Password wordcloud from xato.net

When is a password leak not a password leak?

Password wordcloudI’d like to take a moment to talk a little bit about how people who study password behavior go about their job.

In the process, I would like to thank all password researchers and, in particular, Mark Burnett for both his years of excellent research and the help he has provided to other researchers. He is unequivocally one of the good guys, even if portions of the technical and popular press have entirely misunderstood the impact of his support for the research community.

Before getting into any detail, I would like to make it clear that Mark’s posting of 10 million passwords on Monday did not reveal any new information to hackers, and did not enable any new attacks. All of the information he packaged was already public, and Mark’s preparation made it even less useful to bad guys. For details, it’s best to read his own FAQ.

Of course, you, our readers, will all be using 1Password to help ensure you have unique passwords for each and every site and service.

Researching secrets

One of the biggest difficulties in studying password behavior is that people are supposed to keep their passwords secret. Because of this not-so-minor drawback, there are two ways to get real data on people’s behavior.

One way is to conduct experiments and simulations. There is some really exciting research along these lines, particularly from Lorrie Cranor’s group researching Usable Privacy and Security at Carnegie-Mellon University. But there are many others contributing to that research.

One of the advantages of these experiments, which almost no other method offers, is that they help us figure out how well people can use and remember passwords. Of course, 1Password saves you from having to remember all but one (or a very few) of your passwords, but those passwords need to be strong. We rely on the research conducted by the academic community on password learnability, usability, and memorability when offering our own advice on creating better Master Passwords.

The second way to analyze people’s behavior with respect to passwords is to study the data that comes from password breaches. For example, when RockYou was hacked in 2009, the attacker published a list of 32 Cranor wearing RockYou password dressmillion user account passwords. Much of the advice you see today about most common passwords comes from the study of the RockYou data. Note that not all breaches involve revealing passwords. The recent breach of Anthem, for example, didn’t reveal customer passwords.

Pretty much everyone who studies password behavior grabbed a copy those RockYou records. Professor Cranor, who I mentioned above, even made a dress based on the most popular passwords found on in the RockYou data. Although we do not condone such breaches, we all make use of the data if it is published.

It is almost certainly true that only a small portion of such breaches are made public. Many of the criminals would like to keep both the fact of the breach and any passwords they obtain secret so that they can be exploited before people change those passwords. Sadly, the criminals have more data than we do, so they know more about actual password practices than we do.

1Password 1Password window, crediting Mark BurnetOne of the many uses of this sort of data is to figure out what the most common passwords are. Lists like the ‘top 10′ or ‘top 100′ passwords are often published in attempts to shame people to make better choices. But Mark’s earlier publication of the top 10000 passwords has made it into 1Password itself. In addition to other tools and guidelines, we use that list in the Mac and iOS versions when calculating password strength.

For big data sets, like RockYou or Adobe in November 2013, I will usually make a point of getting a copy. That way, I can do my own research on some of these datasets, as well as read about the analyses that others do.

Tracking password dumps

Tweets from @dumpmonThere are smaller data sets published very frequently, but sporadically, on sites like Pastebin. In fact, there is a handy Twitter bot, @dumpmon, that reports them.

To make things more confusing, many of the Pastebin posts make false claims about their data. They will claim that it is new data from, say, Gmail, while in fact it is old data drawn from previously published data. Quite simply, it is a substantial chore to watch for such data, evaluate it, and organize it into usable form. It takes skill, dedication, and analysis to do that.

I’m sure that I am not alone among those who study passwords to say that I am glad that Mark Burnett has been doing that work so that I don’t have to. Mark has been studying these for many years now. He has always shared his research results with the community, and has been very helpful when people (like me) ask him for some data.

When someone asks Mark for some of his data, he has to worry about removing credit card information that may be part of one leak, or revealing information about the site from which the username and password were obtained. Despite the fact that information has already been made public, he correctly does not feel comfortable re-releasing it. This is why he prepared the sanitized list that he released Monday.

What have I learned studying these 10 million passwords?

To be honest, I haven’t really dived into to studying these. I’m lazy efficient and patient, and am waiting for others to publish their results. However, if I don’t see certain types of analyses that I believe would be useful, I’ll roll up my sleeves and take the plunge.

But in playing with these for about 10 minutes, I (re-)learned a couple of things:

  • Modern computers are fast enough that I can actually do much preliminary poking around using AWK.
  • I was able to say “I told you so” to some friends about some clever passwords that were far more frequent than they’d imagined.
  • I confirmed (as I did with the Adobe set), that David Malone and Kevin Maher were correct when they concluded that – despite appearances – passwords frequency does not follow Zipf’s Law.
  • I hadn’t used Transmission/BitTorrent in ages, and no longer needed to seed the FreeBSD8.2 iso (The password list was made available via torrent).
  • Update: Someone actually used “correcthorsebatterystaple” as a password, illustrating the dangers of presenting examples when explaining password creation schemes.

I do not wish to give the impression that I won’t be able to make valuable use of the data. There are a number of interesting analyses I would like to run. In particular, I would like to see if I can identify passwords created by a good password generator, but that will be a long and hard project. Broadly seeing what password creation schemes are the most popular would also be useful. I may use Dropbox’s zxcvbn password analysis engine to make a rough pass at that.

And there is no question that Mark’s collection, tidying, sanitizing, and releasing of this data will help us good guys learn more about password behavior.

1P Pro features

TOTP for 1Password users

1P Pro features1Password 5.2 for iOS and 1Password 4.1.0.538 for Windows are out, and they provide support for using Time-based One Time Passwords (TOTP) in your Logins (note: in iOS, it’s part of our Pro Features). Note that this is not for unlocking 1Password itself, but to aid with logging into sites for which you may be using TOTP, such a Dropbox and Tumblr.

To learn how to have 1Password help you manage your TOTP Logins, go straight to our user guide. If you would like to better understand when and why TOTP is useful for 1Password users, and what to do if you truly want two-factor security, continue reading here.

