Feeds

Security experts rate the world's most dangerous exploits

Pass the hash...

High performance access to file storage

Criminal hackers continue to penetrate many more company networks than most administrators care to admit, according to two security experts who offered a list of the most effective exploits used to gain entry.

Topping the list is an attack dubbed super-flexible pivoting. It abuses Linux machines connected to a network's DMZ, or demilitarized zone, to bypass corporate firewalls and access sensitive resources on an internal network. The technique has already been used to steal vast amounts of data, including "millions of credit cards," said Ed Skoudis, a senior security consultant for InGuardians, a security company that frequently responds to major network breaches.

"If the bad guy can get control of one of your DMZ machines, he doesn't need to make inbound connections there anymore," Skoudis said during a panel at the RSA security conference. "Instead, he can make outbound connections that effectively give him inbound access on your internal network."

Another powerful exploit Skoudis is seeing frequently is the evolution of an attack known as pass the hash, which is used to penetrate Windows servers. Windows authentication works by checking a user's cryptographic hash, rather than password. Attackers can steal the hash by exploiting a simple unpatched browser or application vulnerability and then injecting it into the memory of the Windows box.

Although pass the hash has been around for a decade, the attacks have remained successful. That's in part thanks to a proliferation of software that streamlines the exploit. Examples include this download from Core Security, or this one from JoMo-kun. Nessus and Metasploit also have modules that perform the attacks.

Skoudis was joined by Johannes Ullrich, the CTO of the SANS Internet Storm Center. Together, they presented their list of the world's most dangerous new attack techniques and ways organizations can protect themselves against them.

"The real big problem here is user education," Ullrich told a standing-room audience. "And user education is more than going to the user and saying don't click on it. User education also means getting your own house in order."

Too many organizations are still failing to patch applications such as Adobe's Flash and Reader, he added. In other cases, they aren't teaching employees how to avoid social-engineering attacks on social networking sites and elsewhere.

Other dangerous exploits include:

  • Advances in wireless attacks, such as those that hack a client machine and then use it to connect to an access point tied to a corporate network. Interestingly, this is easier to do with Windows Vista and Windows 7 than their predecessors, Skoudis said.
  • Attacks that take advantage of shortcomings in SSL, or secure sockets layer. The most glaring are SSL's focus on failed connections rather than those that are successful and the number of banks that still use non-SSL login pages. Others include the recently demonstrated method for spoofing SSL sessions.
  • Attacks against unprotected VoIP, or voice over IP, systems. Since the beginning of the year, there have been some 5,000 scans of port 5060 every day. That's about five times the rate as in all of 2008, said Ullrich, who monitors internet activity using half a million sensors across the globe

The take-away is that admins should assume they've already been hacked.

"I believe that a determined but not necessarily well-funded attacker can pretty much break into any organization," Skoudis said. "If you think it's less than 50 percent, I think you need to look a little more carefully." ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.