Hackaday Links: October 4, 2020

In case you hadn’t noticed, it was a bad week for system admins. Pennsylvania-based United Health Services, a company that owns and operates hospitals across the US and UK, was hit by a ransomware attack early in the week. The attack, which appears to be the Ryuk ransomware, shut down systems used by hospitals and health care providers to schedule patient visits, report lab results, and do the important job of charting. It’s not clear how much the ransomers want, but given that UHS is a Fortune 500 company, it’s likely a tidy sum.

And as if an entire hospital corporation’s IT infrastructure being taken down isn’t bad enough, how about the multi-state 911 outage that occurred around the same time? Most news reports seemed to blame the outage on an Office 365 outage happening at the same time, but Krebs on Security dug a little deeper and traced the issue back to two companies that provide 911 call routing services. Each of the companies is blaming the other, so nobody is talking about the root cause of the issue. There’s no indication that it was malware or ransomware, though, and the outage was mercifully brief. But it just goes to show how vulnerable our systems have become.

Our final “really bad day at work” story comes from Japan, where a single piece of failed hardware shut down a $6-trillion stock market. The Tokyo Stock Exchange, third-largest bourse in the world, had to be completely shut down early in the trading day Thursday when a shared disk array failed. The device was supposed to automatically failover to a backup unit, but apparently the handoff process failed. This led to cascading failures and blank terminals on the desks of thousands of traders. Exchange officials made the call to shut everything down for the day and bring everything back up carefully. We imagine there are some systems people sweating it out this weekend to figure out what went wrong and how to keep it from happening again.

With our systems apparently becoming increasingly brittle, it might be a good time to take a look at what goes into space-rated operating systems. Ars Technica has a fascinating overview of the real-time OSes used for space probes, where failure is not an option and a few milliseconds error can destroy billions of dollars of hardware. The article focuses on the RTOS VxWorks and goes into detail on the mysterious rebooting error that affected the Mars Pathfinder mission in 1997. Space travel isn’t the same as running a hospital or stock exchange, of course, but there are probably lessons to be learned here.

As if 2020 hasn’t dealt enough previews of various apocalyptic scenarios, here’s what surely must be a sign that the end is nigh: AI-generated PowerPoint slides. For anyone who has ever had to sit through an endless slide deck and wondered who the hell came up with such drivel, the answer may soon be: no one. DeckRobot, a startup company, is building an AI-powered extension to Microsoft Office to automate the production of “company compliant and visually appealing” slide decks. The extension will apparently be trained using “thousands and thousands of real PowerPoint slides”. So, great — AI no longer has to have the keys to the nukes to do us in. It’ll just bore us all to death.

And finally, if you need a bit of a palate-cleanser after all that, please do check out robotic curling. Yes, the sport that everyone loves to make fun of is actually way more complicated than it seems, and getting a robot to launch the stones on the icy playing field is a really complex and interesting problem. The robot — dubbed “Curly”, of course — looks like a souped-up Roomba. After sizing up the playing field with a camera on an extendable boom, it pushes the stone while giving it a gentle spin to ease it into exactly the right spot. Sadly, the wickedly energetic work of the sweepers and their trajectory-altering brooms has not yet been automated, but it’s still pretty cool to watch. But fair warning: you might soon find yourself with a curling habit to support.

Busting GPS Exercise Data Out Of Its Garmin-controlled IoT Prison

If you take to the outdoors for your exercise, rather than walking the Sisyphusian stair machine, it’s nice to grab some GPS-packed electronics to quantify your workout. [Bunnie Huang] enjoys paddling the outrigger canoe through the Singapore Strait and recently figured out how to unpack and visualize GPS data from his own Garmin watch.

By now you’ve likely heard that Garmin’s systems were down due to a ransomware attack last Thursday, July 23rd. On the one hand, it’s a minor inconvenience to not be able to see your workout visualized because of the system outage. On the other hand, the services have a lot of your personal data: dates, locations, and biometrics like heart rate. [Bunnie] looked around to see if he could unpack the data stored on his Garmin watch without pledging his privacy to computers in the sky.

Obviously this isn’t [Bunnie’s] first rodeo, but in the end you don’t need to be a 1337 haxor to pull this one off. An Open Source program called GPSBabel lets you convert proprietary data formats from a hundred or so different GPS receivers into .GPX files that are then easy to work with. From there he whipped up less than 200 lines of Python to plot the GPS data on a map and display it as a webpage. The key libraries at work here are Folium which provides the pretty browsable map data, and Matplotlib to plot the data.