TOTP countdownI’ve previously written (at excessive length, in some cases) about TOTP in general, but in each instance pointed out that it is of limited utility to 1Password users. This is because such schemes are of most use to those people who have weak or reused passwords. If you are using a strong and unique password for a site, then many of the gains of two-step (or multi-step) verification are not relevant for you.

But “most” is not the same as “all”. There still are some cases where multi-step verification is useful to people using 1Password.

Sometimes you must use TOTP

Sometimes a site or service will simply require that TOTP always be used along with your regular password. Patty (one of my dogs) is working with a research group analyzing the structure of heart worm DNA. When she connects to the lab’s server, she is required to use TOTP.

TOTP example in 1Password for Windows

TOTP example in 1Password for Windows

She has set up an app on her laptop that just constantly displays the current TOTP code. It’s sitting there ticking away all the time her laptop is running. Ideally, it should only be visible when she actually needs it, but she is understandably just trying to save time. Clearly, she could use TOTP more securely if it were available for the Login item within 1Password.

One-timeness? Yes

One-time passwords (the “OTP” in “TOTP”) are useful over insecure networks. Normally, when you submit a password to a site or service, you send the same password each time. Ideally, that connection is well encrypted so that the password cannot be captured when it is in transit. This is why it is very important to:

  • use HTTPS instead of HTTP when doing anything sensitive
  • pay attention to the lock icon in your browser’s address field (indicating HTTPS)
  • heed browser warnings about such connections

But networks are easy to compromise. Recently Molly (my other dog) was at the Barkville Airport. When she connected to Wifi, she saw several open wifi IDs. One was BVT-access, and the other one was “Airport Free Wifi”. As it turned out, BVT-access was the legitimate one, but she connected to Airport Free Wifi. Airport Free Wifi was actually a laptop operated by Mr Talk, our neighbor’s cat.

Mr Talk is using SSL-strip on his rogue wifi hotspot. If Molly isn’t paying close attention to the HTTPS status of her browser’s connection, she can send things unencrypted over Mr Talk’s network while thinking it is a secure connection. I should probably point out that Molly lacks the discipline to pay close attention to anything other than a squirrel or rabbit. This way, Mr Talk can capture Molly’s passwords in transit to the servers and save them for later use.

That is one of several ways that passwords can be captured in transit. The point of one-time passwords is that they are not reusable even if they are captured in transit. In this way, TOTP provides a meaningful defense against plausible attacks even though there is nothing “second factor” about how it is being used.

Second factor? No

We need to make the distinction between one time passwords and second factor security. One time passwords are often part of second factor security systems, but using one time passwords doesn’t automatically give you second factor security. Indeed, when you store your TOTP secret in the same place that you keep your password for a site, you do not have second factor security.

However, you still have the benefits of the one-timeness of TOTP codes.

Systems like TOTP are sometimes used as part of second (or multi) factor authentication systems. But this is far from their only usage. To be truly second factor, the TOTP secret (from which the one time password is generated) must not be stored on the same device that you use the regular password on.

Let’s consider an example. Molly has a Tumblr where she posts pictures of the squirrels she is after. So far, she has been using the Authy app on her phone to manage TOTP. If she never logs into to Tumblr on the same phone, then she is using her phone as a second factor. But if she is also using Tumblr from her phone and has had to use her one time password from there, then there is no second factor.

In general, there is a reason why many services that offer TOTP refer to it as “two-step verification” instead of as “second factor authentication”. The security that such sites seek to gain from this is not in the second-factorness; it is in the one-timeness. In particular, many of the sites and services that offer or require two-step verification with one time passwords are doing so because many of their users have weak or reused passwords. Although that should not apply to 1Password users, there are other benefits to one time passwords as I discussed above.

If you really want true two factor

If you would like to turn a site’s offering of TOTP into true two-factor security, you should not store your TOTP secret in 1Password (or in anything that will synchronize across systems). Furthermore, you should not use the regular password for the site on the same device that holds your TOTP secret.

Put simply: the device that holds your TOTP secret should never hold your password if your aim is genuine two factor security.

Personally, I don’t think that following that practice would be worthwhile for anything but a very small number of special circumstances, in which case, you should probably be using a specialized second factor device instead of something like a phone. But not everyone shares my opinion on this, and if you have a need for true second-factor security for some particular site or service, you should take that into account before adding a TOTP secret to 1Password.

For everyone else, if you find the one-timeness of TOTP worthwhile on its own (or are required to use it), 1Password’s new support in v5.2 for iOS and v4.1.0.538 makes it easier to use than ever.

1P4 Android bot

Avoiding the clipboard with 1Password and Lollipop

Copy & Paste clipboards (or “pasteboards” as they are called on Mac and iOS) can be dangerous places for secrets if you have malicious software running on your device. On most operating systems – mobile and desktop alike – most running applications can read from the system clipboard. When you copy a secret to the system clipboard, a malicious process may be able to read and steal that secret.

This, by the way, is not news, but it is good that it has made the news. It helps people be aware of clipboard usage, and it gives me the opportunity to talk a bit about what we have been doing over the years about this.

We have always worked to reduce how much people need to depend on system clipboards when using 1Password. The details differ from system to system, and each operating environment gives us different ways to help reduce clipboard use. On the Mac and Windows PCs we have the 1Password Browser Extensions communicate with 1Password so that web form filling can avoid the clipboard. 1Password for Windows also uses auto-type to reduce clipboard activity. 1Password 5 on iOS offers 1Browser and integration with other apps through App Extensions

1Password Android browserBut today I will reveal a few things that our 1Password for Android beta testers know.

Aside: Before I get to that discussion, I should point out (as I often do), that the single best defense against a malicious program running on your machine or device is to keep your systems up to date with all software and system updates. It is also important to be careful in what you install on your system. 1Password can offer some significant defenses against malware on your system, but you have to help keep your systems free of malware.

1Password 4 for Android already has a simple built-in browser. This allows you to go directly from your Login item in 1Password to the web page, filling the data without the clipboard. Our iOS users are already familiar with 1Browser, and this is shaping up on Android.

