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Archive for the ‘General’ Category
[That was one *awesome* passphrase! :-)]
Elcomsoft has announced that certain versions of fingerprint software named Protector Suite made by UPEK (now part of Authentec) stores your Windows password in a ‘scrambled’ format in registry. This allows an attacker through different entry points to get easy access to a users Windows password. I have no reason not to believe Elcomsoft in their claims, but UPEK/Autentec seriously disagrees. In the middle of this I happen to have some questions, and an opinion regarding biometric software today.
I have lost count of all the times colleagues have approached me with a big smile, challenging me to break into their work laptops now that they have enabled fingerprint authentication. Pressing Esc to get the normal logon prompt and then entering my AD username & password logged me in. Having local admin rights made things even easier to conduct pass-the-hash of their locally cached credentials, and smile turned to sadness. Hey, I have even been accused of cheating when I did that.
I purchased my first fingerprint reader back somewhere in 1999. It was complete crap. Many years later I purchased a Microsoft keyboard with integrated fingerprint reader:
I still remember a very clear warning in their documentation: the fingerprint reader should not be trusted for security. It should be considered as a toy. Oh well.
Today the integrated fingerprint readers in many laptops is the most common place we interact with biometric solutions. IF we choose to use it of course – there is no requirement to do so from the vendor. Enter Elcomsoft.
Security vs Convenience
Lots of people – including infosec professionals, doesn’t see the difference between using biometric authentication as a security feature, and as a convenience feature. Simply explained for the home user:
- If you use biometric authentication to logon to your laptop, but can bypass it by pressing Esc and enter your username & password, you are using biometrics as a convenience feature.
- If you have removed any and all possibilities to logon except by using/including biometrics, you are using biometrics as a security feature.
The differences here are … well… BIG, at least in theory. But wait; that was for the home user. I don’t care much about your private pictures, christmas wish list and facebook account anyway, so lets look at it from a corporate perspective:
There is no integrated support for replacing passwords with biometric authentication within Microsoft Windows.
This means that any kind of authentication addition or replacement you set up on laptops, tablets or desktop computers in a corporate enviroment with Active Directory, a password still has to be configured for a user in a domain, and that password is what authenticates the user throughout the domain. Using highly advanced visualization tools, hours and hours of hard work and a colorful palette, I made this infographic to explain what happens:
Using biometric logon, we add another step in the authentication process in a corporate environment. Please note; we added one more step, we didn’t necessarily add one more layer of security.
I blogged about upcoming password security features in Windows 8 Password Security. Please observe that using picture password and/or a PIN is an addition to having a password. They are quite simply convenience features. Having said that, I would like to give kudos to Microsoft for doing quite a bit of research into picture passwords and presenting it in such a detailed form that we can make up an opinion about the security it provides.
What did Elcomsoft discover?
Well, they claim that certain versions of the software in question stores your Windows password using weak protection locally (see step 2 in the biometric chain above). Using a simple PoC, they have successfully extracted the stored Windows password from registry by the biometric software and “decrypted” it.
Since the biometric software is local only, it needs to know your Windows password to properly give you both local and domain access. To repeat; your username and password gives you access, not your fingerprint or any other biometric ID. If your password is changed, either locally or in the domain, you will have to provide your new password to the biometric software.
Is this such a big deal?
Good practice is to store passwords using hash irreversible algorithms, preferably strong types such as PBKDF2, Bcrypt or Scrypt. The draft cheat sheet from OWASP on password storage gives more information about such algorithms, and more. Even though Microsoft doesn’t use salting or key stretching in their LM/NTLM algorithms, they are still hash algorithms. You cannot “reverse” the process to get the plaintext password, you have to
My Authentec (Thinkpad) fingerprint software, which is NOT affected by Elcomsofts findings, knows my password (or passphrase in my case), and there is an option in the software to display it on screen, as the video on top shows you.
But I can do pass-the-hash/ticket and more, why is this a big deal?
Sure you can. But you cannot do those attacks against a Outlook Web Access configuration from the Internet using SSL. You don’t know the users actual password when you do pass-the-hash attacks, so you cannot check if the user uses the same password on other services, at work or on a personal basis.
