The Rising Role of Cyber Security in Sustainable Development and Growth

Last updated: 07/07/2021

12 minute read

Photo by Kervin Edward Lara on Pexels.com

The topic of sustainability is unmissable at the moment. As the urgency of the situation grows, it continues to demand attention from various sectors and industries within society. You may wonder where the cyber security industry fits into all of this. Whilst traditionally from very different worlds, they are united through the characteristics of constant innovation and the capacity to bring about real change for the better. Certainly, cyber security has a bigger role to play in the overarching battle for a more sustainable world than one may initially think. 

The Industry

As around two thirds of greenhouse gas emissions world wide are associated with burning fossil fuels1, renewable energy is a good place to start. The UK currently has the largest number of offshore wind resources in the world, equating to about 10GW in operation outside of the border2. Infrastructure such as this pushes us one step closer to meeting the UK’s target of reaching net zero emissions by 20502. It’s not just the UK that has set the ball rolling in the fight against greenhouse emissions, our friends across the pond are aiming for no electricity sector carbon emissions by 2035— as outlined by Biden3. So, whilst this growing industry means great things for our hopes of preserving the world we live in, mass investment means it is also shaping up to be a very lucrative market for cyber criminals to direct their efforts towards. Jim Guinn, global managing director for cyber security in energy, chemicals, utilities and mining at Accenture states, “The cybersecurity conversation in the renewable energy engineering and construction business is almost nonexistent today.”3 It is imperative that an industry gaining traction as quickly as this one protects itself with the necessary defense measures against cyber attacks.

How exactly are renewable energy plants made vulnerable to cyber hackers?

As mentioned before, sustainability shares close ties with new innovation. Renewables depend on control systems and distribution networks supported by technology. As many sources of renewable energy, such as wind and solar power are not readily available 24/7 like fossil fuels are— they require storage previsions that are also underpinned by technology4. IoT plays a huge role in the remote monitoring, control and regulation of off-shore wind turbines5. As we know, more than 75% of the code in use that makes these technologies a reality is open source, putting open source components smack bang in the middle of the sustainability conversation. However, older wind farms and their communication systems were never designed with the “security by design” mindset like the IEC 62443 standard6, similar to the GDPR principle7. As stated by Jim Guinn “renewables have lax cybersecurity standards, as they are an industry that may be more focused on building first and leaving cybersecurity as an afterthought”3.

Past attacks

A first example in which renewable energy facilities became victims of cyber attacks was the 2014 DragonFly hack8. The cyber criminal group used Remote Access Trojans (RAT) named Backdoor.Oldrea and Trojan.Karagany to infiltrate energy grid operators, major electricity generation firms, petroleum pipeline operators, and Energy industry industrial control system (ICS) equipment manufacturers located in the United States, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Turkey, and Poland. The hackers had been present in systems since 2011 before detection. Although reports indicate that the overarching aim of the hack was to gather intelligence, later investigation suggested it also had the capacity to take control of physical systems themselves. 

A second example in which renewable energy facilities have fallen victim to cyber attack was the SPower hack of 2019. Unfortunately, the group gained the title of being the first U.S. provider of solar and wind renewable energy to have been the victim of a cyber-attack. A hacker used a vulnerability in a Cisco firewall to interrupt the connection between sPower’s wind and solar power generation installations and the company’s main command center9

More recently, Colonial Pipeline’s hack10– reported on 7th May 2021 fell victim to a cyber attack, highlighting just how seriously energy supplies can be affected by cyber criminal organisations. As a result of ransomware, one of the U.S’ biggest pipelines was forced to shut down operations11. In the subsequently released statement it was revealed that after a 90M bitcoin payout, Colonial Pipeline said that remediation is ongoing and each system is being worked on in an “incremental approach”12. This attack compromised around 45% of the East Coast’s fuel, including gasoline, diesel, home heating oil, jet fuel, and military supplies. Whilst the energy jeopardised in this case was not renewable, Jonathan White, director of NREL’s cybersecurity program office highlighted that “As the penetration of renewable generation and EV charging stations increases in the future, the consequence of a successful attack is likely to be similar in aggregate to those of a successful attack to a natural gas, coal or nuclear plant today”3. Thus, a cyber attack such as the one launched on Colonial Pipeline gives a worrying insight into the potential damage that could be launched on the renewable energy sector. 

Risks for the future

After using the Meterian web scanner to evaluate the security of some major UK energy suppliers, we were able to see that similar issues are being faced. For example, the UK’s biggest supplier of energy, British Gas received a security score of 0 out of a best possible 100. Our report indicates that they currently have components in use that pose a threat to their system, as well as components in use with undeclared licenses.

Again, after scanning https://firstlightfusion.com/, one of the UK’s leading renewable energy suppliers, we found 2 high threat level vulnerabilities and 3 medium threat level vulnerabilities, as well as components in use with undeclared licenses. 

As this sector grows in both relevance and monetary value, there is a need for adequate cyber security that is growing in unison. According to industry growth trajectories, the renewable energy sector is set to become a big target of cyber hackers. As shown in this blog, experts have not been afraid to warn that more needs to be done to reinforce the security of renewable plants. The need is made even more important to protect consumers’ faith in new energy sources that play an important role in our fight against climate change. 