Lollipop provides clipboardless sweetness

Of course, web pages aren’t the only thing that people need to fill passwords into, and sometimes people may wish to use something other than the browser built in to 1Password. In the current Beta release of 1Password for Android, we used the latest security and accessibility features in Android 5 (Lollipop) to allow 1Password to fill into other apps without making use of the clipboard.

Starting with Lollipop, we have a way to fill password data into other apps without using the clipboard. Perhaps it would be best to just quote what Nik, our Happiness Engineer, had to say in the beta newsletter just a couple of weeks ago:

Wondering why app and browser filling requires OS 5.0? Me too! So I asked our developers. It turns out that the only way for us to do this in earlier versions of Android OS was to use copy/paste accessibility APIs, meaning that any clipboard manager or malicious app could listen to clipboard events and collect login credentials as they were filled.

In Lollipop, 1Password can fill your information directly, without using the clipboard. Therefore, it isn’t possible for a third party to obtain your passwords by snooping on what 1Password’s doing.

Prior to Lollipop, it would be possible to get this kind of app-filling, but it would have relied on the clipboard under the hood. Because using the clipboard involves known risks, we feel that we should make it clear when copy/paste is being used and minimize it’s use wherever possible. As a result, we decided to focus on a Lollipop-only implementation of our filling feature

If you have an Android device with Lollipop installed and would like a sneak peek, I invite you to sign up for our Android beta.

Clipboards may always be with us

As you can see, we are working to reduce dependency on system clipboards when using 1Password. This is an on-going process. Browser integration on the desktops was something we started with back when the very first versions of 1Password was released for the Mac nearly eight years ago. Later, we introduced our own browser into 1Password for iOS, and much more recently encouraged 1Password integration for other iOS 8 apps using App Extensions. Along the way, we introduced auto-type in 1Password for Windows and a web browser into 1Password for Android. As you’ve learned here, we have in-app filling in our Android Beta, making use of the latest features of Android 5.0, Lollipop.

But while we are progressively reducing the need for copy and paste to a system clipboard, we are a long way from eliminating the need to use these. This is why I must repeat my advice to keep your system free of malicious software.

What I would like to see is a clipboard that could only be read when the user explicitly chooses to paste. This is something that has been suggested a number of times before, but has not be implemented on the most popular operating systems. I suspect that there is a reason for that, but if you know, I eagerly await your insights in the comments.

 

Watchtower icon 1024

Viewing Drupal from the 1Password Watchtower

1Password WatchtowerWhen a large number of websites are discovered to have been vulnerable, as is the case with websites running recent versions of Drupal, people need clear and unambiguous advice that you can act on. And so, our clear and unambiguous advice is:

If you have a username and password on a site which has been using Drupal for its content management, you should change that password. You will need to change that password everywhere you use it, not just on the potentially affected sites.

Our Watchtower service within 1Password for Mac and Windows will recommend password changes for a number of sites that we detect as using Drupal. Here you can see what that will look like.

Drupal Watchtower example

We should also make it clear that none of our systems are affected by the Drupal vulnerability. We don’t use Drupal.

Site administrators know best

We don’t know the status of any particular site other than it appears to be running Drupal. Therefore, if our advice conflicts with advice you received from the administrators of a site, follow their recommendations.

We don’t know when a site gets fixed

Some vulnerable Drupal systems may have been fixed on October 15. Others may still not be fixed yet. Our tests are only capable of determining whether a website is using Drupal (and even that test is imperfect).

Merely patching Drupal is not sufficient for sites that may have been compromised. That is because an attacker using the vulnerability may have left a “backdoor” in a site allowing them back in even after the original vulnerability has been fixed. This makes it yet more difficult to determine whether a site remains vulnerable.

We don’t know if a site has been compromised

Drupal icon 400pxJust because a site has been vulnerable doesn’t mean that it has been compromised. However, it appears that automated attacks have been systematically breaking into vulnerable sites and planting “back doors” that would allow the attacker a way back in at any time in the future. So we should assume that most Drupal sites which weren’t patched very quickly on October 15 have been compromised.

A password compromised anywhere must be changed everywhere

If you reuse the same password on more than one site, you will have some extra work cut out for you. Let me explain why.

Suppose that Molly (one of my dogs) has used the same password on Bark Book as she does on Sprayed By a Mink Anonymous, and let’s also suppose that Bark Book gets compromised by Mr Talk (the neighbor’s cat).  Molly will need to change her password on both the compromised site (BarkBook.com) and on the uncompromised site (SprayedByMinkAnon.org) . That is because Mr Talk can use what he has learned from Bark Book against all of the sites and services that he thinks that Molly may be using. I must also report that Mr Talk, along with everyone down wind, can easily guess that Molly may well be visiting SprayedByMinkAnon.org.

Molly should take this opportunity to work towards having a unique password for each and every service. 1Password will remember those for her. The closer she gets to having a unique password for each site, the less of a headache the next big incident will be.

Shellshock bash terminal

Shellshock is bad, unique passwords are good

Shellshock bash terminalA new security bug, commonly known as Shellshock (Officially CVE-2014-6271, is bad. It is fair to say that a large number of servers (particularly web servers) were vulnerable to serious attack for some time. It is likely that many still are, and we are unlikely to learn about most of them.

What are we do to? Answer: Use unique passwords for each site and service.

Squirrels, rabbits, and passwords

Squirrel mollyLet’s consider Molly, one of my dogs. She has a one track mind: Squirrels and rabbits. She also is not very good at counting, so she doesn’t understand the difference between one track and two tracks.

Molly tends to reuse the same password for lots of things. Her password for Barkbook is squirrel. It’s also the password for CatChasers and a number of other sites and services.

Suppose that Patty, my other dog, isn’t the sweet innocent little thing that she pretends to be. Suppose that she breaks into CatChasers and is able to steal user passwords from it. She learns that Molly’s password was “squirrel” on CatChasers, so she’ll check if Molly used the same password on Barkbook and other sites.

1P squirrel password

Password reuse is doubly bad

Indeed, when Molly uses the password “squirrel” on multiple sites, she is putting all those squirrels in one basket. If her password is stolen on any one of those sites, Patty can get into all of those.

The more places that Molly uses the password “squirrel,” the more likely it is that at least one of that sites will get breached, and the more damage is done when her password gets discovered at any one of those sites.

