Archives for : Vulnerabilities

    No need to bypass security with a boot disk – 17 year old Windows exploit found

    The problem has been discovered in the Virtual DOS Machine (VDM) introduced in 1993 to support 16-bit applications (real mode applications for 8086). VDM is based on the Virtual 8086 Mode (VM86) in 80386 processors and, among other things, intercepts hardware routines such as BIOS calls. Google security team member Tavis Ormandy has found several vulnerabilities in this implementation that allow an unprivileged 16-bit program to manipulate the kernel stack of each process via a number of tricks. This potentially enables attackers to execute code at system privilege level.

    In addition to the unpatched hole in Internet Explorer, a now published hole in Windows allows users with restricted access to escalate their privileges to system level – and this is believed to be possible on all 32-bit versions of Windows from Windows NT 3.1 up to, and including Windows 7. While the vulnerability is likely to affect home users in only a minor way, the administrators of corporate networks will probably have their hands full this week.

    The problem is caused by flaws in the Virtual DOS Machine (VDM) introduced in 1993 to support 16-bit applications (real mode applications for 8086). VDM is based on the Virtual 8086 Mode (VM86) in 80386 processors and, among other things, intercepts hardware routines such as BIOS calls. Google security team member Tavis Ormandy has found several vulnerabilities in this implementation that allow an unprivileged 16-bit program to manipulate the kernel stack of each process via a number of tricks. This potentially enables attackers to execute code at system privilege level.

    Ormandy has also published a suitable exploit which functions under Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and 2008, Windows Vista and Windows 7. When tested by the The H’s associates at heise Security, the exploit opened a command prompt in the system context, which has the highest privilege level, under Windows XP and Windows 7. No patch has become available, although Ormandy reports that Microsoft was already informed of the hole in mid 2009. The developer decided to publish the information regardless because, in his opinion, there is a simple workaround: to disable the MS-DOS subsystem.

    The workaround requires users to start the group policy editor and enable the “Prevent access to 16-bit applications” option in the Computer ConfigurationAdministrative TemplatesWindows ComponentsApplication Compatibility section. When tested with these settings by the heise Security team, the exploit no longer functioned. The settings reportedly don’t cause any major compatibility problems for most users while no 16-bit applications are being used.

    Update – The above option is only available through the group policy editor on Windows 2003 systems. Some versions of Windows do not include a group policy editor. As an alternative, users can also create a registry key under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREPoliciesMicrosoftWindowsAppCompat with a D-Word value of VDMDissallowed = 1. Under Windows XP, to prevent the system from being vulnerable to the exploit, users can place the following text:

    Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00



    into a file called vdmdisallow.reg and double click the file. Windows will then automatically import the key (admin rights are required to perform this action).

    Update 2 - Microsoft has now confirmed the privilege escalation hole in Windows. The company says that it wants to complete its investigation of the vulnerability and will then decide whether, how and when to close it.

    See Also:

    REDMOND — When it rains, it pours. Especially in the Seattle area. Tavis Ormandy has published full details on a privilege escalation hack of all versions of Windows including Windows 7.

    The exploit takes advantage of a bug in the Windows implementation of the ‘virtual DOS machine’ used to run legacy 16-bit programs. The exploit can be avoided by turning the VDM ‘feature’ off but the danger of course is that enough Windows lusers won’t know about the bug and/or bother turning the ‘feature’ off.

    16-bit applications need BIOS support; the Windows kernel supports virtual BIOS interrupts in its ‘Virtual-8086’ mode monitor code. The code is implemented in two stages. The #GP trap handler transitions to the second stage when CS:EIP faults with specific ‘magic’ values.

    The transition requires (subsequent to authentication) restoring the context and the call stack from the faulting trap frame. But the authentication process is flawed, relying as it does on three incorrect assumptions.

