Security Corner

February 28, 2014  10:28 PM

MasterCard uses geo-location to reduce card fraud

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

This is a great idea and one that may turn out to be the simplest way to implement two-factor authentication for credit card companies. In fact, this is similar to what Only Coin plans to implement as part of its security suite.

From nakedsecurity:

MasterCard announced on Tuesday that it has partnered with Syniverse, a mobile technology company, in order to minimise unauthorised purchases made with stolen plastic.

The two companies are currently running an opt-in pilot scheme which allows users to make a credit card transaction only when they have their mobile device switched on and to hand in a specific location.

The service providers then cross-check the locations of both the credit card and the mobile device at the time a transaction is made. If they match, bingo. Otherwise, if the card is in Toronto, for example, and the smartphone is in London, the transaction will be denied.

Go for it!

February 28, 2014  10:21 PM

Two factor authentication becoming a necessity

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

With the password’s fading usefulness, we have to seriously consider two-factor authentication as the minimum level of security for any site dealing with sensitive information. I have been using the PayPal “football” for years as a second factor on both PayPal and eBay. I’ve implemented Yubikey and Google Authenticator on LastPass and Google Authenticator on Dropbox. But these aren’t the only ones out there. There is, of course, the well known RSA SecureID, but here’s a few two factor authentication providers you may want to look into.

  • Yubikey – a USB hardware token that is in essence a second authentication method based on a unique physical token which cannot be duplicated or recorded, providing a credential based on something only an authorized user possesses. Used with a standard username and password, the YubiKey provides a strong, two-factor authentication to any site, service or application.
  • Google Authenticator – provides a six digit one-time password users must provide in addition to their username and password to log into Google services. The Authenticator can also generate codes for third party applications, such as password managers or file hosting services.
  • PayPal Security Key – The PayPal Security Key creates random temporary security codes that help safeguard your PayPal account when you log in. There are two types: A credit-card sized device (the “football” is no longer available); and, security codes sent by text message to your mobile phone. (I actually use both.)
  • Duo Security – Uses a mobile phone similar to Google Authenticator. Duo’s solution is cloud-based.

February 27, 2014  2:33 AM

Mac OS X 10.9.2 released to fix critical SSL security hole

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

They promised “as soon as possible” and they delivered. Here are the details straight from the OS X App Store.


February 27, 2014  2:12 AM

Why passwords alone are no longer sufficient security

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

We have all see this coming for a long time; in fact, I’m surprised it has taken this long to become obvious that passwords are no longer sufficient security. Sure, they’re OK for things that really don’t matter like news sites and entertainment sites — any site that doesn’t store sensitive information about you — but for all other things they’re just not enough anymore.

Passwords are the “something you know” part of security and therefore the easiest factor to guess or otherwise obtain. Beyond the fact that people tend to use passwords that are easily guessable, here are three other reasons why passwords alone are no longer sufficient security.

1. Duplicate passwords. People tend to use the same password in multiple locations, often using the same one for everything. I don’t know how many times I’ve had people tell me, “I always use xxxxx for my password” meaning, of course, that when asked to create a password for anything, that’s the one they use.

2. Keylogger infections. Every day, I see computers with bogus “system cleaners,” “system optimizers,” “pc boosters,” etc. infecting them. I can only assume that beyond these junky scams, there is more sinister stuff installed. People just don’t know any better and if it sounds good to them, they click OK. I envision that some sort of message like “Please click here to protect your bank account from unauthorized access” would be a quite effective technique.

3. Phishing scams. I’ve seen some of these in my own inbox that made me do a double take until I dug a bit deeper. If I almost got phished, I promise you someone else really did. Then, once the hacker had the password, he probably tried it on every site the person had, and was probably successful at gaining access to several of them.

Bottom line: Two-factor authentication is not only long overdue, it’s critical if we ever hope to prevent the huge data breaches like Target’s and others that have been in the news.

February 23, 2014  6:21 PM

Update your iOS to 7.06 on iPad and iPhone!

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

ios-706Apple has released a security update for iOS. (Use this URL: for details.) Here’s what Apple says about it:

Impact: An attacker with a privileged network position may capture or modify data in sessions protected by SSL/TLS

Description: Secure Transport failed to validate the authenticity of the connection. This issue was addressed by restoring missing validation steps.

Basically, this means you are open to a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack. Engineers at CrowdStrike (see this post) describe the vulnerability and the attack method.

To pull off the attack an adversary has to be able to Man-in-The-Middle (MitM) network connections, which can be done if they are present on the same wired or wireless network as the victim. Due to a flaw in authentication logic on iOS and OS X platforms, an attacker can bypass SSL/TLS verification routines upon the initial connection handshake. This enables an adversary to masquerade as coming from a trusted remote endpoint, such as your favorite webmail provider and perform full interception of encrypted traffic between you and the destination server, as well as give them a capability to modify the data in flight (such as deliver exploits to take control of your system).

This has NOT been patched for OS X, which also has this vulnerability, so Mac users are still at risk until Apple issues a patch.

You can check to see if your device is vulnerable. I checked my MacBook Pro with both Safari and Google Chrome. Safari is vulnerable, Chrome is not, so I suggest you not use Safari on your Mac until after Apple issues the patch.

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.

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