A new penetration testing tool published at the start of the year by a security researcher can automate phishing attacks with an ease never seen before and can even blow through login operations for accounts protected by two-factor authentication (2FA).
Named Modlishka –the English pronunciation of the Polish word for mantis– this new tool was created by Polish researcher Piotr Duszyński.
Modlishka is what IT professionals call a reverse proxy, but modified for handling traffic meant for login pages and phishing operations.
It sits between a user and a target website –like Gmail, Yahoo, or ProtonMail. Phishing victims connect to the Modlishka server (hosting a phishing domain), and the reverse proxy component behind it makes requests to the site it wants to impersonate.
The victim receives authentic content from the legitimate site –let’s say for example Google– but all traffic and all the victim’s interactions with the legitimate site passes through and is recorded on the Modlishka server.
Any passwords a user may enter, are automatically logged in the Modlishka backend panel, while the reverse proxy also prompts users for 2FA tokens when users have configured their accounts to request one.
If attackers are on hand to collect these 2FA tokens in real-time, they can use them to log into victims’ accounts and establish new and legitimate sessions.
The video below shows how a Modlishka-powered phishing site that seamlessly loads content from the real Google login interface without using templates, and logs credentials and any 2FA code that a user might be seeing.
Because of this simple design, Modlishka doesn’t use any “templates,” a term used by phishers to describe clones of legitimate sites. Since all the content is retrieved from the legitimate site in real time, attackers don’t need to spend much time updating and fine-tuning templates.
Instead, all attackers need is a phishing domain name (to host on the Modlishka server) and a valid TLS certificate to avoid alerting users of the lack of an HTTPS connection.
The final step would be to configure a simple config file that unloads victims onto the real legitimate sites at the end of the phishing operation before they spot the sketchy-looking phishing domain.
In an email to ZDNet, Duszyński described Modlishka as a point-and-click and easy-to-automate system that requires minimal maintenance, unlike previous phishing toolkits used by other penetration testers.
“At the time when I started this project (which was in early 2018), my main goal was to write an easy to use tool, that would eliminate the need of preparing static webpage templates for every phishing campaign that I was carrying out,” the researcher told us.
“The approach of creating a universal and easy to automate reverse proxy, as a MITM actor, appeared to be the most natural direction. Despite some technical challenges, that emerged on this path, the overall result appeared to be really rewarding,” he added.
“The tool that I wrote is sort of a game changer, since it can be used as a ‘point and click’ proxy, that allows easy phishing campaign automation with full support of the 2FA (an exception to this is a U2F protocol based tokens – which is currently the only resilient second factor).
An Amnesty International report released in December showed that advanced state-sponsored actors have already started using phishing systems that can bypass 2FA already.
Now, many fear that Modlishka would reduce the entry barrier to allow so-called “script kiddies” to set up phishing sites within minutes, even with far fewer technical skills required. Furthermore, this tool would allow cyber-crime groups to easily automate the creation of phishing pages that are easier to maintain and harder to detect by victims.
When we asked why he released such a dangerous tool on GitHub, Duszyński had a pretty intriguing answer.
“We have to face the fact that without a working proof of concept, that really proves the point, the risk is treated as theoretical, and no real measures are taken to address it properly,” he said.
“This status quo, and lack of awareness about the risk, is a perfect situation for malicious actors that will happily exploit it.”
Duszyński said that while his tool can automate the process of a phishing site passing through 2FA checks based on SMS and one-time codes, Modlishka is inefficient against U2F-based schemes that rely on hardware security keys.
Modlishka is currently available on GitHub under an open source license. Additional information is also available on Duszyński’s blog.
More cybersecurity news:
Phish Fight: Securing Enterprise Communications
Yes, much of the world may have moved on from email to social media and culturally dubious TikTok dances, yet traditional electronic mail remains a foundation of business communication. And sadly, it remains a prime vector for malware, data leakage, and phishing attacks that can undermine enterprise protections. It doesn’t have to be that way.
In a just released report titled “GigaOm Radar for Phishing Prevention and Detection,” GigaOm Analyst Simon Gibson surveyed more than a dozen enterprise-focused email security solutions. He found a range of approaches to securing communications that often can be fitted together to provide critical, defense-in-depth protection against even determined attackers.
Figure 1. GigaOm Radar for Email Phishing Prevention and Detection
“When evaluating these vendors and their solutions, it is important to consider your own business and workflow,” Gibson writes in the report, stressing the need to deploy solutions that best address your organization’s business workflow and email traffic. “For some it may be preferable to settle on one comprehensive solution, while for others building a best-of-breed architecture from multiple vendors may be preferable.”
In a field of competent solutions, Gibson found that Forcepoint, purchased recently by Raytheon, stood apart thanks to the layered protections provided by its Advanced Classification Engine. Area 1 and Zimperium, meanwhile, are both leaders that exhibit significant momentum, with Area 1 boosted by its recent solution partnership with Virtru, and Zimperium excelling in its deep commitment to mobile message security.
