Keysweeper – Microsoft Wireless Keyboard Sniffing

Its kind of funny when I read The Drudge Report links related to Information Security. Today, he links to a VultureBeat article on KeySweeper.

Keysweeper is a project, standing on the shoulders of other work, to create what appears to be a USB wall charger, but is actually logging keystrokes from nearby Microsoft wireless keyboards.

Sniffing wireless keyboards has been around for a long time. I wrote about it in part of a blog entry in 2008. Taking a quick glance, at the articles, it sounds like Microsoft is still using XOR to provide confidentiality in wireless keyboards. Makes me happy I’m using Logitech’s wireless keyboard. Logitech says they provide 128-bit AES encryption. The product info at Amazon for Microsoft’s keyboard merely states it has “secured wireless transmission”. Or apparently not.

Kaspersky and DarkHotel

On Monday, Kaspersky posted about malware it has dubbed DarkHotel which targets corporate executives traveling abroad.

It is a good awareness piece.   Any time you are on someone else’s network, you are engaging in risky behavior.

With DarkHotel, users are prompted to install ‘updates’ to their software.   This is familiar, as similar fake updates are presented to spur users to install malware when visiting compromised websites or sites with malicious advertising.  Software updates should be performed on a trusted network whenever possible.  Updates should always be gotten from a trusted location.

This can be more difficult than it seems.   Lets say you see a prompt to update Flash.  Too wise to fall for this, you close your browser, reopen it, and browse to to download the latest flash update.   If adobe doesn’t use SSL, and a malicious attacker controls your network, you could be redirected to install malware instead even using this ‘safer’ method.

When you’re on the road, its not the best time to perform updates to your system anyway.  If something goes wrong you may not have access to resources to fix issues with even a legitimate update.

What if you’re on the road all the time?

This is where VPN software comes in handy.

I’ve blogged about my use of Witopia as a personal vpn provider.
If I was traveling for work, I could use my work VPN, however if your company doesn’t tunnel ALL traffic, you are still vulnerable.
Advanced users may choose to install a router at home which contains VPN server software to be able to VPN home.  Some newer routers support this functionality.

Staying safe on the internet requires vigilence.


iOS 7.1.x PDF Exploit Released

SANS is reporting a PDF exploit for iOS 7.1.x has been released.  While this is patched in iOS 8, the adoption rate for this new iOS version has been slower than previous versions.  Businesses have been in front, cautioning their users that upgrades should not occur until business apps have been tested.  Additionally, the 5 Gb free space requirement has prevented impulse upgrades for some users.

To me, this is yet another example of Apple’s inattention to security.  When Microsoft releases security updates they release them for every supported product at the same time.

Keep an eye out for a iOS upgrade if you’re running 7.


Infosec Red Card

At my new job, they take safety really seriously.  They want everyone to go home at the end of the day with all the fingers they came in with.   Not normally an issue for officeworkers, but the thought is nice.  It is really more appropriate for other divisions/branches of the company.

Each employee gets a physical safety red card, and are empowered to use it to stop work when there is an imminent danger or potential for physical harm.  Work resumes only when cleared by management.

Its a really cheesy way of deputizing everyone as a safety officer.  It reminds me a bit of the original Saturn model where a lineworker could shut down the assembly line.

It made me wonder, what about an infosec red card.   Hopefully at most companies, infosec can put a halt to a process forcing management to examine and address the risk.  Its possible that a company might train users well to refuse to act insecurely.  Not provide their password to the helpdesk.  Not to send sensitive information over clear text.  Not to allow tailgating.  Perhaps there should be an infosec red card as well.


Ordering Pizza

Even with Little Caesars expanding back into the DC area, there isn’t one that close to my house.  But we still get to enjoy their commercials.

In this commercial a husband asks the wife for the login password so he can order pizza.  She explains that Little Caesars has hot and ready pizza so you can just walk in and grab one.  The joke being that he didn’t realize she wasn’t telling him the password, so he starts typing.

Its funny though, one password construction method is to take a sentence and use the first letters.  So maybe when she said “Little Caesars has hot and ready pizza so you can just walk in and grab one. ” she really meant her password was LChh&rpsucjwiago.

Personal VPNs in a CDN World

I wrote about personal VPNs back in 2011.  Going on vacation, I wanted to avoid insecure wifi.  The best way to do this is through a personal VPN product.  This is still true today even with the increased use of SSL.  I still think this is a great use for these products.

Interest in encryption and personal VPN products has skyrocketed since the Snowden “revelation” that the government snoops on you (and lets not forget about Google).  People are interested in always on VPNs to restore a bit of privacy.

