Security Corner

May 25, 2013  4:54 PM

Twitter now has two-factor authentication

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

twitter-bird-white-on-blueFrom SANS News Bites Vol. 15 No. 41:

Twitter has introduced two-factor authentication for account access.
Users who opt in to the feature provide Twitter with a mobile phone
number, and whenever they want to log in to their accounts, they will
be required to provide their regular passwords along with a verification
code which will be sent to the specified phone. The introduction of this
feature comes just weeks after several high-profile Twitter accounts
were compromised and misused.

It’s fairly straightforward to set this up on Twitter. Simply log into your account, go into settings, select Password and you’ll see this message at the top:


Click on the link and follow the instructions to set it up on your mobile phone. Once you do, there is a complete range of settings that allow you to customize text notifications. Do what you want with that. My main interest is in the two-factor authentication.

After you get the preliminaries completed, you’ll have to go into your Account menu and activate the option. Here’s what that looks like:


Once you do this, you should be good to go and Twitter will require a code every time you log in.

Sidenote: Twitter is now more secure than my bank which only asks for username and password. Go figure. But more on that in another post.

May 22, 2013  3:51 PM

DO NOT open these attachments!

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

dot_not_touchWe all know that Adobe PDF Reader and Acrobat are hopelessly insecure due to their ability to use embedded JavaScript in the PDF content. Despite an unending stream of updates to these applications, users still get infected. (In Adobe’s defense, a big part of this problem is clueless users who actually open unsolicited attachments; nevertheless, the security vulnerabilities shouldn’t exist in the first place.)

Data gathered by Microsoft’s antimalware products has identified a list of common infected PDF files and they are listed on the Microsoft MSDN blog. Here they are:

  • pdf_new[1].pdf
  • auhtjseubpazbo5[1].pdf
  • avjudtcobzimxnj2[1].pdf
  • pricelist[1].pdf
  • couple_saying_lucky[1].pdf
  • 5661f[1].pdf 7927
  • 9fbe0[1].pdf 7065
  • pdf_old[1].pdf

More information is available at the Microsoft Malware Protection Center.

April 30, 2013  8:40 PM

Humor: Best password security message ever!

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

mega-icon-smiley-thumbs-upThanks to for lightening my otherwise stressful day. What would you do if you saw this?

Height of security! This error message was generated when Windows 2000 users logged into an MIT Kerberos realm and got a shock of their lives on attempting to change their password. They were given a seemingly impossible task of setting a password with 18,770 characters that was different from the last 30,689 passwords. Thankfully, this uncommon error was fixed with the release of SP3 for Windows 2000.

April 30, 2013  4:40 PM

!!!!!!!!!! RED ALERT for YOUR COMPUTER – Not!

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

stressedI guess the goofiness runs in cycles or waves. Variations of this hard-drive-burning-most-destructive-virus-that-ever-existed hoax have been floating around in email since email went public. Makes me want to tear my hair out. This one was recently seen floating around on Facebook:


Please circulate this notice to your friends, family and contacts!

In the coming days, warning: do not open any message containing an attachment called Archive (Windows live) regardless of who sends you. This is a virus that burns the entire hard disk. This virus comes from a known person you have in your mailing list, which is why you should send this message to all your contacts. If you receive a message called "UPDATING WINDOWS LIVE", even if is sent by a friend, do not open it and stop immediately. This is the worst virus announced by CNN. It has been classified by Microsoft as the most destructive virus that ever existed. The virus was discovered yesterday afternoon by McAfee, and there is no chance of repair for this type of virus. Simply destroys Sector Zero of the hard disk. Just copy and paste..

C’mon, people! A simple check of would reveal any such virus hoax.

April 30, 2013  12:57 PM

Same password for every site. Will they ever learn?

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

question-markFrom Naked Security:

A study by Ofcom, the UK communications watchdog…, “Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes Report 2013″, [comprising] a poll of 1805 adults aged 16 and over discovered that 55% of them used the same password for most – if not all! – websites.

