Monday, 22 July 2013

Apple admits developer site hit by hackers

Apple logo
Apple has confirmed that hackers successfully breached its developer portal site, potentially compromising users' names, email addresses and mailing addresses.
A company spokesman confirmed the news in a public statement on the site, promising that all information stored on the portal is encrypted, meaning even if lost hackers should still struggle to use it. "Last Thursday, an intruder attempted to secure personal information of our registered developers from our developer website," read the statement.
"Sensitive personal information was encrypted and cannot be accessed, however, we have not been able to rule out the possibility that some developers' names, mailing addresses, and/or email addresses may have been accessed. In the spirit of transparency, we want to inform you of the issue. We took the site down immediately on Thursday and have been working around the clock since then."
The motivation behind the attack remains unknown, however private security expert Ibrahim Balic has since issued a public statement via YouTube claiming credit for the "breach". Balic claims the breach was not a hack but a legitimate penetration test and that he had alerted Apple about his security research. Apple declined V3's request for comment on Balic's claims.
Regardless of the source of the breach, Apple confirmed that its engineers are redesigning the portal's security protocols to ensure another breach does not occur. "In order to prevent a security threat like this from happening again, we're completely overhauling our developer systems, updating our server software, and rebuilding our entire database. We apologise for the significant inconvenience that our downtime has caused you and we expect to have the developer website up again soon," read the statement.
The Apple Developer is one of many community sites to be hit in recent weeks. The Ubuntu and NASDAQ community forums have recently suffered similar breaches. The spike is due to the increased value of user information on professional sites. With it hackers can either sell the stolen account information on a cyber black market, or use it themselves to mount sophisticated, socially engineered cyber attacks such as phishing scams.

Ubuntu Forums hack: 1.8 million passwords stolen

The Ubuntu forum has been taken offline following a data breach that saw cyber criminals make off with users' account and email information.
Ubuntu confirmed the news in a public statement online, promising that the user passwords are still encrypted, so the hackers should not be able to use them. "Unfortunately the attackers have gotten every user's local username, password, and email address from the Ubuntu Forums database," said the Ubuntu Forums statement.
"The passwords are not stored in plain text, they are stored as salted hashes. However, if you were using the same password as your Ubuntu Forums one on another service, such as email, you are strongly encouraged to change the password on the other service ASAP."
Ubuntu said it is working to plug the breach and get the forum back online as soon as possible, confirming that none of its other services were affected.
"There has been a security breach on the Ubuntu Forums. The Canonical IS team is working hard as we speak to restore normal operations. This page will be updated regularly with progress reports," read the statement. "Ubuntu One, Launchpad and other Ubuntu/Canonical services are not affected by the breach."
Security expert Graham Cluley noted that the emails could be used to launch phishing attacks. "Of course, compromised passwords leading to account hacking aren't the only risk here. There is also the danger that the hackers could use the email addresses they have stolen for spam campaign, perhaps even launching a carefully crafted attack designed to pique the interest of Ubuntu lovers," wrote Cluley.
Ubuntu's forum is one of many to be targeted by hackers. The NASDAQ Community forum was also recently hit with a similar password-stealing attack.

Apple Developer website hacker releases video of 100 000 accounts

Today news got released that an Anonymous hacker had breached into the Apple developer website. The hacker claims to have had access to over 100 000 user accounts.
The White hat hacker
He does not wants to be called an hacker as he did this for security reasons.

Apple’s developer website, which has experienced some significant downtime this past week, has been hacked.
Apple released the information just a few moments ago in an email to registered developers, saying that sensitive emails, names, and physical addresses could have been compromised, and that it took the website down on Thursday to prevent any further damage:
Last Thursday, an intruder attempted to secure personal information of our registered developers from our developer website. Sensitive personal information was encrypted and cannot be accessed, however, we have not been able to rule out the possibility that some developers’ names, mailing addresses, and/or email addresses may have been accessed. In the spirit of transparency, we want to inform you of the issue. We took the site down immediately on Thursday and have been working around the clock since then.
In order to prevent a security threat like this from happening again, we’re completely overhauling our developer systems, updating our server software, and rebuilding our entire database. We apologize for the significant inconvenience that our downtime has caused you and we expect to have the developer website up again soon.
The last time Apple’s developer website went down it was due to a rush on the company’s iOS 7 beta release in early June. This week’s outage, however, was longer-lived — for much of a day — and for a much more damaging reason.