Do VPNs meet this goal, and what is the cost??

The VPN provider I use, has a page “Why Do I need a Personal VPN?”  Their list is a good summary of why you might use a personal vpn, but it has one example of why it sometimes isn’t so easy.

“You don’t want search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, AOL, and Bing recording and storing every Internet search you perform…..potentially forever.  Just like your ISP, Internet search engines record every search you do and tie it to your IP address.” 

Search engines are using cookies to track you.  Even if you dont log in, which they encourage you to do, they use cookies to know who you are.  IP address isn’t granular enough for them.  Shared computers, multiple computers behind an IP address.   You would need to take additional steps such as incognito mode to prevent all tracking.

“You live in, or are visiting, a country that engages in Internet censorship or monitoring of content.”

Fair enough, but people who employ encryption could find their themselves under suspicion just for that.

And there is also the case of Eldo Kim.  He sent a bomb threat to get out of a final exam.  He thought he covered his tracks using TOR.   But he used the campus wifi, so they were able to track who was using TOR at the time of the threat.  Are you going to think of everything when covering your tracks.

In general VPNs meet the goal of providing privacy.  But like anything you need to be aware of some gotchas.

There are also costs to using a VPN.  This is particularly true when used in a every day , always on method as would be necessary to avoid governmental, ISP and corporate snoops.  When just using a VPN to protect when on a hostile network, the speed impact may not be so noticeable.   But when at home, you have a big pipe.  50+ Mbps connections are becoming more common place.   The FCC is thinking of defining broadband as faster than 10 Mbps.  So why does my VPN pipe max out at 5 Mbps.   That’s quite a hit.  I haven’t asked my provider if that is a QoS per user, or an element of saturation.

There is also the issue of the CDN.  Content Delivery Networks move content to the ISP data center to provide faster response.   Netflix SuperHD was originally available only to users on their Open  Connect Network (CDN).   YouTube’s ISP rating system reports my ISP has tested HD quality and my VPN pipe doesn’t have HD quality.   My traffic through the VPN bypasses the locally cached content.  Performance is lost in the name of security.

Is this enough to keep you from using an ‘always on’ personal vpn?

Is Windows 8.1 April Update Installed?

With this weeks Microsoft updates, Windows 8.1 users must have the April 8.1 ‘update’ installed to continue to receive OS related patches.

Update:  Extended to June 10.  

This is rather confusing in so many ways.

  • Windows 8 users dont have this deadline.  The 8.1 update doesn’t apply to them.
  • Searching for information about this update is problematic because “Windows 8.1 update” searches generally result in information on upgrading from Windows 8 to 8.1.
  • Its not obvious to figure out if you have this oh so critical “update’ installed.

In the past, to determine what operating system I”m running, I would generally run ‘winver’ at Start – Run.  (of course that requires enabling the ‘run’ box on the start menu).  Or you might go to the command prompt and run ‘ver’.   This doesn’t work because 8.1 ‘update’ isn’t a service pack.  It doesn’t show up there.    Next I tried running systeminfo | findstr /B /C:”OS Name” /C:”OS Version”   This didn’t help me either.

Windows 8.1 update is a patch not a service pack, so it should show up in add remove programs.   In Control Panel open Add / Remove Programs.   Click on View Installed Programs.   In the upper right hand corner where it says ‘search for updates’ type KB2919355.   If Windows 8.1 Update is installed, one result will be returned, the non-descriptively named Update for Microsoft Windows (KB2919355).

If it is not installed, and you do have Windows 8.1, make sure you have the prereq installed.

Note that if you get your updates from WSUS or SCCM, Windows 8.1 security updates will be available for 120 days from release of this update rather than the 30 days allotted to everyone else.



Data Loss Prevention has been a hot topic as of late.

In the past I always believed that DLP was only effective where you had a data labeling program.  Otherwise its just another product that doesn’t work well when you cant answer where the important information is.  Over time, I also became more concerned with throwing tech solutions at a people problem.  With that view, and no one asking for it, DLP never made it onto the priority list.

I’ve seen point solutions such as email gateways that look for credit card numbers.  And they find numbers everywhere they look.  And that is when you’re looking for something specific.  Something that can even be verified.   (luhn)  How will it deal with data.  Can DLP occur at all without management buy in.

There are some interesting possibilities.  Perhaps you have a particular webserver and nothing from that server should go out.  Perhaps you have templates.   And while the content might change somewhat, the DLP sees enough similarity to match.

A good DLP solution also allows enough flexibility in warning, quarantining (with release a possibility), and blocking.