Security researcher exposes macOS malware vulnerability

Security researcher Filippo Cavallarin has worked out a way that malware makers can bypass the macOS Gatekeeper protections to run malicious code. The bypass remains unaddressed by Apple as of last week’s macOS 10.14.5 release.

Gatekeeper is a macOS security tool that verifies applications immediately after they are downloaded. This prevents applications from being run without user consent. When a user downloads an app from outside of the Mac App Store, Gatekeeper is used to check that the code has been signed by Apple. If the code has not been signed, the app won’t open without the user giving direct permission.

Cavallarin writesthe security hole on his blog and explains how it gets around Gatekeeper – the feature that prompts users to confirm they want to install applications from outside the Mac App Store.

Gatekeeper considers network shares to be ‘safe’ locations that don’t require permission checks, an intruder just has to trick the user into mounting one of those shares to run the apps they like.

Cavallarin said he notified Apple of the vulnerability on February 22nd, and that was supposed to have been resolved as of macOS 10.14.5. He said it wasn’t, though, and that Apple had stopped responding to his emails. He was publishing the flaw after giving Apple 90 days to address the issue.


New ‘ZombieLoad’ Intel chip Vulnerability Affects Dating Back to 2011

Security researchers have discovered a new set of vulnerabilities named ZombieLoad that affect Intel chips dating back to 2011.

These vulnerabilities are as serious as the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities that were discovered in early 2018 and take advantage of the same speculative execution process, which is designed to speed up data processing and performance.

ZombieLoad impacts almost every Intel computer dating back to 2011, but AMD and ARM chips are not affected. A demonstration of ZombieLoad was shared on YouTube, displaying how it works to see what you’re doing on your computer. While spying on web browsing is demoed, it can also be used for other purposes like stealing passwords.

A white paper shared by notable security researchers (including some who worked on Spectre and Meltdown) offers details on how ZombieLoad functions. [PDF]

Intel has released microcode for vulnerable processors. Apple addressed the vulnerability in the macOS Mojave 10.14.5 update that was released and in security patches for older versions of macOS that were also released.


WhatsApp discloses a security flaw that enabled spyware to be installed on Phone

A report from The Financial Times  details a vulnerability in WhatsApp that allowed attackers to install Israeli spyware onto phones via the app’s call feature.

The sophisticated spyware, called Pegasus, was developed by Israeli company NSO Group and transmitted by calling users via WhatsApp on iOS and Android.

The software could be installed on Android and iPhone handsets simply by calling the targeted person through WhatsApp.  It could be injected even if a user did not answer the WhatsApp call. In many cases, call logs would even disappear from the target’s device, erasing any evidence that their phone had been tampered with.

Many details about the vulnerability remain unclear, but the report suggests that the loophole was open for several weeks. In a statement, WhatsApp said:

This attack has all the hallmarks of a private company known to work with governments to deliver spyware that reportedly takes over the functions of mobile phone operating systems,” the company said. “We have briefed a number of human rights organizations to share the information we can, and to work with them to notify civil society.

WhatsApp said it’s still investigating the matter and it was too early to say how many users had been impacted by the spyware, suggesting only that it was a “select number” of people. WhatsApp reportedly disclosed the issue to the United States Department of Justice last week, and started deploying a fix to its servers on Friday.

WhatsApp told users to check that they’re running the latest version of the app on their devices. It also advised users to make sure their mobile operating system is up to date to ensure proper protection against potential targeted exploits designed to access information stored on mobile devices.

The Pegasus spyware is usually licensed to governments who use it to gain access to the devices of individuals targeted in investigations.

In a statement, NSO Group said its technology is used by “authorized government agencies for the sole purpose of fighting crime and terror. The company does not operate the system, and after a rigorous licensing and vetting process, intelligence and law enforcement determine how to use the technology to support their public safety missions.”

The company said it always investigates any “credible allegations of misuse and if necessary, we take action, including shutting down the system.”

It added: “Under no circumstances would NSO be involved in the operating or identifying of targets of its technology, which is solely operated by intelligence and law enforcement agencies. NSO would not or could not use its technology in its own right to target any person or organization.”

Read the full report from The Financial Times here.

Internet Explorer security flaw threatens all Windows users

Security researcher John Page has revealed an unpatched exploit in the web browser’s handling of MHT files ( IE’s default web page archiving format) that hackers can use to both spy on Windows users and steal their local data.

IE has been replaced by Edge as Microsoft’s preferred Windows browser, researchers keep finding unpleasant security flaws in Internet Explorer.