These IoT devices are by all accounts amazing, listening for satellite pings to show us how far and how fast we’ve gone on web-based interfaces that are sharable, searchable, and any number of other good things ending in “able”. But the flip side is that you may not be the only person seeing the data. Two years ago Strava exposed military locations because of an opt-out policy for public data sharing of exercise trackers. Now Garmin says they don’t have any indications that data was stolen in the ransomware attack, but it’s not a stretch to think there was a potential there for such a data breach. It’s nice to see there are Open Source options for those who want access to exercise analytics and visualizations without being required to first hand over the data.

This Week In Security: F5, Novel Ransomware, Freta, And Database Woes

The big story of the last week is a problem in F5’s BIG-IP devices. A rather trivial path traversal vulnerability allows an unauthenticated user to call endpoints that are intended to be restricted to authenticated. That attack can apparently be as simple as:

'https://[F5 Host]/tmui/login.jsp/..;/tmui/locallb/workspace/tmshCmd.jsp?command=list+auth+user+admin'

A full exploit has been added to the metasploit framework. The timeline on this bug is frighteningly quick, as it’s apparently being actively exploited in the wild. F5 devices are used all over the world, and this vulnerability requires no special configuration, just access to the opened management port. Thankfully F5 devices don’t expose the vulnerable interface to the internet by default, but there are still plenty of ways this can be a problem.


Microsoft has made a new tool publicly available, Freta. This tool searches for rootkits in uploaded memory snapshots from a Linux VM. The name, appropriately, is taken from the street where Marie Curie was born.

The project’s namesake, Warsaw’s Freta Street, was the birthplace of Marie Curie, a pioneer of battlefield imaging.

The impetus behind the project is the realization that once a malicious actor has compromised a machine, it’s possible to compromise any security software running on that machine. If, instead, one could perform a security x-ray of sorts, then a more reliable conclusion could be reached. Freta takes advantage of the VM model, and the snapshot capability built into modern hypervisors.

Continue reading “This Week In Security: F5, Novel Ransomware, Freta, And Database Woes”

This Week In Security: HaveIBeenPwned And Facebook Attack Their Customers

We’re fans of haveibeenpwned.com around here, but a weird story came across my proverbial desk this week — [Troy Hunt] wrote a malicious SQL injection into one of their emails! That attack string was a simple ';--

Wait, doesn’t that look familiar? You remember the header on the haveibeenpwned web page? Yeah, it’s ';--have i been pwned?. It’s a clever in-joke about SQL injection that’s part of the company’s brand. An automated announcement was sent out to a company that happened to use the GLPI service desk software. That company, which shall not be named for reasons that are about to become obvious, was running a slightly out-of-date install of GLPI. That email generated an automated support ticket, which started out with the magic collection of symbols. When a tech self-assigned the ticket, the SQL injection bug was triggered, and their entire ticket database was wiped out. The story ends happily, thanks to a good backup, and the company learned a valuable lesson. Continue reading “This Week In Security: HaveIBeenPwned And Facebook Attack Their Customers”

This Week In Security: Robinhood, Apple Mail, ASLR, And More Windows 7

First off this week, a ransomware named Robinhood has a novel trick up its sleeve. The trick? Loading an old known-vulnerable signed driver, and then using a vulnerability in that driver to get a malicious kernel driver loaded.

A Gigabyte driver unintentionally exposed an interface that allows unfettered kernel level read and write access. Because it’s properly signed, Windows will happily load the driver. The ransomware code uses that interface to turn off the bit that enforces the loading of signed drivers only. From there, loading a malicious driver is trivial. Robinhood uses it’s kernel-level access to disable anti-virus applications before launching the data encryption.

This is a striking example of the weakness of binary signing without a mechanism to revoke those signatures. In an ideal world, once the vulnerability was found and an update released, the older, vulnerable driver would have its signature revoked.

The last Windows 7 Update For Real This Time, Maybe

More news in the ongoing saga of Windows 7/Server 2008 reaching end-of-life. KB4539602 was released this patch Tuesday, fixing the black background problem introduced in the last “final” round of updates. Surely that’s the last we’ll hear of this saga, right?