    • Setting up a VDM context requires SeTcbPrivilege.The barrier to getting a VDM context can be subverted by requesting the NT VDM subsystem and then using CreateRemoteThread() to run code in the context of the VDM subsystem. The VDM subsystem already has the necessary flag set.
    • Ring 3 (unprivileged) code cannot install arbitrary code segment selectors.Using the two least significant bits of CS/SS to calculate the privilege of a task doesn’t work when it comes to Virtual-8086 mode. The 20-bit addressing (by adding CS << 4 to the 16-bit IP) is also used to map onto the protected linear Virtual-8086 address space. If CS can be set to an arbitrary value, then the privilege calculation can be circumvented.
    • Ring 3 (unprivileged) code cannot forge a trap frame.Returns to user mode are through IRET. An invalid context can cause IRET to fail pre-commit, which in turn forges a trap frame. And even with address randomisation it’s trivial to use NtQuerySystemInformation() to obtain the address of the second stage BIOS handler.

    Affected Systems

    This bug dates back 17 years and affects all systems released since 27 July 1993 – Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, and Windows 7. See the links below for further details.

    See Also
    MITRE: CVE-2010-0232
    Windows plagued by 17-year-old privilege escalation bug
    NEOPHASIS: Trap Handler Allows Users to Switch Kernel Stack

    SSLv3 / TLS Man in the Middle vulnerability

    Recently I have been looking into the vulnerabilities in the TLS negotiation process discovered late last year.

    There are a range of experts debating the exploit methods, tools and how it may be fixed (server or client site or both). From what I have seen so far this may prompt a change to the TLS standard to introduce an extension to the protocol to validate sessions (session hand off and certificate validity).

    I’m also trying to find some tools which may assist in testing for this. It looks like the exploit relies on an ARP poison or similar and then inserting plain text into the negotiation process.

    Could be something that can be fixed over time as servers and clients are patched.

    SCADA considerations


    • Corporate Information Protection
    • Security Management
    • Information Classification
    • Physical (and Environmental) Security
    • Personnel Security
    • Security Awareness Training
    • Security Incident Response
    • Security Monitoring
    • Network Security
    • PC/Workstation Security
    • Support and Operational Security Related
    • Encryption and Information Confidentiality
    • Authorization Controls
    • Identification and Authentication Mechanisms
    • Systems Life Cycle Security
    • Business Continuity Planning
    • Media Security
    • Third Party Services

    Typical concerns and points discussion:

    • Inbound and out Bound FTP
    • Suggest use of DMZ
    • Suggest use of Secure FTP
    • Suggest use of restricted secure IP addresses / tunnelling
    • Suggest use of private feeds

    Modem issues used with dial in services

    • No dial back
    • No Authentication
    • No Secure ID
    • Possibly automated scripts used, so hard coded usernames and passwords used.
    • Internet sharing may be turned on, allowing routing via workstations.

    Increased data security and integrity considerations

    • Data backups
    • System redundancy
    • Site and content filtering
    • Virus protection
    • Standard system procurement (discounts and spares)
    • Network and services redundancy
    • Network monitoring
    • Service availability monitoring
    • Internal controls
    • Vendor / external service supplier
    • Capacity management
    • Change management system
    • Asset management system
    • Telecommunication and telephony bulk cost discounting
    • Etc.

    Use and support for corporate application considerations

    • Email
    • Intranet
    • Internet
    • Corporate virus protection
    • Asset management
    • Change management
    • Project management
    • Performance / capacity management
    • Reduction of Cost
    • Use of corporate applications
    • Reduction of manual processes

    Other things to keep in mind:

    • SCADA monitoring system must be isolated from network errors and systems events. This will prevent SCADA operational systems being effected by network or corporate system issues / outages.
    • Review Network topology to ensure internal and external vulnerabilities are not currently being and cannot be abused.
    • Review of router configurations
    • Use of change management system
    • Review remote dial in systems
    • Firewall SCADA systems off from corporate applications
    • Uncontrolled networks and systems within the SCADA environment will compromise the corporate environments integrity and security.
    • Determine if systems used within SCADA are built to a standard operating environment.

    Secure Application Development links


    I have been putting some secure application development documents together recently and have found some good general tutorials and guidelines which I thought I would post here.

    Best Practices

    Other Resources

    Contactless credit cards with RFID are easily hacked

    A blog posting on BoingBoing provides further discussion as to the
    inappropriate deployment and of RFID chips within the existing payment

    The underlying point of this article is, the card schemes and banks said they are using key rotating encryption of all data between the card and the acquirer/issuer, but this is clearly not the case in many situations.

