hacking world of warcraft

Via elamb, The Register has an article on hacking World of Warcraft, and also mentions an upcoming book I didn’t know about, Exploiting Online Games: Cheating Massively Distributed Systems, by Gary McGraw and Greg Hoglund.

Exploiting games like this, as I’m sure the authors posit, is something that might not interest a lot of people, but should still be watched. Things like WoW (12 million users! This has become a social network in itself, really!) and Second Life bleed over into the real world, both in relationships with fellow people and business realms. But beyond that, the distributed worlds of gaming on such a large level will, just like the hardware gaming pushes, eventually find more mainstream uses. Being able to know these risks (like offloading some of the work to the client machines), at least just being aware of them, should prove useful someday.

I’ll get this book regardless, since I play WoW [0] and I’ve seen things in past games that exemplify the issues with cheating [1]. It helps a lot to know what is possible out there, and can put the whole gaming world/experience into more of a perspective. The book also looks like it will explore the issues that the game software presents to the users, for instance how far the game software can go in monitoring the user. Thankfully I run gaming on a separate box which does nothing but burn discs and run games, but I’m a rarity in that setup.

[0] I have a 60 Warlock (main) and 60 Priest on Crushridge Alliance, and a 55 Shaman on Kul’Tiras Alliance. Obviously I’ve focused on the Shammy since BC.
[1] Aimbots in Quake 1 (yes, some people earned money using them); farm bots in Diablo II/Battlenet.

google apps serves terminal23 email now

Item #1: As much as I think SMTP is broken, spam filters make it even more so. I run my own home mail server for one of my domains, which means sometimes my mail gets dropped because I am using a DHCP/residential service. In other words, my ISP address space is blacklisted by some services. Lame. So then I try Hushmail or Gmail, which is also sometimes blocked. A pretty big WTF situation…

Item #2: You have a Yahoo and Gmail email account. Service is excellent and you nearly live by these email accounts. What one thing would make it better? Being able to replace @gmail.com with your domain, of course.

Conclusion: Enter Google Apps. I just got signed up for a beta service through Google Apps using the domain name terminal23.net. I went through all I needed to go through and about 25 minutes later, I have a couple working email addresses on this domain, and I can add new ones within seconds. Rock on! The interface is exactly like Gmail, although I could change the top logo if I wanted to, and I can stay logged into it and Gmail at the same time. Slick!

Feel free to check it out. It took maybe 2 weeks to get approved and an invite emailed out, but it is well worth the wait. This will make an excellent backup to my normal domain and home mail server.

http ddos mitigation by tarpitting

By way of the SecuriTeam blog, I see Joe Stewart has posted a quick technical article about thwarting an HTTP DDoS attack using iptables tarpitting. I also like the cite to a report by Jordan Wiens [pdf] about tarpitting DDoS worms (I’ve not read it yet). I especially like the graph showing the effects of no action, connection dropping, and tarpitting. As a question to myself, I wonder if the attacked system needs to keep track of those sessions as well, and if that might bleed the server a bit over time? Obviously, this is still better than having the server fall over in the first 5 minutes, while tarpitting likely can allow the server to hold out far longer, even if it still bleeds.

One thing that Joe leaves unspoken is tarpitting is not to be used for all HTTP requests. Some of those requests are legitimate users and you certainly don’t want to tarpit them. Tarpitting should be triggered after a connection is determined to be part of the DDoS, so there is some front-end work to be done. I expect Wiens covers this in the longer paper.

paradise by the dashboard lights

Mr. Buddha, Mark Curphey, mentioned dashboards recently, which got me all giddy at the link he provided to a site about information dashboards. I love me some dashboards. I love them enough that I have a section of my menu on the right devoted to security dashboards. Dashboards are used to distill relevant information down to a, hopefully, more visual representation of your reality. Not only that, but have you ever had someone in the management chain above you go gaa-gaa over the pretty pictures and lights and trends on your desk, even when they have no friggen clue what it all means? People seem to react positively to seeing things like this on a network or security admin’s desk. At a previous job, I didn’t get too many people walking by wondering what I had up my sleeve for that day, but whenever I turned on a dashboard, I had plenty of people from various job roles wander over and ask what all the lights and colors were for and how “cool” it was. In my mind, it has become part of selling oneself as a technical and security expert.

