Zoom vows to spend next 90 days thinking hard about its security and privacy after rough week, meeting ID war-dialing tool emerges

Passwords-by-default feature may be faulty. But hey, who else just went from 10 to 200 million daily users?


Video-conferencing app maker Zoom has promised to do better at security after a bruising week in which it was found to be unpleasantly leaky in several ways.

The pledge came in a memo to customers from CEO Eric S. Yuan, in which he said: “Over the next 90 days, we are committed to dedicating the resources needed to better identify, address, and fix issues proactively. We are also committed to being transparent throughout this process. We want to do what it takes to maintain your trust.”

The company said it has, amid the coronavirus pandemic forcing people around the world to work from home, seen its daily user numbers soar from 10 million in December to now 200 million. And with that increase, it's experienced a shed load of scrutiny from the media and information security types. In response to the shortcomings uncovered, Zoom has promised to:

  • Enact a feature freeze, effectively immediately, and shifting all our engineering resources to focus on our biggest trust, safety, and privacy issues.
  • Conduct a comprehensive review with third-party experts and representative users to understand and ensure the security of all of our new consumer use cases.
  • Prepare a transparency report that details information related to requests for data, records, or content.
  • Enhance our current bug bounty program.
  • Launch a CISO council in partnership with leading CISOs from across the industry to facilitate an ongoing dialogue regarding security and privacy best practices.
  • Engage in a series of simultaneous white box penetration tests to further identify and address issues.
  • Host a weekly webinar on Wednesdays at 10am PT to provide privacy and security updates to our community.

The developer has already fixed a Mac installer that behaved badly and other security flaws. It also removed the creepy attention-tracking feature that alerted meeting hosts if a participant clicked away from the app for too long.

However, the engineers now focused on security clearly have their work cut out. Last year, Check Point documented how it was easy to brute-force guess Zoom meeting ID numbers, which could be used to gatecrash non-password-protected conferences. In response, Zoom made creating a password a default setting, thwarting ID brute-forcing.

Unfortunately, miscreants keep Zoombombing virtual meetings, pasting in porno and other nonsense. So much so, Zoom published advice on how to keep uninvited morons out of private conferences. This week, the biz admitted to infosec journo Brian Krebs that this password-protected-by-default feature may not be working as intended, leaving people's meetings exposed.

In short, follow the advice to set a password, and don't publicly share those credentials, and do set limits on individual participants.

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Meanwhile, Krebs has been in touch with someone who has automated that meeting ID brute-forcing process. That someone is Trent Lo, a security professional and co-founder of Kansas City security meetup SecKC.

“Lo and fellow SecKC members recently created zWarDial, which borrows part of its name from the old phone-based war dialing programs that called random or sequential numbers in a given telephone number prefix to search for computer modems,” Krebs explained. And zWarDial found about 100 open meetings each hour.

Which shouldn’t be possible, because Zoom is supposed to apply a password by default, indicating perhaps there’s a scenario in which passwords aren't created by default. Or perhaps Zoom has so many meetings now, some are bound to have their passwords switched off by hosts to make life easier.

At least Zoom has a share price that’s above its early 2020 level, something not many listed companies can boast right now. It's standing at $121.93 apiece versus $68.72 on January 1. A Chinese company called Zoom Technologies also enjoyed a surge in investment after buyers mistook its $ZOOM ticker symbol for Zoom's $ZM. America's financial watchdog, the SEC, suspended trading of the Chinese company’s stock to stop that silliness. ®


Intel CPU interconnects can be exploited by malware to leak encryption keys and other info, academic study finds

Side-channel ring race 'hard to mitigate with existing defenses'

Chip-busting boffins in America have devised yet another way to filch sensitive data by exploiting Intel's processor design choices.

Doctoral student Riccardo Paccagnella, master's student Licheng Luo, and assistant professor Christopher Fletcher, all from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, delved into the way CPU ring interconnects work, and found they can be abused for side-channel attacks. The upshot is that one application can infer another application's private memory and snoop on the user's key presses.

"It is the first attack to exploit contention on the cross-core interconnect of Intel CPUs," Paccagnella told The Register. "The attack does not rely on sharing memory, cache sets, core-private resources or any specific uncore structures. As a consequence, it is hard to mitigate with existing side channel defenses."

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SolarWinds just keeps getting worse: New strain of backdoor malware found in probe

Plus: McAfee's in serious trouble over claimed cryptocurrency scam

In brief Another form of malware has been spotted on servers backdoored in the SolarWinds' Orion fiasco.

The strain, identified as SUNSHUTTLE by FireEye, is a second-stage backdoor written in Go which uses HTTPS to communicate with a command-and-control server for data exfiltration, adding new code as needed. Someone based in the US, perhaps at an infected organization, uploaded the malware to a public malware repository in August last year for analysis, well before the cyber-spying campaign became public.

Brandon Wales, acting director of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, warned it could take 18 months to clean up this mess, and that's looking increasingly likely.

