Convicted hacker Robert Moore, who is set to go to federal prison this week, says breaking into 15 telecommunications companies and hundreds of businesses worldwide was incredibly easy because simple IT mistakes left gaping technical holes.
Moore, 23, of Spokane, Wash., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit computer fraud and is slated to begin his two-year sentence on Thursday for his part in a scheme to steal voice over IP services and sell them through a separate company. While prosecutors call co-conspirator Edwin Pena the mastermind of the operation, Moore acted as the hacker, admittedly scanning and breaking into telecom companies and other corporations around the world.
"It's so easy. It's so easy a caveman can do it," Moore told InformationWeek, laughing. "When you've got that many computers at your fingertips, you'd be surprised how many are insecure." (emphasis added)
So easy a caveman can do it? Just what happened here?
The government identified more than 15 VoIP service providers that were hacked into, adding that Moore scanned more than 6 million computers just between June and October of 2005. AT&T reported to the court that Moore ran 6 million scans on its network alone...
Moore said what made the hacking job so easy was that 70% of all the companies he scanned were insecure, and 45% to 50% of VoIP providers were insecure. The biggest insecurity? Default passwords.
"I'd say 85% of them were misconfigured routers. They had the default passwords on them," said Moore. "You would not believe the number of routers that had 'admin' or 'Cisco0' as passwords on them. We could get full access to a Cisco box with enabled access so you can do whatever you want to the box...
He explained that he would first scan the network looking mainly for the Cisco and Quintum boxes. If he found them, he would then scan to see what models they were and then he would scan again, this time for vulnerabilities, like default passwords or unpatched bugs in old Cisco IOS boxes. If he didn't find default passwords or easily exploitable bugs, he'd run brute-force or dictionary attacks to try to break the passwords.
So, we have massively widespread scanning, discovery of routers, and attempted logins. No kidding this is caveman-fu.
And Moore didn't just focus on telecoms. He said he scanned "anybody" -- businesses, agencies and individual users. "I know I scanned a lot of people," he said. "Schools. People. Companies. Anybody. I probably hit millions of normal [users], too."
Moore said it would have been easy for IT and security managers to detect him in their companies' systems ... if they'd been looking. The problem was that, generally, no one was paying attention.
"If they were just monitoring their boxes and keeping logs, they could easily have seen us logged in there," he said, adding that IT could have run its own scans, checking to see logged-in users. "If they had an intrusion detection system set up, they could have easily seen that these weren't their calls." (emphasis added)
Didn't someone tell Robert Moore that "IDS is dead?" Apparently all of these victim companies heard it, and turned off their visibility mechanisms.
My advice? Be the caveman. Perform adversary simulation. This is the simplest possible way to pretend you are a bad guy and get realistic, actionable results.
- Identify all of your external IP addresses.
- Scan them.
- Try to log into remote administration services you find in Step 2.
- Report your findings to device owners when you gain access.
How difficult is that? This methodology is nowhere near to being effective against targeted threats who want to compromise you specifically, but they would work against this opportunistic threat.
PS: If I hear one more time that "scanning is too dangerous for our network" I will officially Lose It. Scanning of external systems happens 24x7. If you really don't want an authorized party to scan your external network, try setting up a passive detection systems like PADS and wait for a bad guy to ignore the fragility of your systems and scan them for you. Gather his results passively and then act on them.