The vulnerability affects Windows 7, Windows 10 and Windows Server 2012 R2.

If Windows 7, Windows 10 or Windows Server 2012 R2 encounters one of these, it attempts to open them using IE which means that an attacker simply has to persuade the user to do that. Success would…

Allow remote attackers to potentially exfiltrate Local files and conduct remote reconnaissance on locally installed Program version information.

IE should throw up a security warning, but this could be bypassed Page said:

Opening a specially crafted .MHT file using malicious markup tags the user will get no such active content or security bar warnings.

Page posted details of the exploit after Microsoft reportedly declined to roll out an urgent security fix. It instead said a fix would be “considered” in a future release. While that does suggest a patch is on the way, it leaves millions of users potentially vulnerable unless they either turn off Internet Explorer or point to another app that can open MHT files.

Vulnerabilities in the WPA3 Giving Hackers an Easy Way to Steal Wi-Fi passwords

Researchers have found several vulnerabilities in the WPA3 Wi-Fi security protocol. They’re severe enough to let hackers get Wi-Fi passwords easily.

WPA3 was launched in January 2018 by the Wi-Fi Alliance. WPA3 had claimed to be better than WPA2 in various ways like protecting from offline dictionary attacks and forward secrecy, and WPA3 certification also was aiming at making Wi-Fi network more secure. But, the study revealed that there have been many design flaws in WPA3.

Researchers Mathy Vanhoef of New York University Abu Dhabi and Eyal Ronen of Tel Aviv University & KU Leuven discovered the flaws in the WPA3 Wi-Fi authentication protocol. They published the results of their research in a technical paper. Vanhoef also discovered the KRACK vulnerability that affected WPA2 in 2017.

The researchers discovered several attacks against the protocol that fall into three categories.

The first category consists of downgrade attacks against WPA3-capable devices.

The second category consists of weaknesses in the Dragonfly handshake of WPA3, which in the Wi-Fi standard is better known as the Simultaneous Authentication of Equals (SAE) handshake. The flaws gives hackers enough information to deduce a password using side channel information, which is data leaked incidentally as part of another process.

Finally, there’s a denial of service attack. an attacker can also flood an access point by bypassing the technique that WPA3 uses to stop people using fake MAC addresses. It can bring a network to its knees with as few as 16 forged connection attempts per second.

The researchers also discovered serious flaws in EAP-PWD. This is a protocol that authenticates using a password. It is used in Android 4.0, and remote access servers using the RADIUS protocol. It is also used infrequently by some Wi-Fi networks. These bugs could allow an attacker to impersonate a user and access a Wi-Fi network without knowing the user’s password.

The researchers informed the Wi-Fi Alliance before releasing their findings, and it issued a press release.

In response to the issue, the Wi-Fi alliance clarified that all these vulnerabilities can be resolved through a simple and regular software update, as people usually perform on their mobile apps.

The WPA-Personal is still in its early stages of deployment, but the device manufacturers which are effected with this have already started to make efforts to resolve these issues.


Hackers hijacked ASUS update server to distribute backdoors on ASUS machines

Hackers in 2018 managed to compromise one of the ASUS’s servers used to provide software updates to ASUS machines and used it to distribute a malicious backdoor to unsuspecting Windows machines.

The attack, which has been given the name ShadowHammer was discovered late last year and has since been stopped.

With access to the update server, the attackers were able to distribute malicious files that appeared legitimate because they were given an ASUS digital certificate to make them appear to be authentic. Instead, the phony software updates gave the attackers a backdoor to access infected devices. Kaspersky estimates that about half a million Windows machines received the backdoor from ASUS’ update server. However, the attackers appear to have only been targeting about 600 systems. The malware was designed to search for machines by their MAC address.

Kaspersky said over 57,000 of its users have downloaded and installed the backdoored version of Asus Live Update but the issue may possibly affect over a million users worldwide.


Kaspersky said the attack managed to fly under the radar for so long due to the fact that the trojanized updater was signed using legitimate certificates from Asus. As such, nobody ever suspected anything was amiss.

Kaspersky created a tool that can determine if your computer was specifically targeted in the attack by comparing MAC addresses.

Google fixes Chrome zero-day exploit, advises users to upgrade now

Google released an incremental update for Chrome on Mac, Windows, and Linux with the zero-day exploit fix. The company’s security team advises users to update Chrome on all platforms immediately as there is evidence of a malicious party actively using the attack.