Now, I want dashbaords at home, someday. I don’t know if I will ever become proficient enough to roll my own, but I have plenty of spare systems and monitors around to utilize their extra cycles to display neat metrics and dashboards. Due to my current refusal to “settle,” I don’t have big furniture in my apartment like a desk or two, so the whole dashboard setup needs to wait a bit more.

But I thought it worthwhile to write down, for myself, a bit of a wishlist on dashboards I’d like to see on my desk over time. Note that this is at home, although many of these things should be able to scale up to enterprise use. Suggestions for tools are welcome.

  • visual traffic monitoring – like etherape or eve or plenty other tools that give a pretty view of what and where traffic is on the network.
  • less visual traffic monitoring – like a tcpdump scrolling by on a monitor; only tailored down to watch only things really important (and not my workstation streaming web radio…)
  • traffic summary – a summary of traffic levels to web, mail, VPN, SSH servers and so on; even as pared down as simple daily log file sizing.
  • system monitoring – on a basic level, what is up and what is currently down. On a deeper level, system health such as CPU, RAM, and disk usage, running processes, and so on.
  • service monitoring – on an even deeper level, any time traffic to something comes in it can log, throw a visual cue, or send a quick message, for instance a login attempt on SSH or VPN.
  • arp watching – roll your own basic NAC rogue detection on a network by monitoring arp requests in a DHCP network, using arpwatch or arpalert (I think those are the names).
  • security monitoring – tripwire-like integrity detection on important systems, account creation events
  • IDS – things like Snort alerts, although these aren’t as useful on a dashboard, per se.
  • threat/vulnerability/external – It is nice to monitor one’s own realms, but none of us are islands. We need to know about changing threats, new vulnerabilities, or maybe some trend or new attack vector affecting the security health of the Internet as a whole. There are plenty of these sorts of dashboards available, since they lend themselves well to the web.
  • wireless – kismet just to keep an eye open for new clients and the wireless network in the area
  • wireless spectrum analyzer – run the pretty Wi-Spy tool in a corner to monitor the health of the wireless frequency range.

Ok, so all of this is pretty personal to me, because I am a firm believer in keeping one’s fingers not just in the trenches of the back room, but making sure they are constantly feeling for a pulse, temperature, clamminess, etc. So much about security and IT in general has a fundamental base of monitoring for changes and abnormalities. It’s the part of me that is a control/information freak which lends itself well to the field. And yes, I like having a few non-screensaver’d monitors around me showing me what is going on at all times.

hungry, hungry printer

Workplace geek humor time! One of those sounds that just always makes me grin in eerie pleasure when sitting in my cubicle is the sound of print job white noise unceremoniously turning into a printer quietly eating the paper. Not just printing, but jamming up and eating the paper; the pleasant crinkling that indicates things are not well…sure to give me a grin!

Bonus points if someone walks over in the next 15 minutes and starts swearing softly and sounding like they’re banging every lid tray and movable plastic piece on the printer…that sadistic side of geek humor, that!

don’t worry about the iphone yet

There is talk about the iPhone’s implications to security. I think it is important that anyone discussing this make it clear where their perspective lies: from the eyes of an autonomous home consumer or the eyes of corporate IT. From the eyes of a home user, my condolences, but I really expect this device to be no different than any other, and likely exploitable. For the business perspective, this is no different from any other phone or USB key fob on the market.

  • 1. Limit/disable USB/Bluetooth ports on your laptops and desktops.
  • 2. Only officially support the use of approved devices, of which there should be few, and they should be manageable from something like a BES server.
  • 3. Make sure you know what MACs are on your network, and if an iPhone is able to get onto your Ethernet network, be sure you have alarms and possibly port security on your network.
  • 4. (Optionally) Disallow, by policy, the use of home phone devices to transmit corporate email to and from. You might not be able to effectively audit this, but you better let people know they shouldn’t be doing it in the event you find out they are.

If you don’t already do the above corporate security measures, you have no business worrying about the iPhone. If you already do the above corporate business measures, you have no business worrying about the iPhone beyond deciding how long to wait before allowing it as an approved device for syncing and official use (or when to put the final “PERMA-DENIED” stamp down.

piedmont’s audit questions and requests

If you didn’t think auditing and security was going to be a growing field, add this to the reasons you should stop being naive. ComputerWorld posted a series of questions and requests reportedly made by HHS to Piedmont Hospital as part of a (surprise?) HIPAA audit. Keep in mind that it seems Piedmont only had 10 days to submit the answers. That basically means having it all done and ready, not trying to slap it together during a couple 120 hour weeks. (And even if they did that, any even minor interview with IT techs will reveal the wide-eyes and confusion about the superficiality of anything slapped together.)