If Molly uses “squirrel” for twenty sites, there is a very strong chance that several of them are vulnerable to this new Shellshock flaw, Heartbleed, or any of the other known and unknown vulnerabilities being exploited. When Patty does break into one of those twenty sites, she will now have control of twenty of Molly’s accounts.

What you can do

In short, be careful. System administrators will be busy for a while. In addition to upgrading bash on systems that use it, they should be trying to track down which systems create environment variables with untrusted content and whether those systems ever invoke a shell.

But normal people (and I don’t think that many will dispute that system administrators are not “normal people”) are left with the knowledge that there are a lot of vulnerable systems out there. By far, the single best things we can do is to cut down on our password reuse. The easiest way to do that with 1Password is to give Security Audit a whirl.

There is so much more to say

Everyone with some sort of security point to make is using Shellshock to help illustrate and draw their favorite lesson from it. This is easy to do because Shellshock isn’t just a bug, it is a bug that can be exploited because of a series of design decisions that were pretty much asking for trouble. Each one of those decisions (or non-decisions) is something that everyone in the business really does know better about. But somehow, the software and systems engineering community has managed to ignore its own wisdom at each step of the way.

  1. We members of this community know not to pass untrusted data to various other processes, yet we’ve allowed systems that create shell environment variables (things designed to be passed all over the place) from the most untrusted sources of all. [E.g. CGI, DHCP Clients, etc].
  2. Our community knows that tricking systems into executing “data” is often how attacks happen, yet bash has a feature that deliberately allows what is normally data passed around to be executed.
  3. Whether computer science students like it or not they are taught that when data is in a particular class of languages it is impossible to validate it, yet with bash we’ve stuck a Type 0 languages inside of variables.
  4. Scripts and programs should (generally) avoid invoking a shell as even the Linux manual page for system(3) says

    Do not use system() from a program with set-user-ID or set-group-ID privileges, because strange values for some environment variables might be used to subvert system integrity.

    Yet calling system(3) is common practice because it is easier than invoking other programs the proper way.

When a system falls victim to Shellshock, it is because every one of those principles and guidelines have been ignored. The first one is in the design of various network services (such as web servers). Numbers two and three are in the design of bash, and number four crops up in innumerable scripts and programs. None of them are actually about the specific bug in bash. Instead, one through three are about specific design features of various systems.

There is a great deal I would like to say about each of these, but I will leave that ranting for another time. Today, I just wish to remind everyone about the importance of using unique passwords for each and every service.

Bash update for Mac OS X

Apple has made bash updates available to those who do not wish to wait
for regular software update:

OS X bash Update 1.0 may be obtained from the following webpages:
http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1767 – OS X Lion
http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1768 – OS X Mountain Lion
http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1769 – OS X MavericksTo check that bash has been updated:* Open Terminal
* Execute this command:
bash --version
* The version after applying this update will be:
OS X Mavericks:  GNU bash, version 3.2.53(1)-release (x86_64-apple-darwin13)
OS X Mountain Lion:  GNU bash, version 3.2.53(1)-release (x86_64-apple-darwin12)
OS X Lion:  GNU bash, version 3.2.53(1)-release (x86_64-apple-darwin11)
Windows v4 blog

Watch what you type: 1Password’s defenses against keystroke loggers

1Password for WindowsI have said it before, and I’ll say it again: 1Password and Knox cannot provide complete protection against a compromised operating system. There is a saying (for which I cannot find a source), “Once an attacker has broken into your computer [and obtained root privileges], it is no longer your computer.” So in principle, there is nothing that 1Password can do to protect you if your computer is compromised.

In practice, however, there are steps we can and do take which dramatically reduce the chances that some malware running on your computer, particularly keystroke loggers, could capture your Master Password.

Safe at rest

Let me clarify one thing before going on. 1Password does protect you from the attacker who breaks into your computer and steals your 1Password data. The 1Password data format is designed with just such attacks in mind. This is why your data is encrypted with keys derived from your Master Password. It is also why we’ve put in measures to make it much harder for an attacker to try to guess your Master Password in the event that they do capture your data.

Even if an attacker gains access to your computer and 1Password data, there is little she can do without your Master Password. In this article, I’m focusing on another kind of attack in which the attacker tries to “listen in” to you typing your Master Password. This attacker is running a program on your computer that attempts to record everything you type on the keyboard or enter through some sort of keyboard-like device.

Countering counter-counter measures

I will get to the details below, but this article aims to describe and explain a change in how 1Password for Windows secures its Secure Desktop, a counter measure against a common type of keystroke logger. This change was added recently to 1Password 1 for Windows and has been included in 1Password 4 for Windows since its launch.

Márcio Almeida de Macêdo and Bruno Gonçalves de Oliveira of Trustwave SpiderLabs have discovered a way that a keystroke logger could work around our use of Secure Desktop and reported this to us. They have now reported this publicly (link might be having trouble, but it’s listed among their Security Advisories). We have since added a mechanism which prevents that particular counter measure to Secure Desktop. We very much appreciate SpiderLabs for giving us the opportunity to put a fix in place before announcing their discovery to the public. Trustwave SpiderLabs might grab fewer headlines by having done the right thing, but they have done the right thing.

Secure Desktop itself is a counter measure to keystroke loggers. De Macêdo and de Oliveira’s discovery is a counter measure to our counter measure. We have now introduced a counter-counter-counter measure. All of this will be explained, but it requires a lot of background into how keystroke loggers work and various ways to defend against them.

Keystroke loggers

Keystroke loggers attempt to capture everything that is typed on a particular computer or keyboard and pass that information on to a third party.

There are one or two legitimate uses of these (such as in research on writing), but those all involve the consent of those whose key strokes are being logged. More typically, keystroke loggers run surreptitiously, and are an attack on user privacy. I know that people don’t come to this blog for relationship advice, but if you are seriously tempted to install a keystroke logger to spy on a spouse or lover – a popular use of these things – then I have my doubts about the future of your relationship. Since you didn’t come here for relationship advice (and if you did you came to the wrong place), let’s return to how keystroke loggers work.

