Archive for the ‘Human Factor’ Category

Laptop security – myths and mistakes

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Today’s businesses are very mobile. Sometimes you don’t even need to have a conventional office, it becomes virtual, it is always with you in your mobile phones, netbooks and laptops. Such mobile mini-offices stuffed with corporate documents and reports, partners’ data, confidencial correspondence, access passwords are in danger of being stolen, both virtually and physically. You can try to protect your laptop using laptop security cable locks but what if it was stolen? Let all your information go into adversary’s hands? Do you _really_ think that your Windows logon password is an impenetrable barrier for the adversary? Have you heard of Elcomsoft System Recovery? You still think your laptop is secure because you have BIOS password and/or partial drive encryption? Read an article by Kevin Beaver ‘Securing corporate data on your laptops’ , take off rose-colored glasses and revise your laptop security as suggested in Kevin’s step-by-step outline. 

 

NIST drafts new enterprise password management (open to publication, distribution and adaptation!)

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Probably you’ve already heard about this vicious circle thousand times:

Requiring that passwords be long and complex makes it less likely that attackers will guess or crack them, but it also makes the passwords harder for users to remember, and thus more likely to be stored insecurely. This increases the likelihood that users will store their passwords insecurely and expose them to attackers.

So, how to work out an appropriate password policy? Need help? Find some tips in NIST (The National Institute of Standards and Technology) study, GUIDE TO ENTERPRISE PASSWORD MANAGEMENT (DRAFT), which “has been prepared for use by Federal agencies”, but also “may be used by nongovernmental organizations on a voluntary basis”.

Here are some nuggets from the paper: 

• Organizations should review their password policies periodically, particularly as major technology changes occur (e.g., new operating system) that may affect password management.

Users should be made aware of threats against their knowledge and behavior, such as phishing attacks, keystroke loggers, and shoulder surfing, and how they should respond when they suspect an attack may be occurring.

• Organizations should consider having different policies for password expiration for different types of systems, operating systems, and applications, to reflect their varying security needs and usability requirements.

Do you have something to add? So, review and revise it freely – the paper is not subject to copyright. ;) 

 

Password-related news

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

There is a few, so I’ll put ‘em all into a single blog post :)

First, Phoenix Technologies announced a program (for Windows XP/Vista) to link mobile phones with computer. But no, this is not about data transfer between the phone and PC. Indeed, this is a security system: walk away from your computer, and it will lock automatically; when the user returns, the program will automatically unlock the system. Of course, using Bluetooth (what else? :)). More details on Phoenix Freeze web site.

Second, Researchers take over botnet, grab 56,000 passwords an hour. Actually, this is not a very fresh idea (to steal the passwords using the malware). More important: the researchers found that most users reused passwords for multiple sites. I can guess that there are even some users who have the same passwords for accessing web sites (from pet lovers forum to online banking) and critical business data. So instead of breaking your PGP Disk container (which is really secury, even with our GPU acceleration), someone can just get the password saved by your browser. You’re warned.

And finally, just a funny story: Creative passwords only useful if you can remember them. Btw, how many cats do you have? ;)

Green password policy? No re-use!

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

Do you still reuse passwords? The recent study from University of California shows again that such a bad habit continues to exist. The worst thing about reusing passwords is that it doesn’t require being a technically skilled hacker to guess your password for this or that document.  

What does “The only way to break into PGP” mean?

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Note to PGP legal dept: I’m not going to put the ® sign every time when I mention PGP. I’m just tired; we already did that in our press release and on our web site, and I think it’s enough. No, really? Well, I’ll repeat one more time: all names like PGP are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners in the UK, USA, Russia and probably somewhere else  e.g. in Albania. There are too many countries to mention, sorry :). Why should I care about (R)? Keep reading, and you’ll see the reason.

Note to PGP executive and marketing depts: thanks again for helping our marketing people to spread a word about company and our software. We have received many calls from local and international media, a nice press coverage, and a lot of people coming to our booth at InfoSecurity. Well, and several good orders  mostly from forensic/investigation people.

