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Apple, Amazon in a Tussle with Bloomberg over Spy Chips Report

In our latest security news digest, we delve into the brouhaha over Chinese spy chips, check out the latest in Facebook’s investigation of its recent hack, and look at Google’s controversial decision to delay disclosing a potential data breach.

Bloomberg’s spy chip report stuns tech industry, then draws skepticism

The hyperactive cyber security news cycle reached another intensity level when Bloomberg reported the presence of Chinese spy chips in servers used by Apple, Amazon and other major U.S. companies. But did the global news agency get the story right?

Citing numerous anonymous sources, Bloomberg stated that China surreptitiously modified server hardware and embedded tiny chips in motherboards to snoop on about 30 large American businesses.

The Chinese government reportedly did this by tampering with parts built in China by suppliers of Supermicro, a U.S.-based Fortune 1000 designer and maker of servers.

“In Supermicro, China’s spies appear to have found a perfect conduit for what U.S. officials now describe as the most significant supply chain attack known to have been carried out against American companies,” Bloomberg’s article reads.

But Bloomberg, which doubled-down on the original article with a follow-up, has become part of the story, as more and more parties question the accuracy of its bombshell reports.

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British Airways Hack Triggers GDPR Concerns, as World Awaits Windows 0-Day Patch

A swipe of confidential data from almost 400,000 British Airways customers. A string of app takedowns at the Mac App Store after exfiltration findings. A gargantuan data breach at a Chinese hotel chain. An unpatched zero-day Windows bug exploited in the wild. These are some of the security news that have recently caught our eye.

Could British Airways hit GDPR turbulence after data breach?

Hackers breached British Airways’ website and mobile app during a two-week period recently, and may have stolen personal and financial information of 380,000 customers, including payment card details. The airline disclosed the hack last week, saying that the cyber criminals had access to the breached systems between Aug. 21 and Sept. 5.

Credit card information included the 3- or 4-digit security codes printed on the cards. Other information that was at risk included names, billing addresses, and email addresses. This set of information puts affected customers at risk for a variety of fraudulent activity, including unauthorized use of their payment card and email “phishing” scams.

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Security News: Hackers Aim Ransomware at Big Cos., as Experts Call for Swift Patching of Struts Bug

Ransomware raids aimed at specific targets with big pockets. Another Struts vulnerability — but scarier than last year’s. An Android spyware that records your phone calls. These are some of the security news that have caught our attention.

New Struts Bug Should Be Patched Yesterday

Apache patched a serious remote code execution vulnerability (CVE-2018-11776) affecting all supported versions — 2.3 to 2.3.34 and 2.5 to 2.5.16 — of the widely used Struts Java application framework. The bug is considered more dangerous than the one disclosed last year in Struts that was exploited in the massive data breach at Equifax.

In the Apache security bulletin, the vulnerability is rated “Critical” and users are advised to immediately upgrade to Struts 2.3.35 or Struts 2.5.17.

The remote code execution becomes possible “when using results with no namespace and in same time, its upper action(s) have no or wildcard namespace” and “when using url tag which doesn’t have value and action set,” the bulletin reads.

Organizations should upgrade to the patched Struts versions even if their applications aren’t  vulnerable to this bug. “An inadvertent change to a Struts configuration file may render the application vulnerable in the future,” stated Semmle, whose security researcher Man Yue Mo discovered this vulnerability.

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Timely Password-Change Call from Twitter, as Bugs Hit WebEx and GPON routers

The cyber security news cycle is always active, so to help you stay in the loop here’s a selection of incidents that caught our attention over the past week or so involving, among others, Twitter, Cisco and GPON routers.

Twitter picks a good day for password-change call

As “change your password” calls from vendors go, the one from Twitter last week ranks right up there, and not just because of the scope of users involved. As Jon Swartz pointed out in Barron’s, Twitter’s alert went out on Thursday, which happened to be World Password Day.

The social media juggernaut reached out to all of its 330 million users and advised them to take a moment, go to their account settings page and enter a new password. Twitter also suggested they enable Twitter’s two-step verification feature, a move strongly endorsed by Forbes’ Thomas Fox-Brewster. In addition, Twitter recommended that users change their password on any other online services where they used their Twitter password. (It bears repeating: It’s a bad idea to re-use passwords.)

The reason for the brouhaha: An IT slip-up caused user passwords to be stored in plain text in an internal Twitter log. Twitter’s security policy is to instead mask passwords using the “bcrypt” hashing technique. That way, passwords are stored on Twitter systems as a string of random characters.

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Vendor Risk Bites Sears, Delta and Best Buy, while Saks, Lord & Taylor Deal With Breach

Data breaches dominated the cyber security headlines last week, as Sears, Delta, Best Buy, Saks, and Lord & Taylor all found themselves in the news.

Sears, Delta and Best Buy: Another vendor risk incident

What do retail giant Sears Holdings, consumer electronics chain Best Buy and Delta Air Lines have in common? A customer service contractor that got hacked, compromising an undetermined number of their customers’ payment card data.

The contractor, called [24]7.ai, got breached in late September of last year, and discovered and contained the incident in mid-October. The company, which provides customer support for a variety of clients via online chats, didn’t offer details about the cause or nature of the hack in its brief statement issued Wednesday.