China's governmental hacking group: Red Star

In the spirit of last February’s report by Mandiant detailing the exploits of a Chinese-government-linked hacker group, Russian IT security giant Kaspersky Lab today released a report on another sophisticated Chinese CYBER-espionage outfit, dubbed the Red Star APT (Advanced Persistent Threat) by the lab.
According to the lab, this advanced hacker group of about 50 people has been active since at least 2005, possibly 2004, and has invaded the networks of more than 350 “high profile” victims ranging from Tibetan and Uyghur freedom activists to government agencies, embassies, universities, defense contractors, and oil companies in 40 countries using “covert surveillance” and espionage software called NetTraveler. (The name sounds so innocent, doesn’t it?)
Specifically, NetTraveler is delivered via a malicious Microsoft Office file inside a spearphishing email. Once installed on a machine, it steals sensitive data from victims’ machines, records victims’ keystrokes, and “retrieves” Microsoft Office files or PDF documents, according to Kaspersky. The malware is often used in conjunction with other CYBERspy tools.
One of the best details about NetTraveler that Kaspersky listed in its report is the fact that it takes advantage of an old flaw in Microsoft Office, one the Seattle-based company issued a patch for a while ago. Nevertheless, poor network hygiene allowed the malware into victims’ networks.
“It is therefore surprising to observe that such unsophisticated attacks can still be successful with high-profile targets,” notes the lab’s report on Red Star, pointing out that, by not updating their software, the victims basically did some of the attackers’ work for them — they left the digital gate unlocked. Six of the victims were even infected by the Red October malware we told you about last fall.
“It’s kind of shocking that government institutions, diplomatic institutions that have been warned they were infected, they don’t do anything about it,” said Costin Raiu, director of the lab’s global research and analysis team, today during a CYBERsecurity forum in Washington that his company sponsored.
So, just what does the Red Star crew appear to be looking for? Sixty percent of its targets are government embassies, militaries, and other government agencies. The rest are predominantly research institutions, manufacturing firms, and aerospace businesses. The victims are also predominantly located in Asia, with Mongolia topping that list as the host of 29 percent of victims, followed by Russia (19 percent) India (11 percent), Kazakhstan (11 percent) and Kyrgyzstan (5 percent).
Among the information the Red Star gang is looking to steal is data on nanotechnology, lasers, aerospace technology, drilling gear, radio wave weapons, nuclear power, and communications tech, according to the lab.
Red Star recruits young hackers without a lot of technical expertise “who simply follow instructions” on how to develop and release NetTraveler on a set of targets they are given, Raiu said today. “They get a toolbox, they get instructions, they get the Trojans [malware] and they get a target — 20, 25, up to 30 different targets they need to attack. Just one single successfully completed project can actually pay their monthly expenses.”
The lab doesn’t come out and say that Red Star APT is affiliated with the Chinese government, only going so far as to say it is a “medium-sized threat actor group from China.” However, a number of factors suggest it might be. NetTraveler was developed by someone with native Chinese language skills, and IP addresses traced by Kaspersky are in China. What’s more, the victims are either businesses in sectors that China wants to excel in, political groups the Chinese government wants to keep tabs on, or government organizations. That being said, Red Star could just be “a non-government hacker group who steals IP and sells to whoever is buying,” Jeffrey Carr, CEO of CYBERsecurity firm TAIA Global noted on Twitter last night.

Finnish online petition database has been hacked

Finnish online petition site database has been hacked. The attackers have captured hundreds of e-mail addresses and passwords.
The service provider Samppa Feed recognizes that the breach had not noticed before contacting the Information Week. "I do not know, because the collapse occurred," he says. service for private individuals to initiate petitions driving is a variety of things. Currently, the most popular topic is "The petition Päivi Räsänen separate the minister" , which is the year to February, it has signed nearly 75 000 people.
A fraction of database published on Pastebin.
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Bulgarians cyber gang carried out cyber attacks on ATM Busted in Africa

