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Detecting Insecure Cookies with Qualys Web Application Scanning

Cookies are ubiquitous in today’s modern web applications. If an attacker can acquire a user’s session cookie by exploiting a cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability, by sniffing an unencrypted HTTP connection, or by some other means, then they can potentially hijack a user’s valid session. Obviously, this can have negative implications for an organization and its users, including theft of sensitive application data or unauthorized/harmful actions.

Qualys Web Application Scanning reports when it discovers a cookie delivered over an HTTPS channel without the “secure” attribute set. This detection is useful for verifying correct coding practices for individual web applications & developers, and across your entire organization. Cookies marked with the secure attribute will never be sent over an unencrypted (non-HTTPS) connection, which keeps them safe from prying eyes that may be sniffing network traffic.

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Container Security Becomes a Priority for Enterprises

Among the IT innovations that businesses are using to digitally transform operations, containers might be the most disruptive and revolutionary.

“They’re a real game changer,” Qualys Chief Product Officer Sumedh Thakar said at QSC 2018 in Las Vegas.

DevOps teams have embraced containers because they boost speed and flexibility in app development and delivery, and are ideal for microservices. In fact, by 2020 more than 50% of organizations will run containerized applications in production, up from under 20% in 2017, according to Gartner. Thus, security teams must prioritize protecting the applications that DevOps teams create with this OS virtualization method.

“We see container security as a significant new paradigm coming at us, which will bring a lot of change,” Qualys CEO Philippe Courtot said.

Asif Awan, Qualys’ Container Security CTO

But to ensure the security and compliance of container-based code, organizations can’t rely on conventional application security products. “Your existing tools aren’t going to work,” said Asif Awan, Qualys’ Container Security CTO. Unsurprisingly, organizations cite security as the biggest challenge when deploying containers, according to Forrester.

“Security automation is a simple term but to get a handle over that entire automated and ever-accelerating CI/CD (continuous integration and delivery) pipeline is becoming more and more difficult,” Awan said.

Responding to this need, Qualys offers a comprehensive security solution that monitors and protects containerized applications from the inside.  In order to do that, Qualys technology collects granular behavior data about the application, providing deep visibility and enforcing normal application behavior for runtime protection.

Read on to learn about Qualys’ container security approach.

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January 2019 Patch Tuesday – 47 Vulns, 7 Critical, Adobe Vulns

This month’s Patch Tuesday is medium in size, with 47 vulns covered and only 7 labeled as Critical. Twenty-six of the vulns apply to Windows Servers and Workstation operating systems. Two of the Criticals apply to Hyper-V and could lead to RCE on the host system. Microsoft also issued and out-of-band patch in December for Internet Explorer 9 through 11 due to active attacks in the wild. Last week, Adobe also released out-of-band patches for Acrobat and Reader covering two Critical vulns.

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New Frontiers In Cryptojacking

Tejas Girme & Rishikesh Bhide of Qualys Malware Research Labs present “New Frontiers in Cryptojacking” at the 21st Anti-Virus Asia Researchers International Conference (AVAR) 2018 in Goa, India.

Cryptojacking attacks are evolving over time to better evade detection by both end users and protection technologies. It’s therefore important for security teams to understand how these attacks work so they can best protect their system resources. In a recent talk at AVAR 2018, Qualys Malware Research Labs presented an analysis of several evasion techniques used by attackers to deliver the Cryptojacking code to web browser and how existing protection technologies stack up against them.

About Cryptojacking

Cryptojacking attacks leverage the victim system’s resources via malicious JavaScript to mine certain cryptocurrencies. Attackers carry out these attacks by infecting popular sites with JavaScript that enables cryptojacking. Any visitor to such sites will download the JavaScript and unknowingly contribute its system resources to mine a cryptocurrency that is added to the attacker’s wallet.

Early Cryptojacking Attacks

CoinHive was the first browser-based CryptoMining service provider. They made it possible to enable browser-based mining on a website by embedding just a few lines of code. Adversaries seized this opportunity and Cryptojacking attacks became prevalent.

Figure 1: JavaScript code that initiates Cryptojacking inside a website.

 

The attacker compromised the vulnerable websites to embed the Cryptojacking code inside the webpage (see Figure 1). This code fetches and instantiates the JavaScript-based mining component from CoinHive server and starts browser-based CryptoMining inside the visitor’s browser. Mining for cryptocurrencies is a resource-intensive process that can consume more than 70% of the CPU power, thus degrading system performance.

A simple protection against these attacks by blacklisting domains which are hosting CryptoMining scripts. This was achieved with ease by blocking access to such domains through IPS.