In its statement, Sears estimated the number of its potentially affected customers at under 100,000, and said that [24]7.ai informed it about the breach in mid-March of this year. Meanwhile, Delta said it was notified on March 28, and that it believes a “small subset” of its customers’ data was exposed, although it can’t say for sure whether the information was accessed or compromised. Best Buy said “a small fraction” of its customers may have been impacted, regardless of whether they used the chat function, according to USA Today.

It’s the latest in the recurring problem of vendor risk, in which an organization’s information security is compromised after a trusted third party — contractor, supplier, consultant, partner — suffers a breach.

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Microsoft Misfires with Meltdown Patch, while WannaCry Pops Up at Boeing

In our weekly roundup of InfoSec happenings, we start, as has often been the case this year, with concerning Meltdown / Spectre news — this time involving Microsoft — and also touch on a password hack at Under Armour, a WannaCry infection at Boeing, and a severe Drupal vulnerability.

Microsoft patches its Meltdown patch, then patches it again

In an instance of the cure possibly being worse than the disease, a Microsoft patch for Meltdown released in January created a gaping security hole in certain systems in which it was installed.

It took Microsoft two tries to fix the issue, which affects Windows 7 (x64) and Windows Server 2008 R2 (x64) systems. The company thought it had solved the vulnerability (CVE-2018-1038) with a scheduled patch last Tuesday, but then had to rush out an emergency fix two days later.

Security researcher Ulf Frisk, who discovered the vulnerability, called it “way worse” than Meltdown because it “allowed any process to read the complete memory contents at gigabytes per second” and made it possible to write to arbitrary memory as well.

“No fancy exploits were needed. Windows 7 already did the hard work of mapping in the required memory into every running process,” Frisk wrote. “Exploitation was just a matter of read and write to already mapped in-process virtual memory. No fancy APIs or syscalls required — just standard read and write.”

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Feds Take On Foreign Hackers, While 880K Orbitz Customers “Likely” Affected by Data Breach

In this edition of Qualys’ infosec news digest, we look at Orbitz’s data breach, AMD’s vulnerabilities controversy, and recent actions by the U.S. government against alleged Russian and Iranian cyber spies.

Orbitz was (kinda, sorta, maybe) hacked

Orbitz disclosed last week that personal information linked to almost 900,000 payment cards may have been compromised, after it detected a “data security incident” in which “there was likely unauthorized access” to customer data.

The customer data at risk includes payment card details, full names, dates of birth, phone numbers and e-mail and home addresses.

Orbitz doesn’t think that passport numbers nor travel itineraries were compromised. It doesn’t collect Social Security numbers. Orbitz, which is owned by Expedia, isn’t sure if data was stolen, but a privacy rights experts recommends that customers not rest easy.

“I think consumers should assume that their personal information has been compromised even though they may not have been notified. There have been so many data breaches that you just can’t assume that you haven’t been affected,” Beth Givens, executive director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, told Consumer Reports.

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Countdown to GDPR: Assess Vendor Risk

To comply with GDPR, organizations typically must overhaul and update a number of internal processes and systems, but they can’t ignore a critical area: risk from vendors and other third parties such as contractors, partners, suppliers and service providers.

GDPR assess vendor riskIt’s a point that’s stressed repeatedly throughout the 88-page text of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect in May 2018 and requires that organizations worldwide properly identify, track and protect their EU customers’ personal data.

In GDPR lingo, “data controllers” must vet the “data processors” they share this customer information with, and assume joint responsibility for what happens to it. In other words, you’re liable if one of your third parties gets breached for failing to adhere to GDPR requirements and as a result your customers’ personal data gets compromised.

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Countdown to GDPR: Prioritize Vulnerability Remediation

The EU’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) demands that organizations stringently protect EU residents’ data they hold, share and process, which requires having solid InfoSec practices, including threat prioritization.

No, there is no specific mention of prioritization of vulnerability remediation in the regulation’s text. In fact, only a few InfoSec technologies and practices are mentioned by name.

What is stressed throughout the 88-page document is the call for both data “controllers” and data “processors” to protect this customer information by implementing “appropriate technical and organisational measures”, a phrase repeated multiple times.

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Countdown to GDPR — Reduce your Risk

First discussed in the 1990s and turned into law last year, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) finally goes into effect in May 2018, imposing strict requirements on millions of businesses and subjecting violators to severe penalties.

The complex regulation is of concern not just to European businesses. It applies to any organization worldwide that controls and processes the data of EU citizens, whose privacy the GDPR is meant to protect.

A recent PwC survey found that more than half of U.S. multinationals say GDPR is their main data-protection priority, with 77% of them planning to spend $1 million or more on GDPR readiness and compliance.

“The GDPR is putting data protection practices at the forefront of business agendas worldwide,” Steve Durbin, Information Security Forum’s managing director, wrote recently.

In other words, it’s crunch time for companies that fall within the GDPR’s broad scope and that haven’t completed their preparations to comply with this regulation. Gartner estimates that about half of organizations subject to the GDPR will be non-compliant by the end of 2018. You don’t want to be in this group of laggards.

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