Space Station Gets A Virus

It’s interesting to see that even the most technologically sophisticated environments face the same challenges as the rest of us. Some computers aboard the international space station (ISS) have been infected with a worm (called W32.Gammima.AG). And it’s not the first time this has happened.

Not the actual ISS In this particular case there’s no threat to their operations, but it’s interesting to see how some of the best engineers in the world let this slip through. The theory at the moment is that it was transferred from a crew member’s personal compact flash card.

It’s also interesting to note that the computers on board do not have virus protection, and that it’s believed it spread from one computer to at least another one.

Lessons to be learnt?

  1. Use a good anti-virus package. It’s not good enough to be extra careful, you need the best tools working in the background keeping watch.
  2. Be aware that flash cards (the kind cameras use) can carry malware. You just have to be careful who’s computer you put it into. We’ve even seen brand new devices ship with infected memory cards.

New Fraud Statistics

Sometimes it’s hard to believe these statistics, the numbers are so large. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has finished their first survey of personal fraud. Their findings are that 800,000 Australians fell victim to fraud in some way.

453,100 of those lost money, for a total of $977 million. That’s a lot of people and a lot of money for a rather small population.

329,000 Australians lost money after responding to lottery scams and other phishing related scams.

A lot of people keep falling for scams. The best thing you can do is help them become aware of what scams and fraud tricks are being used. Remember that you can always subscribe to by email or with an RSS reader.

Safari Threat

Microsoft would like you to know that using Safari on a Windows PC is dangerous. And of course they’d say that, they have a competing product they’d like you to use (Internet Explorer). So what’s happening?

A few days ago Microsoft published a security advisory of a potential vulnerability in Apple Safari. Technically they’re correct, there is a vulnerability and we’ll look at it in a moment. The flaw hasn’t been exploited yet, at the moment it’s more theoretical. It’s just a little suspicious that they put this much effort into pointing out flaws in a competitor’s product and that they’ve used their security advisory system for what can be seen as a marketing manoeuvre.

So what’s the flaw?

It’s being called Carpet Bombing. Here’s how it works.

safari elephants A web page is created that has hundreds of hidden download links (in the form of "iframes"). The files are silently downloaded onto the user’s desktop. This can be done without the user’s knowledge.

The vulnerability is that a user’s desktop could be covered with hundreds of icons for malicious programs, making it easy to accidentally click on one and run the malicious program.

Apple says it’s a security issue, not a vulnerability. Microsoft says users should avoid using Safari until researchers have looked further into.

So is this a sneaky marketing ploy from Microsoft? It could be, they’ve done things like this before. Or are they sincere and is Safari really as dangerous as they say?

We’ll know more in a few days, by which time Apple would most probably have a fix. I don’t consider this a high risk vulnerability, just something extra to be cautious about. A good antivirus program help here.

Microsoft’s advisory is here (it’s light on details at the moment):

Further info here, here and here.

Adobe Flash Flaw

newspapers This week everyone’s been talking about a new flaw in Flash that can be exploited to run malicious code on your computer. After a few days of media frenzy Adobe has released a fix for it.

If you use Windows then download the update (this includes users of FireFox, Opera and Internet Explorer). Link here.

The fixed version is If you’re keen you can read more about the vulnerability here.

Nigerian 419 Scams

How much money do you think Australians send to Nigerians because of the old Nigerian 419 scam? (Keep in mind that Australia has a small population of 21 million)

wallet The answer is millions of dollars.

This very interesting interview with the head of the Queensland Police Corporate Crime Investigation Group (what a long title) discusses these scams and provides some interesting details.

People who fall for these scams often don’t report it, and in many cases repeatedly fall for these scams. Watch the video, discuss it with your friends, family and colleagues, and help raise awareness of this particular kind of scam. You can also read this article on how Nigerian scams work.

Link to video.

AusCERT Survey

look An Australian security organisation called AusCERT has conducted a survey and come up with the following results. I’ve added my own comments on the right.