Now an update to my previous post. It becomes more and more funny: PGP has wrote about our ‘conflict’ in their own blog. And the author is… Jon Callas, CTO of PGP. He called his blog entry Lies, Damned Lies, and Marketing – not bad, eh? But the contents is even better. Jon starts with the words about ElcomSoft: "The company who made this has a great product, and as I said then, it’s a very cool product." Thanks Jon, but we already knew that our software is "great" and "cool" – otherwise we would not get enough sales ;). But Jon’s story continues with the following:

[ElcomSoft] booth said, “the only way to break into PGP®.” This is a lie, and a lie in two directions.

1.They’re not breaking into PGP, they’re doing password cracking. There’s a difference.
2.They’re not the only people who do it. As I’ve said before there are plenty of other password crackers, both commercial and open source.
In short, the sign was factually incorrect, and lies about PGP.

If we lie, please sue us. If we don’t, better be quiet, please. But PGP marketing people have selected the 3rd way: complained to Reed Exhibitions and asked to destroy [a part of] our booth. Well done.

About [1]: from my personal point of view, "breaking into PGP" can mean "password cracking" as well. Do we provide the tool to get access to password-protected PGP disk? Obviously we do. Did we say that it works in 100% cases, or that we cracked PGP encryption/algorithms? No we did not. Oh well, our English is definitely not perfect, but I think it is still better than your Russian, Jon ;)

About [2]: yes, there is a lot of password crackers around. But I’m aware of just a single one (except ours, of course) for PGP Disk – and it is commercial; supports old versions of PGP Disk only; moreover, it is distributed only as a part of very expensive commerial e-discovery package – and it is MUCH slower than ours (because it does not use GPU acceleration). Sorry, I will not mention the vendor name here, simply because it is our competitor – and it did not pay us for an advertisement :). Jon, I’d appreciate if you can name the other ones (commercial or open-source). If you cannot, YOU lie. But I like your wording "as I’ve said before"; I think I should used it myself, too (e.g. "as I’ve said before, PGP is not secure and can be cracked" – without reference, for sure :)).

I recall how I talked to PGP representative a year ago – on previous InfoSecurity UK. The first question he asked was: "Have you received an e-mail from our legal department?". I replied "Should I?"; he said "Yes", and explained the reason: there was no (R) sign (near "PGP") in our press release (Elcomsoft Distributed Password Recovery Unlocks PGP Protection). Well, see the note at the beginning of this post ;)

Another note: in fact, we were strictly prohibited (by Reed, but that’s definitely not their own initiative, but for sure PGP’s one) from printing anything about PGP on our booth. It’s a pity that I did not have a voice recorder handy. So if we wrote something like The only way to break PGP passwords, or The most cost-effective way to crack PGP passwords etc, such panel will be removed as well. We’ll probably try this next year. But we reserved the other place for InfoSecurity 2010 – not so close to PGP; I think it is a good idea anyway, because every half an hour they’re doing very loud (but not very smart) presentations telling people that PGP is #1 in this and that (nothing really interesting/technical/innovative).

Oh, I forgot to mention that we received a document from Reed explaining why they’ve removed our wall paper, finally – at the end of the first day, i.e. about 8 hours after removal. The official Regulations (sorry, I’m too lazy to scan it – but I will, if you wish) say that it should be done in advance (and no action can be made without prior notice in writing), but who cares? Anyway, for those who interested – here is how it looks like:

But I should also mention that Reed keeps their word: our panel has been replaced this morning (at their own cost). Have a look (the second panel from the right; the color is slightly different from the original one, but still better than nothing):

 

Lessons learned? You guess yourself. I would not say anything bad about PGP and/or Reed – they really helped us a lot. And I would NOT recommend PGP to send smarter people to the exhibition next year – so we’ll be able to save a significant part of our marketing budget ;)

After all… All of the above (as well as my other posts) is my personal view, and not an official position of ElcomSoft. Yeah, I’m the CEO of ElcomSoft, and I’m the person who approved the design of our booth (btw, only two days before the show: we were really busy doing technical stuff), but anyway.

Oh, almost forgot to share one more picture – with ElcomSoft people:

From left to right:

  • Andrey Belenko, IT Security Analyst (and an inventor of GPU acceleration; well-known person in ‘crypto’ world)
  • Olga Koksharova, Marketing Director (doing real and smart marketing and PR, much better than PGP’s one)
  • Vladimir Katalov, CEO/co-owner (me; ex-programmer – not a stupid ‘manager’ hired by expensive headhunters)

And finally, thanks to all who made the comments to my previous post. As you can see, our blog is NOT MODERATED – in contrary to PGP’s one (which is actually premoderated, try it yourself; we made some comments there, but they have not appeared – at least in about two hours after writing). Censored? ;)

From InfoSecurity, “the number One in Europe”

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

We never thought that our participation would bring such kind of trouble (or at least a disappointment).

