Monday, December 15, 2014

All malware defeats 90% of defenses

When the FBI speaks, you can tell they don't know anything about hacking. An example of this quote by Joseph Demarest, the assistant director of the FBI’s cyberdivision:

"The malware that was used would have slipped, probably would have gotten past 90% of the net defenses that are out there today in private industry, and I would challenge to even say government”

He's trying to show how sophisticated, organized, and unprecedented the hackers were.

This is nonsense. All malware defeats 90% of defenses. Hackers need do nothing terribly sophisticated in order to do what they did to Sony.

Take, for example, a pentest we did of a Fortune 500 financial firm. We had some USB drives made with the logo of the corporation we were pen-testing. We grabbed a flash game off the Internet, changed the graphics so that they were punching the logo of their main competitor, and put text in the Final Score screen suggesting "email this to your friends and see what they get". We then added some malware components to it. We then dropped the USB drives in the parking lot.

This gave us everything in the company as people passed the game around. The CEO and many high-level executives ran it on their machines. Sysadmins ran it. Once we got control of the central domain controller, we got access to everything: all files, all emails, ... everything.

The point I'm trying to make here is that we used relatively unsophisticated means to hack an extremely secure company. Crafting malware to get past their anti-virus defenses is trivially easy. Everything we did was easy.

The problem isn't that hackers are sophisticated but that company are insecure. Companies believe that anti-virus stops viruses when it doesn't, for example. The FBI perpetuates this myth, claiming Sony hackers were sophisticated, able to get around anti-virus, when the truth is that Sony relied too much on anti-virus, so even teenagers could get around it.

The FBI perpetuates these myths because they want power. If the problem is sophisticated hackers, then there is nothing you can do to stop them. You are then helpless to defend yourself, so you need the FBI to defend you. Conversely, if the problem is crappy defense, then you you can defend yourself by fixing your defenses.

Update: Here is a previous post where I add a Metasploit exploit to a PDF containing a legal brief that gets past anti-virus.


Z said...

"All malware defeats 90% of defenses" - this is not true. Malware writers are not very sophisticated, and they are using the least effort to bypass some of the defenses. Neither the defenses, nor the the attackers are sophisticated. And yes, what you have used is not sophisticated, but still, better than most of the malware writers use.

mjranum said...

Ya know, if the USB sticks you used were made in China, the FBI would have attributed your pentest as a Chinese Elite Unit #132 state sponsored jamboree.