Security Corner

February 22, 2014  4:33 PM

C’mon Adobe, get your act together!

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

adobe_hackedI’ve made no secret of my dislike for all things Adobe and their dismal security.  Now this from nakedsecurity:

Adobe has just updated its Flash product for the second time this month, pushing out an emergency patch for an RCE exploit that has been seen in the wild.

This update covers vulnerabilities numbered CVE-2014-0498, CVE-2014-0499 and CVE-2014-0502 if you care to look them up. The last one is known to have been exploited in the wild and the other two are being patched as a precautionary measure. Adobe’s next update isn’t due until April.

In all fairness, it’s not just Adobe who frustrates me; any software company who puts out a product full of holes is responsible. The current production model:

  • Slap together a product
  • Run superficial testing
  • Release to the public (and hackers) for real-world testing
  • Fix the vulnerabilities they should have caught in the lab

This just doesn’t work anymore if, in fact, it ever did.

C’mon, people. ALL of you get your acts together.

January 31, 2014  7:24 PM

Hacking Skills Challenge – Realistic 1

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

hacker_1My hacking skill challenges are still very popular posts, particularly Hacking Skills Challenge – Level 7, so I’m going to pick them back up. Since I have previously presented all 11 of the basic challenges from, let’s move on to some realistic ones. Here’s the description from the site for the first Realistic Challenge:

Uncle Arnold’s Local Band Review
Your friend is being cheated out of hundreds of dollars. Help him make things even again! Difficulty rating: Easy.

The challenge is for you to hack a band review site and move your friend’s band, Raging Inferno to the top of the list.

Hints: 1. You’re going to need some way to edit the page “live;” and, 2. There are some numerical values you will need to change.

Give it a try and post your results in the comments. I’ll present the solution in a future post.

Good luck!

January 30, 2014  1:41 AM

That’s it! No more! I quit!

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

This will be short and sweet.

It’s bad, you know.

I’m fed up. Through with it. Officially done. Permanently withdrawn.

Don’t try to talk me out of this because it won’t work; don’t try to talk me into something else, either, because that won’t work…um, either. Neither will I be seduced by the lure of unlimited knowledge that I will supposedly be abandoning.

If I listen to all the pundits, everything I think, do or say is monitored by the NSA, FBI, CIA, IRS, local police, my wife, children and the next-door neighbor–and probably anyone with that nifty little program that turns my laptop camera and microphone on without my knowledge.

I can have no secrets. Even that blemish I’m picking at as I stare in my bathroom mirror is probably being broken down into packets, transmitted around the world and filed in multiple redundant databases just waiting for the day when I am busted for possession of galena crystals and used paper towel rolls (these can be used to build clandestine radio receivers, you know).

I can hear the neighbors now: “He was so nice. I never thought he was capable of such things. But, he had a blemish, you know!”

I can’t take it anymore, this steady stream of bad news about surveillance states and how we have no privacy. I’m disconnecting from the bad news. Every site that publishes such bad news goes on my black list.

That’s it! No more! I quit!

[Until I change my mind]

January 29, 2014  10:51 PM

Top worst password in 2013 is no longer “password”

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

522845_passwordWell, it’s not getting any better out there. People are still using idiotic, easy-to-guess passwords despite the advice of every security wonk out there, including me. But “password” is no longer the top most idiotic password: It has been replaced by “123456.”

SplashData, which makes password management applications, has released its 2013 list of the 25 worst passwords based on files containing millions of stolen passwords posted online in the last year. “123456″ now tops “password,” which normally leads the round-up. (Read more: Worst Passwords Top 25 of 2013 |

Here’s the list:

  1. 123456
  2. password
  3. 12345678
  4. qwerty
  5. abc123
  6. 123456789
  7. 111111
  8. 1234567
  9. iloveyou
  10. adobe123
  11. 123123
  12. admin
  13. 1234567890
  14. letmein
  15. photoshop
  16. 1234
  17. monkey
  18. shadow
  19. sunshine
  20. 12345
  21. password1
  22. princess
  23. azerty
  24. trustno1
  25. 000000

January 26, 2014  5:30 PM

Sophos Security Threat Report 2014 released

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

gremlinFrom Sophos (full Press Release here):

Cybercriminals are smarter, and malware is stealthier and more dangerous than ever before. We currently see more than 250,000 unique samples of malware every day. The bad guys are constantly moving. Can you keep up?

Our Security Threat Report 2014 explains how the threats are changing, and shows you how Sophos is working to stay ahead of them. Download the report today to get the best threat intelligence in the industry from our SophosLabs experts. You’ll be smarter, and better prepared for the threats of tomorrow.

Highly recommended. Download the report here.

January 26, 2014  4:57 PM

Bogus funeral announcement points to malware

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun


One of the latest tricks in the cyber-criminals’ bags is an email with the subject (it varies), “Death and Funeral Announcement.” Now, what normal person would see that and NOT open it? I know I did. What I DIDN’T do, of course was click the link which pointed to a site <domain name>.be. Here’s the text:

For this unprecedented event, we offer our deepest prayers of condolence and invite
to you to be present at the celebration of your friends [sic] life service on
Thursday, January 22, 2014 that will take place at Eubank Funeral Home at 11:00 a.m.

Please find invitation and more detailed information about the farewell ceremony  here .