Use of Proxy

In order to evade domain-based detection, attackers then adapted approaches like proxies and URL randomization to bypass firewall rules. Attackers also leveraged legitimate content delivery services like Github & Pastebin to host coin-mining scripts.

Figure 2 displays a code snippet from an actual attack, where the proxy domain acts as a gateway for delivering the mining payload.

Figure 2: Website loads script hosted on a proxy server.

As a large number of proxy domains is created every day, it became impossible to keep on updating Firewall/IPS rules. This problem was addressed by web browser extensions to protect against Cryptojacking attacks. Some of the early extensions were ‘No Coin’ & ‘MinerBlock’. These extensions relied mainly on crowd-sourced blacklists comprising domains & urls hosting CryptoMining scripts (e.g. ‘nocoin-list’).

Use of Proxy and Obfuscation Methods

Anti-Virus (AV) scan engines quickly caught up and added script and object-based detections, which are effective in detecting mining scripts hosted behind the proxy. To overcome this hurdle, attackers started obfuscating JavaScript code using open-source obfuscators like https://obfuscator.io/. These tools could make complex obfuscations where even object names and values were disguised. This helped attackers hide their mining code from AV signature-based detections. Obfuscation was used at different stages of Cryptojacking attacks to make them even more difficult to detect.

Figure 3 below shows an example of how obfuscated miner code was hosted behind the proxy server.

Figure 3: Website loads obfuscated script hosted behind the proxy server.

Attackers often utilize the full power of the CPU to maximize revenue generated from mining activity. This allowed AV engines to make use of behavior-based signatures to identify mining activity by monitoring CPU usage pattern of every browser instance. AV can terminate a browser instance which is performing CryptoMining.

Combination of Proxy, Obfuscations and Throttling

To remain completely stealthy from both users & detection technologies, the attack techniques also evolved. Instead of utilizing 100% CPU each time, they started to randomize CPU consumption in the range of 40-80% to ensure there is no visible performance impact for the user. This approach reduced the revenue generated per user to some extent, but it allowed them to run campaigns for a longer duration without getting detected.

Figure 4 highlights the configurations used to control the amount of CPU consumption while mining. Throttle 0.2 means it will consume 80% of CPU resources for mining activity.

Figure 4: Cryptojacking code makes use of a throttling parameter.

For more details and examples of attacks using these techniques, please see our previous blog post, Tale of a Friendly CryptoMiner.

Stay Protected Using Qualys BrowserCheck CoinBlocker

Based on our research, Qualys Malware Research Labs developed a free Chrome Web browser extension Qualys BrowserCheck CoinBlocker.

Along with blacklisting & whitelisting of domains, it supports advanced JavaScript scanning to identify & block malicious JavaScript functions. The extension has the ability to detect obfuscated JavaScript components hosted behind proxies.

As new attacks emerge, our R&D team analyzes them and devises new detection techniques that are then incorporated into the new update of the extension. We ensure that our users are always protected against these new attacks.

December 2018 Patch Tuesday – 39 Vulns, Workstation Patches, Adobe Vulns

Microsoft and Adobe LogosThis month’s Patch Tuesday addresses 39 vulnerabilities, with 9 of them labeled as Critical. Out of the Criticals, most are browser-related, with the rest including Windows, and .net Framework. A Privilege Escalation vulnerability exists in Windows kernel which has been exploited in wild. Adobe also patched 9 Critical and Important vulnerabilities this month for Adobe Acrobat and Reader.

On the basis of volume and severity this Patch Tuesday is light in weight.

Workstation Patches

Browser and Scripting Engine patches should be prioritized for workstation-type devices, meaning any system that is used for email or to access the internet via a browser. This includes multi-user servers that are used as remote desktops for users. Out of the 9 vulnerabilities, 6 can be exploited through browsers.

Active Attacks on Win32k Privilege Escalation

Microsoft has reported that there are active attacks detected against CVE-2018-8611. Microsoft has ranked this patch as Important. It is important to prioritize Windows kernel patching.

Adobe Patches and Mitigations

Adobe released nine patches for Acrobat/Reader, with 6 rated as critical and 3 as important. In early December, Adobe also released out-of-band patches for Adobe Flash. CVE-2018-15982 is rated as critical and has been exploited in wild. CVE-2018-15983 is labeled as important.

Global IT Asset Inventory: The Foundation for Security and Compliance

Pablo Quiroga, Qualys’ Director of Product Management for IT Asset Management, talks about the new Asset Inventory solution

When IT directors and CISOs look at their digitally transformed networks, they encounter many shadows that their legacy enterprise software tools can’t illuminate. These blind spots often include cloud workloads, containers, IoT systems, mobile devices, remote endpoints, and Operational Technology wares.

