Excel spreadsheet plus Flash cause for security breach

Security researchers trace RSA hack and SecureID breach to lame Excel spreadsheet phishing
[Via Boing Boing]

F-Secure found the file that was used to hack RSA and compromise the SecureID system. Kim Zetter of Wired News has more here.

This week Finnish security company F-Secure discovered that the file had been under their noses all along. Someone — the company assumes it was an employee of RSA or its parent firm, EMC — had uploaded the malware to an online virus scanning site back on March 19, a little over two weeks after RSA is believed to have been breached on March 3. The online scanner, VirusTotal, shares malware samples it receives with security vendors and malware researchers.

RSA had already revealed that it had been breached after attackers sent two different targeted phishing e-mails to four workers at its parent company EMC. The e-mails contained a malicious attachment that was identified in the subject line as “2011 Recruitment plan.xls.”

None of the recipients were people who would normally be considered high-profile or high-value targets, such as an executive or an IT administrator with special network privileges. But that didn’t matter. When one of the four recipients clicked on the attachment, the attachment used a zero-day exploit targeting a vulnerability in Adobe Flash to drop another malicious file — a backdoor — onto the recipient’s desktop computer. This gave the attackers a foothold to burrow farther into the network and gain the access they needed.


They made it look like the email came from a jobs site and sent it to people at the company to read.

Interestingly, anyone who had any sense of security should have been worried about anExcel spreadsheet they had opened from an unknown source that had nothing in it.

I wonder if the same thing would have worked on Mac OS X or only on a Windows computer. How in the world can either Excel or Flash allow such a thing to occur?

Makes me kind of hope that Apple’s goal of removing Flash actually succeeds.

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