RSA Releases (Almost) More Information

By Rich

As this is posting, RSA is releasing a new SecureCare note and FAQ for their clients (Login required). This provides more specific prioritized information on what mitigations they recommend SecurID clients take.

To be honest they really should just come clean at this point. With the level of detail in the support documents it’s fairly obvious what’s going on. These notes are equivalent to saying, “we can’t tell you it’s an elephant, but we can confirm that it is large, grey, and capable of crushing your skull if you lay down in front of it. Oh yeah, and it has a trunk and hates mice.”

So let’s update what we know, what we don’t, what you should do, and the open questions from our first post:

What we know

Based on the updated information… not much we didn’t before.

But I believe RSA understands the strict definition of APT and isn’t using the term to indicate a random, sophisticated attack. So we can infer who the actor is – China – but RSA isn’t saying and we don’t have confirmation.

In terms of what was lost, the answer is, “an elephant” even if they don’t want to say so. This means either customer token records or something similar, and I can’t think of what else it could be. Here’s a quote from them that makes it almost obvious:

To compromise any RSA SecurID deployment, the attacker needs to possess multiple pieces of information about the token, the customer, the individual users and their PINs. Some of this information is never held by RSA and is controlled only by the customer. In order to mount a successful attack, someone would need to have possession of all this information.

If it were a compromise of the authentication server software itself, that statement wouldn’t be accurate. Also, one of their top recommendations is to use long, complex PINs. They wouldn’t say that if the server was compromised, which means it pretty much has to be related to customer token records.

This also leads us to understand the nature of a potential attack. The attacker would need to know the username, password/PIN, and probably the individual assigned token. Plus they need some time and luck. While extremely serious for high-value targets, this does limit potential exposure. This also explains their recommendations on social engineering, hardening the authentication server, setting PIN lockouts, and checking logs for ongoing bad token/authentication requests.

I think his name is Babar.

What we don’t know

We don’t have any confirmation of anything at this point, which is frankly silly unless we are missing some major piece of the puzzle.

Until then it’s reasonable to assume a single sophisticated attacker (with a very tasty national cuisine), and compromise of token seeds/records. This reduces the target pool and means most people should be in good shape with the practices we previously recommended (updated below).

One big unknown is when this happened. That’s important, especially for high-value targets, as it could mean they have been under attack for a while, and opponents might have harvested some credentials via social engineering or other means already.

We also don’t know why RSA isn’t simply telling us what they lost. With all these recommendations it’s clear that the attacker still needs to be sophisticated to pull off more attacks with the SecurID data, and needs to have that data, which means customer risk is unlikely to increase if they reveal more.

This isn’t like a 0-day vulnerability, where merely knowing it’s out there is a path to exploitation. More information now will only reduce customer risk.

What you need to do

Here are our updated recommendations:

Remember that SecurID is the second factor in a two-factor system… you aren’t stripped naked (unless you’re going through airport security). Assuming it’s completely useless now, here is what you can do:

  1. Don’t panic. Although we don’t know a lot more, we have a strong sense of the attacker and the vulnerability. Most of you aren’t at risk if you follow RSA’s recommendations. Many of you aren’t on the target list at all.
  2. Talk to your RSA representative and pressure them for increased disclosure.
  3. Read the RSA SecureCare documentation. Among other things, it provides the specific things to look for in your logs.
  4. Let your users with SecurIDs know something is up and not to reveal any information about their tokens.
  5. Assume SecureID is no longer effective. Review passwords/PINs tied to SecurID accounts and make sure they are strong (if possible). If you change settings to use long PINs, you need to get an update script from RSA (depending on your product version) so the update pushes out properly.
  6. If you are a high-value target, force a password change for any accounts with privileges that could be seriously damaging (e.g., admins).
  7. Consider disabling accounts that don’t use a password or PIN.
  8. Set authentication attempt lockouts (3 tries to lock an account, or similar).

The biggest changes are a little more detail on what to look for, which supports our previous assumptions. That and my belief their use of the term APT is accurate.

Open questions

I will add in my own answers where we have them:

  1. While we don’t need all the details, we do need to know something about the attacker to evaluate our risk. Can you (RSA) reveal more details? Not answered, but reading between the lines this looks like true APT.
  2. How is SecurID affected and will you be making mitigations public? Partially answered. More specific mitigations are now published, but we still don’t have full information.
  3. Are all customers affected or only certain product versions and/or configurations? Answered – see the SecureCare documentation, but it seems to be all current versions.
  4. What is the potential vector of attack? Unknown, so we are still assuming it’s lost token records/seeds, which means the attacker needs to gather other information to successfully make an improper authentication request.
  5. Will you, after any investigation is complete, release details so the rest of us can learn from your victimization? Answered. An RSA contact told me they have every intention on getting as detailed as possible once this is all over.

And one remaining question:

  1. Will RSA need to reissue tokens, and if so what is the timing and process?

Hopefully this all helps. For most of you there isn’t a whole lot to do at this point, but some of you most definitely need to make changes and keep your eyes open.

No Related Posts

> This isn’t like a 0-day vulnerability, where merely knowing it’s out there is a path to exploitation. More information now will only reduce customer risk.

Unless RSA has reason to believe the attacker doesn’t know whose keys they have…

Unlikely. Even then, RSA could say “they took 47% of our client seeds, we’ll talk with those clients to establish the next steps.”

By Thomas B.

Great analysis and advice.  I’ve written up some additional detection and prevention practices here:  <a >RSA SecurID Authentication Security</a>

By Jacob Gajek

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