Logger in the middle

There are many different ways that keystroke loggers can work, but one useful way to think about this is as something (either hardware or software) that sits between your keyboard and the program you are typing into, something which shouldn’t be there.Hardware PS/2 keylogger in action

For keyboards that are attached to a computer with a cable, the simplest keystroke loggers are little physical devices that the attacker plugs into the computer, and then plugs the keyboard cable into that.

The keystroke logger is, in this case, sitting between the keyboard and the computer. The computer thinks it is talking directly to the keyboard, and the keyboard thinks it is talking to the computer, but the keystroke logger is sitting between them.

Alternatively, software keystroke loggers sit between components deep within the operating system and silently grab data. Things that are embedded that deeply or are using hardware loggers are not things that user software can detect or defend against.

Most keystroke logging is shallow

Most keystroke loggers take a simpler approach, rather than inserting themselves deep within the system. It is much simpler to write a program that says “hey, I am a program that needs to know everything that is coming in from the keyboard.” Operating systems provide hooks for programs to do exactly that.

You might be asking why operating systems might make writing keystroke loggers so easy. What business does any program running in the background have in seeing the input to some other program? One reason is to help my poor dog Molly, who suffers from (among other things) diabetes. This has led to sufficient necrosis in her paws so that she cannot easily type using a standard keyboard. The specialized device that she uses involves some clever software that looks at the input and uses various predictive technologies to replace the actual input with the intended text. This system intercepts (and changes) input bound for any program running on her computer; however, as far as most programs know, they are just getting input from a “keyboard”. Assistive technologies similar to the one Molly uses are a big part of making computing and communication accessible to more people.

Not only is a basic keystorke logger easy to write, it doesn’t require a complete break into a system. Different processes on a computer run with different privileges. When Molly logs in to her account and runs a program on a computer, the program is run under her user ID and with her privileges. This means that she isn’t able to interfere with processes that are run by Patty (the other dog). She also isn’t able to interfere with the system as a whole. If Mr Talk (the neighbor’s cat) tricks Molly into running a malicious program, that malware will be limited in the damage it can do.

The really deep and hard-to-avoid keystroke loggers would require full power over the system to install. But one of these simpler keystroke loggers requires only the privileges of the user whose keystrokes are to be recorded. So if Molly gets tricked into running a keystroke logger, it won’t affect Patty even if they use the same computer (as long as they are using different accounts). As you can imagine, the bulk of malicious keystroke loggers that spread through computer infection are of this shallower sort.

Counter measures

Now that we have some idea of how the typical keystroke logger works, it’s time to look at some counter-measures. The two most important counter-measures are:

  • keep your system and software up to date
  • exercise caution in what software you install and run

But let me focus a couple of the counter-measures that 1Password takes.

Counter measures on Mac: Secure Input

On Mac OS X, there are two simple provisions that makes it easy to thwart those shallow key loggers. The first one of these is called “Secure Input” and was introduced with OS X 10.3 Panther in 2003. A program—1Password for example—can say, “when the user types something into this particular input field, it must be done in a way that other processes can’t interfere.” Secure Input needs to be used sparingly, as it blocks all of the sorts legitimate activity, including assistive technologies that many people (and a few dogs) rely on. And Secure Input blocks TextExpander, which I rely on.

1Password declares the field in which you type your Master Password as a “Secure Input field”, then ordinary key loggers won’t have access to it. Since last year’s OS X 10.9 Mavericks, there is another defense built into the operating system. A program can only capture all of a users’ keystrokes if the user has explicitly granted it that permission in System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy under Accessibility. As I described earlier, most (but not all) such software are components of assistive technologies designed to make computers accessible to more people. That is why this system preference is ultimately under Accessibility.

Between these two mechanisms – Secure Input and that any application which has the capacity to log keystrokes must have explicit user approval to do so – OS X defends against these otherwise common sorts of keystroke loggers.

Counter measures on Windows: Secure Desktop

1P Win unlock secure desktop

Windows doesn’t offer the same sorts of defenses that OS X has, but it does allow for the creation of somewhat isolated environments called “Desktops”. On Windows, one can set up different Desktops in which only your program is running (along with system processes). A program running in one Desktop will not be able to listen in on keyboard input in a separate Desktop.

You will find a button that says “Unlock with Secure Desktop” in the upper right corner of the lock screen in 1Password 4. Clicking on that launches the Secure Desktop in which you will be prompted for your Master Password. You can take a look at Unlock with Secure Desktop in action.

Countering Secure Desktop

What de Macêdo and de Oliveira have discovered is that there is a way to set up a keystroke logger that does operate in all desktops, not just the one it was started in. Quite simply, their system launches a process that is able to listen for the creation of new desktops and add a process to each desktop created.

The ease at which they were able to do this (well, everything looks easy in retrospect) reflects the fact that the SwitchDesktop function in Windows was not designed for security purposes. We and others who use Secure Desktop as a mechanism for evading keystroke loggers have been taking advantage of the relatively isolated environment of a separate Desktop. Once the authors of keystroke loggers take our counter measures into account, they can launch counter-counter measures like the one Trustwave describes.

Knowing your environment

We want nothing but system processes and 1Password’s Master Password entry to be running in a Secure Desktop. We don’t want other, probably malicious, processes joining that Desktop. And so, our counter-counter-counter measure is to simply look around and see if there is anything running in the SecureDesktop that is unexpected.

If some unexpected process is found in the Secure Desktop environment, you’ll be prompted to close the Secure Desktop.

Secure Desktop: 1Password has detected an unknown process

Lessons

1. Keep your system and software up to date

The single biggest thing you can do for your computer security is to keep your system and
software up to date. The overwhelming majority of actual break-ins are through vulnerabilities that have already been fixed by the software vendors.

2. Pay attention to what software you install and where you get it from

Keystroke loggers and other malware are often installed unwittingly by the victims themselves. Try not to be one of those victims. Be particularly careful of anything that tries to frighten you into installing it. Fake security software and alerts are a common way to get people to install malicious software.

The move toward curated app stores offers additional protections, but it isn’t a complete solution. Still, using those where available will reduce your risks.

