Hacking & Security
Introduction The virtual space has over time become something of real importance for business, politics, work, communities and communications. In becoming gradually more and more dependent and addicted to the Internet, individuals, companies, organizations and governments have raised (or are raising) awareness of being intimately vulnerable to attacks and threats [...]
Don't look now, but Google's Project Zero vulnerability research program may have dropped more zero-day vulnerabilities—this time on Apple's OS X platform.
In the past two days, Project Zero has disclosed OS X vulnerabilities here, here, and here. At first glance, none of them appear to be highly critical, since all three appear to require the attacker to already have some access to a targeted machine. What's more, the first vulnerability, the one involving the "networkd 'effective_audit_token' XPC," may already have been mitigated in OS X Yosemite, but if so the Google advisory doesn't make this explicit and Apple doesn't publicly discuss security matters with reporters.
Still, the exploits could be combined with a separate attack to elevate lower-level privileges and gain control over vulnerable Macs. And since the disclosures contain proof-of-concept exploit code, they provide enough technical detail for experienced hackers to write malicious attacks that target the previously unknown vulnerabilities. The security flaws were privately reported to Apple on October 20, October 21, and October 23, 2014. All three advisories appear to have been published after the expiration of the 90-day grace period Project Zero gives developers before making reports public.
A device used to monitor the gasoline levels at refueling stations across the United States—known as an automated tank gauge or ATG—could be remotely accessed by online attackers, manipulated to cause alerts, and even set to shut down the flow of fuel, according to research to be published on Thursday.
The security weakness—identified by Jack Chadowitz, a former process control engineer and founder of control-system monitoring service BostonBase—could theoretically affect the devices at many of the approximately 115,000 fueling stations in the United States, but only a small fraction of those systems—about 5,300—appear to be vulnerable to an Internet attack, according to security firm Rapid7, which conducted a scan for such devices on January 10. While automated tank gauges are typically accessed to monitor fuel inventories, so as to know when to order gasoline, attackers could also access the settings, Chadowitz said.
“One could change the calibration and make the tank report full or empty,” he told Ars. “If you report the tank is full, no one is going to order fuel.”
It's the type of bug that could have visited a world of hurt on a sizable number of people using Google Apps to manage business e-mail and calendars. A cross-site scripting (XSS) flaw in https://admin.google.com/ made it possible for attackers to force Google Apps admins to execute just about any request on that subdomain. Forced actions included creating new users with "super admin" rights, removing two-factor authentication and other security controls from existing accounts and modifying domain settings so e-mail is redirected to addresses controlled by the attacker.
But instead of causing disaster for businesses using Google Apps or generating headlines of an alarming new zero-day vulnerability, the bug was privately reported to Google on September 1 and fixed 17 days later. In exchange for the report, Google paid application security engineer Brett Buerhaus $5,000.
The speed and lack of fuss contrasts sharply with vulnerability travails that have recently visited Microsoft. Twice this month, the software company has been shamed when Project Zero, the vulnerability research team sponsored by Google, has publicly reported unfixed bugs that threaten the security of Windows users.
I recently worked with SplashData to compile its 2014 Worst Passwords List, and yes, 123456 tops the list. In the data set of 3.3 million passwords I used for SplashData, almost 20,000 of those were in fact 123456. But how often do you genuinely see people using that, or the second most common password, password, in real life? Are people still really that careless with their passwords?
While 123456 is absolutely the most common password, that statistic is a bit misleading. Although 0.6 percent of all users on my list used it, it’s important to remember that 99.4 percent of the users on my list didn’t. What is noteworthy here is that while the top passwords are still the top passwords, the number of people using those passwords has dramatically decreased. In 2011, my analysis showed that 8.5 percent had the passwords password or 123456, but this year that number has gone down to less than one percent. This is huge.
The fact is that the top passwords are always going to be the top passwords, it’s just that the percentage of users actually using those will—at least we hope—continually get smaller. This year, for example, a hacker using the top 10 password list would statistically be able to guess 16 out of 1,000 passwords.
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