A gang of cyber crime fraudsters linked to the recent spate of Mobile Money and Automated Teller Machine (ATM) scams, is on the run following the seizure of one of their kingpins a woman as the Police warn the public to be on the lookout.
The Police unearthed a racket of fraudsters who connive with Internet cafe owners to defraud the unsuspecting public. One of Kampala’s most notorious computer hackers turned against her comrades because she did not want to go to prison and leave her seven-year-old daughter behind.
Top members of hacking group, Tusobola Net, literally translated as “we can handle the Internet” have fled across East Africa after their leader, a 34-year-old white lady (names withheld), turned them in. Tusobola Net is an umbrella term used in Kampala to represent an Internet subculture a collection of online individuals, or ‘hactivists’, who share common ideas of anti-censorship and freedom of speech on the Internet.
They have carried out cyber attacks on Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards, banks and other corporate fraud. Tusobola net is linked to four Bulgarians, Ivan Ganchev, Milen Katsarski, Adrian Dimitrov and Anton Ivanov who were jailed over ATM fraud.
According to the Police, the gang is also linked to three former MTN agents, who hacked into the company’s system and swindled sh3b.
The mother of one has spent the last 17 months working as a Criminal Intelligence and Investigations Directorate (CIID) informant, revealing shocking details that led the authorities to Eva Nasozi, who has been charged in court.
On Tuesday, Nasozi, who was described as one of the ringleaders of Tusobola net, pleaded not guilty before Buganda Road Court and was remanded in Luzira Prison.
Six other members of the racket are still at large. Three operated from shopping malls on Wilson Road, while the others are Makerere University students only identified as Rash, TT and Jackson.
According to the Police, they fled to Tanzania when their leader was arrested. A preliminary Police report states that the hackers are responsible for a number of attacks on large companies, government agencies and hospitals. They are behind the loss of billions to banks, forex bureaus and agencies.
Saturday Vision learnt that the white woman worked under the alias Papa. She lives in Kololo, a quiet upscale suburb of Kampala. She was tracked down using an address from her phone print-out. Detectives put her under surveillance for weeks and arrested her after she was identified by a fellow hacker who called her by name at the golf course.

What Happens When We Actually Catch Edward Snowden?

