Archive for the ‘Security’ Category

‘Casual and Secure’ Friday Post

Friday, May 14th, 2010

German law has always been strict about any possible security breaches. This week German court ordered that anyone using wireless networks should protect them with a password so the third party could not download data illegally.  

However, there is no order that users have to change their Wi-Fi passwords regularly, the only requirement being to set up a password on the initial stage of wireless access installation and configuration.

I’ve conducted a mini-research here in Russia. There are 5 wireless networks in range that my computer finds when at home. Although all of the networks have rather bizarre names, they are all WPA- or WPA2-protected. My guess is that people do not install wireless access at home by themselves or browse the Internet for instructions and find some on protection and passwords. At the same time, I often come across unprotected networks in Moscow and I do use them to check my Twitter account. It is obvious that to make any conclusions, one has to dive into this topic much more deeply.

What I learnt working for ElcomSoft – the company that recovers passwords and does it very well – is the following: sometimes a password is not enough. You need a good password to make sure your data is protected. WPA requires using passwords that are at least 8 characters long. Such length guarantees quite good protection. The problem as usual is the human factor. We still use admin123 and the like to protect our networks.

Fortunately, there are tools that can help you check how strong your WPA/WPA2-password is. One of such tools is Wireless Security Auditor. It makes use of various hardware for password recovery acceleration and a set of customizable dictionary attacks. The idea is simple: if this monster does not find your WPA/WPA2-password, then it is secure :)

Nice weekend to all.

Why you should crack your passwords

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Computer security audit

Your organization probably has a written password policy. Accordingly you also have different technical implementations of that policy across your various systems. Most of the implementations does not match the exact requirements or guidelines given in the written policy, because they cannot be technically implemented.


iPhone/iPod Backup Password Recovery

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

ElcomSoft iPhone Password BreakerToday we are pleased to unveil the first public beta of our new product, Elcomsoft iPhone Password Breaker, a tool designed to address password recovery of password-protected iPhone and iPod Touch backups made with iTunes.

In case you do not know, iTunes routinely makes backups of iPhones and iPods being synced to it. Such backups contain a plethora of information, essentially all user-generated data from the device in question. Contacts, calendar entries, call history, SMS, photos, emails, application data, notes and probably much more. Not surprisingly, such information manifests significant value for investigators. To make their job easier there are tools to read information out of iTunes backups, one example of such tool being Oxygen Forensic Suite ( Such tools can not deal with encrypted backups, though.


123 Out Goes… Your Password

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

About a month ago, a SQL Injection flaw was found in the database of, a website dealing with social networking applications. The Tech Herald reports that 32.6 million passwords were exposed and posted online due to the flaw. The complete examination of the passwords from the list showed that the passwords in question are not only short as allows creating 5-character-passwords but also alphanumeric only.

A half of the passwords from the list contained names, slang and dictionary words, or word combinations. The Tech Herald enumerates the most common passwords: “123456″, followed by “12345″, “123456789″, “Password”, “iloveyou”, “princess”, “rockyou”, “1234567″, “12345678″, and “abc123″ to round out the top 10. Other passwords included common names such as “Jessica”, “Ashley”, or patterns like “Qwerty”.

Although the findings of the survey are deplorable, most sites do nothing to improve password security. At the same time some websites block special characters and do not allow users to choose them for passwords making user accounts vulnerable to malicious attacks.

As a part of problem solution, the Tech Herald sees sites enforcing users a hard rule of character length. We at ElcomSoft share the opinion that a password must be at least 9 characters long, consisting of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and – preferably – special characters.

The article also highlights greater risks for the companies as attackers are using more advanced brute force attacks. According to the Tech Herald, “if an attacker would’ve used the list of the top 5000 passwords as a dictionary for brute force attack on users, it would take only one attempt (per account) to guess 0.9-percent of the user’s passwords, or a rate of one success per 111 attempts”.

Related articles and publications:

A list of passwords used by the Conficker Worm Daniel V. Klein, ”Foiling the Cracker”: A Survey of, and Improvements to, Password Security,” 1990.

New sweeping WPA Cracker & its alternatives

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

It’s a well-know fact that WPA-PSK networks are vulnerable to dictionary attacks, though one cannot but admit that running a respectable-sized dictionary over a WPA network handshake can take days or weeks.

A low-cost service for penetration testers that checks the security of wireless networks by running passwords against a 135-million-word dictionary has been recently unveiled. The so-called WPA Cracker is a cloud-based service that accesses a 400-CPU cluster. For $34, it can run a password against all 135 million entries in about 20 minutes. Want to pay less, do it for $17 and wait 40 minutes to see the results.

Another notable feature is the use of the dictionary that has been set up specifically for cracking Wi-Fi Protected Access passwords. While Windows, UNIX and other systems allow short passwords, WPA pass codes must contain a minimum of eight characters. Its entries use a variety of words, common phrases and "elite speak" that have been compiled with WPA networks in mind.

