NewsBites Drilldown for the Week Ending 31 April 2020


by John Pescatore

This week’s DrillDown focuses on four items (included below) from NewsBites Issue 34 and Issue 35. This week will shift the balance a bit, to focus on “security life goes on no matter what” a bit more than “security life during the Coronavirus.”

The first item focuses on a very cool initiative that SANS has worked on with the UK government: an online cyber security academy aimed at high school students. With kids not being able to attend school, and at home schooling only partially occupying their time, this gamified learning experience is a great way to increase the cybersecurity skills pipeline for the future. Information on related SANS initiatives in the US are here.

The second item focuses the emerging Coronavirus contact tracing apps that have proven crucial in countries that have been able to restart their economies in a safe manner. A big issue is the tradeoff between privacy and safety – in times of danger, society will have to (at least temporarily) accept some loss of privacy at the individual level, much as we had to do at airports after the terrorist attacks of 2001 changed aviation security.

However, an equally important issue is that (as with voting applications) those contract tracing applications have to be built with security as a driving requirement and have to undergo thorough and transparent testing by experienced application security testers. This, of course, is a good idea for enterprises to require for all software and services being procured.

The final two items are recent examples of how basic security hygiene continues to be critical. Well-known bad coding practices are being exposed in all many perimeter security products, giving attackers easy paths to complete compromise of enterprise systems. Similarly, the explosion in the use of SSL certificates has raised the importance of mature certificate management processes to avoid self-inflicted denial of service events. Perimeter security controls, including SSL certificates, should be fully included in asset inventory and vulnerability management processes – and should be at the top of the priority list for rapid (and often out of cycle) patching.


U.K. Launches Virtual Cyber School

(May 1, 2020)

The UK Government is inviting all high school students in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland to join a virtual cyber security school as part of plans to make sure the country develops the next generation of professional cyber defenders. At a time when schools remain closed to most children, the online initiative aims to inspire future talent to work in the cyber security sector and give students a variety of extracurricular activities they can do from the safety of their homes. By becoming gamified “cyber protection agents,” teens learn how to crack codes, fix security flaws and dissect criminals’ digital trails while progressing through the game as a cyber agent. This will help them develop important skills needed for future jobs, particularly in cyber security.

Editor’s Comment

[Paller] This program also will enable the UK to identify and nurture elite cyber talent early, just as the Israeli government identifies and supports young cyber talent who are then guided into its world-class national cyber programs. Talented students spend hundreds of hours demonstrating their high aptitude for success in cybersecurity and honing their cyber skills.

Read more at:

GOV.UK: New virtual cyber school gives teens chance to try out as cyber security agents from home

Daily Mail: UK government launches free virtual ‘cyber school’ that gives teenagers in lockdown the chance to try out as cyber security agents from home

ZDNET: This new cybersecurity school will teach kids to crack codes from home

The Telegraph: Security services launch virtual lessons for children during coronavirus lockdown

UK Authority: Government opens Virtual Cyber School for teenagers

Contact Tracing Technology Raise Concerns

(April 28 & 29, 2020)

Several groups have expressed concerns about privacy issues in contact tracing apps, which are being developed to let people know if they have come in contact with someone who has COVID-19. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is concerned that COVID-19 contact tracing technology being developed by Apple and Google could be used by malicious actors to gather private information. In the UK, scientists and researchers have signed a joint statement expressing concerns about the NHS’s plans to use a content tracing app, saying that the technology should be analyzed by experts in privacy and security. And in Australia, security experts who examined the COVIDSafe app say that it presents privacy and security issues.

Editor Comments

[Pescatore] Any app used for something as critical as infection contract tracing needs to be bulletproof – written with security as a top priority and thoroughly reviewed and tested by experts. But there will need to be some individual privacy tradeoffs accepted to make gains in reopening economies while limiting new outbreaks.

[Neely] A Washington Post study found that 3 of 5 Americans say they are unwilling or unable to use the infection alert system under development by Apple and Google, which may impede or undermine the mission of these applications. Without verifiable claims of proper privacy and security handling, wide-spread adoption may be impossible.

[Paller] When people are concerned for the health of their families, they make compromises on other priorities. If using a tracing app will allow them to keep their families safe, my guess is that a vast majority of people will accept some lessening of their privacy.

Read more in:

Threatpost: EFF: Google, Apple’s Contact-Tracing System Open to Cyberattacks

SC Magazine: Google, Apple tighten protections on contact tracing; Americans worry over privacy

ZDNet: Security experts warn: Don’t let contact-tracing app lead to surveillance

The Register: Australian contact-tracing app leaks telling info and increases chances of third-party tracking, say security folks

Sophos Fixes XG Firewall Vulnerability

(April 26 & 27, 2020)

Sophos has released a patch to fix an SQL injection vulnerability in its XG Firewall that was being actively exploited. Hackers were using the flaw to install a malicious payload, which then exfiltrated sensitive data. Sophos pushed out the hotfix to all supported versions of the XG Firewall that have enabled automatic hotfix installations.

Editor Comments

[Murray] OWASP has documented how difficult it is to do complete input checking at the application layer because the developer usually cannot know the environment in which the application will run. Therefore, every layer in the stack must parse its own input. That said, SQL injection attacks exploit the failure of the application layer to check for SQL commands in the input.

Read more in:

Sophos: Fixing SQL injection vulnerability and malicious code execution in XG Firewall/SFOS

Portswigger: Sophos XG Firewall zero-day vulnerability gets patched

Threatpost: Hackers Mount Zero-Day Attacks on Sophos Firewalls

Ars Technica: Attackers exploit 0-day code-execution flaw in the Sophos firewall

ZDNet: Hackers are exploiting a Sophos firewall zero-day

Bleeping Computer: Hackers exploit zero-day in Sophos XG Firewall, fix released

Expired Certificate Causes Problems for Rabobank Android App Users in Australia

(April 27, 2020)

An expired security certificate prevented Australian Rabobank customers from accessing their bank accounts on Android mobile devices. The security certificate issue has been addressed and an updated version of the app has been released.

Editor Comments

[Pescatore] SSL certificate management is easy if you use only one Certificate Authority, because most CA’s provide tools to track the certificates you bought from them. However, it is very rare for larger organizations to have only one source of SSL certificates in use. So, discovery and expiry tracking are too often done, if done at all, in manually updated spreadsheets or via the “Oops” method as happened to Rabobank. Commercial certificate management products are available from vendors like Entrust DataCard, ManageEngine, SolarWinds, Venafi and others with free trial offers.

[Neely] If you’re embedding certificates in applications at the endpoint, such as a mobile device, particularly for customer-managed devices, the method for updating that certificate must be documented and verified. To offset the impacts of reduced staffing the Rabobank team has setup an email list ([email protected]) for users to request help.

Read more in:

The Register: Rabobank security cert expires and gives its Australian Android app a case of internet-blindness

*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from SANS Blog authored by SANS Blog. Read the original post at: