Tag Archives: mobile

SANS 575: Mobile Device Ethical Hacking Review

In the last two years I have been to a few SANS training courses:

508: Advanced Forensic
617: Wireless Ethical Hacking
660: Advance PenTest

Last week I attended the SANS 575: Mobile Ethical Hacking course,
it is a nice complement to the 617 Wireless course and although there is some overlaps, especially around WIFI vector attacks, most of the content is different; and when it is not, you get another perspective for those attacks.

The course gave an overview of the different architectures surrounding the Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows Mobile phones, how system and app updates are handled, how certificates are managed, attack technics against mobile apps communications as well as against the app code itself through leveraging jailbreaking.
As with most SANS courses your day is not limited to a 9 to 5 schedule and if you want to make the most of it you will end up attending after class presentations or the Netwars hacking contest during the last 2 evenings. Although this means you are most likely to finish your day at around 10pm, you also end up learning a lot more than what is just taught in your course.
Finally, the last day there is a Capture The Flag event in your class where you compete against your fellow students in teams of 3 or 4. It is a great way to apply all what you learnt during the week. It is very similar to Netwars but tailored to the topics you have just been studying .

Below are my key takeaways from that course:
1. History keeps repeating itself.
I will go into more details in a future post, but all the security issues we have had when Internet first appeared in the corporate world, then with WIFI networks are just repeating themselves with the use of mobile devices. Examples?
Mobile devices are more and more like computers yet we tend to only use simple and short passwords to protect how we are accessing them, there are no antivirus or firewalls in most platforms.
What drives mobile devices’ roadmaps is the user experience rather than its security.

2. Jailbreaking as a security tool
Jailbreaking a phone can be very useful, and sometimes the only way, to really understand what data an application is accessing and sending.

3. MDM alone, is not enough
MDM is just one component of what a mobile device strategy should be. Reviewing the security of apps being developed internally as well as the most commonly used 3rd party ones should be core to that strategy. Failing to do so equate to having an open desktop policy where users can install any applications they want, with no firewall/anti-virus.

4. Apps manipulation through HTTP intercept
The majority of mobile device applications uses HTTP as their communication transport protocol.
It often compromises the security model implemented with their counterpart desktop/web portal solutions.
Users often wrongly assume that an application is secure, because there are no visible signs as to how secure its communication is.
An example studied in class showed easily it is to manipulate stock option prices from the built-in iOS Stocks app.

5. 4 PIN on iOS is bad very bad.
I was amazed at the speed it takes to crack a 4 PIN protected iPhone (up to iPhone 4) and iPad (up to iPad 2).
In class we looked at how one needs just 15 minutes to a) take a locked iOS device, jailbreak it in memory, crack the PIN, dump all data, reboot the iDevice and the owner would never know you have just stolen all its data.
Although this is not currently possible on iPhone 4s+ and iPad 3+, this could change if new jailbreaking methods are found.
You would also be amazed as all the potential sensitive information is available in clear text, from WIFI to Emails passwords.

6. Certificate (mis) management
HTTPS certificates are very poorly managed on mobile devices currently and if a user is subjected to an HTTPS Man in the Middle attack, the warnings signs (if any!) could be at best confusing and at worse misleading! (i.e.: Hackers can pretend their certificate is from a valid and known CA).

6. Devices Emulator, Developer Programs and Mobile lab
Device emulators, although not as good as the real handsets, are very useful to do security assessments.
Being part of the major vendors developer programs does not cost much money and gives you access to exclusive tools and upcoming beta versions.
Lastly, having some kind of mobile device lab is useful for your security assessments and combining real handset with emulators should be relatively cheap to setup whilst still giving you enough handset coverage.

What this course has highlighted is how immature the security around Mobile Devices is, and that securing mobile devices in a corporate environment does not stop with MDM.

A very good course I would recommend to anyone involved with Mobile Device security, this will be an eye opener!

Carrier IQ, an interesting story of deception or what we could call the Facebook syndrome

It all started with some findings published by Trevor Exkhart on his website a few weeks ago.

He found that a Californian based company called Carrier IQ (CIQ) had develop a software that was acting as a *key logger* and was installed by default on many different mobile devices: Android, Blackberry, Nokia Phones, iPhones (iOS 3.x to 5.x), and also tablets.

