www.xkpasswd.net Updated

Filed Under Computers, Security on August 6, 2012 | 2 Comments

www.xkpasswd - A Secure Memorable Password GeneratorThis afternoon I updated www.xkpasswd.net to version 0.2.1 of the XKpasswd.pm Perl module, and added the needed UI to expose some of the new features introduced in version 0.2.* of the module:

  1. It is now possible not to use any separator between the words that form the basis of your randomly generated password
  2. The padding character can now be set to be randomly chosen, independently of the separator character. This is now the default setting, and provides more entropy by default.
  3. An additional care transform has been added, you can now choose to have the capitalisation alternate on each subsequent word.

This is a minor bug-fix update for XKpasswd (my Perl random password generation module). It squashes two minor bugs which came to light while updating www.xkpasswd.net to use version 2 of the module.

  1. When the custom_separator option was left blank, no separator was used, rather than the expected random separator.
  2. When the custom_separator option was left blank or set to RANDOM, and the pad_char option to SEPARATOR, the results were un-expected, different random character was used for each, rather than the same random character.

For documentation and detailed release notes on version 2 of the module, see the release notes for version 2.0.


Apple’s Security Schizophrenia

Filed Under Mac, Security on May 6, 2012 | 1 Comment

With the recent Flashback outbreak, Mac security has become very topical, getting a lot more discussion than it has for some time now. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of FUD doing the rounds, particularly from AV vendors, who want to capitalise on the situation to scare as many people as possible into paying them for their products. People are looking for a simple message, but the reality is not at all simple. There is truth in most of the arguments you hear, but rarely the whole truth. This is because Apple are simultaneously badly behind on some of the simple stuff, and miles ahead of the pack on some of the more advanced stuff.

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Update – 13 April 2012: Apple have released another update to Java (via software update) which automatically disables Java in Safari, and removes Flashback if it has infected your system. Please use Apple’s update rather than relying on this script!

Update – 10 April 2012: I have edited the script to run the additional commands recommended by TidBITS. The Download button will now return version 0.2 of the script.

It’s finally happened, there has been a serious malware outbreak on the Mac. Over half a million Macs have been infected with the latest variants of the Flashback malware. Earlier versions of this malware relied on tricking users into running an installer, or approving a request for permission to execute, but that has all changed now. The malware moved from being a simple trojan that relied on tricking people into running it, to a fully automated attack requiring no user interaction. The reason for this transformation is that the malware started to use flaws in Java, first, old vulnerabilities that were patched ages ago, so only affecting people who don’t keep their computers up to date, but this week, attacking flaws that Apple had, at the time, not yet patched. This means that for a few days, even the most diligent Mac users could have been hit.

This infection has no noticeable symptoms, and did not require you do do anything “stupid” to get infected. Any Mac user, not matter how careful, could have been infected. So, you need to check to be sure you are not one of the half million plus victims! Read more

I’ve been looking at different free Mac AV solutions so that I can make recommendations to less-computer-savy family members, and this afernoon I decided to give ClamXav a go. I’d tried it a few years ago and wasn’t very happy, but I’d been told by friends that it has improved a lot since, and a first glance at the GUI suggests they’re right. Unfortunately I didn’t get very far with my initial testing this afternoon because I’m in an environment where I have to use an HTTP proxy server to access the net, and ClamXav appears not to support proxies at first glance. It ignores OS X’s system-wide proxy settings, and it has no interface elements of its own to allow you to specify a proxy server manually. This implies that ClamXav doesn’t support proxies, but it actually does, they just didn’t bother to expose that functionality through the GUI.

ClamXav is just a GUI wrapper for the free and open source Clam AntiVirus toolkit, and it uses Clam’s regular auto-updating tool freshclam. Although the ClamXav GUI doesn’t give you control over the variables in the freshclam configuration file, that file does exist as part of ClamXav (/usr/local/clamXav/etc/freshclam.conf), and if you edit it manually it will respect the settings specified in that file. If you’re not afraid of the Terminal, you can easily edit this configuration file manually to get ClamXav to use a proxy server for updates.

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The technosphere is a buzz this week with the news that DropBox’s security has a rather large and rather stupid hole in it. I’m only going to give a brief overview of the issue here, so if you’d like more details please check out the blog post that broke the story. What I do want to say is that this is a really infantile mistake on DropBox’s part, and the fact that they could overlook something so elementary for so long worries me a lot.

Anyhow – the whole problem revolves around the Host ID which DropBox uses to identify a computer within your account. This code acts as both an identifier and a password, and it’s a big long string of random looking gibberish. The problem is not that this ID is easy to guess, but rather that it’s not tied to any particular machine. If a bad-guy gets their hands on the file containing this ID they can effectively clone your machine in DropBox’s eyes, and see your files in perpetuity, regardless of how many times you change your password. The only way to kill the bad guy’s access would be to de-authorise the machine who’s ID they cloned in your account pages on the DropBox website.

The original blog post that broke this story describes in detail where you can find this ID on Windows, but doesn’t mention any other OSes. Quite a few listeners to my various podcasts have asked me if I know where the file is located on the Mac. I didn’t, but I figured it would be worth spending a little time finding the answer.

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A worrying looking article that declared the end of WiFi security as we know it made it on to slashdot yesterday. The article looks quite worrying, but it doesn’t seem to stand up to the test of reality. The smack-downs are impressive:

‘Click Jacking’ is the latest browser-based security problem to crawl out of the wood work. Since it’s entirely browser based it affects everyone, regardless of their OS, not even Linux users are safe from this one! This is a cross-browser problem and also affects Flash. The technical details have not been released yet, but there is a proof-of-concept exploit doing the rounds. The basic idea is very simple, trick people into clicking on something you want them to click on but they don’t want to click on. From what I’ve been able to piece together from reading various blog postings and reports the attack uses CSS and iFrames to place invisible content over visible buttons or links. When the user clicks the button or link they see the click gets diverted to what ever is in the invisible layer above it instead. If you can do it by clicking the mouse, then you can be tricked into doing it with Click Jacking.

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Apple Finally Fix DSN Flaw

Filed Under Computers, Mac, Security on September 16, 2008 | 1 Comment

It’s taken them months, but Apple have finally caught up with the rest of the world and patched the critical DNS flaw disclosed in early June. This is Apple’s second attempt at patching it, they did a very poor job on their first attempt, but thankfully they seem to have gotten it right this time. It’s taken Apple over three months to patch OS X, this is totally rediculous considering Apple users the standard ISC implementation for both their DNS server and DNS resolver in OS X. ISC released patches on the 8th of June, it took Apple till the 15th of September to get their update out!

For a more detailed look at the two major security updates Apple released in the last few days (one for iPhone/iPod Touch, and one for OS X 10.5 and 10.4) check out my analysis on the IMP blog.

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Mobile Me – A Polished Turd?

Filed Under Computers, Mac, Security on August 27, 2008 | 5 Comments

The problem with .Mac (the previous name for Mobile Me) was never the concept, nor was it what was promised, the problem was always the implementation. I expressed my views on .Mac back in January 2007 in a post entitled “.Mac – The Devil is in the Implementation”, and nothing has really changed since. I had high hopes that Mobile Me would finally give us the .Mac we’d always wanted. If all Mobile Me had been was a working version of .Mac without any new functionality it would have been great! However, since it’s launch Mobile Me has just been one disappointment after another. Things started badly when it took them days to get the system even remotely stable, got worse when they permanently lost thousands of people’s email, and didn’t improve at all when we found out Apple had lied to us about push.

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