Unbelievable! Will they ever learn? It’s precisely this kind of thing that gives us Network Administrators nightmares, especially when these same people are given access to resources on our networks. Don’t they realize that if one site gets compromised, the hackers have access to all of them?

This is compounded by the types of passwords people tend use, i.e., easy-to-remember passwords such as birthdays, pet names, etc. The study found that 26% of the people polled do this.

If you are one of these people, or if you know someone who is, please see to it that the passwords get fixed as soon as possible.

April 29, 2013  7:49 PM

Log out and shut down!

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

Are you one of those people who leave their computers logged into everything all the time? If not, then good for you, but I bet you know someone who does. It’s a bad idea. Even if you run with a limited user account, you’re at risk. An XKCD cartoon does a fine job of illustrating.

xkcd-login-cartoonLog out of those sites and shut down your PC or laptop.

April 28, 2013  11:54 PM

“Memory Hard Problem” thwarts password cracking

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

In one of his famous “propeller head” episodes, Steve Gibson of Security Now! podcast fame describes an algorithm that thwarts even the most powerful super computers’ attempts at cracking passwords. Episode 388 [MP3] in January, 2013 describes an ingenious method of requiring huge amounts of memory for each hash function iteration, effectively crippling even the best tools that cyber-criminals can deploy.

The podcast is nicely summarized in this AskMisterWizard video:

April 19, 2013  4:30 PM

Video: The Internet Password Minder Protector Minder

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

lolWARNING! May cause serious guffaws leading to tears and abdominal pain.

Hats off to Ellen DeGeneres for exposing a useless and insecure product–Internet Password Minder–and doing it in an amusing way while helping to raise awareness of password security issues.

And thanks to Naked Security for bringing it to my attention. Seriously funny.

April 17, 2013  3:04 PM

Despicable cyber-slugs exploiting Boston Marathon bombing with Trojan attack

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

Despicable, but it’s always inevitable in the wake of any human tragedy. Cyberslugs (I won’t elevate them to cybercriminal status, though they are certainly criminals) are using the Boston Marathon bombing to spread malware. Spam emails claim to contain a link to video of the bombing. The links vary but take you to a website that attempts to infect your computer with a Trojan horse. The videos are, in fact, real YouTube videos that disguise the malicious activity.

Subject lines of the emails vary, but include:

  • 2 Explosions at Boston Marathon
  • Aftermath to explosion at Boston Marathon
  • Boston Explosion Caught on Video
  • Video of Explosion at the Boston Marathon 2013

According to Sophos’s blog, nakedsecurity:

If installed, the malware makes changes to the Registry and installs the following files, allowing hackers to gain remote access to infected computers:


The file NPF.sys is registered as a new service named “NPF”, with a display name of “WinPcap Packet Driver (NPF)”.

Never accept “news” from other than legitimate news sources, especially not from unsolicited emails.

April 9, 2013  1:44 AM

Could my client’s server be part of the Spamhaus DDoS attack?

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

In the wake of what is reported to be the largest DDoS attack ever–actually a DNS amplification attack–I received a message on behalf of one of my clients that indicated his server has been shut down because of an outbound DoS attack originating from it. How it got infected, and with what, I don’t know, but something is surely amiss. I wonder if his server could be part of that massive attack. Here’s a redacted excerpt from the notice I received:

Your <redacted> Server was found to be part of a network of compromised machines
leading a Distributed Denial-of-Service Attack (DDoS Attack) against other servers.

IMPORTANT: In order to prevent further criminal activity from your <redacted> Server,
we have suspended access pending an investigation and resolution.

The logs they sent me show UDP packets indicating that this could be part of a DNS amplification attack. Take a look:

Please see the firewall logs below for details:
1365103763.526228 IP > UDP, length 1
1365103763.526232 IP > UDP, length 1
1365103763.526234 IP > UDP, length 1
1365103763.526236 IP > UDP, length 1

That’s all I know for now. I have to contact the provider, open a window of time to gain access, and secure the server. I’ll keep you posted.

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