The United States is pressing hard to get hold of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. But if and when Snowden is apprehended, what then? This question deserves attention, too, because the denouement to this drama may be unpleasant not just for Snowden, but for his captors as well.
The downside for Snowden is straightforward. He faces prison time in this country. Even if his disclosures were well-intentioned or exposed any misconduct, no court has allowed a classified information leaker to escape liability on those grounds.
In the past, leakers typically got off easy. The vast majority were never charged with any crime. The first media leaker convicted under the Espionage Act, Samuel Morison, received a two-year sentence, served eight months, and was later pardoned. However, the Obama administration has taken leak enforcement to a new level. And Snowden’s security breach was so remarkable that his sentence could be much stiffer.
If the case law is on its side, why would the government have reason to worry about prosecuting Snowden?
One source of concern is the jury. Snowden says his leaks revealed an unconstitutional and undemocratic system of surveillance. Polls suggest that many Americans agree. Even if the judge instructs the jury to set aside its views on the rightness or wrongness of Snowden’s acts, there is no guarantee it will. Jurors might be tempted to acquit Snowden, not because they believe he is factually innocent but because they believe he was morally justified.
It has happened before—in England. In 1985, Clive Ponting looked destined for prison after leaking Ministry of Defence documents that called into question the official story of the Falklands War. Ponting fessed up to being the source. The jury voted to acquit him nevertheless, and in so doing helped catalyze a movement to liberalize the laws against unauthorized disclosures.
Additional concerns relate to the trial. Snowden would no doubt obtain high-powered lawyers. Protesters would ring the courthouse. Journalists would camp out inside. As proceedings dragged on for months, the spotlight would remain on the N.S.A.’s spying and the administration’s pursuit of leakers. Instead of fading into obscurity, the Snowden affair would continue to grab headlines, and thus to undermine the White House’s ability to shape political discourse.
A trial could turn out to be much more than a distraction: It could be a focal point for domestic and international outrage. From the executive branch’s institutional perspective, the greatest danger posed by the Snowden case is not to any particular program. It is to the credibility of the secrecy system, and at one remove the ideal of our government as a force for good.
To do their jobs, the U.S. intelligence agencies must be able to keep secrets. But even more fundamentally, they must be able to sustain a democratic mandate. They need Congress to give them the money and the discretion to engage in clandestine activities. They need the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to approve their domestic eavesdropping. They need technology companies and allied governments to cooperate with them. They need voters to elect presidents and legislators who support their mission. They need talented young people to want to sign up.
Snowden’s leaks have at least provisionally compromised public trust in these agencies, as well as programs like PRISM and Boundless Informant. (Pause to savor that label—Boundless Informant. The very title of the program condemns it.) A criminal case against Snowden risks deepening and entrenching this alienation. The case would invite even more scrutiny, and potentially unprecedented judicial scrutiny, of the N.S.A.’s practices. It would feed the perception that this administration is determined to stifle dissent. Above all, in the figure of Snowden, it would give skeptics worldwide a concrete symbol around which to rally.
Because it is so secretive, the N.S.A. must tend carefully to its legitimacy. Conspiracy theories and Big Brother fears always swirl at the margins of respectable opinion, threatening to go mainstream. A rogue leaker is a serious problem for the agency’s short-term intelligence operations. A rogue leaker who comes to be seen by a large number of Americans as a persecuted truth-teller is a serious problem for its long-term political viability.
More broadly, Snowden’s case may clash with certain foreign policy goals. The United States often wants other countries’ dissidents to be able to find refuge abroad; this is a longstanding plank of its human rights agenda. The United States also wants illiberal regimes to tolerate online expression that challenges their authority; this is the core of its developing Internet freedom agenda.
Snowden’s prosecution may limit our soft power to lead and persuade in these areas. Of course, U.S. officials could emphasize that Snowden is different, that he’s not a courageous activist but a reckless criminal. But that is what the repressive governments say about their prisoners, too.
These concerns might seem abstract in comparison to the vividness of Snowden’s transgressions and the concreteness of his revelations, the quiddity of those four laptops and the PowerPoint slides. And so they are. That does not make them any less significant.
Against these costs, the benefits from prosecuting Snowden are no less speculative. If allowing Snowden to remain abroad enhanced his ability to spill secrets, there would be an obvious reason for the U.S. government to want to nab him as quickly as possible. It seems increasingly clear, however, that the government has no chance of securing Snowden’s stash. In addition to the Guardian and the Washington Post, WikiLeaks reportedly was given the files. The Chinese and Russian intelligence services may have acquired them. Unknown others may have still more copies.
The documents Snowden took with him, in short, are never coming back. They are a sunk cost for the government. Prosecuting Snowden can’t reduce that cost and, by inflaming his associates, might even accelerate the process of full public disclosure.
Yet if incapacitating Snowden won’t do any direct good for national security, what about setting an example for potential future leakers? Wouldn’t some of them be scared off by seeing Snowden behind bars? Maybe, but that is not the right deterrence question to ask. The relevant question now is, what is the marginal deterrence value of prosecuting Snowden over and above offering him a plea deal (with a low enough sentence to entice him back) or hounding him into effective exile in a country like Venezuela (which has offered him asylum)?
Not much, possibly. A long prison term is a terrible fate. But even a short prison term would scare any rational person, and exile is a profound punishment as well. Indeed, it is an ancient response to offenses that are viewed as betraying one’s community.
The United States has invested a lot of time, effort, and political capital into trying to apprehend Snowden. Those efforts have gone a long way toward limiting his options. The more the U.S. government continues to insist that nothing short of immediate extradition is acceptable, the more it invites the perception that its diplomacy was a failure rather than a success.
A plea deal or an asylum arrangement would frustrate almost everyone. It wouldn’t satisfy those who are appalled by Snowden’s actions and wish to see a spectacular challenge to U.S. rules and institutions met with the full force of the criminal justice system. It would equally disappoint those who think Snowden deserves a hero’s welcome home.
We are long past the time for ideal solutions, however. If the U.S. government can’t win in this matter, maybe it ought to think about cutting its losses.