If my fingerprint – my biometric template – was the secret key to unlock the password using reversible encryption like AES, things could perhaps be considered a bit better, but it would still not be good practice to store any users password using reversible encryption. Which is exactly what is evidenced by my video above.
Now if claims by Elcomsoft are true, malware could easily exploit the weakness found to extract users Windows plaintext passwords in yet another way, adding to the already existing ways of doing so.
I haven’t twisted my mind long enough on this to figure out ways of improving this, but I am open for suggestions.
ElcomSoft has recently updated two products recovering Microsoft Office passwords with Office 2013 support. Elcomsoft Advanced Office Password Recovery and Elcomsoft Distributed Password Recovery received the ability to recover plain-text passwords used to encrypt documents in Microsoft Office 2013 format. Initially, we are releasing a CPU-only implementation, with support for additional hardware accelerators such as ATI and NVIDIA video cards scheduled for a later date.
In version 2013, Microsoft used an even tighter encryption compared to the already strong Office 2010. To further strengthen the protection, Microsoft replaced SHA1 algorithm used for calculating hash values with a stronger and slower SHA512. In addition, the encryption key is now 256 bits long, while the previous versions of Microsoft Office were using ‘only’ 128 bits. While the length of the encryption key has no direct effect on the speed of password recovery, the slower and stronger hash calculation algorithm does. It’s obvious that Microsoft is dedicated to making subsequent Office releases more and more secure.
No Brute Force
While we continue supporting brute force attacks, brute force becomes less and less efficient with every new release of Microsoft Office even with full-blown hardware acceleration in place. Office 2013 sets a new standard in document encryption, pretty much taking brute force out of the question. This is why we continue relying on a variety of smart attacks that include a combination of dictionary attacks, masks and advanced permutations. Brute-forcing SHA512 hashes with 256-bit encryption key is a dead end. Smart password attacks are pretty much the only way to go with Office 2013.
Most laptops today ship with a fingerprint reader. Most likely, you have a laptop with one. Until very recently, most major manufacturers such as Acer, ASUS, Dell, Gateway, Lenovo, MSI, NEC, Samsung, SONY, Toshiba, and many others were using fingerprint readers manufactured by a single company: UPEK.
ElcomSoft discovered a major flaw with UPEK Protector Suite, which was the software shipped with the majority of laptops equipped with UPEK fingerprint readers until the company was acquired by Authentec and switched to different software. Even today, when UPEK is acquired by Authentec which now uses TrueSuite® software, many (or most) existing laptop users will simply stay with the old flawed software, not feeling the need to upgrade.
Does Fingerprinting the User Lead to Tighter Security?
Laptops normally come loaded with pre-installed software. Among other things manufacturers install on your brand-new laptop is software communicating with UPEK readers: UPEK Protector Suite. The suite manages fingerprint reading hardware, offering users the convenience of substituting the typing of passwords with a single swipe of a finger. Ultimately, UPEK Protector Suite caches your passwords, offering near-instant login to Web sites and Windows itself.
Logging into Windows by swiping a finger instead of clicking and typing a (probably long and complex) password sounds tempting. And, it works. A simple swipe of your finger, and you’re in. Wonderful; but what about security?
Here’s what UPEK says on its Web site about the Windows login: “Protector Suite QL allows for secure access to Windows by swiping your finger instead of typing a password.” Notice the “secure” part? Well, we found out UPEK makes Windows login anything but secure. In fact, the UPEK’s implementation is nothing but a big, glowing security hole compromising (and effectively destroying) the entire security model of Windows accounts.
The Issue with UPEK Protector Suite
After analyzing a number of laptops equipped with UPEK fingerprint readers and running UPEK Protector Suite, we found that your Windows account passwords are stored in Windows registry almost in plain text, barely scrambled but not encrypted. Having physical access to a laptop running UPEK Protector Suite, we could extract passwords to all user accounts with fingerprint-enabled logon. Putting things into perspective: Windows itself never stores account passwords unless you enable “automatic login”, which is discouraged by Microsoft. If you use the Windows auto-logon feature, you’ll see a message saying “Using automatic logon can pose a security risk because anyone that has access to your computer will have access to your programs and personal files.” Simply said, no corporate user will ever use this “automatic logon” feature, which is often banned by corporate security policies.