A mobile focus is timely, Gibson says in a video interview for GigaOm. He says companies are “tuning the spigot on” and enabling unprecedented access and reliance on mobile devices, which is creating an urgent need to get ahead of threats.
Gibson’s conclusion in the report? He singles out three things: Defense in depth, awareness of existing patterns and infrastructure, and a healthy respect for the “human factor” that can make security so hard to lock down.
When Is a DevSecOps Vendor Not a DevSecOps Vendor?
DevOps’ general aim is to enable a more efficient process for producing software and technology solutions and bringing stakeholders together to speed up delivery. But we know from experience that this inherently creative, outcome-driven approach often forgets about one thing until too late in the process—security. Too often, security is brought into the timeline just before deployment, risking last minute headaches and major delays. The security team is pushed into being the Greek chorus of the process, “ruining everyone’s fun” by demanding changes and slowing things down.
But as we know, in the complex, multi-cloud and containerized environment we find ourselves in, security is becoming more important and challenging than ever. And the costs of security failure are not only measured in slower deployment, but in compliance breaches and reputational damage.
The term “DevSecOps” has been coined to characterize how security needs to be at the heart of the DevOps process. This is in part principle and part tools. As a principle, DevSecOps fits with the concept of “shifting left,” that is, ensuring that security is treated as early as possible in the development process. So far, so simple.
From a tooling perspective, however, things get more complicated, not least because the market has seen a number of platforms marketing themselves as DevSecOps. As we have been writing our Key Criteria report on the subject, we have learned that not all DevSecOps vendors are necessarily DevSecOps vendors. Specifically, we have learned to distinguish capabilities that directly enable the goals of DevSecOps from a process perspective, from those designed to support DevSecOps practices. We could define them as: “Those that do, and those that help.”
This is how to tell the two types of vendor apart and how to use them.
Vendors Enabling DevSecOps: “Tools That Do”
A number of tools work to facilitate the DevSecOps process -– let’s bite the bullet and call them DevSecOps tools. They help teams set out each stage of software development, bringing siloed teams together behind a unified vision that allows fast, high-quality development, with security considerations at its core. DevSecOps tools work across the development process, for example:
- Create: Help to set and implement policy
- Develop: Apply guidance to the process and aid its implementation
- Test: Facilitate and guide security testing procedures
- Deploy: Provide reports to assure confidence to deploy the application
The key element that sets these tool sets apart is the ability to automate and reduce friction within the development process. They will prompt action, stop a team from moving from one stage to another if the process has not adequately addressed security concerns, and guide the roadmap for the development from start to finish.
Supporting DevSecOps: “Tools That Help”
In this category we place those tools which aid the execution, and monitoring, of good DevSecOps principles. Security scanning and application/infrastructure hardening tools are a key element of these processes: Software composition analysis (SCA) forms a part of the development stage, static/dynamic application security testing (SAST/DAST) is integral to the test stage and runtime app protection (RASP) is a key to the Deploy stage.
Tools like this are a vital part of the security layer of security tooling, especially just before deployment – and they often come with APIs so they can be plugged into the CI/CD process. However, while these capabilities are very important to DevSecOps, they can be seen in more of a supporting role, rather than being DevSecOps tools per se.
DevSecOps-washing is not a good idea for the enterprise
While one might argue that security should never have been shifted right, DevSecOps exists to ensure that security best practices take place across the development lifecycle. A corollary exists to the idea of “tools that help,” namely that organizations implementing these tools are not “doing DevSecOps,” any more than vendors providing these tools are DevSecOps vendors.
The only way to “do” DevSecOps is to fully embrace security at a process management and governance level: This means assessing risk, defining policy, setting review gates, and disallowing progress for insecure deliverables. Organizations that embrace DevSecOps can get help from what we are calling DevSecOps tools, as well as from scanning and hardening tools that help support its goals.
At the end of the day, all security and governance boils down to risk: If you buy a scanning tool so you can check a box that says “DevSecOps,” you are potentially adding to your risk posture, rather than mitigating it. So, get your DevSecOps strategy fixed first, then consider how you can add automation, visibility, and control using “tools that do,” as well as benefit from “tools that help.”
High Performance Application Security Testing
This free 1-hour webinar from GigaOm Research. It is hosted by an expert in Application and API testing, and GigaOm analyst, Jake Dolezal. His presentation will focus on the results of high performance testing we completed against two security mechanisms: ModSecurity on NGINX and NGINX App Protect. Additionally, we tested the AWS Web Application Firewall (WAF) as a fully managed security offering.
While performance is important, it is only one criterion for a Web Application Firewall selection. The results of the report are revealing about these platforms. The methodology will be shown with clarity and transparency on how you might replicate these tests to mimic your own workloads and requirements.
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