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(c) SANS Internet Storm Center. http://isc.sans.edu Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
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This weekend's decisive defeat of Touch ID is the most poignant reminder yet of the significant limitations of using fingerprints, iris scans, and other physical characteristics to prove our identities to computing devices. As previously reported, a team of German hackers who have long criticized biometrics-based authentication bypassed the new iPhone feature less than 48 hours after its debut.

Many security researchers and writers, yours truly included, predicted that the ability of the high-definition scanner included in the iPhone 5S wouldn't be fooled by attacks using scanned fingerprint smudges to impersonate an already enrolled thumb or finger. It's now clear we were wrong. Hacker Starbug overcame the purported ability of Touch ID to read prints at a sub-epidermal level by using a slightly higher resolution camera to generate a cloned fingerprint. The availability of a 3D printer also seemed to help.

Some critics have castigated the technique as too difficult for the average hacker. Others have argued that the hack has little significance in the real world. They cite Apple talking points that the protection of Touch ID represents a significant improvement over what many people have now, since a large percentage of iPhone users currently use no PIN at all to lock their phones. There's some merit in this second argument, since any protection, no matter how flawed, is better than none at all. But as Rob Graham, CEO of penetration testing firm Errata Security makes clear, Starbug's technique is easy for many people to carry out.

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[IBliss Security Advisory] Cross-site scripting ( XSS ) in Bradesco gateway wordpress plugin
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I came across an article today that demonstrates a compromise of the new Apple 5S fingerprint reader:

In other words, a copy of your fingerprint is your fingerprint.  And as Johannes discussed in the first article on this (https://isc.sans.edu/forums/diary/In+Defense+of+Biometrics/16553/), the screen on your phone is one of the better fingerprint collectors out there !
For me, this brings up both sides of "the fingerprint discussion"

  • You can't change your fingerprints - once a real copy of them are compromised, they are compromised forever
  • A representation of your fingerprint is stored on the device.  So if the device is lost or stolen, this representation could be used to compromise other things, if they use the same representation of your fingerprint (ie - any other device that uses the same manufacturer's hardware).  Again, once stolen, they are stolen forever.
  • After a couple of years, you'll likely trade your phone in for a new one, and today there isn't a way to know that a wipe of the phone wipes the saved representation of your fingerprint
  • Your fingerprint may be backed up with your phone backup.  Historically, your phone's backups have been easier to pillage than your phone.
  • If your phone is damaged, you may not have a way of wiping it

On the other hand:

  • On any given day, using your fingerprint is likely MUCH more secure for you than the 4 digit code you are likely using
  • Since your phone code likely matches either your phone number or your bank code, either it's very easy to guess, or compromising it might have other unpleasent consequences for you.

There's lots of discussion on this online, I think we're still waiting on Apple to respond definitively on any of them.

Anyway, none of these arguments are new, we've been round and round on them anytime these last 10 years, since they started putting readers on laptops for login.  What's changed is that there are way more phones than there are laptops, and in most cases the 4 digit unlock code on your phone is all that protects your chequing account, your facebook, paypal, twitter and email accounts.

So, am I using my fingerprints yet?  Not on any of my laptops, but once I upgrade my 4S to the new model, it'll be awfully tempting to take the plunge - I guess I'm still thinking about it.  If Apple would implement a "fingerprint + PIN" two factor authentication solution, it'd be an easier decision.

We welcome your comments in our discussion forum (comment button below).

Rob VandenBrink

(c) SANS Internet Storm Center. http://isc.sans.edu Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
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In my line of work, there is a lot of uses for a random sting of text.  Things like:

  • VPN Preshared Keys
  • RADIUS or TACACS  "shared secrets"
  • Windows Service Account Passwords
  • Administrative accounts (Windows local or domain Administrator, in some cases root in *nix)

You get the picture.  Strings that you need to key once, or once per instance.  In most cases, these are strings that after creation, you don't neccesarily need to know what they are, you just need to know how to change them.

With this list of parameters, you'd think that folks would use random characters for these functions right - at least do the random keyboard walk for it?  In my experience, this is almost NEVER the case.  People try spell things - "l3tm31n", D0ntg0th3r3" and the like.  They'll use their Company name, or the street address of their organization, or some other "meaningful" string.  And after using "leet-speak" passwords, they then carefully record the password and save it to a text file, usually on the server that's using the password.  As a pentester, this is a win for me, I don't even need to crack the password, you just gave it away!  As a system administrator, this horrifies me!

So, what to do?  In the past, I've used an excel spreadsheet to generate a random string of "n" characters, selected from a set of characters that do not include the "confusing" ones (Oo01lIiL and so on).   The "randomness" was defined by how long I felt like leaning on the F9 key that day.  After creating the string, I would then try to get my client to NOT write down the string - this almost never works, but it's worth a try.

For today's story, I decided to improve on this a bit, and re-coded it in python.  This was a 5 minute script (as most of mine are), so if you see a way to improve or neaten this up in any way, please - don't be shy - use our comment form.

