Attack of the clones: Researcher pwns SecureID token system

But RSA claims it would only work on rootkit-compromised gear


Analysis RSA Security has downplayed the significance of an attack that offers a potential way to clone its SecurID software tokens.

The attack, developed by Behrang Fouladi, senior security analyst at SensePost, offers a potential way to defeat the hardware binding and copy protection embedded in RSA's software. Having defeated this protection, Fouladi was subsequently able to copy across sensitive parameters, including the all-important encryption seed value and other data associated with a particular software token. This allowed him to run a second cloned instance of a software token on a separate system.

In a demo, Fouladi set up two separate windows XP virtual machines, one running a cloned copy of the authentication software and the other the original software token. Both were cycling through the same sequence of eight-digit numbers.

However a senior RSA Security exec said that, in practice, the attack would only work on a PC already compromised by a rootkit. Given this level of compromised access, an attacker could more or less do anything they'd like anyway, the exec argued.

Essentially, RSA is saying that the attack is possible only with complete control, via a rootkit, or with physical access. But Fouladi disputes this, and says common or garden malware, launched remotely, would be enough.

The science bit

RSA's SecurID two-factor authentication system is widely used for remote access logins to corporate networks through virtual private networks (VPNs) and other similar applications. Users log into corporate networks using a password known only to them as well as a temporary token code, generated by a hardware or software token. This token code, which changes every 60 seconds or so, is derived from a secret seed value cycled through a cryptographic algorithm.

The AES-based code generation algorithm used is known, so the security of the system depends on keeping seed values – which are different for every token – secret.

RSA SecureID software tokens are available for a wide range of smartphones and Windows desktops.

Fouladi focused on the Windows version of the technology, which (like smartphones) he reasoned would not be able to provide the level of tamper-resistance that hardware tokens offer. Sure enough he discovered a means to clone a SecurID software token after reverse-engineering Windows' versions of RSA's technology. He extracted secret keys from an encoded SQLite database after circumventing copy protection and hardware binding protections. This key step was accomplished, in part, by taking advantage of previous research, as Fouladi explains.

Previous research on the Microsoft Windows DPAPI internals has made offline decryption of the DPAPI (Data Protection Application Programming Interface) protected data possible. This means that if the attacker was able to copy the RSA token database file along with the encryption master keys to their system (for instance by infecting a victim's machine with a rootkit), then it would be possible to decrypt the token database file on their machine.

He was subsequently able to get an extracted seed working on another machine, in part using a combination of the host name and current user's Windows security ID from the primary box. The process allowed him to run a sequence generator and generate valid codes on the second machine.

Software tokens are supposed to be tied to a particular piece of hardware. Cloning would break this security model wide open.

If an attacker gains access to a machine inside a corporate network, using spear phishing and malware, he might be able to lift SecurID software tokens, gaining compromised access to a SecurID-protected network in the process. Other attack scenarios featuring direct access to stolen machines by thieves or mendacious hotel staff are also possible.

Fouladi has published his research, including a proof-of-concept demo, in a blog post entitled "A closer look into the RSA SecureID software token" here.

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Deepfake attacks can easily trick live facial recognition systems online
    Plus: Next PyTorch release will support Apple GPUs so devs can train neural networks on their own laptops

    In brief Miscreants can easily steal someone else's identity by tricking live facial recognition software using deepfakes, according to a new report.

    Sensity AI, a startup focused on tackling identity fraud, carried out a series of pretend attacks. Engineers scanned the image of someone from an ID card, and mapped their likeness onto another person's face. Sensity then tested whether they could breach live facial recognition systems by tricking them into believing the pretend attacker is a real user.

    So-called "liveness tests" try to authenticate identities in real-time, relying on images or video streams from cameras like face recognition used to unlock mobile phones, for example. Nine out of ten vendors failed Sensity's live deepfake attacks.

    Continue reading
  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022