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BlackBerry hacking peril exposed

Blackjacking circumvents corporate defences

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A hacking program, due to be released next week, will demonstrate how to use a connection from BlackBerry devices to potentially bypass enterprise security defences.

Jesse D'Aguanno, director of security research at German firm Praetorian Global, gave a presentation on how to use the BlackBerry environment to circumvent perimeter defenses and directly attack hosts on a corporate intranet at last week's DefCon conference in Vegas. The demo included a live presentation. Next week D'Aguanno plans to release source code for BBProxy, the tool used to conduct the attack, which he describes as "Blackjacking".

BBProxy can be installed on a BlackBerry or sent in an email attachments to potential targets. The code can be hidden in something apparently innocuous such as a naughts and crosses game, D'Aguanno suggests. Once activated, BBProxy opens a covert channel between hackers and compromised hosts on improperly secured corporate networks. The communications channel between the BlackBerry server and handheld device is encrypted and cannot be properly inspected by typical security products.

D'Aguanno said that he's publishing information about the attack, along with details on possible defences, in order to highlight the dangers of treating BlackBerry environments as more secure than external connections from corporate laptops. Other security experts, along with Research In Motion, the supplier of BlackBerry devices and associated enterprise server products, stress the need to establish properly segmented networks to defend against such attacks.

Paul Henry, vice president at net security firm Secure Computing, commented: "Servers connecting to the public internet have an inherent risk. Isolating these Internet facing servers reduces the risk of a compromised server providing access to other critical servers. Hence due diligence would require that any internet facing server like a BlackBerry server should be isolated [behind a firewall] on its own DMZ segment.

"Only those connections necessary to facilitate the operation of the BlackBerry server should be permitted. The BlackBerry server should not be permitted to open arbitrary connections to the internal network or internet. The mail server that is working with the BlackBerry server... should also be isolated on it’s own separate DMZ," he added.

RIM is playing down the risk of the attack demonstrated by D'Aguanno by saying that network administrators can deny users the ability to run third-party applications, such as games sent by email, the main vector for attack suggested by D'Aguanno. The firm has published guidelines on how to defend BlackBerry environments against compromise on the security segment of its BlackBerry website here. ®

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