Microphones Listen to Your… Monitor?

A song by Rockwell, “Somebody’s Watching Me” might be the anthem for the tin foil hat crowd. But a new paper reveals that it might be just as scary to have someone listening to you. Researchers have used common microphones to listen in on computer monitors. The demonstration includes analyzing audio to determine input from virtual keyboards and even a way to tell if people are surfing the web during a Google Hangout session.

Reading monitors based on electronic emissions is nothing new — ask Wim van Eck or read about TEMPEST. What makes this worrisome is that we constantly have live microphones around our computers. Webcams, phones, the latest smart assistant. Even some screens have built-in microphones. According to the paper, you could even pick up data from recorded audio. The paper has three main goals: extract display text, distinguish between different websites on screen, and extracting text entered with a virtual keyboard.

The analysis looked at 31 different screens. There were 12 distinct models from 6 different vendors. They did use a special VGA cable to tap the vertical sync to help manage the data, but they claim this was only an aid and not essential. They also used a high-end sound setup with a 192 kHz sampling rate.

Measuring the sound made by different display patterns was empirical. The authors think the mechanism is from subtle changes in the vibrations of the power supply components due to changes in current consumption. The refresh rate of the monitor also plays a part.

Armed with the proof of concept, the team went on to use an LG V20 cellphone and via a Hangouts call. Imagine if the person on the other end of your call could tell when you were reading Hackaday instead of paying attention to the call.

Different types of monitors need to be learned for best accuracy. It appears that reading small text may have problems, too. Even website detection depends on training. Still, maybe the tin hat people aren’t exactly wrong.

If you want to try your hand at reading the RF emissions, software defined radio is your friend. We’ll be interested to see if anyone duplicates the acoustic method in this paper, though.

Dummy Security Camera Is Smarter Than It Looks

The idea behind a dummy security camera is that people who are up to no good might think twice about doing anything to your property when they think they’re being recorded. Obviously a real security camera would be even better, but sometimes that’s just not economically or logistically possible. Admittedly they’re not always very convincing, but for a few bucks, hopefully it’s enough to make the bad guys think twice.

But what if that “fake” camera could do a little more than just look pretty up on the wall? [Chris Chimienti] thought he could improve the idea by adding some electronics that would notify him if motion was detected. As an added bonus, any would-be criminals who might be emboldened by the realization the camera itself is fake might find themselves in for a rude surprise when the notifications start firing off.

In the video after the break, [Chris] really takes his time walking the viewer through the disassembly of the dummy camera. As it turns out, these things look like they’d make excellent project enclosures; they come apart easily, have nothing but empty space inside, and even have an integrated battery compartment. That alone could be a useful tip to file away for the future.

He then goes on to explain how he added some smarts to this dummy camera. Up where the original “lens” was, he installed a PIR sensor, some white LEDs, a light sensor, and the original blinking red LED. All of this was mounted to a very slick 3D printed plate which integrates into the camera’s body perfectly. The new hardware is connected up to a similarly well mounted Wemos D1 Mini inside the camera. The rest of the video goes through every aspect of the software setup, which is sure to be of interest to anyone who’s ever thought of rolling their own IoT device.

This type of PIR sensor is hacker favorite, and we’ve seen a number of projects using them for all sorts of creative purposes. We’ve even seen them paired with the ESP8266 before for Internet-connected motion sensing, albeit without the tidy security camera enclosure.

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This Week in Security: What’s up with Whatsapp, Windows XP Patches, And Cisco is Attacked by the Thrangrycat

Whatsapp allows for end-to-end encrypted messaging, secure VoIP calls, and until this week, malware installation when receiving a call. A maliciously crafted SRTCP connection can trigger a buffer overflow, and execute code on the target device. The vulnerability was apparently found first by a surveillance company, The NSO Group. NSO is known for Pegasus, a commercial spyware program that they’ve marketed to governments and intelligence agencies, and which has been implicated in a number of human rights violations and even the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi. It seems that this Whatsapp vulnerability was one of the infection vectors used by the Pegasus program. After independently discovering the flaw, Facebook pushed a fixed client on Monday.

Windows XP Patched Against Wormable Vulnerability

What year is it!? This Tuesday, Microsoft released a patch for Windows XP, five years after support for the venerable OS officially ended. Reminiscent of the last time Microsoft patched Windows XP, when Wannacry was the crisis. This week, Microsoft patched a Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) vulnerability, CVE-2019-0708. The vulnerability allows an attacker to connect to the RDP service, send a malicious request, and have control over the system. Since no authentication is required, the vulnerability is considered “wormable”, or exploitable by a self-replicating program.

Windows XP through Windows 7 has the flaw, and fixes were rolled out, though notably not for Windows Vista. It’s been reported that it’s possible to download the patch for Server 2008 and manually apply it to Windows Vista. That said, it’s high time to retire the unsupported systems, or at least disconnect them from the network.