Best wishes and prayers,

Funeral home receptionist,
William Mccarty

After a few seconds of oh-my-god-who-died, I re-read the email and spotted the obvious bad grammar and realized this was a scan. Researching led me to discover that the link target delivers a Trojan. I also looked at the headers and found the originator was at IP address (lookup tool) which has these attributes:

IP :     Neighborhood
Host :    OK
Country : Russian Federation  

And that is enough to confirm that I certainly don’t want whatever they have!

January 20, 2014  8:53 PM

How to stay (relatively) secure with XP at the end of support – Part 2

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

In How to stay (relatively) secure with XP at the end of support – Part 1, I recommended that you ditch IE 8 for Chrome or Firefox for web surfing and promised to provide even more advice. In this post, I give you several more ways to operate with Windows XP in a relatively safe manner after the end of support.

Microsoft has extended its anti-malware protection for Windows XP until July 15, 2015: Anti-malware protection for Windows XP extended to July, 2015 and Malwarebytes Anti-malware is likely to support Windows XP for several years to come. So, the first thing to do is make sure you keep both of these programs updated. Windows Secrets has this to say:

Keeping your antivirus software up to date is always important, but even more so with Windows XP. My preferred AV setup is a combination of Microsoft Security Essentials (site) and Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware (site)

It’s also a good idea to run periodic scans using an offline rescue disk such as Sophos’ Bootable Anti Virus to detect and remove rootkits and stealthy malware.

Naturally, you’ll want to make sure that your XP box is sitting behind a NAT router and make sure your Windows Firewall is active and properly configured.

While you’re at it, why not just disable web browsing entirely? You can still keep your XP box accessible to your local network and use it for file sharing and those special apps, it just won’t be able to reach the internet. Here’s how:

lanproxyProxy2And one more tip from Windows Secrets. OpenDNS blocks browsing to known malicious sites.:

Adding the OpenDNS settings to your router extends Web filtering to all devices on the local net. The process is relatively simple: open the router’s admin menu system and enter and (these are OpenDNS’s IP addresses) into the router’s DNS section.

And finally, keep any third party applications that continue to support XP up to date. Many vendors will probably move on, but there will be those who continue to support XP well into the future. Take advantage of their efforts by applying patches as they become available.

January 20, 2014  8:08 PM

Anti-malware protection for Windows XP extended to July, 2015

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

mseWith the Windows XP end of support date of April 8, 2014 looming on the horizon, many of us have wondered what would happen with anti-malware software. The good news is that Microsoft recently announced they have extended their anti-malware protection for XP: “To help organizations complete their migrations, Microsoft will continue to provide updates to our antimalware signatures and engine for Windows XP users through July 14, 2015.”

What does this mean, exactly?

For enterprise customers, this applies to System Center Endpoint Protection, Forefront Client Security, Forefront Endpoint Protection and Windows Intune running on Windows XP. For consumers, this applies to Microsoft Security Essentials.

So, despite no more security patches after April 8, we’ll still have some protection; we won’t be running naked. Still, that doesn’t mean we can just go on whistling past the graveyard. Microsoft warns:

Our research shows that the effectiveness of antimalware solutions on out-of-support operating systems is limited. Running a well-protected solution starts with using modern software and hardware designed to help protect against today’s threat landscape.

Microsoft recommends best practices to protect your PC such as:

  • Using modern software that has advanced security technologies and is supported with regular security updates,
  • Regularly applying security updates for all software installed,
  • Running up-to-date anti-virus software.

By the way, my other favorite product, Malwarebytes Anti-malware, will continue to support XP indefinitely: “MBAM 1.75 supports XP (obviously :P) and 2.0 which is currently in testing also supports XP. Our other tools and products like MBAR, MBAE etc. also support XP and we have no plans on changing that. We know that a lot of people will continue to use XP for some time so we’ll continue to offer products and tools to help secure those systems for as long as we can.”

January 1, 2014  7:02 PM

Happy New Year!

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

Thanks to everyone who read my ruminations here in 2013. May you Flourish and Prosper in 2014.


December 31, 2013  6:24 PM

How to stay (relatively) secure with XP at the end of support – Part 1

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

R_I_P_XP_gravestoneIt’s hard to believe that Windows XP is almost 13 years old. It seems like yesterday when it was first released. Microsoft will officially end support for Windows XP in less than four months (April 8, 2014) meaning — for one thing — that they will no longer release security updates for the operating system. Moreover, third-party vendors will likely stop development of XP-compatible drivers and whatnot. This will leave anyone still using XP with a machine stuck in time, forever doomed to insecurity and running stagnant software. To all intents and purposes, it’s time to upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8.

But what if you can’t (or won’t) upgrade? Some older hardware may not run Windows 7 or 8 properly or you may have a special application that won’t run on anything but XP. Perhaps you’ve kept your system finely tuned and, like me, see no need to invest in new equipment (I still run some some amateur radio software under FreeDOS on a 90’s vintage IBM ThinkPad and it works just fine).

Get used to the idea that you are not going to be able to maintain the level of security you enjoyed before and that you are going to have to upgrade eventually (or switch to Mac which is, in the main, what I am doing). For now, there are still some things you can do to maintain some relative security while running XP. I’ll cover the other points in Part 2. For now, the main thing you can do is switch away from Internet Explorer. Version 8 is as high as you can go on XP and version 8 is just not that secure. Most exploits happen via the web browser these days and you don’t want to help out the hackers by using one that’s easily exploited. Move to Chrome or Firefox. You must keep IE 8 installed and updated, just don’t use it for web browsing.

Now, go have a great New Year celebration and I’ll see you in 2014.

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