    Another interesting paper is ‘RFID Payment Card Vulnerabilities Technical Report’ located at:

    Technology is always being challenged

    I read a very interesting paper created by the University of Massachusetts, RSA Laboratories and Innealta, Inc.<<

    This paper primarily relates to the compromise of contact less payment technologies (RFID) if the RFID and/or reader have not been implemented correctly or the solution provider has used an inappropriate type of RFID and discusses the challenges around Chip and Pin with respect to financial transactions e.g. EMV standards and compliance.

    Additionally, the paper describes a RFID relay method which is being discussed within many forums around the world and we have now begun to see equipment being produced for the RFID skimmers/clonners to use for malicious means.

    The overarching point of this paper is to use an appropriate RFID & Chip solutions which supports the security/privacy of the user and purpose of the transaction (financial or non financial)<<

    The paper can be found at

    In modern payment RFID & Chip solutions, newer devices can be used which possess a high degree of processing power and are therefore able to execute strong cryptographic methods (such as digital signatures) to protect the identification and payment information whilst the transaction is occurring.

    These systems often utilise bidirectional authentication between the RFID/Chip scanner and the RFID tag/Chip prior to performing the transaction. These methods and cryptographic algorithms are accepted and proven to work within the traditional payment markets.

    As mentioned in the paper, some solution store static digitally signed and/or encrypted data which is provided to the RFID/Chip reader when queried, but this data never changes from one transaction to another. This may allow a malicious individual to capture and re-inject the data into the reader at a later stage. The alternative to storing static digitally signed and/or encrypted data is to negotiate a key exchange at the time of the transaction in which the card/value information is encrypted and subsequently transmitted. With this method the transmitted data
    changes on every transaction and therefore even if a malicious individual was to capture the encrypted transaction data from one transaction, this would not be accepted by the reader if re-injected at a later stage.

    Although this is the case today, older RFID/Chip solutions often use technologies which are not appropriate for financial transactions and therefore may be compromised easily and in some cases without the knowledge of the card holder, merchant or acquirer.

    I find this interesting how some of these less secure solution have been approved for use by acquiring banks and the card schemes around the world (if they were told) in recent years, where it has been seen that these solutions have utilised techniques or deployment methods which can be compromised. These technologies and techniques would never be approved within the Point of Sale (PoS) or traditional banking markets.

    It can only be assumed that the need to get product to market quickly at the expense of proper testing, understanding and with due consideration to industry lessons learnt has succeeded again.

    Serious flaws in bluetooth security lead to disclosure of personal data




    In November 2003, Adam Laurie of A.L. Digital Ltd. discovered that there are serious flaws in the authentication and/or data transfer mechanisms on some bluetooth enabled devices. Specifically, three vulnerabilities have been found:

    Firstly, confidential data can be obtained, anonymously, and without the owner’s knowledge or consent, from some bluetooth enabled mobile phones. This data includes, at least, the entire phone book and calendar, and the phone’s IMEI.

    Secondly, it has been found that the complete memory contents of some mobile phones can be accessed by a previously trusted (“paired”) device that has since been removed from the trusted list. This data includes not only the phonebook and calendar, but media files such as pictures and text messages. In essence, the entire device can be “backed up” to an attacker’s own system.

    Thirdly, access can be gained to the AT command set of the device, giving full access to the higher level commands and channels, such as data, voice and messaging. This third vulnerability was identified by Martin Herfurt, and they have since started working together on finding additional possible exploits resulting from this vulnerability.

    Finally, the current trend for “Bluejacking” is promoting an environment which puts consumer devices at greater risk from the above attacks.

    The SNARF attack:
    It is possible, on some makes of device, to connect to the device without alerting the owner of the target device of the request, and gain access to restricted portions of the stored data therein, including the entire phonebook (and any images or other data associated with the entries), calendar, real-time clock, business card, properties, change log, IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity [6], which uniquely identifies the phone to the mobile network, and is used in illegal phone ‘cloning’). This is normally only possible if the device is in “discoverable” or “visible” mode, but there are tools available on the Internet that allow even this safety net to be bypassed[4]. Further details will not be released at this time (see below for more on this), but the attack can and will be demonstrated to manufacturers and press if required.