3. Use Windows Defender on Windows

I have long been skeptical of most anti-virus software, but Microsoft Security Essentials is something I can unequivocally recommend for those using Windows 7. In Windows 8, Windows Defender is automatically built in and enabled.

4. Understand what software can and can’t do for you

The core security design of 1Password is extremely strong. Quite simply: if you have a good Master Password, nobody who gets a copy of  your 1Password data will be able to decrypt it. 1Password can and does offer outstanding security.

At the same time, 1Password is limited in what it can do to protect you when you are using a compromised computer. It can (and does) offer some protection against shallow (the most common) attacks. But this is a bit of an arms race. As you see, we have had to put into place a counter measure to a counter measure to our counter measure against common keystroke loggers.

This is why the first two items on this list are so important.

In conclusion

1Password takes extraordinary and effective steps to protect your data. This is built into every aspect of its design. But you have to help protect 1Password from malware running on your machine. We do what we can to make things harder for the malware writers, but we can’t do it alone. You must try to provide a safe environment for 1Password and all of your software to run in.

This shared responsibility is similar to that which we have with your Master Password. We provide excellent encryption and protections and defenses against automated password guessing. But you have to pick a good Master Password and treat it well. For those who might be wondering, displaying your password on a giant screen is not treating a password well.

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Heads up: Your best defense against the Russian hacker data breach is still strong, unique passwords

The bad news: Russian hackers claim to have gotten their hands on a sizeable collection of login credentials and emails.

The semi-good news: the story might not add up. According to The Verge, most, if not all, the credentials may simply have been collected from previous breaches we already knew about, including Adobe, LinkedIn, and others.

The good news: strong, unique passwords for all your sites are still your best defense. If shady individuals nab one or even more of your accounts, 1Password’s unique passwords prevent them from using that information to break into all your accounts.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where data breaches are going to happen. As my colleague Jeff Goldberg likes to remind us: security is a process, not a destination.

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The best way to defend against breaches large and small is the same as it ever was: use 1Password’s Strong Password Generator on Mac, Windows, and iOS to create strong, unique passwords for all your accounts with a single click.

1Password’s Security Audit feature is also a great way to stay on top of your security. It shows you duplicate and weak passwords, and our built-in 1Password Watchtower service warns you to change your passwords for any of your Login’s sites that have recently been breached.

As usual, the headlines sound big, but the solution is simple. Use 1Password’s Strong Password Generator for the best defense against data breaches. As this matter is examined further, we’ll let you know more about breach sources or any other pertinent details.

1Password 4.5 iOS: iPhone locked

1Password is a very safe basket

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The right way to build reliable systems is to put all your eggs in one basket, after making sure that you’ve built a really good basket.
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When you use a password manager, you are putting a great deal of valuable and sensitive information in one place. The expression, putting all your eggs in one basket is apt. When you put all your very valuable eggs in one basket, it is absolutely fit and proper to ask how secure that basket is.

The question becomes more salient when there are press reports of past security problems in a number of password managers (1Password was not among them). Those reports are based on some excellent research on web-based password managers by Zhiwei Li and his colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, (“Go Cal!”).

What does that report mean for 1Password?

The Berkeley team looked at threats that affect web-based password managers. 1Password is not a web-based password manager and so, by and large, is not subject to the threats discussed in that paper. Different security architectures face different threats.

We made our choice of security architecture with this in mind. As a consequence of our design decisions, the particular threats and vulnerabilities discussed in the Berkeley paper are simply not applicable to 1Password.

(Most) Vendors acted swiftly and responsibly

Before I elaborate on some of the distinctions between web-based password managers, I would like to emphasize a point that I feel has not been sufficiently stressed in the public discussion of the Berkeley team’s analysis. The problems were fixed almost a year ago and apparently before any damage was done.

Although some of the problems were severe, four out of the five products studied fixed the problems quickly:

We reported all the attacks discussed below to the software vendors affected in the last week of August 2013. Four out of the five vendors responded within a week of our report, […] Aside from linkability vulnerabilities and those found in [the one that didn’t respond], all other bugs that we describe in the paper have been fixed by vendors within days after disclosure.

There is no denying that some of the disclosed bugs were severe, but they were reported responsibly and acted on promptly. Both the vendors and the researchers should be commended for how they handled this.

Because of its distinct security architecture, 1Password doesn’t face the specific threats in that particularly study, though it does face other threats which we try to defend against. Anyone who claims that they are completely invulnerable and bug free shouldn’t be in the security business. We strive to be bug free, and we strive for a fully secure design, but part of the process of security is making improvements in response to external discoveries of problems.

If I may quote something we wrote three years ago:

If you build a tough lock on a door, it is easy to imagine that you have now secured that door and don’t need to think about it anymore. But in the security business life is rarely that simple. Both the “threat landscape” and our understanding of the locks we’ve built earlier changes. The renowned security expert, Bruce Schneier is famous for (among other things) saying more than a decade ago that security is a process, not a product.

I am not trying to diminish the severity of the bugs discovered and fixed. They were anything but “routine”, but this case is an example where responsible disclosure and appropriate action kept user data safe.

Not Applicable

As I said above, 1Password is not a web-based password manager. You do not log into some web service that is managing your passwords. As a consequence, we don’t face the same kinds of security concerns that web-based services may face. A partial exception to that involves our 1PasswordAnywhere features, which I will return to below.

Nothing is impenetrable, but we have chosen a different security design deliberately. Our security design reduces the number of fronts on which we need to fight to defend your data. In slightly more technical jargon, we designed 1Password to minimize the “attack surface.” Let me run through a couple of examples of what I mean by certain sorts of threats not being applicable to 1Password.

With no authentication, no authentication errors are possible

One type of error discussed in the paper has to do with how the user authenticates (logs into) the particular web service. There are opportunities for bugs or design flaws to be introduced in that process. 1Password does not involve any authentication or web-based service, and therefore this isn’t a part of 1Password (at all) and so isn’t a part that can go wrong.