This particular attack involves the FileReader API that allows websites to read local files, while the “Use-after-free” class of vulnerabilities — at worse — allows for execution of malicious code.

Google’s internal Threat Analysis Group first caught wind of the exploit on Wednesday, February 27th, which was apparently being used by nefarious actors when the Chrome update was released.

Google also alerted users that the bug was being used in concert with a second exploit attacking the Windows operating system. According to its blog post, it may only impact people running Windows 7 32-bit systems, and those people are encouraged to upgrade to a newer version of the OS, or install patches when/if Microsoft makes them available (seriously, it’s time to move on).

Users are being advised to update Chrome across all platforms. A new version of Chrome for Android was released shortly after the desktop version on Friday, while Chrome OS was patched on Tuesday.

Flaws in 4G/5G Networks Could Let Hackers Track Your Location

According to researchers, Flaws in both 4G and 5G cellular networks could potentially let hackers pinpoint the location of any given smartphone.

An attack dubbed “Torpedo” exploits the way phones send paging data when they receive calls or texts. By placing and cancelling multiple calls to it within a short amount of time, a target device can be made to trigger a paging message without alerting its owner. The scheme can not only be used to track location, but hijack a paging channel and inject or block paging messages, even denying someone messages altogether.

Torpedo can be the gateway to two other exploits, nicknamed “Piercer” and “IMSI-Cracking.” Both can be used to expose a device’s IMSI (international mobile subscriber identity), the former on 4G networks and the latter on both 4G and 5G.

As a result, even 5G phones could be intercepted by Stingray-style tracking devices used by law enforcement, spy agencies, and criminal groups. Needed equipment is said to cost as little as $200.

All four major U.S. carriers are vulnerable to Torpedo, one of the researchers said. The cellular industry has reportedly been notified about the threat.

E-ticketing flaw exposes passenger information to Hackers

The e-ticketing systems of eight airlines, including Southwest Airlines and Dutch carrier KLM, have a vulnerability that could expose personal information and result in tampering with seats and boarding passes.

The exposed data could include the following:

  • Email addresses
  • First and last names
  • Passport or ID information — including the document number, the issuing country and the expiration date
  • Booking references
  • Flight numbers and times
  • Seat assignments
  • Baggage selections
  • Full boarding passes
  • Partial credit card details
  • Details of booking travel companies

Researchers at mobile security firm Wandera published a report highlighting vulnerability found in check-in emails delivered to passengers.

The issue stems from the use of unencrypted check-in links sent to passengers via email. When a person clicks on the link, they are directed to a site to check in for their flight, make changes or print their boarding pass.  The hackers then can view and, in some cases, even change the victim’s flight booking details, or print their boarding passes.

Air France, Vueling, Jetstar, Thomas Cook, Transavia and Air Europa also have this problem, according to Wandera.

“Wandera investigated the e-ticketing systems in use by over 40 global airlines,” said Michael Covington, the company’s VP of product.

Wandera gives vendors up to four weeks to provide a patch or relevant fix before publicly disclosing a vulnerability.

The company has been communicating with “some of the affected airlines” but has not been able to verify that any fixes have been implemented, Covington said.

Cisco fixes serious DoS flaws in email security appliance

Cisco patched two serious denial-of-service (DoS) vulnerabilities that can be exploited remotely without authentication in its email security appliances.

One of the flaws, tracked as CVE-2018-15453 can be exploited by sending a malicious S/MIME-signed email through a targeted device. An attacker can cause appliances to reload and enter a DoS condition by sending a specially crafted S/MIME email.

“If Decryption and Verification or Public Key Harvesting is configured, the filtering process could crash due to memory corruption and restart, resulting in a DoS condition. The software could then resume processing the same S/MIME-signed email, causing the filtering process to crash and restart again,” the company explained.

“A successful exploit could allow the attacker to cause a permanent DoS condition. This vulnerability may require manual intervention to recover the ESA.

The second flaw, tracked as CVE-2018-15460 can be exploited by sending a malicious email message that contains a large number of whitelisted URLs. A successful exploit can cause a sustained DoS condition that could force the affected device to stop scanning and forwarding email messages. The flaw allows an attacker to cause a DoS condition by getting CPU usage to increase to 100%.

Both vulnerabilities were discovered by Cisco itself and there is no evidence of malicious exploitation.

Cisco this week also released 16 other advisories describing “medium severity” flaws affecting ASR routers, Webex, IOS, TelePresence, Prime, IP Phone, Jabber, Identity Services Engine, Firepower, Unified Communications Manager, and Policy Suite products.