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Linus Torvalds issues early Linux Kernel update to fix swapfile SNAFU

‘Subtle and very nasty bug’ meant 5.12 rc1 could trash entire filesystems

Linux overlord Linus Torvalds has rushed out a new release candidate of Linux 5.12 after the first in the new series was found to include a ‘subtle and very nasty bug’ that was so serious he marked rc1 as unsuitable for use.

“We had a very innocuous code cleanup and simplification that raised no red flags at all, but had a subtle and very nasty bug in it: swap files stopped working right. And they stopped working in a particularly bad way: the offset of the start of the swap file was lost,” Torvalds wrote in a March 3rd post to the Linux Kernel Mailing List.

“Swapping still happened, but it happened to the wrong part of the filesystem, with the obvious catastrophic end results.”

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Remember that day in March 2020 when you were asked to get the business working from home – tomorrow, if possible? Here's how that worked out

IT pros from orgs large and small tell The Reg the tech delivered, mostly, but couriers and home Wi-Fi suddenly became your problem

Covid Logfile Brianna Haley was given one day to be ready to roll out Zoom for 13,000 users at over 1,000 sites.

Haley* is a project analyst for a large healthcare provider that, as COVID-19 marched across the world in March 2020, realised imminent lockdowns meant it would soon be unable to consult with patients.

And no consultations meant no revenue.

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The torture garden of Microsoft Exchange: Grant us the serenity to accept what they cannot EOL

Time to fix those legacy evils, though.... right?

Column It is the monster which corrupts all it touches. It is an energy-sucking vampire that thrives on the pain it promotes. It cannot be killed, but grows afresh as each manifestation outdoes the last in awfulness and horror. It is Microsoft Exchange and its drooling minion, Outlook.

Let us start with the most numerous of its victims, the end users. Chances are, you are one. You may be numbed by lifelong exposure, your pain receptors and critical faculties burned out though years of corrosion. You might be like me, an habitual avoider whose work requirements periodically force its tentacles back in through the orifices.

I have recently started to use it through its web interface, where it doesn’t update the unread flags, hides attachments, multiplies browser instances, leaves temp files all over my download directory, tangles threads, botches searchers and so on.

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Just when you thought it was safe to enjoy a beer: Beware the downloaded patch applied in haste

Let us tell you a tale of the Mailman's Apprentice

Who, Me? The weekend is over and Monday is here. Celebrate your IT prowess with another there-but-for-the-grace confession from the Who, Me? archives.

Our tale, from a reader the Regomiser has elected to dub "Simon", takes us back to the early part of this century and to an anonymous antipodean institution of learning.

Simon was working at the local Student Union (or "guild" as the locals called it), which was having problems with uppity education staff censoring the emissions of students. Simon was therefore commissioned to set up a fully independent newsletter.

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US National Security Council urges review of Exchange Servers in wake of Hafnium attack

Don't just patch, check for p0wnage, says top natsec team

The Biden administration has urged users of Microsoft's Exchange mail and messaging server to ensure they have not fallen victim to the recently-detected "Hafnium" attack on Exchange Server that Microsoft says originated in China.

Microsoft revealed the attack last week and released Exchange security updates.

The Biden administration’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) followed up with a March 5 general advisory encouraging upgrades to on-premises Exchange environments. Another advisory on 6 March upped the ante as follows:

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Delayed, overbudget and broken. Of course Microsoft's finest would be found in NASA's Orion

In Space No One Can Hear You Scream (as Windows crashes again)

BORK!BORK!BORK! Getting astronauts to the Moon or Mars is the least of NASA's problems. Persuading Microsoft Windows not to fall over along the way is apparently a far greater challenge.

Spotted by Register reader Scott during a visit to the otherwise excellent Space Center Houston, there is something all too real lurking within the mock-up of the Orion capsule in which NASA hopes to send its astronauts for jaunts beyond low Earth orbit.

Clutched in the hand of a mannequin posed in the capsule's hatch is a reminder of both how old space tech tends to be and a warning for space-farers intending to take Microsoft's finest out for a spin.

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NASA shows Mars that humans can drive a remote control space tank at .01 km/h

Perseverance takes first drive around landing spot named in honor of seminal sci-fi author Octavia E. Butler

NASA’s Perseverance rover trekked across Mars for the first time last Thursday, March 4, 2021.

The vehicle went four whole meters forward, turned 150 degrees to the left, then moved another two-and-a-half meters. The entire drive covered a whopping 6.5 m (21.3 feet) across Martian terrain. The journey took about 33 minutes.

The Register ran that through a calculator and deduces the nuclear powered laser-equipped space tank, aka Perseverance, sped along at the astounding velocity of .01km/h, quite a comedown from the 19,310 km/h at which it entered the red planet’s atmosphere.

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University of the Highlands and Islands shuts down campuses as it deals with 'ongoing cyber incident'

Ten letters, starts with R, ends with E, three syllables

The University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) in Scotland is fending off "an ongoing cyber incident" that has shut down its campuses.

In a message to students and staff yesterday afternoon, the institution, which spans 13 locations across the northernmost part of the UK, warned that "most services" – including its Brightspace virtual learning environment – were affected.

"We are currently working to isolate and minimise impact from this incident with assistance from external partners. We do not believe personal data has been affected," said the university, adding: "The source of the incident is not yet known."

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