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Mon, 29 Jun 2009

Watch out Amazon...

'cause theres some serious cloud computing competition on the horizon..

A google search for Cloud Provider returns the following paid ads..

Now i know conventional logic says its a bad idea to judge a book by its cover, but..

Thu, 11 Jun 2009

Apple vs Microsoft as a malware target.. stop saying market share..

I really enjoy listening to Mac Break Weekly.. Leo Laporte is an excellent host and i would tune in just to hear [Andy Ihnatko's] take on the industry and the (possible) motivations behind certain players moves. (he is sometimes wrong, but always worth listening to). The only time the things ever get a little cringe-worthy is when talk switches to malware and security (although both Andy and Leo for the most part have pretty reasonable balanced views on it).

Disclosure: I am a mac user, and love the hardware.. the fan-boy'ism that surrounds it, not so much..

Most security savvy mac users, dont push Invulnerable-Mac argument too much.. But it does lead to the follow-up "Once Mac gets more market share, we will hit the malware tipping point".. I dont think that this is how it will go down.. Here's my $0.002c on it.

One of the talks we gave at the recent ITWeb Security Summit was titled "One bad Apple".. The aim of the talk was to examine the truth/lies/fud behind the security claims on both the fan-boy and hater end of the spectrum.. I dont want to cover the whole talk here, but do want to touch on just a few of the current annoying red-herrings that normally pop up in this discussion:

Vulnerability counts as a useful Metric

This argument has been had by [many people] far brighter than me, so i wont rehash it here. I think its safe to say that since there isnt really a standard on what gets reported, very few vuln count reports end up comparing apples with apples. What i did pick on during the talk, was that some people dont even bother trying to dress up the stats in a cloak of reasonableness. The table below was taken from ByteSize magazine showing that Apple indeed had more Vulnerability Disclosures than Microsoft:

Vendors with the Most Vulnerability Disclosures (ByteSize - 3rd Ed. 2009)

Instead of muddying the water by asking what a 3.2% disclosure means, or by comparing Apple with Microsoft you have to ask yourself if the table is really comparing Microsoft, with its software, hardware, * against Wordpress with its 60 000 lines of PHP code?

My suggestion there is that if we going to use tables and charts, we should at least stick to the reasonable ones:

Malware defense

Of course the next topic that refuses to die is how mac architecture pixie-dust prevents it from getting worms and viruses.. A quick check should clarify this.. The ILOVEYOU virus which took windows computers all over the world (and according to Wikipedia cost about $5.5 billion in damage) was a snippet of VBS that read your address book, and mailed itself to your contacts (where it did the same). You can hack this up in Automator in seconds.. Same functionality completely..

Memory Corruption Attacks

In recent times, Microsoft has made huge leaps in terms of generic memory corruption protection mechanisms to minimize the effect of buffer overflow/mem corruption attacks. While Apple claimed to do the same with Leopard, they still trail Microsoft in this regard. The 3 points we covered:

  1. Non-executable Stack.
  2. Non-executable Heap.
  3. Address Space Layout Randomization.

(We cover these in more detail in an upcoming [conference in July] - but again, its fairly well understood that OSX in its current form is only randomizing libraries, and that to get the benefit of ASLR, you need to be randomizing everything)

So if we are saying that Apple is just as vulnerable to ILOVEYOU and even more vulnerable today than Windows from a nimda or a code-red, then what explains the fact that we dont see Macs getting owned on the same level as Windows?

The almost global answer is "Market share!". The belief that once more people are running macs, the big bad malware writers will start aiming at them.

If you look at the [netcraft web server survey] (2003) you should notice that at the time that nimda and code-red were running around the Internet, IIS didnt have the lions share of the webserver market either. Their lower market share didnt keep them safe then, why does it keep mac users safer now ?

The real market share difference

One of my guesses here is that we are looking at the wrong data for market share. What Microsoft does have over Apple, is a bigger market share of [developers..]

Microsoft went out of their way to make sure that anyone and their dog could write code for their platform, that any idiot in the world could write an app for them, and many did. I suspect that if you consider that any group will have a proportion of people with evil intentions, then in part what we seeing is just the percentage of the bigger pool.