Survey Results Comments
84% of respondents use the internet for banking 84% of internet users have something to lose if they’re not careful.
5% have used a neighbour’s unsecured wireless internet This is not only illegal but they’re using an untrusted network
11% never update their operating system Updates exist to patch known vulnerabilities, so these 11% of people have computers that can be hacked
8% never update their anti-virus software New viruses are discovered every day so these people are at greater risk
23% have malware infections on their computer Malware such as spyware and internet banking don’t go well together (i.e. this is how criminals steal money). Malware is always a bad thing to have on your computer. Do something about it.
68% are confident or very confident with computer security The other 32% should be reading

The full survey results have been published here. It’s an interesting read, especially seeing the reasons why some people don’t use anti-virus and anti-spyware software.

SSH Brute Force Attacks

SSH is used to establish secure connections across the internet. For example a lot of people use SSH to connect to their servers because of the good security it provides. Lots of people trust it and rely on it.

In the past week there has been a large increase in the number of brute force attacks against SSH. What’s a brute force attack? It’s when someone writes a program that starts guessing passwords. It’ll keep trying to guess passwords all day and all night without rest until it finds something that works. The smarter brute force attacks do this slowly so that servers don’t lock the account in defense.

To increase a hacker’s chances of finding the right password these brute force programs use a dictionary and try to guess common words first. Then they try combinations such as replacing o’s with zeros, or putting a 1 at the end (have you ever done this with passwords?). So if your password is based on a word found in the dictionary it’ll be amongst the first ones tried.

The best defence against brute force attacks is to use a complicated password. Complicated passwords can take years to guess, simple passwords can take seconds to guess. Read here about how to evaluate the complexity of a password. And if remembering complicated passwords is a challenge then you might need a password safe.

So back to SSH. If you manage a server and use SSH to connect to it, have a look at the logs. Other people have reported a 5-10 times increase in the number of SSH attempts on their servers. Make sure your passwords are complicated enough to resist brute force attacks. Consider editing firewall rules to limit the entry points into your network. And make sure everything is patched including routers and firewalls. See this article for further information on these attacks.

And for everything that’s still wondering what SSH is, don’t worry about the jargon. Just realise that people can and do try to guess passwords.

Malware Targeted Against Pro-Tibet Groups

Chess piecesA new malware infected email is being sent to people on Pro-Tibet mailing lists. This is an example of a targeted attack whereby a particular group of people are the intended recipients of the malware, and in this case politically motivated.

F-Secure have investigated the malware and have concluded that it originates from China. It carries a PDF file that installs a key-logger on a recipient’s computer. The key-logger sends all of the user’s key strokes to a server located in China.

To recognise the malicious email look for the following:

  • The email is forged to appear to originate from Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO)
  • From:
  • Subject: UNPO Statement of Solidarity
  • First few lines of the email:

The Hague, 17 March 2008 – The Presidency of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), led by President Mr Ledum Mitee, expresses its solidarity on behalf of all UNPO Members with the people of Tibet in this period of extreme tensioni and reiterates its support for their decades-long nonviolent campaign against Chinese suppression.

  • Has an attachment called “UNPO Statement of Solidarity.pdf”

If you receive this email or others like it, delete it.

According to F-Secure there are other similar emails that are also part of the targeted attack and may contain any of the following attachments:

  • UNPO Statement of Solidarity.pdf
  • Daul-Tibet intergroup meeting.doc
  • tibet_protests_map_no_icons__mar_20.ppt
  • reports_of_violence_in_tibet.ppt
  • genocide.xls
  • memberlist.xls
  • Tibet_Research.exe
  • tibet-landscape.ppt
  • Updates Route of Tibetan Olympics Torch Relay.doc
  • Talk points.chm
  • China’s new move on Tibetans.doc
  • Support Team Tibet.doc
  • Photos of Tibet.chm
  • News ReleaseMassArrest.pdf
  • Whole Schedule and Routing for Torch Relay.xls

For more information see here.

4.2 Million Credit Cards Stolen

fruit basket It’s no surprise there are so many stolen credit card numbers being bought and sold on the internet. Earlier this week there was a data intrusion to Hannaford Bros.’s network and 4.2 million credit card number were stolen, together with their expiry dates. Hannaford is a popular supermarket chain in USA.

If you shopped at Hannaford with a credit card recently then check your credit card statements for misuse.

The official notice from Hannaford’s CEO is here.