Since full visibility is essential for security, this foggy, fragmented view of a network makes the organization vulnerable to cyber attacks. It’s a problem Qualys is tackling head on, as several speakers stated during QSC 2018 in Las Vegas.

“This is a really big deal because it’s the basis of security: If you don’t know what you have, you can’t secure it,” Qualys Chief Product Officer Sumedh Thakar said.

That’s why Qualys is releasing a global IT asset inventory solution that offers full visibility across even the most hybrid, complex and distributed IT environments. Qualys Asset Inventory, now in beta, will provide complete and detailed visibility into on premises, cloud, remote, mobile, IoT and OT assets.

“It’s the source of truth that enterprise software hasn’t been able to deliver,” Qualys CEO Philippe Courtot said. “That’s the bedrock of what we’re doing.”

It will provide complete, continuous, structured and enriched asset inventory for IT and security teams managing assets in hybrid environments, according to Pablo Quiroga, Qualys’ Director of Product Management for IT Asset Management.

Read on to learn more details about Qualys Asset Inventory and the use cases it’s designed for; and watch the live demo from Qualys Security Conference 2018.

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Capital One: Building Security Into DevOps

Capital One prides itself on staying at the forefront of IT innovations to give its business a competitive edge.

For example, it adopted Agile software-development methodologies years ago, and uses artificial intelligence and machine learning. It was the first bank to implement a mobile wallet with “contactless” NFC payments, and to offer voice-activated financial transactions using Amazon’s Alexa. When 2018 ends, Capital One expects 80% of its IT infrastructure to be cloud based, allowing it to go from seven to two data centers.

Given its tech transformation track record, it’s not surprising that Capital One has embraced DevSecOps, embedding automated security checks into its DevOps pipeline. This effort has dramatically accelerated the process of assessing vulnerabilities and mis-configurations in its virtual machine images and containers.

As a result, the code created in the DevOps pipeline is certified as secure and released to production without unnecessary delays. This allows Capital One — one of the United States’ 10 largest banks, based on deposits — to consistently boost its business across the board by quickly and continuously improving its web properties, mobile apps, online services and digital offerings.

“This has provided a huge benefit to the entire company,” said Emmanuel Enaohwo, Senior Manager for Vulnerability/Configuration Management at Capital One, a Fortune 500 company based in McLean, Virginia that offers a broad spectrum of financial products and services to consumers, small businesses and commercial clients.

Read on to learn how the bank has automated vulnerability and compliance checks in its CI/CD software pipeline, helped by Qualys.

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Infosec Teams Race To Secure DevOps

With DevOps adoption spreading, infosec teams are scrambling to address the new security challenges stemming from DevOps’ accelerated code development and app deployment. But while IT organizations have made notable progress adapting security to their DevOps processes, work remains to be done.

That’s a key finding from SANS Institute’s “Secure DevOps: Fact or Fiction” report, which was discussed recently in a two-day webcast (Part 1 & Part 2) co-sponsored by Qualys. A revealing statistic: Under 50% of respondent organizations have fully “shifted left” to embed security throughout their DevOps pipelines, a figure that should be higher.

“Security is still being built in at the end, whereas risk reduction should start earlier in the software development lifecycle,” said Barbara Filkins, a SANS analyst. With security in the early stages of application design, “we can eliminate many issues that we’d see at the back end,” she said.

Threading security throughout DevOps also preserves the benefits of continuous and quick software delivery, like improved customer support and employee productivity. 

“As a DevOps engineer, you’re looking to automate security at the speed of what business needs,” said Qualys Product Management Director Hari Srinivasan.

“The goal is enabling a transition from DevOps to secure DevOps that is factual, not fiction,” Filkins said.

Read on to learn about DevSecOps challenges, best practices and case studies.

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Qualys Cloud Platform 2.35 New Features

This release of the Qualys Cloud Platform version 2.35 includes updates and new features for AssetView, Cloud Agent, Security Assessment Questionnaire, and Web Application Scanning, highlights as follows.  (Note: this post has been edited after publishing to remove the Rule-Based Method to Purge/Uninstall Cloud Assets and Cloud Agents, and Azure Cloud Connector, which will be available in a subsequent release.)

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QSC18 Takeaway: Complex Environments Demand Visibility and Real-Time Security

If there were two important takeaways from this year’s Qualys Security Conference year they would be how today’s complex hybrid environments are demanding security teams find ways to increase visibility into the state of their security posture and be able to quickly mitigate new risks as they arise.

With their respective keynotes, both CEO Philippe Courtot and Qualys chief product officer Sumedh Thakar showed just how sophisticated today’s environments have become. Today, all but the most straightforward environments consist of multiple cloud services, virtualized workloads, and traditional on-premises systems; and hundreds of application containers, microservices, and serverless functions.

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