I haven’t blogged in a long while — but I have a good(ish!) excuse. I spent most of August prepping for the #HITBGSEC conference in Singapore. It was my first time presenting at a security conference, and I had an…
On the 20th of July, Singaporean authorities announced a data breach affecting SingHealth, the country largest healthcare group. The breach impacted 1.5 million people who had used SingHealth services over the last 3 years.
Oh boy, another data breach with 1.5 million records … **yawn**.
But Singapore has less than 6 million people, so it’s a BIG deal to this island I currently call home. Here’s what happened.
According to the official Ministry announcement administrators discovered ‘unusual’ activity on one of their databases on 4-Jul, investigations confirmed the data breach a week later, and public announcement was made 10 days after confirmation.
4-Jul : IHiS’ database administrators detected unusual activity on one of SingHealth’s IT databases
10-Jul : Investigations confirmed the data breach, and all relevant authorities were informed
12-Jul : A Police Report is made
20-Jul : A public announcement is made
The official report states that “data was exfiltrated from 27 June 2018 to 4 July 2018…no further illegal exfiltration has been detected”.
The point of entry was ascertained to be “that the cyber attackers accessed the SingHealth IT system through an initial breach on a particular front-end workstation. They subsequently managed to obtain privileged account credentials to gain privileged access to the database”
And finally that “SingHealth will be progressively contacting all patients…to notify them if their data had been illegally exfiltrated. All the patients, whether or not their data were compromised, will receive an SMS notification over the next five days”
Recently, there was a poorly written article in The New Straits Times, that suggested the Malaysian Police would know if you were watching porn online. Let me cut to the chase, the article is shit. The software in question, aptly…
The domain cost me a whooping $18.00/yr on AWS, and involved a couple hours of registration and migration.
So I felt that while migrating domains, I might as well implement proper security headers as well. Security Headers are HTTP Headers that instruct the browser to deny or allow certain things, the idea being the more information the site tells the browser about itself, the less susceptible it is to attack.
I was shocked to find out that Gov-TLS-Audit had no security headers at all! I assumed AWS (specifically CloudFront) would take care of ‘some’ http headers for me — I was mistaken. Cloudfront takes care of the TLS implementation, but does not implement any security header for you, not even
strict-transport-security which is TLS related.
So unsurprisingly, a newly created cloudfront distribution, using the reference AWS implementation, fails miserably when it comes to security headers.
I guess the reason is that HTTP headers are very site-dependant. Had Cloudfront done it automatically, it might have broken a majority of sites And implementing headers is one thing, but fixing the underlying problem is another — totally bigger problem.
But what security headers to implement?
As Malaysians woke up today, to a brand new cabinet of Ministers, many have already begun expressing their dissatisfaction on the lineup. I know better than to wade into these politically charged discussions — but I will point out that my people have long been overlooked for Ministerial positions.
Who are ‘my people’ you ask…
Or if you prefer a less negative word — Geeks. But for the rest of this post, I’ll use the more accurate term of hacker to refer to technically savvy folks who subscribe to the hacker ethic.
Yes, we in the hacker community have long been overlooked for ministerial positions, and I for one, choose to speak out against this travesty. But before I delve into why I think we’ve not played a bigger part in politics, let me first make the case for why we need hackers in parliament.
Why we need hackers in parliament
As technology becomes more pervasive and ubiquitous in our lives, every policy decision becomes a technology decision, whether it’s in education, finance or defence. Hence it becomes pertinent to ensure that the people making these decisions have the capacity to understand the technology that drives the issues. This is not something you get from a 2-week bootcamp, or a crash course in computers, it involves deep technical knowledge that can only be attain from years (even decades) of experience.
But it’s not enough that policy makers merely understand technology, they also need to subscribe to the hacker ethic , and bring that ethic into the decisions they make.
What is the hacker ethic? Well I’m glad you asked.
The ethic has no hard definition, but it incorporates things like Sharing, Openness, Decentralization and Free access to computers, etc. The ethic further includes attitudes, like pure meritocracy, the idea that hackers should be judged for their hacking (and nothing else), not age, gender, degrees or even position in a hierarchy. So anytime you see some poor sod who claims to be a hacker, but puts CISSP, PMP, CEH at the end of their LinkedIn profile — you know they’re not really hackers.
You can see ethic played out at hacker conferences throughout the world, hackers are ever willing to share what they’ve built with anyone who’ll listen, and they’re accepting of anyone willing to learn, at any age bracket, without any education or formal training.
The Hacker perspective is an interesting one, and like all perspectives, may not always be right or appropriate, but it’s important for it to be present at the decision making process, if nothing more than to add to the diversity of thought.
So why aren’t there more hackers in decision making levels? Well let’s see what it takes to reach the decision making level in the first place.
Last week, MyNic suffered a massive outage taking out any website that had a
.my domain, including local banks like maybank2u.com.my and even government websites hosted on
Here’s a great report on what happened from IANIX. I’m no DNSSEC expert, but here’s my laymen reading of what happened:
- Up to 11-Jun,
.myused a DNSKEY with
- For some reason, this key went missing on the 15-Jun, and was replaced with DNSKEY
key tag:63366. Which is still a valid SEP for
- Unfortunately, the DS record on root, was still pointing to
- So DNSSEC starting failing
- 15 hours later, instead of correcting the error, someone tried to switch off DNSSEC removing all the signatures (RRSIG)
- But this didn’t work, as the parent zone still had a DS entry that pointed to
key tag:25992and hence was still expecting DNSSEC to be turned on.