NSA scoffs at Indian Prism, favours cooperation on cyber security

Acknowledging that better indigenous snooping capabilities may not be enough to protect India’s cyber security, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon has advocated formulating a set of “standard operating procedures” (SOPs) ground rules for cooperation which would help India succeed in obtaining Internet information from major powers that control much of cyber space.
In an internal note focusing on the cyber security challenges that India faces today and the way forward, Mr. Menon has said that apart from striving to augment its own capabilities, India needs to counter cyber warfare/terrorism through international cooperation rather than go it alone, particularly when attacks, espionage and anarchy in cyber space would remain a reality for a long time to come.
Stating that international cyber space was today an “anarchic, lawless domain”, Mr. Menon noted: “Instead of chasing a chimera and tying our prestige to it, it would be better to use our cyber security dialogues and international cooperation to achieve practical results…We might press partners for the sharing of data harvested from Indian users and sites, the purposes for which they were used, and the legal basis on which the acquisition was authorised. A practical goal would be to seek SOPs for security cooperation in cyber space with other major IT powers, rather than attempting grand pursuits.”
Noting that the U.S. and U.K. agencies and ISPs were “extremely stingy” in sharing information, Mr. Menon says: “When we seek data about or action against malicious or criminal activity, the US government and ISPs plead inability to respond due to privacy laws, as we found when social media were used to create panic and drive out North-Easterners from south and west India last summer.”
Underlining the difficulties India faces while dealing with cases of cyber crimes, Mr. Menon has said: “The basic infrastructure for telephony and Internet data (including the root servers and Internet service providers or ISPs) is overwhelmingly U.S.-owned and based.”

Calif. attorney general 2.5 million people were affected by the 131 breaches

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has released a first-of-its-kind data breach report  that includes statistics, recommendations and assessments based on breaches that were reported to the Attorney General's office during the 2012 calendar year.
California first data breach report finds that more than 1.4 million residents' data would have been safe had companies used encryption.
The report coverers 131 incidents in all, with the average breach accounting for 22.500 people. The retail sector reported the most data breaches with 26 percent of the cases, followed by the finance and insurance sectors with 23 percent and healthcare with 15 percent.
It's worth noting that more than half of the breaches involved intentional intrusions from the outside or intentional acts from insiders. The rest of the breaches, 45 percent, were largely due to failure "to adopt or carry out appropriate security measures," the report notes.

UAE: Egypt-based computer hackers foiled

Officials in the United Arab Emirates say they have thwarted an attempt by Egypt-based hackers to bring down UAE government websites in apparent retaliation for backing the forces that ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

The UAE has emerged as a leading Arab supporter of the military-led authorities in Egypt since Morsi was toppled earlier this month. The UAE also is a fierce opponent of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, charging supporters of the Islamist group with plotting to overthrow the UAE's Western-backed ruling system.

The UAE's Telecommunications Authority said in a statement Sunday that experts blocked the attempted hacking on Friday, saying it said caused "limited damage."

It said computer-tracking addresses of the alleged hackers were given to Egyptian officials.