The Worst Vulnerability Name of All Time

Thrangrycat. Or more accurately, “😾😾😾” is a newly announced vulnerability in Cisco products, discovered by Red Balloon Security. Cisco uses secure boot on many of their devices in order to prevent malicious tampering with device firmware. Secure boot is achieved through the use of a secondary processor, a Trust Anchor module (TAm). This module ensures that the rest of the system is running properly signed firmware. The only problem with this scheme is that the dedicated TAm also has firmware, and that firmware can be attacked. The TAm processor is actually an FPGA, and researchers discovered that it was possible to modify the FPGA bitstream, totally defeating the secure boot mechanism.

The name of the attack, thrangrycat, might be a satirical shot at other ridiculous vulnerability names. Naming issues aside, it’s an impressive bit of work, numbered CVE-2019-1649. At the same time, Red Balloon Security disclosed another vulnerability that allowed command injection by an authenticated user.

Odds and Ends

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What Happened With Supermicro?

Back in October 2018, a bombshell rocked the tech industry when Bloomberg reported that some motherboards made by Supermicro had malicious components on them that were used to spy or interfere with the operation of the board, and that these motherboards were found on servers used by Amazon and Apple. We covered the event, looking at how it could work if it were true. Now seven months have passed, and it’s time to look at how things shook out.

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This Week in Security: Backdoors in Cisco Switches, PGP Spoofing in Emails, Git Ransomware

Some switches in Cisco’s 9000 series are susceptible to a remote vulnerability, numbered CVE-2019-1804 . It’s a bit odd to call it a vulnerability, actually, because the software is operating as intended. Cisco shipped out these switches with the same private key hardcoded in software for all root SSH logins. Anyone with the key can log in as root on any of these switches.

Cisco makes a strange claim in their advisory, that this is only exploitable over IPv6. This seems very odd, as there is nothing about SSH or the key authentication process that is IPv6 specific. This suggests that there is possibly another blunder, that they accidentally left the SSH port open to the world on IPv6. Another possibility is that they are assuming that all these switches are safely behind NAT routers, and therefore inaccessible through IPv4. One of the advantages/disadvantages of IPv6 is that there is no NAT, and all the network devices are accessible from the outside network. (Accessible in the sense that a route exists. Firewalling is still possible, of course.)

It’s staggering how many devices, even high end commercial devices, are shipped with unintentional yet effective backdoors, just like this one. Continue reading “This Week in Security: Backdoors in Cisco Switches, PGP Spoofing in Emails, Git Ransomware”

Faxsploit – Exploiting A Fax With A Picture

Security researchers have found a way to remotely execute code on a fax machine by sending a specially crafted document to it. So… who cares about fax? Well apparently a lot of persons are still using it in many institutions, governments and industries, including the healthcare industry, legal, banking and commercial. Bureaucracy and old procedures tend to die hard.

This is one of those exploits that deserve proper attention, for many reasons. It is well documented and is a great piece of proper old school hacking and reverse engineering. [Eyal Itkin], [Yannay Livneh] and [Yaniv Balmas] show us their process in a nicely done article that you can read here. If you are into security hacks, it’s really worth reading and also worth watching the DEFCON video. They focused their attention in a all-in-one printer/scanner/fax and the results were as good as it gets.

Our research set out to ask what would happen if an attacker, with merely a phone line at his disposal and equipped with nothing more than his target`s fax number, was able to attack an all-in-one printer by sending a malicious fax to it.

In fact, we found several critical vulnerabilities in all-in-one printers which allowed us to ‘faxploit’ the all-in-one printer and take complete control over it by sending a maliciously crafted fax.

As the researchers note, once an all-in-one printer has been compromised, it could be used to a wide array of malicious activity, from infiltrating the internal network, to stealing printed documents even to mining Bitcoin. In theory they could even produce a fax worm, replicating via the phone line.

The attack summary video is bellow, demonstrating an exploit that allows an attacker to pivot into an internal network and taking over a Windows machine using Eternal Blue NSA exploit.

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This Week in Security: Facebook Hacked your Email, Cyber on the Power Grid, and a Nasty Zero-day

Ah, Facebook. Only you could mess up email verification this badly, and still get a million people to hand over their email address passwords. Yes, you read that right, Facebook’s email verification scheme was to ask users for their email address and email account password. During the verification, Facebook automatically downloaded the account’s contact list, with no warning and no way to opt out.

The amount of terrible here is mind-boggling, but perhaps we need a new security rule-of-thumb for these kind of situations. Don’t ever give an online service the password to a different service. In order to make use of a password in this case, it’s necessary to handle it in plain-text. It’s not certain how long Facebook stored these passwords, but they also recently disclosed that they have been storing millions of Facebook and Instagram passwords in plain-text internally.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has been called out for serious privacy shenanigans, either: In early 2018 it was revealed that the Facebook Android app had been uploading phone call records without informing users. Mark Zuckerberg has recently outlined his plan to give Facebook a new focus on privacy. Time will tell whether any real change will occur.

Cyber Can Mean Anything

Have you noticed that “cyber” has become a meaningless buzz-word, particularly when used by the usual suspects? The Department of Energy released a report that contained a vague but interesting sounding description of an event: “Cyber event that causes interruptions of electrical system operations.” This was noticed by news outlets, and people have been speculating ever since. What is frustrating about this is the wide range of meaning covered by the term “cyber event”. Was it an actual attack? Was Trinity shutting down the power stations, or did an intern trip over a power cord?
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