SEI Insights


Vulnerability Insights

A few months ago, a widely-publicized set of vulnerabilities called StageFright hit the Android ecosystem. While Google fixed the vulnerabilities in what appears to be a reasonable amount of time, the deployment of those fixes to end-user devices is another story. Many Android devices have a lengthy supply chain, which can make the process of deploying OS updates a slow and uncertain process. In this blog post, I investigate the supply chain of the Android platform and show how it can affect the security of the OS.

There has been a lot of press recently about security in Internet of Things (IoT) devices and other non-traditional computing environments. Many of the most talked about presentations at this year's Black Hat and DefCon events were about hacking IoT devices. At the CERT/CC, we coordinate information about and discover vulnerabilities in various devices, and the number of vulnerabilities keeps growing.

One thing that I've personally been researching is finding vulnerabilities in vehicles. In recent weeks, even non-technical friends and family have asked me about the Jeep vulnerability, the Mobile Devices C4, Rolljam, Tesla, and other recent car-related vulnerabilities. These attacks are novel not because of the technical details, but because of the attack vectors and impact, which differ dramatically from those in traditional IT resources.

About a year ago, I started looking into Android applications that aren't validating SSL certificates. Users of these applications could be at risk if they fall victim to a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack. Earlier this year, I also wrote about the risks of MITM attacks on environments that use SSL inspection. Lately I've been checking whether IOS applications are consistently checking SSL certificates, and they appear to be pretty similar to Android applications in that regard.

Some might wonder how easy it might be to fall victim to an MITM attack. The KARMA attack, which was outlined over ten years ago, can cause a client system to unknowingly connect to an attacker's Wi-Fi, allowing an MITM attack. Despite the age of this attack, I've found that it can still be effective on modern platforms.

Every day, we receive reports from various security professionals, researchers, hobbyists, and even software vendors regarding interesting vulnerabilities that they discovered in software. Vulnerability coordination--where we serve as intermediary between researcher and vendor to share information, get vulnerabilities fixed, and get those fixes out in the public eye--is a free service we provide to the world.

While investigating a few of the exploits associated with the recent HackingTeam compromise, I realized an aspect of the Windows User Account Control (UAC) that might not be widely known. Microsoft has published documents that indicate that the UAC is not a security boundary. For these or other reasons, some folks may have disabled the UAC on their Windows systems. I will explain in this blog post why disabling the UAC is a bad idea.

During the Watergate hearings, Senator Howard Baker asked John Dean a now-famous question: "My primary thesis is still: What did the president know, and when did he know it?" If you understand why that question was important, you have some sense as to why I am very concerned that "zero-day exploit capability" appears as an operative phrase in the Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) proposed rules to implement the Wassenaar Arrangement 2013 Plenary Agreements regarding Intrusion and Surveillance Items.