World's cheapest computer gets millions tinkering

It's a single circuit board the size of a credit card with no screen or keyboard, a far cry from the smooth tablets that dominate the technology market.
But the world's cheapest computer, costing just $25 (£17, 19.50 euros), has astonished its British creators by selling almost 1.5 million units in 18 months.
The Raspberry Pi is now powering robots in Japan and warehouse doors in Malawi, photographing astral bodies from the United States and helping to dodge censorship in China.
"We're closing in on one and and half million (sales) for something that we thought would sell a thousand," said Eben Upton, executive director of the Raspberry Pi Foundation.
"It was just supposed to be a little thing to solve a little problem.
"We've sold many more to children than we expected to sell, but even more to adults. They're using it like Lego to connect things up."
The device, which runs the open-source Linux operating system, was designed as an educational tool for children to learn coding.
But its potential for almost infinite tinkering and customisation has fired up the imaginations of hobbyists and inventors around the world.
Tokyo inventor Shota Ishiwatari has created a small humanoid robot run by a Pi, which can tell you the weather, manage your diary and even make coffee.
"I wanted to create something by using a 3D printer and the Raspberry Pi - two cool items," he told AFP, adding that he also wanted to demonstrate the potential of the microcomputer.
"Many Raspberry Pi users did not know how to have fun with the chip. I wanted to present practical ways to play with it."
Upton and his colleagues first thought of creating a cheap computer suited to programming when they were teaching computer science at Cambridge University.
They noticed that children of the wired generation lacked the day-to-day experience of coding that was so formative for the computer geeks who grew up in the 1980s.
"They didn't have the grungy familiarity with the dirty bits, the hacking," Upton told AFP.
"The theory of computer science is maths, but the practice is a craft, like carpentry."
Upton reminisces happily about his childhood coding on a BBC Micro, a rugged early personal computer from 1982.
Back then, you had to know a computer "language" in order to use one at all. But home computers are now so complex that parents often ban children from interfering with the underlying code.
Upton and his colleagues saw that developments in technology meant something like the Micro could now be created for a fraction of the cost, in pocket size, with the capacity to run multimedia programmes.
The team behind the Pi grew as the project developed; it now includes David Braben -- the designer of a classic Micro game, Elite -- and tech entrepreneur and investor Jack Lang.
By 2012, with Upton now working for a chip design firm, the Pi was ready to launch.
Demand for the device, assembled in Wales, was so high that the websites of its distributors crashed.
User groups called Raspberry Jams now meet monthly in cities from Manchester to Singapore to share ideas.
A Raspberry Jam brought together the team behind a Pi camera that will photograph rhinos and other endangered animals in east Africa, generating data on their habits and on poaching.
The Instant Wild system, backed by the Zoological Society of London, already operates in several countries, beaming images via satellite to park rangers and to an app that crowdsources identifications of animals.
But by replacing expensive purpose-built equipment with cheaper Raspberry Pis, Instant Wild hopes to vastly expand its work.
A grid of 100 Pi cameras will be set up in 2015 on a Kenyan ranch, while another Pi will make its way to Antarctica to record penguin behaviour.
"It used to be very expensive -- you'd have to run a laptop, with a huge car battery to power the thing. This saves countless power and it's easy for it to send out alerts automatically," said Alasdair Davies, technical advisor to the project.
Upton, however, is focused closer to home.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation is nonprofit and the design freely available, so he and his team will not be retiring on the proceeds of their success.
Instead they are working on software to make the Pi more accessible for children without expert help, and Upton remains intent on improving computer education.
The foundation is in discussions with the British government on a new IT curriculum.
For the country that invented some of the earliest computers, Upton feels that teaching coding should be a matter of national pride.
"The definition of computing is being reworked to be less about PowerPoint and more about computer programming -- the useful stuff. The real stuff," he said.

UN warns 200 nations on mobile cybersecurity Sim bugs in bid to prevent attacks

A United Nations group that advises nations on cybersecurity plans to send out an alert about significant vulnerabilities in mobile phone technology that could potentially enable hackers to remotely attack at least half a billion phones.
The bug, discovered by German firm, allows hackers to remotely gain control of and also clone certain mobile SIM cards.
Hackers could use compromised SIMs to commit financial crimes or engage in electronic espionage, according to Berlin's Security Research Labs, which will describe the vulnerabilities at the Black Hat hacking conference that opens in Las Vegas on July 31.
The U.N.'s Geneva-based International Telecommunications Union, which has reviewed the research, described it as "hugely significant."
"These findings show us where we could be heading in terms of cybersecurity risks," ITU Secretary General Hamadoun Touré told Reuters.
He said the agency would notify telecommunications regulators and other government agencies in nearly 200 countries about the potential threat and also reach out to hundreds of mobile companies, academics and other industry experts.
A spokeswoman for the GSMA, which represents nearly 800 mobile operators worldwide, said it also reviewed the research.
"We have been able to consider the implications and provide guidance to those network operators and SIM vendors that may be impacted," said GSMA spokeswoman Claire Cranton.
Nicole Smith, a spokeswoman for Gemalto NV, the world's biggest maker of SIM cards, said her company supported GSMA's response.
"Our policy is to refrain from commenting on details relating to our customers' operations," she said.

Cracking SIM cards has long been the Holy Grail of hackers because the tiny devices are located in phones and allow operators to identify and authenticate subscribers as they use networks.
Karsten Nohl, the chief scientist who led the research team and will reveal the details at Black Hat, said the hacking only works on SIMs that use an old encryption technology known as DES.
Nohl said he conservatively estimates that at least 500 million phones are vulnerable to the attacks he will discuss at Black Hat. He added that the number could grow if other researchers start looking into the issue and find other ways to exploit the same class of vulnerabilities.
The ITU estimates some 6 billion mobile phones are in use worldwide. It plans to work with the industry to identify how to protect vulnerable devices from attack, Touré said.
Once a hacker copies a SIM, it can be used to make calls and send text messages impersonating the owner of the phone, said Nohl, who has a doctorate in computer engineering from the University of Virginia.
"We become the SIM card. We can do anything the normal phone users can do," Nohl said in a phone interview.
"If you have a MasterCard number or PayPal data on the phone, we get that too," if it is stored on the SIM, he said.
The newly identified attack method only grants access to data stored on the SIM, which means payment applications that store their secrets outside of the SIM card are not vulnerable to this particular hacking approach.
Yet Nohl warned that when data is stored outside of a SIM card it could fall victim to a large range of other already known vulnerabilities, which is what has prompted the industry to put payment information on SIMs in the first place.