Not so fast. Apparently that patch has led to multiple Windows Server 2008 machines failing to boot after install. According to Microsoft, the problem is a missing previous patch that updates SHA-2 support. Continue reading “This Week In Security: Robinhood, Apple Mail, ASLR, And More Windows 7”

This Week In Security: Chrome Speech Bug, UDP Fragmentation, And The Big Citrix Vulnerability

A critical security bug was fixed in Chrome recently, CVE-2020-6378. The CVE report is still marked private, as well as the bug report. All we have is “Use-after-free in speech recognizer”. Are we out of luck, trying to learn more about this vulnerability? If you look closely at the private bug report, you’ll notice it’s in the Chromium bug tracker. Chrome is based primarily on the Chromium project, with a few proprietary features added. Since Chromium is open source, we can go find the code change that fixed this bug, and possibly learn more about it.

Off to the Chromium source, mirrored on Github. We could look at every commit, and eventually find the one we’re looking for, but Chromium commit messages usually include a reference to the bug that is fixed by that commit. So, we can use Github’s search function to find a commit that mentions 1018677. Just like that, we’ve found a single commit and more information.

The shutdown mentioned in the commit message is possibly referring to the browser being closed, but could also refer to the tab doing the speech recognizing, or even the speech system itself. Because multiple parts are being unloaded in parallel, there is a race condition between calling the abort object, and that object being unloaded from memory. This race can result in a classic use-after-free, jumping code execution to a memory location that’s already been freed.

All interesting, but how does this warrant a Critical rating? Enter the Web Speech API. I’m speculating just a bit, but it’s likely that this API uses the speech recognizer code in question. It may even be interacting with the security prompt that triggers the crash. Imagine that an attacking page attempts to use the speech API, and then releases the API object before the user can respond to the prompt. That *might* be the scenario that was discovered, though we’re deep into speculation, now. Continue reading “This Week In Security: Chrome Speech Bug, UDP Fragmentation, And The Big Citrix Vulnerability”

This Week In Security: Ransomware Keys, IOS Woes, And More

Remember the end of GandCrab we talked about a couple weeks back? A new wrinkle to this story is the news that a coalition of law enforcement agencies and security researchers have released a decrypter and the master decryption keys for that ransomware. It’s theorized that researchers were able to breach the command and control servers where the master keys were stored. It’s yet to be known whether this breach was the cause for the retirement, or was a result of it.

Apple’s Secure Enclave is Broken?

A Youtube video and Reddit thread show a way to bypass the iPhone’s TouchID and FaceID, allowing anyone to access the list of saved passwords. The technique for breaking into that data? Tap the menu option repeatedly, and cancel the security prompts. Given enough rapid tries, the OS gives up on the validation and simply shows the passwords!

The iPhone has an onboard security chip, the Secure Enclave, that is designed to make this sort of problem nearly impossible. The design specification dictates that data like passwords are encrypted, and the only way to decrypt is to use the Enclave. The purpose is to mitigate the impact of programming bugs like this one. It seems that the issue is limited to the iOS 13 Beta releases, and you’d expect bugs in beta, but a bug like this casts some doubt on the effectiveness of Apple’s Security Enclave.

URL Scheme Hijacking

Our next topic is also iOS related, though it’s possible the same issue could effect Android phones: URL scheme problems. The researchers at Trend Micro took a look at how iOS handles conflicting app URLs. Outside of the normal http: and https: URLs, applications can register custom URL schemes in order to simplify inter-process communication. The simplest example is something like an email address and the mailto: scheme. Even on a desktop, using one of these links will open a different application to handle that request. What could go wrong?

One weakness in using URL schemes like this is that not all apps properly validate what launched the request, and iOS allows multiple apps to use the same URL scheme. In the example given, a malicious app could register the same URL handler as the target, and effectively launch a man-in-the-middle attack.

Bluekeep, and Patching Systems

It has been five weeks since Bluekeep, the Remote Desktop Protocol vulnerability, was revealed. Approximately 20% of the vulnerable systems exposed to the internet have been patched. Bitsight has been running scans of the remaining vulnerable machines, and estimates about 800,000 remaining vulnerable systems. You may remember this particularl vulnerability was considered so problematic that even the NSA released a statement encouraging patching. So far, there hasn’t been a worm targeting the vulnerability, but it’s assumed that at least some actors have been using this vulnerability in attacks.