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German eID card system vulnerable to online identity spoofing

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Image: Bund.de

Security researchers have found a vulnerability in the backbone of the electronic ID (eID) cards system used by the German state. The vulnerability, when exploited, allows an attacker to trick an online website and spoof the identity of another German citizen when using the eID authentication option.

There are some hurdles that an attacker needs to pass before abusing this vulnerability, but the researchers who found it say their eID spoofing hack is more than doable.

The vulnerability doesn’t reside in the radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip embedded in German eID cards, but in the software kit implemented by websites that want to support eID authentication.

The vulnerable component is named the Governikus Autent SDK and is one of the SDKs that German websites, including government portals, have used to add support for eID-based login and registration procedures.

SEC Consult, the German cyber-security firm who discovered the flaw in this SDK, says it already reported the issue to CERT-Bund, (Germany’s Computer Emergency Response Team), who coordinated with Governikus, the vendor, to release a patch –Autent SDK v3.8.1.2– in August this year.

All websites who use the Autent SDK 3.8.1 and earlier are vulnerable to the vulnerability they’ve discovered, SEC Consult said today in a report, advising website owners to update their Autent SDK to the latest version, if they haven’t done so already.

How the vulnerability works

According to the company’s report, the vulnerability resides in the process of how websites deal with the responses they receive from users trying to authenticate via the eID system.

Under normal circumstances, this authentication procedure goes through the following steps:

  • A website sees a user initiating an eID card authentication process and requests a special response from the user.
  • User inserts his eID card into a card reader or places the eID card near a capable mobile phone. User enters his card’s PIN code in the eID client app installed on his PC or smartphone.
  • The eID client app connects to one of the many authorized eID servers to verify the login request and produce a cryptographic verification signature for a response it intends to forward back to the website.
  • The eID client app sends an eID response (the signature and the user’s personal data) to the initial website to complete the eID-based authentication procedure.
  • The website logs the user in or creates a new account if the user is using his electronic card to register on a site.
german-eid-auth-process.png

Image: Bund.de

According to SEC Consult experts, websites using older versions of the Autent SDK accept eID client responses that contain one cryptographic signature, but multiple SAML parameters containing the user’s data.

“The signature is verified against the last occurrence of the parameter, while the SAML response that is processed further, will be taken from the first occurrence,” SEC Consult experts explained.

“To exploit this vulnerability, an attacker requires at least one valid query string signed by the authentication server. It does not matter for which citizen or at which time the signature for the query string has been issued,” they added.

This sounds as an unsurmountable issue… but it actually isn’t. SEC Consult says that multiple eID servers expose logs online [1, 2], and an attacker could just grab an old signed response and insert their spoofed eID data in the middle, like so:

[signature][data of fake user][real user data for signature check]

SEC Consult has published a YouTube video to showcase how an attack exploiting this vulnerability works.

But SEC Consult says this vulnerability doesn’t work against all websites that support eID authentication. Experts say that online portals that have chosen to implement “pseudonyms” (instead of sending the actual user data with each authentication requests) aren’t vulnerable.

Pseudonyms are randomly-looking strings that are used similarly to usernames, stored on both the website and inside the eID card’s RFID chip. Unless attackers are able to guess pseudonyms in a consistent manner, they wouldn’t be able to use this vulnerability to spoof the identity of other users.

Furthermore, because all eID authentication responses are logged, websites can review logs and detect when and if an attacker has ever exploited this vulnerability (by looking at eID responses with multiple repeating parameters). This also means attacks could be detected in real-time, blocking attackers trying to spoof their identity before they log in.

The good news is that SEC Consult privately disclosed this flaw over the summer, and only revealed it to the public today, giving German sites a three months head start to update the vulnerable –and very popular– Autent SDK.

The bad news is that the Autent SDK was used in a demo app that many German websites might have downloaded and used as an example to build their own eID authentication systems, meaning the issue could be quite widespread in the German online space.

Earlier today, ZDNet has put a formal request for comment with the eID group at the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) and have inquired if German government portals –the vast majority of the sites using the eID authentication system– have applied the SDK patch, and if there have been any concerted efforts to review the logs of government-managed websites for attacks that might have exploited the above vulnerability.

The issue discovered by SEC Consult is nowhere as problematic as the cryptographic issue discovered in over 750,000 Estonian eID cards in 2017. The Estonian government was forced to replace all affected cards to prevent fraudulent operations on government sites. Some eID cards in Slovakia were also affected but to a lesser degree. Estonia sued Gemalto, the eID card maker, this fall.

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Adventist Risk Management Data Protection Infrastructure

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Companies always want to enhance their ability to quickly address pressing business needs. Toward that end, they look for new ways to make their IT infrastructures more efficient—and more cost effective. Today, those pressing needs often center around data protection and regulatory compliance, which was certainly the case for Adventist Risk Management. What they wanted was an end-to-end, best-in-class solution to meet their needs. After trying several others, they found the perfect combination with HYCU and Nutanix, which provided:

  • Ease of deployment
  • Outstanding ROI
  • Overall TCO improvement

Nutanix Cloud Platform provides a software-defined hyperconverged infrastructure, while HYCU offers purpose-built backup and recovery for Nutanix. Compared to the previous traditional infrastructure and data protection solutions in use at Adventist Risk Management, Nutanix and HYCU simplified processes, speeding day-to-day operations up to 75%. Now, migration and update activities typically scheduled for weekends can be performed during working hours and help to increase IT staff and management quality of life. HYCU further increased savings by providing faster and more frequent points of recovery as well as better DR Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) by increasing the ability to do daily backups from one to four per day.

