Archive for the ‘Human Factor’ Category

Breaking Apple iWork Passwords

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Apple iWork, an inexpensive office productivity suite for the Mac and iOS platforms, has been around since 2005 and 2011 respectively. The iWork suite consists of three apps: Numbers, Pages, and Keynotes, and gained quite some popularity among Apple followers. Yet, for all this time, no one came out with a feasible password recovery solution for the iWork document format.

The reason for the lack of a password recovery solution for the iWork format is extremely slow recovery speed. This owes to Apple’s implementation of encryption: the company used an industry-standard AES algorithm with strong, 128-bit keys. Brute-forcing a 128-bit number on today’s hardware remains impossible. The original, plain-text password has to be recovered in order to decrypt protected iWork documents.

However, recovering that plain-text password is also very slow. Apple used the PBKDF2 algorithm to derive an encryption key from plain-text passwords, with some 4000 iterations of a hash function (SHA1). While it takes only a hundredth of a second to verify a single password, an attack would be speed-limited to about 500 passwords per second on today’s top hardware. This is extremely slow considering the number of possible password combinations.

Distributed Attacks

When starting considering the addition of Apple iWork to the list of supported products, we quickly recognized the speed bottleneck. With as slow a recovery, a distributed attack on the password would be the only feasible one. Indeed, using multiple computers connected to a large cluster gives us more speed, breaking the barrier of unreasonable and promising realistic recovery timeframe. Brute-forcing is still not a good option, but ElcomSoft’s advanced dictionary attack with customizable masks and configurable permutations is very feasible if we consider one thing: the human factor.

The Human Factor

Let’s look at the product one more time. Apple iWork is sold to mobile users for $9.99. Mac customers can purchase the suite for $79. These price points clearly suggest that Apple is targeting the consumer market, not government agencies and not corporations with established security policies enforcing the use of long, complex, strong passwords.

Multiple researches confirm it’s a given fact that most people, if not enforced by a security policy, will choose simple, easy to remember passwords such as ‘abc’, ‘password1’ or their dog’s name. In addition, it’s in the human nature to reduce the number of things to remember. Humans are likely to re-use their passwords, with little or no variation, in various places: their instant messenger accounts, Web and email accounts, social networks and other places from which a password can be easily retrieved.

Considering all this, 500 passwords per second doesn’t sound that bad anymore. Which brings us to the announcement: Elcomsoft Distributed Password Recovery now supports Apple iWork, becoming an industry-first tool and the only product so far to recover passwords for Numbers, Pages and Keynotes apps. It’s the human factor and advanced dictionary attacks that help it recover a significant share of iWork passwords in reasonable time.

Read the official press-release on Elcomsoft Distributed Password Recovery recovering Apple iWork passwords.

Password Usage Behavior Survey, Take 2

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Hello! Yet again, we have launched a survey on password usage behavior.

As our previous survey went like a breeze (you will find the report in our archives), it is a logical next step that we decide to try one more time. From the very first survey we gained curious info, which was also interesting to publicity. Naturally questions about password protection are numerous and some of them remain dark, possibly a little too much so, that is why we are tempted to undertake one more “investigation”.

This time we expanded on questions and made some of them hypothetical, where you are put into a situation to find a way out. It is interesting to trace your way of thinking on both hypothetical and actual matters, so other questions are suggested to understand your attitude to real everyday situations you have to deal with.

As usually, survey completion will be finalized by a report.

We tried not to inundate our questionnaire with baffling questions, but if you still consider it time-consuming, you are welcome to answer one absurdly simple question on home page of ElcomSoft website.

C’mon you are within an ace of getting 10% discount for all our software; just find a little will-power to put a couple of ticks. Again, thank you for taking time from your busy day and completing our questionnaire.  And feel free to channel this survey to your friends and colleagues.

Best of luck!

‘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.

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123 Out Goes… Your Password

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

About a month ago, a SQL Injection flaw was found in the database of RockYou.com, 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 RockYou.com 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 Rockyou.com 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.

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.

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Home and Corporate Wireless Security

Monday, June 8th, 2009

Securing home Wi-Fi remains uncertain when it comes to law. Some urge users are not liable when they use default security settings and it is manufacturer who is guilty when/if wireless network was ‘successfully’ abused. Others put whole responsibility on users. This is practically a question to law and usually its resolution depends on lawyers’ skills to gather and manipulate the details. Your security encompasses not only security against the law when you happen to fall a victim to an intruder, but also protection against that very intruder. In the long run, it’s up to you whether to endeavor to prove your innocence or take measures to build a reliable fence.

If we turn to corporate wireless security, this fence is a must, as it is public data and corporate confidential information that are at risk. Unfortunately, AirTight study shows that 57% of surveyed companies from 6 US districts and London still have to sort out their priorities in terms of data security. In my opinion, if protecting home wireless network can be a dark horse requiring scrupulous examination, nonexistence of corporate wireless security should have relevant decision in court.

Surely, I couldn’t leave this message without mentioning our newest product for Wireless Security Audit, so if you care and use passwords for Wi-Fi protection, use this tool regularly not to allow strangers to poke their nose into your network.

Password Usage Behavior Survey Announced

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

ElcomSoft is launching a survey intended to collect more information on how people handle their passwords, which remain a major way for user authentication. Whether you are ElcomSoft customer or haven’t seriously thought about password security, we hope you will answer our questions.

The questionnaire is well designed and if you have no time you can simply tick the matching answers which are prepared for your convenience. If you have a special experience to share or lots of thoughts on passwords, please take a while and use empty spaces provided for your own answers.

The survey is set to run for several weeks in order to cover more people, for we understand that summer is the best season for vacations. After the survey is completed and results calculated, we will release a full report with facts and figures. We tried to put sensible questions in the belief that results’ analysis will help us find out which questions should be better and more deeply highlighted in our articles, whitepapers, as well as in our blog.

This is the first our empirical research and we hope you will find it interesting and enjoyable. You definitely have your own opinion on passwords, and as you understand this survey is a perfect way for you to share that opinion. So what do you think? Be frank and open, take the questionnaire, and help us let others know about it.

 

Officers of Indian Customs To Be Punished For Password Breach

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

The Central Board of Excise and Customs of India claimed that compromised passwords are the biggest threat to system security. Despite elaborate instructions on passwords, which all employees are supposed to follow, “instances of password compromise continue to recur with unfailing regularity”, an unnamed official says.

Sharing of passwords was identified as one of the main reasons of unauthorized access and information leakage. According to CBEC representative, officers who share their passwords with others should “be regarded as being in collusion in the fraud that results”. To prevent insecure use of passwords CBEC plans to introduce a set of measures, including disciplinary action and even dismissal from the Government service.   

Penalty threat may not be the most effective solution. In case of password breach, complex countermeasures are required, and regular password audit is a significant part of it. If it is required that users change their passwords every 30 days, then system administrators have to perform password audits with the same regularity. There is a lot of both free and commercial auditing tools that allow to check password security.

Source: Business Line

Using Passwords Online

Monday, June 1st, 2009

 Today’s technologies allow staying online practically 24 hrs a day, periodically falling into a sleeping mode. The Internet became easily accessible and numerous devices can connect us to the web from everywhere, and every time when we surf the web we are being registered, at least via IP address of our devices. 

I bet it was more than once that you had to fill out a sort of name-company-position-email-telephone-whatever form when registering or subscribing to something. Do you think about preserving privacy of your information when leaving such data on someone’s website? (more…)