upload it directly to Oracle but that meant that the database management infrastructure had to have Flash plugins along with the associated risk/cost of an exploitable plugin.

Slow and unreliable. When I log into the Flash based support site, I typically need to reload the Flash app at l…

50 million Megaupload users…

… have data in danger of being erased. From Daniel Wagner’s AP story, is looks like:The Feds are done cloning servers. They have what they need. They don’t care. Megaupload assets are frozen. They might care, but are helpless. The hosting companies for Megaupload [Cogent|Carpathia] [don’t have access|can’t comment].Presumably there are legitimate customers of Megaupload who stored stuff that did not stomp all over other peoples copyrights. If so, it sounds like those customers are screwed.Update Feb 02 2012: Maybe not. Carpathia Hosting and the EFF are stepping up to the plate.

Secret question fail

My credit union switched to a new service provider for online banking and bill paying. The good news is that they’ve chosen a service provider that has a fairly modern looking interface, unlike the 1990s interface of their old provider. Among other things, they no longer use a captcha as a security factor and they now require “the latest versions of Internet Explorer and Firefox […] SSL compliant with 128 bit encryption” instead of IE5 and Netscape 6.2.  I keep thinking that old interface was screen scraping TN3270 session in the background. The new interface at least gives the appearance of having been written this century. They did not set the world on fire with their state of the art authentication though. As far as I can tell, they still think that a secret question is a second authentication factor, and they regressed significantly by prohibiting me from creating my own questions. I used to have a secret question like ‘Who is Z's5.'vYCf!.v/Zu31wkJYjR’ with an answer somet…

“We keep logs as far back, as long as we have had software to keep logs.”

If I’m reading this right, Symantec had a breech in 2006 but didn’t think that the breech was significant. After learning that older versions or their source code was stolen, they re-analyzed the 2006 event from 6 year old logs (!) and determined that the source was stolen during that incident. The interesting bits:Nobody that was involved at the 2006 breech is still at the company, but the logs still existed and were sufficiently detailed to reconstruct the event. That’s really impressive. Presumably whomever stole the source could have been busy writing bots that were undetected by Symantec AV. I don’t know that to be the case, but it certainly is possible. Owning the source code for an AV product would certainly be a competitive advantage for a bot-maker.Symantec’s advice to shut off pcAnywhere is interesting. I’s not the usual advice you get from companies with exploitable software. Oracle has never asked us to shut off their unbreakable databases.It’s broken, shut it off.