White hat hackers at Sophos gained access to administrative rights at a New York bank using a social engineering technique that leaned on the creation of a bogus profile on LinkedIn.
James Lyne, global head of social security research at Sophos, explained the exploit at an engaging keynote speech to an audience of bankers at Swift's European operations forum in Berlin.
Lyne spends his time conducting penetration tests of business computer systems to look for loopholes in IT security.
For the exploit at the un-named New York bank, Lyne set up a bogus profile of a 'hot' Canadian woman on LinkedIn and invited some of the bank's staff to connect. Once a few links had been established the profile was changed to that of a fake low-level IT operative at the bank. With a number of friends at the bank already in the bag, the updated profile was then used to garner more links with other staffers - which ultimately enabled the hackers to open a legitimate point of access to the bank's domain.
A self-professed "massive geek", Lyne proceeded to take an enrapt crowd on a whirlwind tour of the Dark Web, pulling up the Alpha Bay Website which operates as "a kind of Comparethemarket.com for cyber crime fraud sites". The illicit marketplace for the acquisition of stolen payment card details offers a very responsive user support operation, says Lyne, and seller feedback tools similar to those used on eBay.
With 350,000 new pieces of malware being released every day, Lyne also lamented the low level of security deployed for devices connected to the Internet of Things. During his presentation, Lyne conducted an on-stage hack of an IP-connected camera similar to that used in the recent Mirai botnet that manged to bring down Twitter and other US Websites in a distributed denial of service attack on domain name service Dyne.
Describing "hilarious flaws" in devices, Lyne says that of tests conducted on multiple IoT gadgets, only three followed common security protocols such as implementing password lock out features. The Internet connected camera, for instance, used a Telnet clear text protocol for communications, which Lyne dismissed as "basically a piece of shit from the dark ages".
In conclusion, Lyne told his audience that the most common breaches take advantage of basic operational failings. "Failure to update security awareness training is key," he says. "The human hack department is the most common entry point.
"We also find incident response is often ill practiced and ill-thought out. So much can be thwarted from implementing basic security practices."