- 5 hours after that, they added back the missing DNSKEY
key tag:25992(oh we found it!), but added invalid Signatures for all entries — still failing.
- Only 4 hours after that did they fix it, with the proper DS entry on root for DNSKEY
key tag:63366and valid signatures.
- That’s a 24 hour outage on all
So basically, something broke, they sat on it for 15 hours, then tried a fix, didn’t work. Tried something else 5 hours after that, didn’t work again! And finally after presumably a lot of praying to the Gods of the Internet and a couple animal sacrifices, managed to fix it after a 24-hour downtime.
I defend my fellow IT practitioners a lot on this blog, but this is a difficult one. Clearly this was the work of someone who didn’t know what they were doing, and refused to ask for help, instead tried one failed fix after another which made things worse. As my good friend Mark Twain would say — it’s like a Mouse trying to fix a pumpkin.
I don’t fully understand DNSSEC (it’s complicated), but I’m not in charge of a TLD. It’s unacceptable that someone could screw up this badly — and for that screw up to impact so many people, and all we got was a lousy press release.
The point is, it shouldn’t take 24 hours to resolve a DNSSEC issue, especially when it’s such a critical piece of infrastructure. I’ve gone through reports of similar DNSSEC failures, and in most cases recovery takes 1-5 hours. The
.nasa.gov TLD had a similar issue, that was resolved in an hour, very rarely do we see a 24 hour outage, so what gives?
I look forward to an official report from MyNIC to our spanking new communications ministry, and for that to be shared to the public.
At around 11pm last Friday, I got a query from Zurairi at The Malay Mail, asking for a second opinion on a strange email the newsdesk received from an ‘anonymous source’. The email was regular vulnerability disclosure, but one that was full of details, attached with an enormous amount of data.
This wasn’t a two-liner tweet, this was a detailed email with outlined sub-sections. It covered why they were sending the email, what the vulnerable system was, how to exploit the vulnerability and finally (and most importantly!) a link to a Google Drive folder containing Gigabytes of data.
The email pointed to a Ministry of Education site called SAPSNKRA, used for parents to check on their children’s exam results. Quick Google searches reveal the site had security issues in the past including one blog site advising parents to proceed past the invalid certificate warning in firefox. But let’s get back to the breach.
My first reaction was to test the vulnerability, and sure enough, the site was vulnerable to SQL Injection, in exactly the manner specified by the email. So far email looked legitimate.
Next, I verified the data in the Google Drive folder, by downloading the gigabytes of text files, and checking the IC Numbers of children I knew.
I further cross-checked a few parents IC numbers against the electoral roll. Most children have some indicator of their fathers name embedded in their own, either through a surname or the full name of the father after the bin, binti, a/l or a/p. By keying in the fathers IC number, and cross-referencing the fathers name against what was in the breach, it was easy to see that the data was the real deal.
So I called back Zurairi and confirmed to him that the data was real, and that the site should be taken offline. I also contacted a buddy of mine over at MKN, to see if he could help, and Zurairi had independently raised a ticket with MyCert (a ticket??!!) and tried to contact the Education Minister via his aide.
Obviously neither Zurairi nor myself, or any of the other journalist I kept in touch with, could report on the story. The site was still vulnerable, and we didn’t want someone else breaching it.
The next morning, I emailed the anonymous source and asked them to take down the Google Drive, explaining that the breach was confirmed, and people were working to take down the site. Hence there was no reason to continue exposing all of that personal information on the internet.
They agreed, and wiped the drive clean, and shortly after I got confirmation that the SAPSNKRA website had been taken down. So with the site down, and the Google Drive wiped cleaned, it seemed the worst was behind us.
Danger averted…at least for now.
Couple months back I started GovTLSAudit. A simple service that would scan
.gov.my domains, and report on their implementation of TLS. But the service seems to have benefits above and beyond that, specifically around having a list of a government sites that we can use to cross-check against other intel sources like Shodan (which we already do daily) and VirusTotal.
So here’s 3 times GovTLSAudit helped secure government websites.
That time Yayasan Islam Terengganu was used a phishing website
I used virustotal’s search engine to see if they had extra .gov.my domains to scan, and found a few rather suspicious looking urls including:
This was an obvious phishing campaign being run out of a
.gov.my domain. Digging further, I found that the IP address the malicious urls resolve to was local, and belonged to Exabytes. And while the root page was a bare apache directory, buried deep within the sites sub-directories was a redirect that pointed to a Russian IP.
I took to twitter to report my findings — I kinda like twitter for this, and the very next day Exabytes come back with a followup that they were fixing it. That’s good, because having a phishing campaign run on
.gov.my infrastructure isn’t exactly what you’d like.
There’s a lot more details in the tweet about how I investigated this,– click here to follow the thread. A warning though — I regularly delete my old tweets. So get it while it’s there :).
If you’ve come here from a link on twitter — you’d see that the address bar still says login.astro.com.my, but the site is rendering this page from my blog. If not, click this link to see what I mean. You’ll…
I previously wrote about how data breaches are like diamonds: They’re not as rare as you think They’re worth far more to you than to a thief They last forever And the recent debacle over the Astro data breach epitomizes…