Different user profiles

The other thing (although it sounds strange) is the question of user culture which is different. My wifes macbook air has very little software that didnt come with the machine. Apples "batteries included" policy means that her machine remains pretty clean.. Her mothers windows machine is a different story

Which means what?

Today, pound for pound, OS X Leopard is indeed more vulnerable than a Vista machine, but the eco system around Mac is holding back the huge embarrassing attacks that shamed Microsoft into action. Apple has a small window during which time they can take action, refine their built in mitigation strategies and come out on the other side acting like they were better all along..

(Recent hires like Ivan give hope for this happening)

If Snow Leopard is done right, it will hopefully be Apples XP-SP2, and us fanboys will be able to keep our securer-than-thou attitude.. If it doesnt, its only a matter of time..

Sun, 7 Jun 2009

Excellent paper from MSFT Research on inline proxies vs. SSL

Ron Auger sent an email to the [WASC Mail list] on some fine work presented recently by Microsoft Research. The paper (and accompanying PPT), titled [Pretty-Bad-Proxy: An Overlooked Adversary in Browsers' HTTPS Deployments] is pretty cool and shows several techniques for a malicious inline proxy to sniff SSL sessions passing through the proxy. Its genuinely a bunch of cool findings and has been handled neatly (with the exception of some shocking clipart!).

The attack logic is fairly simple. User tries to browse to The browser sends a connect message to the proxy. The proxy returns an HTTP 502 proxy error message. The magic comes in here. The browser interprets the returned 502 message within the security context of

So the attack works as follows:

  1. User tries to browse to
  2. Browser sends connect message to evil-proxy.
  3. Evil-proxy sends back a 502 message, with evil-Javascript and opens an iframe to
  4. Evil-proxy lets the request go to and the page loads in the users browser.
  5. Evil-Javascript is now running in the same context as the banking session, so it has full access to page..

With a little more arm bending the paper even goes on to remove the neccessity of full control of an evil proxy, relying on an attacker on the local network sniffing traffic and then racing the valid proxy server..

The findings have been disclosed to the browser vendors and have already been remediated, which means we can collectively breath a sigh of relief, but clearly, it has not been a good year for SSL (and SSL implementations).

Fri, 5 Jun 2009

Two quick links on "how your app got hacked, even though it looked ok"

The first one from hacker news, aptly titled "How I Hacked Hacker News (with arc security advisory)"

and the 2nd, a welcome-back-to-the-blogosphere-tptacek post on the matasano blog: [Typing The Letters A-E-S Into Your Code? You're Doing It Wrong!]


PS. for those going, man i wish someone would break down the important crypto stuff for me in a way thats understandable without being patronizing, there is Chris Eng and his owasp talk on [Cryptography For Penetration Testers]

Thu, 4 Jun 2009

Open Patch Management Survey

Rich Mogull (who's stuff I really quite dig) has launched an 'Open Patch Management Survey' via the SecurityMetrics blog. Its an interesting idea, and they plan to release both their analysis *and* the raw data, which might be really insightful for our VMS stuff.

Corporations can take the SurveyMonkey survey at, and there's some nice material already available at

Here's the rest of Rich's message (pls forgive the cross-post):

Our goal here is to gain an understanding of what people are really doing with regards to patch management, to better align the metrics model with real practices. We're doing something different with this survey. All the results will be made public. We don't mean the summary results, but the raw data (minus any private or identifiable information that could reveal the source person or organization). Once we hit 100 responses we will release the data in spreadsheet formats. Then, either every week or for every 100 additional responses, we will release updated data. We don't plan on closing this for quite some time, but as with most surveys we expect an initial rush of responses and want to get the data out there quickly. As with all our material, the results will be licensed under Creative Commons.

We will, of course, provide our own analysis, but we think it's important for everyone to be able to evaluate the results for themselves. All questions are optional, but the more you complete the more accurate the results will be. In two spots we ask if you are open for a direct interview, which we will start scheduling right away. Please spread the word far and wide, since the more responses we collect, the more useful the results.

If you fill out the survey as a result of reading this email please use SECURITYMETRICS as the registration code (helps us figure out what channels are working best). This won't affect the results, but we think it might be interesting to track how people found the survey, and which social media channels are more effective.