We can’t hand out data we don’t have

Another issue that came up in the Berkeley analysis of several of those web-based password managers is with how the service could be tricked into handing out data to the wrong person. Again, we don’t have your data in any form whatsoever, so even if we could be tricked into handing it out, we’ve got nothing to hand out.

Fewer phishing opportunities

Phishing is the trick where an attacker lure you into entering a password (or secret) that you would wish to give one service into a service under the attacker’s control. For example, most of us have received spam claiming to be from PayPal asking us to log in to reset our PayPal passwords. The actual website this spam directs you to is not the real PayPal site, but instead is something under the attacker’s control. This, for some reason, is called “phishing.”

You never type your 1Password Master Password into the web browser (with the exception of 1PasswordAnywhere). With 1Password 4, you never type your Master Password into a browser extension, either. You only type it into the 1Password program itself or into 1Password Mini (on Mac) or 1Password Helper (on Windows). Because of this, it is very unlikely that a malicious website could trick you into giving it your Master Password.

This is a consequence of the fact that 1Password doesn’t do authentication, but it is distinct enough that I listed it separately.

Goodbye to bookmarklets

Browser extensions and browser bookmarklets live in a hostile environment. They live in an environment that is partially created by the web pages you happen to be visiting (and things that those web pages may load from elsewhere). Browser extensions are sandboxed in a way that gives them more protection than bookmarklets. Bookmarklets are highly exposed, and so they need very very strong defenses.

Years ago, 1Password did offer a bookmarklet to provide some ability to use your 1Password data within browsers that didn’t support the 1Password extension at the time. But in 2011 we phased it out, saying:

It’s time to say good-bye to a couple of features that won’t stand up to the anticipated threat environment. One feature, loved by many, is the Login Bookmarklet. This was originally designed as a way to get some 1Password functionality into browsers we didn’t support at the time. Before we had 1Password for iOS, this could be used to kinda-sorta get 1Password data into browsers that didn’t support 1Password directly.

The data in the 1Password Bookmarklet is very well encrypted, but the password for it is not secured using PBKDF2. This means that if the Bookmarklet were to be captured it would need a very strong password on it to resist attack. Because the Login Bookmarklet lives in the browser’s bookmarks, there are more opportunities for it to be captured. Given these two issues, it is time to phase the bookmarklet out.

We weren’t saying back then in 2011 or saying now that it would be impossible to find a way to keep the bookmarklet both usable and sufficiently secure. But we were in a position, given our security architecture, to withdraw from having to defend your data on that particular front.

Linkability

Li’s team raised concerns about “linkability”. Linkability isn’t about revealing the content of your data, but it is a threat to your ability to remain anonymous. If you have a Login with username “Alice” on one site, and “Bob” on another, you may not wish those sites to be able to figure out that those two accounts belong to the same person. That is, you may not wish anyone to be able to “link” those two accounts.

1Password leaks no such information. We don’t have the ability to link those, and even someone who captured your encrypted 1Password data (new format) wouldn’t be able to perform such linking. Again, this is largely a consequence of the fact that we don’t store your data in any form.

Does anything in that paper apply to us?

From the above, you could be left with the feeling that there is nothing for us to learn from Li et al.’s paper. But there are lessons for us. We do have a browser extension, and while it is very different from the kinds of extensions used by web-based password managers, it still needs to remain secure in a hostile environment.

The paper offers two general recommendations that would help provide layers of defense for bookmarklets and extensions. One of them is to specify a restrictive Content Security Policy (CSP) within the extension. The other is to restrict what sorts of JavaScript language features are used within the extension or bookmarklet.

Good advice on Content Security Policies

Content Security Policies is a relatively new and not fully standardized technology. It is most useful for websites to state a CSP which browsers should then enforce. But it is also possible for browser extensions to state a policy. One important policy statement could say that no scripts from outside of the extension should be loaded. When CSP was first introduced, We had jumped on this but found that each browser did things differently, and at the time, even the most advanced didn’t behave as documented.

Here is an excerpt of something I wrote to some of the authors of the paper last Friday (July 11).

Our earlier attempts to specify a [strong] CSP within our [1Password version 3] extension left us with a bad taste in our mouth, but that was a few years ago and browser implementation was erratic, particularly of CSPs within extensions. Your paper is a nice reminder to attempt this again

We do currently use the default CSP that comes with Google Chrome’s  manifest version 2 specification, but it is time to test again how well CSPs work in other browsers.

Defensive JavaScript

Zhiwei and co-authors also point developers to Defensive JavaScript. Roughly speaking this involves avoiding certain features of the JavaScript language, while at the same time encapsulating your own JavaScript functions to protect them from outside tampering.

We had already been aware of the specific recommendations. Although we may not be following the letter of those recommendations, our practices have long been in line with the spirit of them. We avoid “eval”-like operations, and anything we inject into the web page is wrapped up in closures.

Again, their paper is a nice reminder for us to take a look at this again, to ensure that we are doing everything we can to protect our browser extension from compromise.

The exceptional 1PasswordAnywhere

1PasswordAnywhere is an optional, but useful, feature for many users of 1Password. It is useful when you don’t have 1Password itself with you. If you synchronize your data with Dropbox using the Agile Keychain Format, you will have a file within your Agile Keychain folder called 1Password.html. That file contains the JavaScript necessary to give you read access to your 1Password data stored on Dropbox in your Agile Keychain.

1PasswordAnywhere is as secure today as the day we introduced it. Its security has not diminished in any way. But it does remain an exception to much of what I have said above. It does involve a great deal of cryptography in JavaScript; it is an instance where you do enter your 1Password Master Password into the browser, its security relies on TLS/SSL in a way that the rest of 1Password does not, and it is subject to active attacks (data tampering) in ways that the latest version of 1Password is not.

Again, let me stress that 1PasswordAnywhere remains as secure as ever. But because it is cryptography in JavaScript delivered over SSL/TLS and stored on a third party system, it faces threats that other uses of 1Password do not face.