However, fingerprint logon is rarely, if ever, barred. The common perception is that biometric logon is just as, or maybe more secure than password-based one. While biometric logon could be implemented that way, UPEK apparently failed. Instead of using a proper technique, they preferred the easy route: UPEK Protector Suite simply stores the original password to Windows account, making it possible for an intruder to obtain one.
Storing Windows account passwords in plain text is bad practice. It defeats the entire purpose of enhanced security. In fact, with current implementation, we cannot speak of any security as the entire PC becomes extremely easy to exploit to anyone aware of this vulnerability. This time around, UPEK made it completely wrong, introducing a paper link to a stainless steel chain.
If Your Windows Logon Password Is Compromised
What happens if someone gets to know your Windows account password? First, they obviously gain access to all your files and documents. Of course, if they had your laptop and its hard drive at their disposal, they could to that anyway – with one exception: they would not be able to read EFS-encrypted files (those that have the “Encrypt contents to secure data” checkbox ticked in the file properties – Attributes – Advanced). EFS encryption is extremely strong and impossible to break without knowing the original Windows account password.
And here comes UPEK Protector Suite. Conveniently storing your plain-text account password, the suite gives the intruder the ability to access your used-to-be-protected EFS encrypted files. Bummer.
The Scope of the Issue
The scope of this issue is extremely broad. It is not limited to a certain laptop model or manufacturer. All laptops equipped with UPEK fingerprint readers and running UPEK Protector Suite are susceptible. If you ever registered your fingerprints with UPEK Protector Suite for accelerated Windows logon and typed your account password there, you are at risk.
Course of Action
If you care about security of your Windows account, launch UPEK Protector Suite and disable the Windows logon feature. That should clear the stored password for your account. Note that you should clear all stored account passwords to protect all user accounts.
What We Did
ElcomSoft will not disclose full detail in the interests of public responsibility. We notified former UPEK about the issue (but sure enough they know about it). We also prepared a demo application, which displays partial login credentials of users who enabled fingerprint login. We won’t give it away to general public; only a limited number of hi-tech journalists will receive this software.
Back in 2008, ElcomSoft started using consumer-grade video cards to accelerate password recovery. The abilities of today’s GPU’s to perform massively parallel computations helped us greatly increase the speed of recovering passwords. Users of GPU-accelerated ElcomSoft password recovery tools were able to see the result 10 to 200 times (depending on system configuration) sooner than the users of competing, non-accelerated products.
Today, ElcomSoft introduced support for a new class of acceleration hardware: Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) used by Pico Computing in its hardware acceleration modules. Two products have received the update: Elcomsoft Phone Password Breaker and Elcomsoft Wireless Security Auditor, enabling accelerated recovery of Wi-Fi WPA/WPA2 passwords as well as passwords protecting Apple and Blackberry offline backups. In near future, Pico FPGA support will be added to Elcomsoft Distributed Password Recovery.
With FPGA support, ElcomSoft products now support a wide range of hardware acceleration platforms including Pico FPGA’s, OpenCL compliant AMD video cards, Tableau TACC, and NVIDIA CUDA compatible hardware including conventional and enterprise-grade solutions such as Tesla and Fermi.
Hardware Acceleration of Password Recovery
Today, no serious forensic user will use a product relying solely on computer’s CPU. Clusters of GPU-accelerated workstations are employed to crack a wide range of passwords from those protecting office documents and databases to passwords protecting Wi-Fi communications as well as information stored in Apple and BlackBerry smartphones. But can consumer-grade video cards be called the definite ‘best’ solution?
GPU Acceleration: The Other Side of the Coin
Granted, high-end gaming video cards provide the best bang for the buck when it comes to buying teraflops. There’s simply no competition here. A cluster of 4 AMD or NVIDIA video cards installed in a single chassis can provide a computational equivalent of 500 or even 1000 dual-core CPU’s at a small fraction of the price, size and power consumption of similarly powerful workstation equipped only with CPU’s.