Likewise, if these questions don’t make you gulp at least a dozen times, you might be living in a dream world. Lots of people talk about security enabling business and ROI and things like that, but there is still going to be a growing field of people just taking care of the back rooms, because these things simply cannot be tacked onto “enabling” projects or expensed properly by a project or business initiative.

I am also very confident that these questions en masse cannot and never will be answered or tracked by any one product no matter how unified it is. Technology changes too quickly and there is too much of it. By the time products dig in and solve something like Windows 2000, then Windows XP is released. And then Vista. And then wireless. And then new attack vectors arise like wireless driver attacks, plus “arguable” attacks like DRM-justified rootkits. And then businesses that simply have to retool their infrastructure every 4-5 years, plus all the homegrown glue that holds everything together. And the changing landscape of almost every business. And the fact that while each company only has a handful of problems when it comes to IT, there are unlimited solutions free and commercial… Oh man, headache…!

A product can never do all this, nor can a CSO/CISO alone. There will continue to be backroom people, unless we want to just do security on a superficial surface level or make our networks much more homogenous such that Company A’s setup is almost exactly the same as Company B’s setup. No product can do that, although you can argue that service providers may have a chance…but no service provider will be able to scale up to provide for every company even in their own city, let alone make a dent on larger companies or on a wider scale.

I know I’m slightly keeping Rothman in mind when I say the back room is not going away, but I firmly believe all of this just goes back to being as pragmatic as possible when managing security. I still need to get my hands on his book… 🙂

Update: I know that these questions may be no different than people are being treated to with SOX and HIPAA, but still, how many have really been able to take either of those 100% seriously and adhere to them? Like PCI, it’s all about the teeth…maybe cyberinsurance will add the teeth, I dunno. But I would amateurishly estimate that 98% of all businesses would have major infractions from any audit performed, PCI, SOX, or HIPAA.

computerworld list of top 100 companies to work for

Dan Morrill pointed over to ComputerWorld’s annual best places to work survey. I clicked the list of 100 companies expecting to see ComputerWorld advertisers, the same old big guns like Google and Microsoft and Yahoo!, and others large companies that can have lots of day-to-day IT grunts write in praises on the surveys (seriously, there are tons of little surveys on Best Company for ____ that are simply getting 80 of your own employees to write in and overwhelm the voting…), but, I was pleasantly surprised to continuously say, “who? who are they? huh?” to many entries. This intrigues me a lot, and makes me kinda wonder what some of these smaller, unexpected entrants do with their IT operations and workforce to be such good places to work. Almost anyone should be able to take the top 20 in this list and get good material from them for case studies… Any by “smaller” I mean smaller than the biggest companies that I expected.

I really think there are many, many smaller and start-up type companies that are amazing places to work for, especially if they have predictable income (which sometimes is tough because so many want to be Yahoo rather than a long-term small company that maintains a solid existence without trying to eat the whole cake…). Hrm, yes, I still have a bug to find something better…

working with the registry in powershell

There’s a bunch of different ways to play with the registry in PowerShell. My latest script snippet that I wanted to preserve on here deals with a couple ways to add registry keys and values. For as cool as this is, however, I don’t believe PowerShell is able to make such changes to remote registries without using other methods. When in doubt, I guess I could just Invoke-Expression psexec.exe someregfile.reg and have it done there, but hopefully PowerShell gets remote registry scripting ability eventually, as this would be the next way to script mass registry changes to people beyond Group Policy.

the swear jar

The Swear Jar (work safe) (heard this in the office and also from FurryGoat). Seriously, if you can’t have this bit of fun in your office at some point, I wouldn’t want to work there. People don’t do great things by being in an oppressive or unfun environment. Hell, people just aren’t optimally productive in such environments. (Ok, minus the lobby area announcement, hehe.)

the comforting boundaries of scripting

As I’ve been doing a heck of a lot of PowerShell scripting the past few weeks at work, I’ve come to re-appreciate the comfort of being able to work in a very bounded environment. Network/Systems/Security work is pretty damned unbounded, but when you work on a programming or scripting language, you don’t have to necessarily sweat the scope or mechanics because they’re created for you, for the most part. You deal with the basics, loops, variables, moving data around, manipulating data, reading and writing to objects, and so on. It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle; there’s something comforting in the ability to focus. Plus the immediate response/results of scripting are really nice.