WPA Cracker is used by capturing a wireless network's handshake locally and then uploading it, along with the network name. The service then compares the PBKDF2, or Password-Based Key Derivation Function, against the dictionary. The approach makes sense, considering each handshake is salted using the network's ESSID, a technique that makes rainbow tables only so useful.

Everything seems to be perfect, but for the fact that there exists another alternative to crack WPA passwords which allows to reach the same speed. Just instead of installing a 400-CPU cluster, it’s possible to set 4 top Radeons or about two Teslas and try Elcomsoft Wireless Security Auditor.

Elcomsoft Wireless Security Auditor: WPA-PSK Password Audit

Need to protect your VBA macro ? Simply damage the file !

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

One of our customers sent me two Excel XLA add-ins. When I tried to open that file in the VBA Editor — the "Project is locked" message appeared. Add-in has been already unlocked by our VBA password recovery tool. According to Microsoft article this message may appear in two cases: when the macro is protected by password or when it is digitally signed. I analysed the macro password record and found that the password is empty. MS Excel also showed me that macro have no any digital signatures. Then I looked into protection record with more attention and for example found that:

"[Host Extender Info]" string is replaced to "[Host Extender 1nfo]".

There were some additional similar changes and finally I found that the macro has damaged digital signature record. It’s ignored when macro is running but when we try to open the macro to view — Excel shows the error.

Microsoft has very weak VBA macro protection. That’s why developers are searching for non-standard protection methods. It’s not simple to reconstruct a damaged macro and it may require a lot of time.

If your macro cannot be opened by our password recovery programs — the most probable reason is custom protection that damages some technical records. I cannot say that it’s a good protection. New versions of MS Office may not work correctly with damaged files.

Office 2010: two times more secure

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

We are waiting for release of new Microsoft office suite – Office 2010. Right now Microsoft has only technical preview of new Office; this preview has been leaked from Microsoft and everyone can download it with the help of torrent trackers. We’ve got a copy of Office 2010 and analysed its (new) password protection.

Starting from Office 2007, Microsoft used password protection system called ECMA-376, developed by ECMA International. This standard is open and everyone can write ECMA-376 based protection which will be accepted by Microsoft Office. The standard allows to select hash and encryption algorithms as well as the number of hash rounds (up to 10 millions is allowed).

In Office 2007, ECMA-376 with SHA-1 hash and AES-128 encryption is implemented. The number of hash rounds is 50000 that makes password recovery really difficult and slow. Office 2010 also uses SHA-1 and AES-128, but the number of hash rounds is now 100000. Therefore password recovery for new Office files will be two times slower.

Here is a diagram of password recovery speed for Office 2007:

To get a speed for Office 2010, simply divide these values to 2. We’ll get about 175 pps on Core2 6600 and about 8750 pps on Tesla S1070.

Why don’t increase the number of hash rounds to 10 millions ? Security is really important but it always affects usability. The hash is calculating to verify a password and when each document block is decrypted. If we add hash rounds – the document decryption time is increased. If a document is opening in MS Office during one hour – its unacceptable despite of high security.

Anyway – Office 2010 documents will be more secure than Office 2007 ones. And the new encryption has backward compatibility – all Office 2010 documents can be opened in Office 2007. 

Password masking: myths and truths

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Password masking: myths and truthsEver heard of password masking problem? To be honest, I have not – until I’ve read the Stop Password Masking article by Jakob Nielsen (somewhere referred to as "usability guru"), followed by a lot of other publications, blog posts and comments (see ‘em all); so-called security guru Bruce Schneier wrote even two essays on that. 

Well, that reminded me of a very funny stupid CAPSoff Campaign

In brief, here is the "problem": for years (I think starting from Windows 3.0 released almost 20 years ago), the passwords are being masked as you type them (in most programs what have any kind of password protection, and an operating system itself), i.e. replaced with asterisks or black circles. What for? To prevent the password from being read by someone who stands behind you.


Disaster Recovery and its key objectives

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Disaster Recovery and its key objectives

New statistics* shows disaster recovery (DR) is getting more attention, and more upper level execs become involved with DR issues. Ideally, each company should have an emergency plan in case of power/system failure, loss of access, outside attack, sabotage or else – called DRP (disaster recovery plan) or even DRRP (disaster response and recovery plan). DRP is only a part of risk management practices which ensure emergency preparedness and risk reduction and include such initiatives as regular data backups, stocking recovery software, archiving, etc. – these activities are reflected in PMI and NIST standards.


Encryption and decryption from security law perspective (Part II)

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

In my previous post I suggested several variants of computer security translated by different laws. Now I’d like to get to ciphers…again viewed by law.

So, how does the law see encryption and decryption issues through glasses of security standard? First of all, it says there simply should be encryption/decryption tools available.

ENCRYTION AND DECRYPTION (A) – § 164.312(a)(2)(iv)
Where this implementation specification is a reasonable and appropriate safeguard for a covered entity, the covered entity must:
“Implement a mechanism to encrypt and decrypt electronic protected health information.”