However, GPU’s used in video cards, including enterprise-grade solutions such as NVIDIA Tesla, are not optimized for the very specific purpose of recovering passwords. They still do orders of magnitude better than CPU’s, but if one’s looking for a solution that prioritizes absolute performance over price/performance, there are alternatives.
How Would You Like Your Eggs?
A single top of the line video card such as AMD Radeon 7970 consumes about 300 W at top load. It generates so much heat you can literally fry an egg on it! A cluster of four gaming video cards installed into a single PC will suck power and generate so much heat that cooling becomes a serious issue.
Accelerating Password Recovery with FPGAs
High-performance password cracking can be achieved with other devices. Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) will fit the bill just perfectly. A single 4U chassis with a cluster of FPGA’s installed can offer a computational equivalent of over 2,000 dual-core processors.
The power consumption of FPGA-based units is dramatically less than that of consumer video cards. For example, units such as Pico E-101 draw measly 2.5 W. FPGA-based solutions don’t even approach the level of power consumption and heat generation of gaming video cards, running much cooler and comprising a much more stable system.
GPU vs. FPGA Acceleration: The Battle
Both GPU and FPGA acceleration approaches have their pros and contras. The GPU approach offers the best value, delivering optimal price/performance ratio to savvy consumers and occasional users. Heavy users will have to deal with increased power consumption and heat generation of GPU clusters.
FPGA’s definitely cost more per teraflop of performance. However, they are better optimized for applications such as password recovery (as opposed to 3D and video calculations), delivering significantly better performance – in absolute terms – compared to GPU-accelerated systems. FPGA-based systems generate much less heat than GPU clusters, and consume significantly less power. In addition, an FPGA-based system fits perfectly into a single 4U chassis, allowing forensic users building racks stuffed with FPGA-based systems. This is the very reason why many government, intelligence, military and law enforcement agencies are choosing FPGA-based systems.
Removing PDF Access Restrictions
Many PDF documents come with various access restrictions that disable certain features such as the ability to print documents, copy selected text or save filled forms. If a PDF file can be opened without a password, the new release can instantly unlock restricted PDF files produced by Adobe Acrobat X even if the original password is not known.
It’s been almost two weeks since we have released updated version of Elcomsoft Phone Password Breaker that is capable of downloading backups from the iCloud and we have seen very diverse feedback ever since. Reading through some articles or forum threads it became quite evident that many just do not understand what we have actually done and what are the implications. So I am taking another try to clarify things.
Let’s play a game! Rules are simple – just try to catch as much apples as you can into your police cap. Good catchers will get 25% discount for the new version of Elcomsoft Phone Password Breaker. Your challenge is just 100 apples, so let’s play!
Elcomsoft Phone Password Breaker and Elcomsoft iOS Forensic Toolkit have been around for a while, acquiring user information from physical iPhone/iPad devices or recovering data from user-created offline backups. Both tools required the investigator to have access to the device itself, or at least accessing a PC with which the iOS device was synced at least once. This limited the tools’ applications to solving the already committed crime, but did little to prevent crime that’s just being planned.
The new addition to the family of iOS acquisition tools turns things upside down. Meet updated Elcomsoft Phone Password Breaker – a tool that can now retrieve information from suspects’ phones without them even noticing. The newly introduced attack does not need investigators to have access to the phone itself. It doesn’t even require access to offline backups produced by that phone. Instead, the new attack targets an online, remote storage provided by Apple. By attacking a remote storage, the updated tool makes it possible watching suspects’ iPhone activities with little delay and without alerting the suspects. In fact, the tool can retrieve information from the online storage without iPhone users even knowing, or having a chance to learn about the unusual activity on their account. (more…)
When it comes to adding new features to our products we try to focus on our customers’ needs and it is my pleasure today to announce a preview (or beta) version of our Phone Password Breaker tool with new features requested (or inspired) by our valued customers users
Here’s the wrap-up of new features.