Thursday, March 16, 2006

Old physical security threats still working

In "The Complete Windows Trojans Paper" that I released back in 2003 (you can also update yourself with some recent malware trends!) I briefly mentioned on the following possibility as far as physical security and malware was concerned :

"Another way of infecting while having physical access is the Auto-Starting CD function. You've probably noticed that when you place a CD in your CDROM, it automatically starts with some setup interface; here's an example of the Autorun.inf file that is placed on such CD's:
[autorun]open=setup.exeicon=setup.exe So you can imagine that while running the real setup program a trojan could be run VERY easily, and as most of you probably don't know about this CD function they will get infected and won't understand what happened and how it's been done. Yeah, I know it's convenient to have the setup.exe autostart but security is what really matters here, that's why you should turn off the Auto-Start functionality by doing the following: Start Button -> Settings -> Control Panel ->System -> Device Manager -> CDROM -> Properties -> Settings"

and another interesting point :

"I know of another story regarding this problem. It's about a Gaming Magazine that used to include a CD with free demo versions of the latest games in each new edition. The editors made a contest to find new talents and give the people programming games the chance to popularise their productions by sending them to the Editors. An attacker infected his game with a new and private trojan and sent it to the Magazine. In the next edition the "game" appeared on the CD and you can imagine the chaos that set in."

Things have greatly changed for the last three years, while it may seem that global malware outbreaks are the dominant trend, slow worms, 0day malware and any other "beneath the AVs radar" concepts seem to be the next pattern.

It's "great" to find out that age-old CD trick seems to be fully working, whereas I can't reckon someone was saying "Hello World" to WMF's back then! TechWorld wrote a great article two days ago titled "Workers duped by simple CD ruse", an excerpt :

"To office workers trudging to their cubicles, the promotion looked like a chance at sweet relief from the five-day-a-week grind. By simply running a free CD on their computers, they would have a chance to win a vacation. But the beguiling morning giveaway in London's financial district last month was more nefarious than it appeared. When a user ran the disc, the code on it prompted a browser window that opened a Web site, Chapman said. The site then tried to load an image from another Web site, Chapman said."

While we can argue how vulnerable to security theats and end user is these days, compared to physical security ones, there are lots of cases pointing out the targeted nature of attacks, and the simple diversification of attack methods from what is commontly accepted as current trend. My point is that if you believe the majority of threats are online based ones, someone will exploit this attitude of yours and target you physically.

And while I feel the overall state of physical security in respect to end users and their workstations has greatly improved with initiatives such as ensuring the host's integrity and IPSs, what you should consider taking care of is - who is capable of peeping behind your back and what effect may it have on any of your projects? 3M's Privacy Filters are a necessity these days, and an alternative to the obvious C.H.I.M.P. (monitor mirror). Be aware!

UPDATE - this post recently appeared at - Old physical security threats still working

More resources on physical security can also be found at :

19 Ways to Build Physical Security into a Data Center
Securing Physical Access and Environmental Services for Datacenters
CISSP Physical Security Exam Notes
Physical Security 101
SANS Reading Room's Physical Security section

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