    The BACKDOOR attack:
    The backdoor attack involves establishing a trust relationship through the “pairing” mechanism, but ensuring that it no longer appears in the target’s register of paired devices. In this way, unless the owner is actually observing their device at the precise moment a connection is established, they are unlikely to notice anything untoward, and the attacker may be free to continue to use any resource that a trusted relationship with that device grants access to (but note that so far we have only tested file transfers). This means that not only can data be retrieved from the phone, but other services, such as modems or Internet, WAP and GPRS gateways may be accessed without the owner’s knowledge or consent. Indications are that once the backdoor is installed, the above SNARF attack will function on devices that previously denied access, and without the restrictions of a plain SNARF attack, so we strongly suspect that the other services will prove to be available also.

    The BLUEBUG attack:
    The bluebug attack creates a serial profile connection to the device, thereby giving full access to the AT command set, which can then be exploited using standard off the shelf tools, such as PPP for networking and gnokii for messaging, contact management, diverts and initiating calls. With this facility, it is possible to use the phone to initiate calls to premium rate numbers, send sms messages, read sms messages, connect to data services such as the Internet, and even monitor conversations in the vicinity of the phone. This latter is done via a voice call over the GSM network, so the listening post can be anywhere in the world. Bluetooth access is only required for a few seconds in order to set up the call. Call forwarding diverts can be set up, allowing the owner’s incoming calls to be intercepted, either to provide a channel for calls to more expensive destinations, or for identity theft by impersonation of the victim.

    Although known to the technical community and early adopters for some time, the process now known as “Bluejacking”[1] has recently come to the fore in the consumer arena, and is becoming a popular mechanism for exchanging anonymous messages in public places. The technique involves abusing the bluetooth “pairing”[2] protocol, the system by which bluetooth devices authenticate each other, to pass a message during the initial “handshake” phase. This is possible because the “name” of the initiating bluetooth device is displayed on the target device as part of the handshake exchange, and, as the protocal allows a large user defined name field – up to 248 characters – the field itself can be used to pass the message. This is all well and good, and, on the face of it, fairly harmless, but, unfortunately, there is a down side. There is a potential security problem with this, and the more the practice grows and is accepted by the user community, and leveraged as a marketing tool by the vendors, the worse it will get. The problem lies in the fact that the protocol being abused is designed for information exchange. The ability to interface with other devices and exchange, update and synchronise data, is the raison d’être of bluetooth. The bluejacking technique is using the first part of a process that allows that exchange to take place, and is therefore open to further abuse if the handshake completes and the “bluejacker” successfully pairs with the target device. If such an event occurs, then all data on the target device becomes available to the initiator, including such things as phone books, calendars, pictures and text messages. As the current wave of PDA and telephony integration progresses, the volume and quality of such data will increase with the devices’ capabilities, leading to far more serious potential compromise. Given the furore that irrupted when a second-hand Blackberry PDA was sold without the previous owner’s data having been wiped[3], it is alarming to think of the consequences of a single bluejacker gathering an entire corporate staff’s contact details by simply attending a conference or camping outside their building or in their foyer with a bluetooth capable device and evil intent. Of course, corporates are not the only potential targets – a bluejacking expedition to, say, The House of Commons, or The US Senate, could provide some interesting, valuable and, who’s to say, potentially damaging or compromising data.<<<


    The above may sound alarmist and far fetched, and the general reaction would probably be that most users would not be duped into allowing the connection to complete, so the risk is small. However, in today’s society of instant messaging, the average consumer is under a constant barrage of unsolicited messages in one form or another, whether it be by SPAM email, or “You have won!” style SMS text messages, and do not tend to treat them with much suspicion (although they may well be sceptical about the veracity of the offers). Another message popping up on their ‘phone saying something along the lines of “You have won 10,000 pounds! Enter this 4 digit PIN number and then dial 0900-SUCKER to collect your prize!” is unlikely to cause much alarm, and is more than likely to succeed in many cases.

    Workarounds and fixes
    We are not aware of any workarounds for the SNARF or BLUEBUG attacks at this time, other than to switch off bluetooth. For permanent fixes, see the ‘Fixes’ section at the bottom of the page.

    To permanently remove a pairing, and protect against future BACKDOOR attacks, it seems you must perform a factory reset, but this will, of course, erase all your personal data.

