Attacks/Breaches
7/19/2010
05:50 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

SANS Raises Infocon Alert To Yellow In Light Of New Windows 'Shortcut' Attack Threat

Security experts closely monitoring spread of new zero-day threat

A zero-day flaw being used in targeted attacks against organizations worldwide -- most notably on SCADA systems -- has security experts worried that the threat could spread further. Concerns about additional attacks using the so-called "LNK" vulnerability in Windows machines via USB devices and fileshares prompted the SANS Internet Storm Center today to raise its Infocon alert level to "yellow," up from "green," or normal, status.

SANS made the call to go Code Yellow to help raise awareness of the vulnerability, which Microsoft officially revealed on Friday after security researchers in Belarus reported finding new malware samples that could infect a Windows 7 machine via an infected USB drive. "We decided to raise the Infocon level to Yellow to increase awareness of the recent LNK vulnerability and to help preempt a major issue resulting from its exploitation," blogged SANS ISC handler and security consultant Lenny Zeltser today. "Although we have not observed the vulnerability exploited beyond the original targeted attacks, we believe wide-scale exploitation is only a matter of time. The proof-of-concept exploit is publicly available, and the issue is not easy to fix until Microsoft issues a patch. Furthermore, anti-virus tools' ability to detect generic versions of the exploit have not been very effective so far."

The number of machines hit so far is only in the tens of thousands, according to some estimates, but many security experts worry that could change fast.

"This is not something to just shrug off," says Paul Henry, security and forensics analyst for Lumension Security. Henry says the biggest targets for the attack are Microsoft XP SP2 machines, which the software giant stopped patching as of this month.

"You've got a large user base that can't move off of XP SP2, and that creates a perfect situation for the bad guys," Henry says, noting many SCADA apps only run on XP. "Now they've got a wide, open field where they can create malware, with no fear that Microsoft will create a patch for it."

Microsoft late Friday issued a security advisory that points to a flaw in Windows Shell, which was being used along with a family of malware called Stuxnet. Dave Forstrom, Microsoft's director of marketing communications for integrated communications & response, says Microsoft had only seen "limited, targeted attacks" thus far, and that the attacks were most likely to occur via removable USB drives.

While Microsoft as of that posting had spotted most of the attacks in Iran and Indonesia, researchers at ESET today report that the Stuxnet worm going after the LNK flaw is mostly hitting the U.S. now, with 58 percent of all infections, 30 percent in Iran, and more than 4 percent in Russia. "This particular attack targets the industrial supervisory software SCADA. In short, this is an example of malware-aided industrial espionage. The question is why the chart of affected nations looks as it does," says Juraj Malcho, head of ESET's Virus Lab, based in Bratislava, Slovakia.

ESET expects other malware to exploit the Windows vulnerability, which has to do with how it processes LNK files.

SANS' yellow alert indicates it's tracking a significant, new threat, and that users should take "immediate specific action" to contain any impact the threat could unleash.

While USB-born malware is nothing new, what makes this attack unique is that even if Windows Autoplay and Autorun are disabled, the Stuxnet worm can still automatically infect a USB drive. The exploit can also spread via SMB fileshares, posing the possibility of further internal infections within a targeted organization, experts say.

A few workarounds are available to defend against the threat. Microsoft suggests disabling icon shortcuts as well as the WebClient service, for instance. SANS suggests disabling autorun for USB contents and locking down SMB shares internally such that it limits who is able to write to the shares. SANS' Zeltser also points to a free tool called Ariad, which is in beta.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
Partner Perspectives
What's This?
In a digital world inundated with advanced security threats, Intel Security seeks to transform how we live and work to keep our information secure. Through hardware and software development, Intel Security delivers robust solutions that integrate security into every layer of every digital device. In combining the security expertise of McAfee with the innovation, performance, and trust of Intel, this vision becomes a reality.

As we rely on technology to enhance our everyday and business life, we must too consider the security of the intellectual property and confidential data that is housed on these devices. As we increase the number of devices we use, we increase the number of gateways and opportunity for security threats. Intel Security takes the “security connected” approach to ensure that every device is secure, and that all security solutions are seamlessly integrated.
Featured Writers
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading's October Tech Digest
Fast data analysis can stymie attacks and strengthen enterprise security. Does your team have the data smarts?
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-3409
Published: 2014-10-25
The Ethernet Connectivity Fault Management (CFM) handling feature in Cisco IOS 12.2(33)SRE9a and earlier and IOS XE 3.13S and earlier allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (device reload) via malformed CFM packets, aka Bug ID CSCuq93406.

CVE-2014-4620
Published: 2014-10-25
The EMC NetWorker Module for MEDITECH (aka NMMEDI) 3.0 build 87 through 90, when EMC RecoverPoint and Plink are used, stores cleartext RecoverPoint Appliance credentials in nsrmedisv.raw log files, which allows local users to obtain sensitive information by reading these files.

CVE-2014-4623
Published: 2014-10-25
EMC Avamar 6.0.x, 6.1.x, and 7.0.x in Avamar Data Store (ADS) GEN4(S) and Avamar Virtual Edition (AVE), when Password Hardening before 2.0.0.4 is enabled, uses UNIX DES crypt for password hashing, which makes it easier for context-dependent attackers to obtain cleartext passwords via a brute-force a...

CVE-2014-4624
Published: 2014-10-25
EMC Avamar Data Store (ADS) and Avamar Virtual Edition (AVE) 6.x and 7.0.x through 7.0.2-43 do not require authentication for Java API calls, which allows remote attackers to discover grid MCUser and GSAN passwords via a crafted call.

CVE-2014-6151
Published: 2014-10-25
CRLF injection vulnerability in IBM Tivoli Integrated Portal (TIP) 2.2.x allows remote authenticated users to inject arbitrary HTTP headers and conduct HTTP response splitting attacks via unspecified vectors.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Follow Dark Reading editors into the field as they talk with noted experts from the security world.