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Security Test Prompts Federal Fraud Alert 36

itwbennett writes "Johannes Ullrich, chief research officer at the SANS Institute, took great interest in a National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) warning issued earlier this week, thinking, 'Finally this is in the wild, because I've only seen it in pen tests before.' Unfortunately for Mr. Ullrich, the letter and 2 CDs that caused the kerfuffle were part of a sanctioned security test of a bank's computer systems conducted by Ohio-based security company MicroSolved. 'It was a part of some social engineering we were doing in a fully sanctioned penetration test,' said MicroSolved CEO Brent Huston. For his part, NCUA spokesman John McKechnie did not have much to say about his organization's alert, except that 'at this point, it appears that this is an isolated event.'"
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Security Test Prompts Federal Fraud Alert

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  • by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:36AM (#29243351) Homepage Journal

    The best way to pull something like this off is to create CDs that look like they are part of a patch subscription. Before the spread of ubiquitous online access, many Unix and enterprise application vendors would send patches via some package carrier (Fed Ex, UPS, USPS, etc.). Many still do. Some admins automatically install anything they get in the mail without first verifying its contents.

  • by Sfing_ter ( 99478 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:40AM (#29243401) Homepage Journal

    Social Engineering is the more likely cause of all major hacking issues. People saying their password out loud in a crowded office. My favorite is when you ask them for their password then add 'you can probably take everything I have because I use that for EVERYTHING'.

    I have found people like "convenience", 'why should I have to log into ANOTHER computer to do the Banking?' - and 'can i get some speakers for that computer so i can listen to online radio while i do the banking?'...

    I am glad to see that an "Alert" was produced from it, most businesses would have done the whole cover-up 'it never happened - now don't do it again' bit.

  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:44AM (#29243433)

    They fail proper incident response by leaking incident data to the public. I would expect someone on their incident response team to be aware of the pen test, provide proof, and for the report to never leak out of the company.

    I don't think proper incident response involves posting an alert based on an isolated incident and tipping off the attacker before law enforcement can move in.

    Even if the attack was real, the institution might not want to reveal it to others, especially if the attack resulted in compromise; it could scare customers aware if they were informed that a security compromise had occured.

    So it's a bit unusual that the report got out.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons ( 302214 )

      Um - did you even read the articles in question (while sober)? Because what you posted has about nothing to do with the sequence of events.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This was not a sanctioned event. Maybe it was sanctioned by the CU but not by the NCUA. So how was the NCUA supposed to know this was an isolated event? Hence the FIRST alert they sent. But the linked article fails to mention the SECOND alert the NCUA sent. Basically they are chastising the Credit Union who started the mess.

      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        Exactly: The bogus alert was forwarded to NCUA

        For all anyone who was unaware of the test is concerned, they could have been forwarding the letter to the very person at the NCUA who was an insider sending the fraudulent letter.

        It means that someone in the organization reported a suspected breach to someone outside the organization.

        Either their security incident response team wasn't properly informed of the "test" that was being conducted, to avoid sending frivolous and illegal security reports to law

  • by Dr_Ken ( 1163339 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @11:49AM (#29243479) Journal
    ...are just begging for this kind of attack. More stupid stuff gets done because of a "memo from HQ" than for any other reason. Nobody questions or authenticates anything. The drones just do watch their told to and move on. Makes me wanna keep my life savings in deposit soda bottles in the basement instead my credit union.
    • That's why it's a good reason to stick with locally owned banks/credit unions. The president of my bank lives five miles from me (he is also my uncle). If there is any sort of test like the above, he is there. Not sitting 300mi away sending memos.

      • In before the grammar nazi. Yes I see the error.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DavidTC ( 10147 )

        It sorta defeats the point of a penetration test if the president is sitting right there. Especially as the president is probably going to be in on it. You're supposed to test the most vulnerable staffer, as that is who would actually be attacked.

        I know what you mean, though. In any sort of problem, they'd personally contact someone who has the ability to make decisions and override the rules, in addition to just following the rules.

    • by omz13 ( 882548 )

      The drones just do watch their told to and move on.

      That really depends on the company. I've worked for some where this is very true... people never question anything and do things that are just plain stupid because they don't apply any common sense and check with somebody before they do something they know is stupid or could be just plain wrong.

      On the other hand, I worked for one bank where you couldn't sneeze without several line managers signing off a change request. This meant that when things got done, it usually got done right; of course, getting sever

      • by Dr_Ken ( 1163339 )
        If only...our credit union "got a memo" from DHS stating that to open or renew a Jumbo CD (more than 10k$) you had to show a passport! Apparently the page of the eMail or fax that said this new regulation only applied to non-citizens got lost somewhere but they dutifully followed this instruction for two months! I wonder how much business that cost them?
    • I'd recommend beer. Someone made a calculation, where that actually would make you more in interest, tat your bank ever could.