The important point here, is that this software is intentionally installed/provided by the devices manufacturers or network carriers. It is quite amazing how widespread the use of that spying software is (the BBC reported 140 Million devices). This is not limited to only one type of device or provider. What they collect might be different (apparently much less on iOS than Android), but it shows a systemic desire from companies who make and sell those devices to gather usage and user information.

This is what I would call, the Facebook syndrome!

The official stance from CIQ was that their software was only used for improving the “network experience” by providing some information back to carrier and phone manufacturer such as signal strength, network information, etc.
They explicitly stated that they “do not and cannot look at the contents of messages, photos, videos, etc., using this tool”.

This is not what you would say from a software that logs all the key pressed on your device…

Again, it is important to note that by default their software is not hidden (there is a visible check-mark in the status bar) but this can be modified by 3rd parties. And it is being modified!

One example given by Trevor is Verizon in the US, although you can opt out, by default the phones they sell will record and transmit (?) the following personal user information: any URL accessed, including potential search queries and the location of the device. This is what could be considered as a significant personal privacy invasion.

So how did CIQ reacted to Trevor’s post?
By sending him a Cease and Desist letter on the 16th of November!

They claimed Trevor was in copyright infringement (because of some of their publicly available training material having been referenced) and making false allegations.

As reported on The Register on the 24th of November, they eventually withdrew their legal threats thanks to the legal help of the EFF, who nicely summarizes the case on their website, and also to a new post showing exactly what Trevor meant by calling CIQ software a “root kit” (I called it a “key logger earlier”, but root kit is more accurate and also has wider security implications).

Trevor’s second CIQ article, goes into details as to why CIQ software is indeed a root-kit. With a video showing the different steps required to reproduce his tests. It also describes how the data is collected even if you are off the network and, at least on an HTC phone, the data is not really anonymised.

Since then, another mobile phone hacker has published some findings about CIQ, this time confirming that Apple has included CIQ software in all its iOS version from iOS3 to the latest iOS5. However, it seems that the information logged on the Apple devices is much less than what is logged on Androids': no URL nor SMS and the location is only sent if you have allowed for it to be, furthermore, that information is not transmitted by default but only if the user manually choose to send diagnostic information to Apple.

All this has generated an increasing level of noise and attention:

As pointed out in a ViaForensics article, it is not clear when and if the data CIQ logs on the phone is always transmitted or just remains on it. And if transmitted, to where? But if it is being transmitted, I have a little story for you…

A few years ago I went on holiday and decided to take an international data plan, I had an iPhone 3G at the time, and I did monitor my data consumption every day with the built-in iOS bandwidth statistics. I stopped using data on my phone when I reached 90% of my allowed and pre paid consumption.

I was therefore very surprised when I was charged for going over my data allowance by a good margin! How could I have miscalculated my data consumption by so much!? After complaining to my provider they eventually claimed that the built-in iOS bandwidth statistics were only showing average figures and were not accurate. I also read in some forum at the time, that Apple claimed their figures should be taken as an estimate only. With that in mind, I decided not to pursue further, accepted to pay the extra fee and promised myself never to use data roaming again.

Now, it would be interesting to know if all the network data generated by CIQ is counted in those mobile OS network bandwidth statistics or if, like the information it gathers, they are also hidden from view.
After all, if the provider goes at length to hide the data they collect from you, they probably don’t want you to see that sealed fat envelop leaving your phone!

If that’s that case, how legal is this?! not only spying/gathering user information is questionable but doing so could be at the expense of the user! Couldn’t it be considered as a hidden cost to their service? could it explain the unexplainable extra fee I had to pay?

So I have three final comments to make:

  1. Mobile device companies are like any others, they want users’ personal information, but unlike others, they have full control of the device you discuss you life on.
  2. Opting for usage statistics, should be just that, an optional choice! and it should be made clear that it could result in extra cost, especially when roaming!
  3. If CIQ data consumption is also hidden from mobile OS(es) statistics then this is an extra hidden cost to the user
Now, where have I kept my 10 years old beloved Nokia 8210?
UPDATE, 12th of December 2011: CarrierIQ has responded to the issues discovered by Trevor through a 19 pages document. Not sure I find it very convincing.