Feeds

Attack of the clones: Researcher pwns SecureID token system

But RSA claims it would only work on rootkit-compromised gear

3 Big data security analytics techniques

Governments, spies and military goons: Be warned

The research has potentially important implications for the safekeeping of tokens, in particular, and the security of two-factor authentication, in general.

Government agencies, military contractors, and numerous enterprises use the technology to safeguard remote access. In subsequent posts, Fouladi makes it clear that what he has demonstrated is not a complete end-to-end attack. Rather he says the research points towards the need towards using "trusted platform module" (TPM) bindings, which associates the software token with the TPM chip on a target system.

Scrutiny about the security of two-factor authentication in general, and RSA in particular, has grown since a raid on RSA's network that led to the theft of sensitive SecurID-related information in March 2011. Information used in this hack was subsequently used in an unsuccessful attack against Lockheed Martin, the defence contractor has confirmed. RSA offered replacement token or free security monitoring services to reassure key customers in the wake of the incident.

RSA has yet to speak to Fouladi directly but has gone through his research since its publication last Thursday.

Dan Schiappa, senior vice president of identity and data protection group at RSA Security, told El Reg that the attack outlined by Fouladi would only work on a "fully compromised machine" where an attacker has "kernel level" access at which stage that stage "all bets are off", as he put it.

"Fouladi hasn't shown any exploit against SecurID soft tokens – this is an exploit against Windows itself," said Schiappa, adding "he's not connecting all the steps together" so that the attack remains "theoretical".

RSA Security's best practice guidelines for software tokens require user entry of a PIN to protect the key as a additional security measure. Schiappa conceded that this PIN might be captured by a keystroke logger but repeated his assurance that Fouladi's research had not exposed any product bug and that users of RSA authentication technology ought to be safe, especially if they follow its best practice guidelines.

Fouladi told El Reg took issue with this assessment and said that the attack "can be launched remotely and does not require a  'fully compromised machine' as RSA have stated".

"Our aim at SensePost was to demonstrate how easy/hard it would be for an attacker, who has already compromised a system, to extract RSA token secrets and clone them on another machine," he explained. "A number of people commented on the fact that we did not disclose the steps required to update the LSA [Local Security Authority] secrets on the cloned system. Whilst this technique is relatively easy to do, it is not required for this attack to function."

"If a piece of malware was written for this attack, it does NOT have to grab the DPAPI blobs and replicate them on the attacker's machine. It can simply hook into the CryptUnprotectData and steal the decrypted blobs once the RSA software token starts execution. The sole reason I included the steps to replicate the DPAPI on another machine was that this research was performed during a real world assessment, which was time-limited. We chose to demonstrate the attack to the client by replicating the DPAPI blobs instead of developing a proof of concept malcode.

"A real-world malware targeting RSA software tokens would choose the API hooking method or a similar approach to grab the decrypted seed and post it back to the attacker," he concluded.

SensePost's research has implications for the two-factor authentication software tokens on smartphones or tablets, which might actually prove more difficult to crack than their Windows desktop equivalents.

"The 'Token Binding' bypass attack would be successful on these devices, but with a different device serial ID calculation formula," Fouladi explained. "However, the application sandboxing model deployed on most modern smartphone operating systems would make it more difficult for a malicious application deployed on the device to extract the software token's secret seeds.

"Obviously, if an attacker has physical access to a device for a short time, they would be able to extract those secrets. This is in contrast to tamper-proof hardware tokens or smart cards, which by design provide a very good level of protection, even if they are in the hands of an attacker for a long time," he concluded. ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
Mounties always get their man: Heartbleed 'hacker', 19, CUFFED
Canadian teen accused of raiding tax computers using OpenSSL bug
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
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
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.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.