Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Password? You Changed It, Right?

Right at this moment, there's a swarm of little password guessing robots trying for your router's admin accounts. Do yourself a favor and do some logs checking right away. Also, our passwords are certainly worth a series of conferences of their own.

As my Twitter followers may be aware, I spent the first part of this week at the Passwords14 conference in Trondheim, Norway. More about that later, suffice for now to say that the conference was an excellent one, and my own refreshed Hail Mary Cloud plus more recent history talk was fairly well received.

But the world has a way of moving on even while you're not looking, and of course when I finally found a few moments to catch up on my various backlogs while waiting to board the plane for the first hop on the way back from the conference, a particular sequence stood out in the log extracts from one of the Internet-reachable machines in my care:

Dec  9 19:00:24 delilah sshd[21296]: Failed password for invalid user ftpuser from port 37404 ssh2
Dec  9 19:00:25 delilah sshd[6320]: Failed password for invalid user admin from port 38041 ssh2
Dec  9 19:00:26 delilah sshd[10100]: Failed password for invalid user D-Link from port 38259 ssh2
Dec  9 19:03:53 delilah sshd[26709]: Failed password for invalid user ftpuser from port 43261 ssh2
Dec  9 19:03:55 delilah sshd[23796]: Failed password for invalid user admin from port 43575 ssh2
Dec  9 19:03:56 delilah sshd[12810]: Failed password for invalid user D-Link from port 43833 ssh2
Dec  9 19:06:36 delilah sshd[14572]: Failed password for invalid user ftpuser from port 52436 ssh2
Dec  9 19:06:37 delilah sshd[427]: Failed password for invalid user admin from port 53127 ssh2
Dec  9 19:06:38 delilah sshd[28547]: Failed password for invalid user D-Link from port 53393 ssh2
Dec  9 19:14:44 delilah sshd[31640]: Failed password for invalid user ftpuser from port 35760 ssh2

Yes, you read that right. Several different hosts from widely dispersed networks, trying to guess passwords for the accounts they assume exist on your system. One of the user names is close enough to the name of a fairly well known supplier of consumer and SOHO grade network gear that it's entirely possible that it's a special account on equipment from that supplier.

Some catching up on sleep and attending to some high priority tasks later, I found that activity matching the same pattern turned up in a second system on the same network.

By this afternoon (2014-12-11), it seems that all told a little more than 700 machines have come looking for mostly what looks like various manufacturers' names and a few other usual suspects. The data can be found here, with roughly the same file names as in earlier episodes. Full list of attempts on both hosts here, with the rather tedious root only sequences removed here, hosts sorted by number of attempts here, users sorted by number of attempts here, a CSV file with hosts by number of attempts with first seen and last seen dates and times, and finally hosts by number of attempts with listing of each host's attempts. Expect updates to all of these at quasi-random intervals.

The pattern we see here is quite a bit less stealthy than the classic Hail Mary Cloud pattern. In this sequence we see most of the hosts trying all the desired user names only a few seconds apart, and of course the number of user IDs is very small compared to the earlier attempts. But there seems to be some level of coordination - the attackers move on to the next target in their list, and at least some of them come back for a second try after a while.

Taken together, it's likely that what we're seeing is an attempt to target the default settings on equipment from a few popular brands of networking equipment. It's likely that the plan is to use the captured hosts to form botnets for purposes such as DDOSing. There is at least one publicly known incident that has several important attributes in common with what we're seeing: Norwegian ISP and cable TV supplier GET found themselves forced to implement some ad hoc countermeasures recently (article in Norwegian, but you will find robots) in a timeframe that fits with the earliest attempts we've seen here. I assume similar stories will emerge over the next days or weeks, possibly with more detail that what's available in the article.

If you're seeing something similar in your network and you are in a position to share data for analysis similar to what you see in the files referenced abovee, I would like to hear from you.

A conference dedicated to passwords and their potential replacements.

Yes, such a thing exists. All aspects of passwords and their potential replacements have been the topics of a series of conferences going back to 2011. This year I finally had a chance to attend the European one, Passwords14 in Trondheim, Norway December 8-10.

The conference has concluded, but you can find the program up still here, and the video from the live stream is archived here (likely to disappear for a few days soon, only to reappear edited into more manageable chunks of sessions or individual talks). You'll find me in the material from the first day, in a slightly breathless presentation (58 slides to 30 minutes talking time), and my slides with links to data and other material are available here.

Even if you're not in a position to go to Europe, there is hope: there will be a Passwords15 conference for the Europe-challenged in Las Vegas, NV, USA some time during the summer of 2015, and the organizers are currently looking for a suitable venue and time for the 2015 European one. I would strongly recommend attending the next Passwords conference; both the formal talks and the hallway track are bound to supply enlightening insights and interesting ideas for any reasonably security oriented geek.

Now go change some passwords!

I'll be at at least some of the BSD themed conferences in 2015, and I hope to see you there.