I stayed away from scripting, and more appropriately, programming when I was in college and just out of college because I didn’t want to find myself being a kickass XYZ programmer and only a kickass XYZ programmer while languages A, B, and C flew by. Maybe in another life or a future career opportunity will open up a more dedicated scripting/web dev job opp. I think I could live with that, honestly. I think it would have to be a smaller company, though, rather than just being the builder of Function A in Large, Slow, Non-Creative Company.

Maybe that’s why every couple years I perform some deep rework on my web pages, or have an affinity towards scripting. Once you know the mechanics and syntax and keywords of a language, it is all downhill from there (at least for me, since the logic comes easy to me). Braindump Ruby on Rails into my head, and I could probably have a lot of fun with that language, as much as Neo with Kung-Fu.

Anyway, my PowerShell snippet today involves deleting services. Creating services is pretty easy in PS, but deleting them was left behind for WMI to pick up. And no reboot is required. (Unless you have a service open at the time you attempt to delete it, in which case Windows will hang on that and hold the service for deletion until you reboot…so make sure you’re not working in the service anywhere before you try to trash it.)

$service = gwmi win32_service | ? {$_.name -match "ServiceName"}

Since this is short, I tend to do this manually, and I try to always make sure $service returns the proper service by calling it once just before the delete. And you do this to remote computers by adding “-computer ‘computername'” before the pipe (and with double quotes instead of my grammatically correct singles).

10 reasons why the Black Hats have us outgunned

Another interesting list, this one on 10 reasons why the Black Hats have us outgunned. I won’t hit every point, but here are a few things I want to add.

Becoming a Black Hat is a career option even for those who are not super geeks. Very true, and we can see this in the news reports of the people who get caught. They tend to be on the fringe of being a geek, really, especially the stupid spammers. They don’t strike me as particularly skilled at anything beyond their one opportunity and a few tools (hence maybe why they get caught!).

Not all businessmen are entirely averse to the odd hack (on a competitor) I truly wonder exactly how many executives and “high-powered” business persons have a true level of morality. I doubt many do. I expect many have fudged numbers, told white lies, and done some less-than-ethical leveraging and information gathering. When you have money and power at your disposal and you need to protect both, I think a lot of people slide down a rather immoral slope very quickly. If I were a multi-billion-dollar company in a major city with interests to protect, would it be much skin off my teeth to hire someone to sit at the airports all day and “probe” the wireless travelers? Or maybe at my competitor’s airport? I still expect this “career option” to grow, whether I agree with it or not.

redux on 4 deadly security sins

I’ll always say I like lists. C-levels like lists, average people like lists, techies need to like lists. 🙂 Over at ZDNetAsia, Scott Montgomery, global vice president for product
management at Secure Computing, gave his take on 4 damaging security habits in the corporate world. Here are my responses/takes. Overall, I like this succinct list, and with minor quibbles, it’s a good list.

1. Fixed Passwords – Fixed passwords, in my mind, are adequate. They aren’t the best practice and best thing to use, but they are still by far the most economical for most corporations and people. We know passwords, we’re used to them, and they tend to be just fine when properly complex and rotated. If one-time passwords were so useful, why are they so difficult to roll out or scale up to our needs? They are because you need a lot of levers and gears aligned in a corporate environment to be able to effectively implement such solutions. No single-sign-on possibility in your shop? Then one-time password tokens are not yet for you.

2. Neglecting inbound threats from e-mail, the Web and instant messaging – Montgomery gets this one correct, and not much I can add to it other than nitpicking about the term “threat” used for an attack vector.

3. Forgetting that data traffic is two-way – I think this is another good point, although I think we can all admit trying to get our arms around egress is like trying to hold down a very large bear or herd cats. I think that is a major reason so many of us are behind here: we have other easier things to tackle. But certainly, we should keep this in mind. But always think about this: how do you stop me from uploading data to a web server that I own? How do you stop me from uploading data through an encrypted channel on port 80 outbound? These are difficult to stop in many shops, without spending some good money on solutions. Hence…they do get left behind.

4. Not encrypting data – I don’t like bashing lack of encryption by using email as an example. Sadly, SMTP is broken and obsolete, but like the SSN, it is so widely used and relied upon… He also dives very deeply into the FUD by saying unencrypted mail is public like a paper. No, it’s not, but he still brings up a good point. Encryption should be used whenever possible on the wire, and on the disk. We’ll only slowly move in this direction due to compatibility issues.