The mobile industry has spent several decades defining common identification and security standards for SIMs to protect data for mobile payment systems and credit card numbers. SIMs are also capable of running apps.
Nohl said Security Research Labs found mobile operators in many countries whose phones were vulnerable, but declined to identify them. He said mobile phone users in Africa could be among the most vulnerable because banking is widely done via mobile payment systems with credentials stored on SIMs.
All types of phones are vulnerable, including iPhones from Apple Inc, phones that run Google Inc's Android software and BlackBerry Ltd smartphones, he said.
BlackBerry's director of security response and threat analysis, Adrian Stone, said in a statement that his company proposed new SIM card standards last year to protect against the types of attacks described by Nohl, which the GSMA has adopted and advised members to implement.
Apple and Google declined comment.
CTIA, a U.S. mobile industry trade group based in Washington, D.C., said the new research likely posed no immediate threat.
"We understand the vulnerability and are working on it," said CTIA Vice President John Marinho. "This is not what hackers are focused on. This does not seem to be something they are exploiting."

Rooting SIM cards

SIM cards are the de facto trust anchor of mobile devices worldwide. The cards protect the mobile identity of subscribers, associate devices with phone numbers, and increasingly store payment credentials, for example in NFC-enabled phones with mobile wallets.
With over seven billion cards in active use, SIMs may well be the most widely used security token in the world. Through over-the-air (OTA) updates deployed via SMS, the cards are even extensible through custom Java software. While this extensibility is rarely used so far, its existence already poses a critical hacking risk.
Cracking SIM update keys. OTA commands, such as software updates, are cryptographically-secured SMS messages, which are delivered directly to the SIM. While the option exists to use state-of-the-art AES or the somewhat outdated 3DES algorithm for OTA, many (if not most) SIM cards still rely on the 70s-era DES cipher. DES keys were shown to be crackable within days using FPGA clusters, but they can also be recovered much faster by leveraging rainbow tables similar to those that made GSM’s A5/1 cipher breakable by anyone.
To derive a DES OTA key, an attacker starts by sending a binary SMS to a target device. The SIM does not execute the improperly signed OTA command, but does in many cases respond to the attacker with an error code carrying a cryptographic signature, once again sent over binary SMS. A rainbow table resolves this plaintext-signature tuple to a 56-bit DES key within two minutes on a standard computer.
Deploying SIM malware. The cracked DES key enables an attacker to send properly signed binary SMS, which download Java applets onto the SIM. Applets are allowed to send SMS, change voicemail numbers, and query the phone location, among many other predefined functions. These capabilities alone provide plenty of potential for abuse.
In principle, the Java virtual machine should assure that each Java applet only accesses the predefined interfaces. The Java sandbox implementations of at least two major SIM card vendors, however, are not secure: A Java applet can break out of its realm and access the rest of the card. This allows for remote cloning of possibly millions of SIM cards including their mobile identity (IMSI, Ki) as well as payment credentials stored on the card.
Defenses. The risk of remote SIM exploitation can be mitigated on three layers:
  1. Better SIM cards. Cards need to use state-of-art cryptography with sufficiently long keys, should not disclose signed plaintexts to attackers, and must implement secure Java virtual machines. While some cards already come close to this objective, the years needed to replace vulnerable legacy cards warrant supplementary defenses.
  2. Handset SMS firewall. One additional protection layer could be anchored in handsets: Each user should be allowed to decide which sources of binary SMS to trust and which others to discard. An SMS firewall on the phone would also address other abuse scenarios including “silent SMS.”
  3. In-network SMS filtering. Remote attackers rely on mobile networks to deliver binary SMS to and from victim phones. Such SMS should only be allowed from a few known sources, but most networks have not implemented such filtering yet. “Home routing” is furthermore needed to increase the protection coverage to customers when roaming. This would also provide long-requested protection from remote tracking.
This research will be presented at BlackHat on Jul 31st and at the OHM hacking camp on Aug 3rd 2013