Continuing the discussion

Zhiwei Li will be presenting his results at the 23rd USENIX Security Symposium August 20–25, which I will be attending. I am very much looking forward to continuing my discussion with him and his co-authors in person. I will have a busy August. I will be presenting a paper at PasswordsCon14 August 5–6. In between these two conferences is my 25th wedding anniversary. (If Lívia can put up with me talking about security concepts for 25 years, you, Dear Reader, can manage to wade through some of my long-winded explanations on occasion.)

Baskets are inevitable

I would like to return to the concerns about “putting all of your eggs in one basket”. With a password manager, you are, indeed, putting all of your eggs in one basket. And so it is important that you read articles like this so that you can get a better sense of how well that basket is protected. But I would like to point out that the likely alternative to using a password manager is to resue passwords. Reusing passwords involves putting multiple eggs into multiple, very fragile baskets.

Password reuse

Regular readers of the Agile Blog know that I can’t avoid speaking of the dangers of password reuse. When you use the same password on more than one site or service you are putting yourself at risk. A breach of security with one of those sites leads to your password being discovered, allowing attackers to compromise all the other services for which you use the same password.

Reuse baskets

Suppose that you use the password “2b|kn0t2b” on five different sites. Say, PayPal, Amazon, Dropbox, MyKittyPictures, and TheNewBarkTimes. By doing so, you are putting the security of those five eggs into a single basket. Sure, that isn’t all your eggs in one basket, but it is still five. The more you reuse a password the larger the basket grows.

Furthermore, the bigger your reuse basket grows, the weaker it becomes. This is because the more sites and services that you use the same password for, the more likely it is that that password will be exposed. Suppose that one of the sites doesn’t use SSL/TLS to security your connection. Your password for that site (and for the whole basket) will travel over the network unencrypted. Suppose another site suffers a breach in which its (hopefully hashed) password database is stolen. Your password for your whole basket will depend on the strength of the password and how well that particular site hashes the password. Perhaps one of the sites that you use that same password for is in the habit of sending passwords through email (it happens). The larger your reuse basket becomes, the greater the opportunity for it to be compromised.

So far, I have met one person with many logins who does not need to put multiple eggs into a single basket. She credibly claims to have memorized about 80 unique and reasonably secure passwords. Her superpower is a photographic memory and specific security training in password choice. The rest of us, however, do not share her superpower, and inevitably must put multiple eggs into single baskets. It’s better to pick a basket like 1Password that has been carefully designed for the purpose and subject to scrutiny.

No, you do not need to change passwords in response to the OpenSSL CCS bugs

For the third time this year, there is yet another flaw in an underlying security technology used across the net: the recently fixed OpenSSL bugs announced on June 5. For our customers, we are happy to report that 1Password is not affected by bugs in SSL implementations, nor do these bugs require that most people change passwords.

1Password is not affected and your data remains secure, and you do not need to make password changes. The bug that everyone is talking about, lovingly referred to as “ChangeCipherSpec (CCS)” (also known as “CVE-2014-0224″ or “SSL/TLS MITM vulnerability”), is not in the same category as the recent, catastrophic Heartbleed. It does not require a response from most people in the way that Heartbleed did.

Why no password changes?

As bad as the CCS bug is, here is what makes it different from Heartbleed from a user’s perspective.

1. The attacker must be in a “privileged network position”

Not anyone can launch a CCS-based attack. The attacker must be the operator of some of the network between you and the site you are using. In this respect, the attack is similar to the GotoFail bug in February on Apple’s Secure Transport. In contrast, Heartbleed could be easily launched by anyone anywhere on the net.

2. Both the client and the server must be vulnerable for the attack to work

This means that if you are not using a vulnerable SSL client (web browser, email program, etc), then you remain safe from this attack even if the server is vulnerable. Few desktop browsers use the OpenSSL libraries to manage their SSL connections. Chrome on Android and Konqueror on KDE (linux) are the two most popular ones I can think of that do. Chrome on desktops does not use OpenSSL. In contract, Heartbleed only required the server to be vulnerable.

3. Many systems were fixed before the news of the bugs were made fully public

It is very tricky to fix a bug in open source software without making knowledge of the bug public at the same time. The OpenSSL team and the discoverers of Heartbleed attempted, but failed, to get most systems fixed before going public. With these bugs, they did a better job, so the window of vulnerability was much shorter.

Each of the first two reasons, on their own, are sufficient for me to conclude that the large majority of people do not need to worry about changing passwords. The combination of them and the other two make me extremely comfortable in this advice.

If you are concerned about governments or network operators having exploited this bug, and if you used clients that relied on OpenSSL for their SSL operations (such as Chrome on Android or Konqueror and other KDE tools on Linux), you may wish to change those passwords. But most people don’t need to take any action. It remains important that you do change passwords for systems that had been vulnerable to the Heartbleed bug reported in April. With Heartbleed, there really is a wolf we are crying about.

These new OpenSSL bugs do mean that system administrators need to update their systems quickly, but it does not require them to rekey their server certificates. These bugs are substantial, but the response is the usual “upgrade affected systems promptly”.

Everything that follows goes into technical details explaining what the recent bugs are and what they may mean in general. They have no specific impact on 1Password, but I know that some of you are curious, and I do indeed suffer from a pathological compulsion to explain things.

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Password reuse lands Find My iPhone users in expensive hot water

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There are plenty of examples as to why friends shouldn’t let friends reuse passwords, but some users of Apple’s Find my iPhone have become the latest omen of why this practice is so dangerous.

On Tuesday, May 27, The Verge reported that Apple’s Find my iPhone feature was being used to lock devices for ransom. Some people found their Mac or iPhone locked—a legitimate feature of Find my iPhone—with a message of “Device hacked by Oleg Pliss” and a demand of $50 to unlock it.

At first it wasn’t clear how the malicious hacker(s) were able to compromise these devices, but today Apple stated that it wasn’t through an iCloud flaw. The most likely culprit, then, would be password reuse. Thanks to all the recent major breaches at some of the internet’s largest companies, including eBay, Adobe, and Yahoo, the hackers probably had plenty of material to rummage through.

Let this be yet another unfortunate and pricey lesson about reusing passwords. Don’t do it. Don’t let your friends and family do it. Send them these stories and get 1Password to effortlessly create strong, unique passwords for all your accounts.