Monday early morning we came to prepare our stand and apply our wallpapers (yes, we do it ourselves, sort of team building :)). Practically, everything went smoothly, except for the fact that the organizers did not fix our company name board, electricity was not there and finally – we have got less space than we ordered (and paid for) because wall panels were not constructed properly. But after all, [almost] everything was fixed. Unfortunately, we have not made any pictures, but here is how it should look like (by design):

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Next morning (the first day of the exhibition) we came to our booth in advance (about half an hour before the exhibition opens). And what we have seen? Two persons (from Reed Exhibitions, the organizers of this event) removing one of the wall papers from our booth – the one that said that we’re doing PGP password recovery. Moreover, we were not able to get the clear answer why they’re doing that, except the fact that “PGP Corporation complained”. And the reference to some “regulations” we still have not seen. We asked for some official paper (act?) about our “violation”, and still waiting for it. When (if?) we’ll get it, we’ll scan it and publish here.

Fortunately, we had the camera handy, and so made several photos of this “process” (removing our wall paper). Organizers (Reed) did not like that, too, and tried to hide their faces from the camera. But they failed, so you can see them now (and the whole “process”):

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So we had to put the following note here (fortunately, on one panel only):

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Only two hours later, they (Reed Exhibitions Group Event Director) came to our booth and asked to remove this note. Oops, sorry: not asked, just removed. Without explanation. Well, the explanation was: we have the right to do anything here.

What are they (PGP) scared about? I don’t have an answer. Do we say that PGP protection/encryption is not secure? No we don’t. But we DO say that PGP passwords can be cracked – if they are not selected carefully. But if PGP people cannot explain that to their clients – this is not our fault.

Update: see What does "The only way to break into PGP" mean?

One More Good Password Pattern Idea

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

 

There’s a great post in Hans Anderson’s blog on secure password patterns and how you can create one. There are at least two things I like about this entry. The first one is the statement that "No password you can remember is unbreakable", this means sooner or later it is broken. The second one is that Hans points out, you should never disclose your password pattern to anyone. I agree that password patterns are awesome but they are still vulnerable to social-engineering-based attacks. By the way, why not share your password pattern ideas in the comments? ;)

Wireless Security Survey

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

The key findings of the survey of the 35860 wireless networks (in 12 Indian cities) are:

  • 37% appeared to be unprotected.
  • 49% were using WEP encryption.
  • Balance 14% were using the more secure WPA/WPA2.

The authors say that this makes around 86% of the observed wireless networks vulnerable, but we’d add that remaining 14% are not totally secure. Why? Check our Wireless Security Auditor :)

Smart Password Mutations Explained

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Strong passwords are mutated passwords. Everyone who publishes recommendations on creating secure password says that you have to use both upper- and lower-case letters and inject some tricky special characters. Such recommendations may result in p@$$words and pAsswOrds, and p_a_s_s_w_o_r_d_s. The fact is that modern password recovery software uses dictionary attack to get one’s password back. Dictionary attack means searching lists of dictionary words and common phrases that can be found on the Internet or delivered with the software. It is easy to grab that dictionary words and word phrases make bad passwords, but one has to understand that adding special characters to these words and phrases does’t do them any good. Such password can be easily cracked when smart mutations option is on. 

We give you a tip on word mutations implemented by modern password cracking tools, so that you can create really strong passwords for your files and accounts.

Remember Password On This Computer? – Never more!!

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Fresh life experience…A very good friend of mine told me a story I would like to share with you with her kind permission. Recently she has found a new job in a medium size company. She was perfectly satisfied with her new position and new tasks. She also got a well equipped working place including her principal tool for work – computer, which actually she inherited from an ex-employee who lately moved to another company. The company could have bought her a new computer, but what for, if there was working one absolutely ownerless. Windows XP already installed along with numerous useful applications, even her favorite Safari was there.

Inspired by favorable circumstances she got down to her duties with enthusiasm and…practically in a couple of minutes she easily found out whom exactly that very computer belonged earlier. Guess how?
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