Early reports came in from Verge that Lenovo was hacked, however upon visiting the website, many reported no problems. Lenovo servers were not, in fact hacked, however it appears that the lenovo.com domain record may have been hijacked. Two whois queries below show that the domain was updated today and its name servers were changed over fromRead More
In light of recent widespread MiTM goings on with Superfish and Lenovo products, I dusted off an old technique introduced in the anti-spam communities several years ago that would have prevented this, and could more importantly put a giant dent in the capabilities of government sponsored SSL MiTM.
The Core Problem
The core of the problem with SSL is twofold; after all these years, thousands of Snowden documents, and more reason to distrust governments and be paranoid about hackers more than ever, we’re still putting an enormous amount of trust into certificate authorities to:
Play by the rules according to their own verification policies and never be socially engineered
Never honor any secret FISA court order to issue a certificate for a targeted organization
Be secure enough to never be compromised, or to always know when they’ve been compromised
Never hire any rogue employees who would issue false certificates
Not only are we putting an immense trust in our CAs, but we’re also putting even more trust into our own computers, and that the root certificates loaded into our trust store are actually trustworthy. Superfish proved that to not be the case, however Superfish has only done what we’ve been doing in the security community for years to conduct pen-tests: insert a rogue certificate into the trust store of a device. We’ve done this with iOS, OSX, Windows PCs, and virtually every other operating system as well in conducting pen-tests and security audits.
Sure, there is cert pinning, you say… however in most cases, when it comes to web browsers at least, cert pinning only pins your certificate to a trusted certificate authority. In the case of Superfish’s malware, cert pinning doesn’t appear to have prevented the interception of SSL traffic whatsoever. In fact, Superfish broke the root store so badly, that in some cases, self-signed certificates could even validate! In the case of CAs that have been compromised (either by an adversary, or via secret court orders), cert pinning can also be rendered ineffective, because it still primarily depends on trusting the CA and the root store.
We have existing solid means of validating the chain of trust, but SSL is still missing one core component, and that’s a means of validating with the (now trusted) host itself, to ensure that it thinks there’s nothing fishy about your connection. Relying on the trust store alone is why, after potentially tens of thousands of website visits, none of the web browsers thought to ask, “hey why am I seeing the same cert on every website I visit?”
For those watching the Superfish debacle unfold, you may also be interested to note that Superfish has an app titled LikeThat available for iOS and Android. The app is a visual search tool apparently for finding furniture that you like (whatever). They also have other visual search apps for pets and other idiotic things, all of which seem to be quite popular. Taking a closer look at the application, it appears as though they also do quite a bit of application tracking, including reporting your device’s unique identifier back to an analytics company. They’ve also taken some rather sketchy approaches to how they handle photos so as to potentially preserve the EXIF data in them, which can include your GPS position and other information.
To get started, just taking a quick look at the binary using ‘strings’ can give you some sketchy information. Here are some of the URLs in the binary:
Robert Graham recently uncovered software that came preinstalled on Lenovo computers hiding under the guide of advertising-ware. While the media rushes to understand the technical details behind this, many are making the mistake of chocking it up to some poorly designed advertising / malvertising software with vulnerabilities. This is not the case at all, and it’s important to note that what’s been done here by Lenovo and SuperFish by all accounts is far more serious: a very intentionally designed eavesdropping / surveillance mechanism that allows Lenovo PCs’ encrypted traffic to be wiretapped anywhere it travels on the Internet. We’ll never know the true motives behind the software, but someone went to great lengths to maliciously transform encrypted traffic in a way that allows this electronic wiretapping, then bundled it with new Lenovo computers.
Based on Graham’s notes, and what the media is reporting is commonly referred to as a Man-in-the-Middle attack on the victim’s computer; this is only where the trouble begins. When the user goes to establish an encrypted connection with, say, Bank of America, the SuperFish software pretends that it’s Bank of America right on your computer, by using a phony certificate to masquerade as if it were actually the bank. SuperFish then talks to the real Bank of America using its own private keys to decrypt traffic coming back to it. Where this becomes dangerous is that this transforms the traffic while it’s in transit across the Internet, so that data coming back to the PC is encrypted with a key that SuperFish can decrypt and read.
The threat here goes far beyond that of just the victim’s computer or advertisements: by design, this allows for wiretapping of the PC’s traffic from anywhere it travels on the Internet. In addition to the local MiTM / advertising concerns the media is focusing on, it appears as though the way SuperFish designed their software allows anyone who has either licensed or stolen SuperFish’s private key to intercept and read any encrypted traffic from any affected Lenovo PC across the Internet, without ever having access to the computer. How is this possible? Because SuperFish appears to use the same private keys on every reported installation of the software, according to what Graham’s observed so far.
Unique Tracking Identifiers
I’ve previously written about Whisper and how this technique, combined with multiple GPS data points, can easily identify who you are and where you live, even if the GPS queries are fuzzed. With Google as a parent company, not only is your location information particularly identifying, but cross-referenced with Google data and their massive analytics, could easily determine a complete profile about you including your web search history (interests, fetishes, etc). Even if you don’t have a Google account, any Google searches you’ve done through local IP addresses or applications that track your geolocation can easily be used to link your Waze data to your search history, to your social networking profiles, to virtually any other intelligence Google or its subsidiaries are collecting about you. Simply by using Waze just once, you’ve potentially granted Google license to identify you by GPS or geolocation, and associate an entire web search history with your identity, to de-anonymize you to Google.
Fortinet recently published a blog entry analyzing the Pawn Storm malware for iOS. There were some significant inaccuracies, however, and since Fortinet seems to be censoring website comments, I thought I’d post my critique here. Here are a few things important to note about the analysis that were grossly inaccurate.
First of important note is the researcher’s claim that the LSRequiresIPhoneOS property indicates that iPads are not targeted, but that the malware only runs on iPhone. Anyone who understands the iOS environment knows that the LSRequiresIPhoneOS tag simply indicates that the application is an iOS application; this tag can be set to true, and an application can still support iPad and any other iOS based devices (iPod, whatever). I mention this because anyone reading this article may assume that their iPad or iPod is not a potential target, and therefore never check it. If you suspect you could be a target of Pawn Storm, you should check all of your iOS based devices.
Second important thing to note: Most of the information the researcher claims the application gathers can only be gathered on jailbroken devices. This is because the jailbreak process in and of itself compromises Apple’s own sandbox in order to allow applications to continue to run correctly after Cydia has relocated crucial operating system files onto the user data partition. When running Cydia for the first time, several different folders get moved to the /var/stash folder on the user partition. Since this folder normally would not be accessible outside of Apple’s sandbox, the geniuses writing jailbreaks decided to break Apple’s sandbox so that you could run your bootleg versions of Angry Birds. Smart, huh?