Patrick Klepek has a terrific read up on Waypoint about his investigation into Sony’s incompetent security practices around user accounts, and the social engineering crews that steal them:
$1,200. That’s how much someone is asking for a PlayStation Network account I’ve been investigating for the past few weeks. “Secure,” the person calls it, claiming the account will “never be touched” by the original owner again. “He won’t be getting it back,” they claim. More than a thousand dollars? That’s a little rich for my blood, and so I counteroffer: $700.
He also has a few updates on twitter for after you’ve read the article.
There are two big computer vulnerabilities that were announced recently, Spectre and Meltdown attacks. These are significant because they affect almost every desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablet, and game console. Almost anything with a processor can be exploited to give attackers passwords and whatever other private information is on a device.
The attacks work because of the way that computer processors attempt to speculatively work ahead of their current point in executing a computer program. My understanding is that even code executed in your web browser could execute these attacks.
There are already patches available through Apple operating systems, Microsoft’s Windows, some Android devices, and many Linux operating systems.
The workarounds that operating systems are implementing may slow these devices down because the attacks utilize performance features of the processors, but the performance effects of the mitigation might not be noticeable outside of specific workloads.
These aren’t normal software vulnerabilities, where a patch fixes the problem and everyone can move on. These vulnerabilities are in the fundamentals of how the microprocessor operates.
It shouldn’t be surprising that microprocessor designers have been building insecure hardware for 20 years. What’s surprising is that it took 20 years to discover it. In their rush to make computers faster, they weren’t thinking about security. They didn’t have the expertise to find these vulnerabilities. And those who did were too busy finding normal software vulnerabilities to examine microprocessors. Security researchers are starting to look more closely at these systems, so expect to hear about more vulnerabilities along these lines.
Garrett M. Graff has this article for Wired about the Mirai botnet denial-of-service attack, saying that it was powered by angry Minecraft server operators and players:
As the 2016 US presidential election drew near, fears began to mount that the so-called Mirai botnet might be the work of a nation-state practicing for an attack that would cripple the country as voters went to the polls. The truth, as made clear in that Alaskan courtroom Friday—and unsealed by the Justice Department on Wednesday—was even stranger: The brains behind Mirai were a 21-year-old Rutgers college student from suburban New Jersey and his two college-age friends from outside Pittsburgh and New Orleans. All three—Paras Jha, Josiah White, and Dalton Norman, respectively—admitted their role in creating and launching Mirai into the world.
Originally, prosecutors say, the defendants hadn’t intended to bring down the internet—they had been trying to gain an advantage in the computer game Minecraft.
VDOS was an advanced botnet: a network of malware-infected, zombie devices that its masters could commandeer to execute DDoS attacks at will. And the teens were using it to run a lucrative version of a then-common scheme in the online gaming world—a so-called booter service, geared toward helping individual gamers attack an opponent while fighting head-to-head, knocking them offline to defeat them. Its tens of thousands of customers could pay small amounts, like $5 to $50, to rent small-scale denial-of-service attacks via an easy-to-use web interface.
A similar service was used to attack the ioquake3 master server in the past. It was surprisingly easy for it to be launched on an ongoing basis.
Go to the Updates tab in the Mac App Store to apply it now, you won’t even need to reboot. Apple has more details about the update at this link.
Here’s the post from yesterday with the details of the vulnerability.
If you have any trouble with file sharing after applying this security patch Apple has another fix for that, oops.
There’s a vulnerability in the latest version of macOS High Sierra (10.13.1) that may let anyone with physical access to a Mac log in and gain system administrator (root) access. Or, if they already have an account, upgrade their access to the system administrator (root) level.
You can work around the issue by setting a root password as described in this support document from Apple. They’re working on fixing it.
The vulnerability works like this:
- At any login or a privilege escalation dialog a user types in the username root
- The user hits the login button or enter a few times in quick succession
- The system enables the root user account and assigns it no password.
This is incredibly bad for Apple to have a vulnerability this easy to exploit, and it’s ridiculous that it was also apparently publicly available on Apple’s developer forums weeks ago.