========================================= psk.py =========================================

from random import randint
import sys
if not (len(sys.argv) == 2):                                           # verify syntax
        print "Syntax PSK LENGTH_OF_PSK"


rndstrlen = int(sys.argv[1])                                           # how long is the output string?

chars = "abcedfghjkmnpqrstuvwxyzABCDEFGHJKMNPQRSTUVWXYZ23456789"       # define the list of valid characters
charlist = list(chars)                                                 # change it to a list for lookups

numchars = len(charlist)  -1                                           # get length of string list, -1 for start from zero

for i in range (0, rndstrlen):
     c = charlist[randint(0,numchars)]                                 # pick a random char from the list
     outstring += c                                                    # append it to outstring

print outstring


Running this as "python psk 15" will create a 15 character pseudo-random string:

C:\> python psk.py 15

C:\> python psk.py 15

C:\> python psk.py 15

C:\> python psk.py 15

C:\> python psk.py 15

You can change the values that are permitted to be in the string (to exclude lower case values, or to add special characters) by adding or removing characters in the "chars" string.  Changing the length of the string is as simple as changing the  value in the command line option:

C:> python psk.py 32

C:> python psk.py 64

And please, in most cases there is NO reason to write down this password.  Your "windows service password for whichever service" for instance should be changed periodically, but in most cases there is no reason that you should know what it is, you just need to be able to change it. 

Also, if you use this to create a random pre-shared-key for your ste-to-site VPN, emailing it in cleartext is what we call "a bad idea".  Not only is it open for theft as it transits the internet (and both internal networks), it's also stored (likely forever) in your sent mail and in the recipients inbox, and likely in the Exchange Server message store - the whole cleartext data at rest / cleartext data in transit concept should ring a bell, especially if you've been audited for PCI lately.

As always, in these days when brute-forcing is simple, quick and cheap, bigger is in fact better.  For pre-shared keys or "write only" passwords, I generally start at 32 characters and go up from there.  Since you never need to re-key the thing, after it's generated you can cut/paste it and forget it.

I hope that you find this simple bit of code useful.  If you've got a simpler way of getting to the same results, or if you can improve on my quick-and-dirty python, please post to the comment field below!

Rob VandenBrink

(c) SANS Internet Storm Center. http://isc.sans.edu Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
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There are increasing calls for Microsoft to sell off Bing and walk away from mobile. Would those moves be good in the long term?
Dell officials vow that the company will continue making acquisitions and will remain committed to its struggling PC business once its $24.9 billion deal to go private is complete.
Much of what Apple offers enterprise workers and their IT departments in the new iPhone 5s and 5c comes by virtue of its new mobile operating system, iOS 7, which became available with the new smartphones last week. Insider (registration required)
Columnist Thornton A. May says in 2014, IT leaders will need to have regularly scheduled meetings that actively and aggressively seek to make sense of the changing world around them.
The Internet Storm Center on Saturday boosted its threat level to 'Yellow,' indicating a 'significant new threat' to Internet users from attacks exploiting an unpatched vulnerability in all versions of Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) browser.
Apple's Touch ID authentication system can be defeated using a well-honed technique for creating a latex copy of someone's fingerprint, according to a German hacking group.
Northeast Utilities has told IT employees that it is considering outsourcing IT work to India-based offshore firms, putting as many as 400 IT jobs at risk.
Wordpress fgallery_plus Plugin Xss vulnerabilities
[ANN] Struts GA release available - security fix
Wordpress fgallery_plus Plugin Xss vulnerabilities
Wordpress fgallery_plus Plugin Xss vulnerabilities

Posted by InfoSec News on Sep 23


[I watched the episode and was shocked at these doctor's presentation, which
could be summed up by "Blah Blah Blah, RoloDoc, Twitter, Security, Social
Media, Facebook, Derp Derp Derp" and then I visited their website knowing this
episode was video taped months ago, and maybe they fixed their problems, Guess
again, if its down, check out the...

Posted by InfoSec News on Sep 23


By Eric Chabrow
Gov Info Security
September 20, 2013

More than one in five mission-critical cybersecurity-related jobs at a key
Department of Homeland Security unit are vacant, the Government
Accountability Office says.

That's a finding buried in a GAO report on how DHS could improve how it
tracks recruiting costs.

DHS's National Protection and Programs...

Posted by InfoSec News on Sep 23


By Kathleen Miller
Sep 19, 2013

The U.S. government stripped a videoconferencing system contract from a
Maryland company after a federal agency said the device marketed as
American-made is really Chinese.

The technology is produced by Shenzhen-based ZTE Corp. (000063), China’s
No. 2 phone-equipment maker. It worked with...

Posted by InfoSec News on Sep 23


By Jim Finkle
September 22, 2013

BOSTON - A group of German hackers claimed to have cracked the iPhone
fingerprint scanner on Sunday, just two days after Apple Inc(NSQ:AAPL)
launched the technology that it promises will better protect devices from
criminals and snoopers seeking access.

If the claim is verified, it will be embarrassing for Apple which is...

Posted by InfoSec News on Sep 23


Information Dissemination
September 21, 2013

It started with an otherwise innocuous announcement earlier this week,
which at the time looked like due diligence in the context of the Navy
Yard shootings. This was posted Tuesday on the Submarine Force Reserve
Component Facebook page.

All SFRC personnel,

NMCI has implemented new account...

Posted by InfoSec News on Sep 23


By Jia Lynn Yang
The Washington Post
September 20, 2013

When Ileana Privetera started working for the contractor USIS, the firm
that vetted National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and Navy Yard
shooter Aaron Alexis, it sounded like the perfect job. A...

Posted by InfoSec News on Sep 23


The New York Times
September 20, 2013

BEIJING -- For almost two years, hackers based in Shanghai went after one
foreign defense contractor after another, at least 20 in all. Their
target, according to an American cybersecurity company that monitored the
attacks, was the technology behind the United States’ clear lead in
Internet Storm Center Infocon Status