      But I guess, before the "recession", gold would have been the best bet. Went up like crazy now, for obvious reasons.

  • AOL CD's??? (Score:5, Funny)

    by DevConcepts ( 1194347 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @12:00PM (#29243581)
    Brain: Were going to ship AOL CD's to everyone as a "new upgrade version" that will give us full control of their computer.
    Pinky: What if they don't use AOL?
    Brain: There's 49 million sheep using AOL, it should be enough to do what we are going to do.
    Pinky: Whats that brain?
    Brain: The same thing we do every night, Try to take over the world.
    • That triggers people to get their computer cleaned.

      If someone really smart were gonna write a rogue program, they would create a program that does exactly what its supposed to but also
      does X in a blackbox, x being whatever sneaky thing you want it to do. That X only taking up say 10% of cpu cycles and a like small
      amount of bandwidth. It would keep less sophisticated rivals off the computer to keep the computer running fast. If someone's computer is "running fine"
      then they dont clean it and they recommend th

      • "If someone really smart were gonna write a rogue program, they would create a program that does exactly what its supposed to but also"

        That's a great new idea, but it needs a name. I propose something along the lines of "Trojan" after the Trojan Horse in the Illiad.

        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Wow, you sure fooled me. I was thinking Norton.

  • should have been the fact that a security consulting company chose for their name the name of a company that has pretty much the WORST track record for security in the industry.....
    • by Mister Whirly ( 964219 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @12:38PM (#29243991) Homepage
      I know you were aiming for Microsoft bashing, but honestly in the 80s a good chunk of computer related companies were named Micro something or other. No idea if this company has been around that long (or may have even been named that as a throwback kind of kitschy idea) but it seemed like for a time "Micro" was really hot as a precursor to a company name.
      • Just like adding E or I in the early 00s.
      • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @02:04PM (#29244809) Journal

        it seemed like for a time "Micro" was really hot as a precursor to a company name.

        The '80s was the height of the microcomputer revolution. For anyone who didn't live through it, a microcomputer is a computer which uses a microprocessor (a CPU on a single chip). This differentiates them from minicomputers and mainframes which, at the time, which typically had different parts of the CPU in several different chips. It wasn't until the mid '90s that even mainframes were using microprocessors; the first two generations of IBM's POWER series, for example, were multi-chip configurations.

        The companies that rode the microcomputer wave were often not the companies that did well in the shrinking minicomputer and mainframe markets (and the minicomputer companies were often not established mainframe names either). They used micro- to differentiate themselves from the dinosaurs who were still clinging to the one-computer-per-company model. The implication was low-cost and flexible.

    • by DavidTC ( 10147 )

      Um, who said these consultants sucked.

      Just because a company fails a penetration test and got caught doesn't mean it sucked. It might mean the company they were hired to test didn't suck.

      The only person who 'sucked' here was the company that alerted the NCUA without realizing that they had, in fact, hired someone to do that. I suspect some over-eager security officer who not only discovered the attack, but alerted both his bosses and the NCUA before his bosses could inform him that this was, in fact, a pe

      • FFS, EVERY sensible organisation must run tests on various aspects, I run annual crisis management tests to ensure the plans they have actually work (we're talking about major, this-will-tank-the-company stuff which requires a military model of management to handle). It's fun dreaming up a realistic scenario, but it is ESSENTIAL that you manage the I/O to the crisis management team to ensure your test doesn't create a disaster in itself.

        Let me give you an example: a VERY major news outlet was system testin

    • Actually it makes perfect sense. If you run Windows you have a Microsoft problem. If they magically lock the system down somehow anyway your Microsoft problem is MicroSolved ;-)
  • Reasonable Response (Score:3, Interesting)

    by __aalmrb3802 ( 533146 ) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @02:13PM (#29244915)

    Perhaps I am missing something obvious (wouldn't be the first time), but it seems to me that the issuance of the alert was a very reasonable thing given that the credit union which received the CDs did not know that it wasn't a real attack when they issued it. Of course, you would think that whomever had requested the penetration test would have been watching for something like this and stopped the alert from going out, but that's a different problem...

  • This attack has been seen in the wild. About 10 years ago (IIRC), one of the first phishing attempts in Japan was done by sending CDs to the homes of potential victims. Phishing is still pretty rare in Japan (about 500K attempts per year, as of 2007), but this early attack was, IMO, one of the smartest. It worked on both technical and cultural/social levels, a brilliant social engineering attack.

    Yes, I loathe these guys; I own the anti-phishing rule set at a major email security company and would like to se

I've noticed several design suggestions in your code.