    To avoid Bluejacking, “just say no”. :)

    The above methods work to the best of our knowledge, but, as the devices affected are running closed-source proprietary software, it not possible to verify that without the collaboration of the manufacturers. We therefore make no claims as to the level of protection they provide, and you must continue to use bluetooth at your own risk.

    Who’s Vulnerable
    To date the quantity of devices tested is not great. However, due to the fact that they are amongst the most popular brands, we still consider the affected group to be large. It is also assumed that there are shared implementations of the bluetooth stack, so what affects one model is likely to affect others. This table is accurate to the best of our knowledge, but without the cooperation of the manufacturers (which we currently do not have), it is not possible to conduct more extensive validation.

    The devices known to be vulnerable at this time are:

    Vulnerability Matrix (* = NOT Vulnerable)
    MakeModelFirmware RevBACKDOORSNARF when VisibleSNARF when NOT VisibleBUG
    Sony EricssonR520m20R2G?YesNo?
    Sony EricssonT68i20R1B
    Sony EricssonT61020R1A081
    Sony EricssonT61020R1A081???Yes
    Sony EricssonZ1010??Yes??
    Sony EricssonZ60020R2C007
    Nokia7650?YesNo (+)?No
    * SiemensS55?NoNoNoNo
    * SiemensSX1?NoNoNoNo
    MotorolaV600 (++)?NoNoNoYes
    MotorolaV80 (++)?NoNoNoYes

    + We now believe the 7650 is only vulnerable to SNARF if it has already been BACKDOORed.
    ++ The V600 and V80 are discoverable for only 60 seconds, when first powered on or when this feature is user selected, and the window for BDADDR discovery is therefore very small. Motorola have stated that they will correct the vulnerability in current firmware.

    What is the Philosophy of Full Disclosure, and why are we providing the tools and detailing the methods that allow this to be done? The reasoning is simple – by exposing the problem we are achieving two goals: firstly, to alert users that the dangers exist, in order that they can take their own precautions against compromise, and secondly, to put pressure on manufacturers to rectify the situation. Consumers have a right to expect that their confidential data is treated as such, and is not subject to simple compromise by poorly implemented protocols on consumer devices. Manufacturers have a duty of care to ensure that such protection is provided, but, in practice, commercial considerations will often take precedence, and, given the choice, they may choose to simply supress or hide the problem, or, even worse, push for laws that prevent the discovery and/or disclosure of such flaws[5]. In our humble opinion, laws provide scant consumer protection against the lawless.

    After 13 months, and in consideration of the fact that affected manufacturers had acknowledged the issues and made updated firmware available, Full Disclosure took place at the Chaos Computer Club’s annual congress – 21C3, in Berlin, 2004.

    Slides from the disclosure talk can be found here:

    Proof of concept utilities have been developed, but are not yet available in the wild. They are:

    • bluestumbler – Monitor and log all visible bluetooth devices (name, MAC, signal strength, capabilities), and identify manufacturer from MAC address lookup.
    • bluebrowse – Display available services on a selected device (FAX, Voice, OBEX etc).
    • bluejack – Send anoymous message to a target device (and optionally broadcast to all visible devices).
    • bluesnarf – Copy data from target device (everything if pairing succeeds, or a subset in other cases, including phonebook and calendar. In the latter case, user will not be alerted by any bluejack message).
    • bluebug – Set up covert serial channel to device.
      Tools will not be released at this time, so please do not ask. However, if you are a bona-fide manufacturer of bluetooth devices that we have been otherwise unable to contact, please feel free to get in touch for more details on how you can identify your device status.

    The above vulnerabilities were discovered by Adam Laurie, during the course of his work with A.L. Digital, in November 2003, and this announcement was prepared thereafter by Adam and Ben Laurie for immediate release.

    Adam Laurie is Managing Director and Chief Security Officer of A.L. Digital Ltd.

    Ben Laurie is Technical Director of A.L. Digital, and author of Apache-SSL and contributor to many other open source projects, too numerous to expand on here.

    A.L. Digital Ltd. are the owner operators of The Bunker, the world’s most secure data centre(s).


    Further information relating to this disclosure will be updated at






    • bluesniff
    • btscanner
    • redfang



    Vulnerabilities in First-Generation RFID-enabled Credit Cards



    This is a great article, worth a read.