Furthermore, the recent adoption of Nutanix Objects, which provides secure and performant S3 storage capabilities, enhanced the infrastructure by:

    • Improving overall performance for backups
    • Adding security against potential ransomware attacks
    • Replacing components difficult to manage and support

In the end, Nutanix and HYCU enabled their customer to save money, improve the existing environment, and, above all, meet regulatory compliance requirements without any struggle.

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Secure Insight: GigaOm Partners with the CISO Series

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Don’t look now, but GigaOm, the analyst firm that enables smart businesses to future-proof their decisions, is forging new partnerships to extend its reach and better inform busy IT decision makers. On Thursday, the company announced it was teaming with the CISO Series to share content and better support the community of chief information security officers, security practitioners, and security vendors.

“The CISO Series is one we have admired for a while because they have a very similar aim: They help security professionals become more knowledgeable and understand how their roles are changing,” said Ben Book, GigaOm founder and CEO. “We saw a clear common interest and are delighted to be working together.”

The CISO Series brand has built a formidable reputation through its podcasts, blogs, video chats, and live events for the security community. It has added the extremely popular CyberSecurity Headlines podcast to its stable this year, which joins the CISO/Security Vendor Relationship and Defense in Depth podcasts. Every Friday at 10am Pacific Time, the CISO Series hosts its highly engaging and fun weekly live CISO Series Video Chat, which viewers can register for here.

The channel partnership connects two of the strongest, fastest-growing brands in enterprise IT content production. The agreement enables the CISO Series to share exclusive GigaOm reports with its audience ahead of publication, while GigaOm is able to share insights from the CISO Series’ various publications through its social channels and newsletters. The CISO Series joins other media firms, such as The Register and SDXCentral, as official GigaOm Channel Partners.

“We are delighted to be working with GigaOm because we’re not only both addressing the same audience, but we’re also both trying to bring education and understanding to both the security vendor and practitioner communities,” said David Spark, managing editor and executive producer at the CISO Series. “GigaOm is providing some excellent reports that we’re leaning on for our discussions and reporting across all of our shows.”

Spark continued: “We are always tweaking our programming to bring the best and most up-to-date resources and we’re really impressed with both the volume and quality GigaOm is delivering. Not only are we impressed with their editorial work, but we also appreciate their business branding. It’s something we felt comfortable about aligning with the CISO Series brand as well.”

Check out the CISO Series schedule at http://crowdcast.io/cisoseries, or visit cisoseries.com for more information about the CISO Series and its weekly Video Chats.

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Key Criteria for Evaluating Vulnerability Management Tools

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Vulnerability management tools scan your IT estate to help identify and mitigate security risks and weaknesses. These tools can facilitate the development of a more comprehensive vulnerability management program. Leveraging people, processes, and technologies, successful initiatives effectively identify, classify, prioritize, and remediate security threats.

A security vulnerability is a weakness that can compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and availability (CIA) of information. Attackers are constantly looking to exploit defects in software code or insecure configurations. Vulnerabilities can exist anywhere in the software stack, from web applications and databases to infrastructure components such as load balancers, firewalls, machine and container images, operating systems, and libraries. This includes code used in the CI/CD pipeline as well as the infrastructure-as-code (IAC) that defines the compute, network, and storage infrastructure.

Recent cybersecurity events have exposed widespread vulnerabilities involving the exploitation of zero-day malware and unknown weaknesses. Threat actors continually discover new exploitation tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to take advantage of weaknesses throughout integrated systems. Moreover, identifying breach paths is increasingly complicated due to the widespread adoption of ephemeral services.

Vulnerability management solutions should provide end-to-end visibility of the protect-surface by aggregating both platform and application risks in a single pane of glass, while leveraging prioritized remediation based on business risk and threat context for efficiency. Containerized workloads deployed via DevOps pipelines have unique security requirements that demand a fully integrated vulnerability assessment to be automated into cloud platform services running containerized workloads.

The path to a mature security posture starts with the ability to identify vulnerabilities in software code, third-party libraries, and at runtime. In addition, the cloud platform used to host your applications should be scanned for misconfigurations. This requires the use of policy configuration baselines, benchmarks, and compliance standards that apply to both the infrastructure and the code used to build it. As organizations implement security guardrails early in the software development lifecycle (SDLC), they can take advantage of cloud-native culture to ensure network and security tools are used throughout all phases of the SDLC.

This GigaOm report explores the key criteria and emerging technologies that IT decision makers should evaluate when choosing a vulnerability management solution. The key criteria report, together with the GigaOm radar report that evaluates relevant products, provides a framework to help organizations assess the solutions currently available on the market and how these tools fit with their requirements.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:
Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Vendor Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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