There is some evidence that the tide is changing to benefit the cybersecurity of the energy sector, both traditional and renewable. On 12th May 2021 Biden issued The Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity13. A few main points from the bill are:

  1. New and more stringent cyber security standards for government purchased software including multi-factor authentication and endpoint detection and response of software.
  2. Suppliers of technology must provide a SBOM (Software Bill Of Materials) that highlights the source of the software (supplier ID) that can be used to perform a risk assessment. This supplier ID can be used to alert high risk software if it is not verified by the digital signature applied to a SBOM14.
  3. There is to be the enforced sharing of intel surrounding cyber attacks, in the hope that the sharing of information will benefit us all. Jennifer Bisceglie, President and CEO of enterprise resilience company Interos Inc., stated that “we live in a world that people are, and companies are very concerned about their brand and reputation”15 and thus are reluctant to admit to cyber breaches. The new bill is set to remove fear of blame and shame and promote collaborative learning and continuous improvement for a safer and stronger society in the digital world.

An automatic, continuous line of defence protecting the open source components in use in renewable energy control systems is one way that Meterian can support the ongoing battle against carbon emissions. Whilst incremental in their support of rapid innovation, open source components are a pressure point to security systems of which cyber attackers are not afraid to make use of.

Visit our homepage to learn more about how Meterian can secure your businesses’ open source components—keeping cyber hackers out and your intellectual property in.

1 “Energy and climate change”. European Environment Agency, 11 May 2021, https ://www.eea.europa.eu/signals/signals-2017/articles/energy-and-climate-change

2 GOV.UK, 6 October 2020, https ://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-plans-to-make-uk-world-leader-in-green-energy

3 Vasquez, Christian. “CYBERSECUIRTY: Biden is eyeing renewable energy. So are hackers”. E&E News, 22 December 2020, https ://www.eenews.net/stories/1063721291

4 Ruhle, Micheal and Trakimavicius, Lukas. “Cyberattacks are the new challenge for renewable energy”. Politico, 18 July 2017, https ://www.politico.eu/article/opinion-cyberattacks-are-the-new-challenge-for-renewable-energy/

5 Taylor-Smith, Kerry. “How IoT can improve the performance of offshore windfarms”. NS Energy, 15 May 2020, https ://www.nsenergybusiness.com/features/iot-wind-power/

6 Freudenberg, Wolf K. “Why windfarms need to step up cyber security”. DNV, https ://www.dnv.com/article/why-windfarms-need-to-step-up-cyber-security-128082.

7 https ://gdpr-info.eu/art-25-gdpr/

8 “Emerging Threat: Dragonfly/ Energetic Bear – APT group”. BROADCOM, 30th June 2014, https ://community.broadcom.com/symantecenterprise/communities/community-home/librarydocuments/viewdocument?DocumentKey=16fb565a-8297-4641-8105-b5d0d4db3ee1&CommunityKey=30643d26-dab8-4c4b-a34e-5f6f02d58ff6&tab=librarydocuments

9 Cimpanu, Catalin. “Cyber-attack hits Utah wind and solar energy provider”. ZDNet, 31 October 2019, https ://www.zdnet.com/article/cyber-attack-hits-utah-wind-and-solar-energy-provider/

10 “Colonial Pipeline confirms it paid $4.4m ransom to hacker gang after attack”. The Guardian, 20 May 2021, https ://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/may/19/colonial-pipeline-cyber-attack-ransom

11 Galiordi, Natalie. “Colonial Pipeline aims to restore operations by end of the week after cyberattack”. ZDNet, 10 May 2021, https ://www.zdnet.com/article/colonial-pipeline-aims-to-restore-operations-by-end-of-the-week-after-cyberattack/

12 Stevens, Pippa. “Owner of pipeline shuttered by cyber attack aims to restore service by end of the week”. CNBC, 10 May 2021, https ://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/10/colonial-says-parts-of-fuel-pipeline-being-brought-online-aims-to-restore-service-by-end-of-week.html

13 The White House, 12 May 2021, https ://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/05/12/executive-order-on-improving-the-nations-cybersecurity/

14 Brooks, Richard. energycentral, 21 May 2021, https ://energycentral.com/c/ec/cybersecurity-executive-order-requires-new-software-security-standards-synopsys

15 Roby, Karen. MSN, “Expert: Biden’s executive order on cyber security is a good start toward protecting organizations”. 26 May 2021, https ://www.msn.com/en-us/money/smallbusiness/expert-bidens-executive-order-on-cybersecurity-is-a-good-start-toward-protecting-organizations/ar-AAKnd7E?ocid=uxbndlbing

The Rising Role of Cyber Security in Sustainable Development and Growth

Rust— the new language shaking up the open source programming world

Rust is a relatively “new” software language across all the available ones at this time and rising in popularity among developers. Having been voted ‘most loved’ language for the past five years1, it is no wonder that Rust is gaining more attention. Read on to hear why we think Rust is worth your time.

Why a developer should consider Rust

Rust is a system language, along the lines of C and C++, but at the same times it incorporates many of the features of higher level languages, such as:

  • A reliable memory management (without a garbage collector)
  • An extremely low overhead
  • The use of static typing
  • A build design that prioritises performance (at the level of C and C++)
  • The use of a modern package management ecosystem

Remember Go? Rust will almost be faster than Go in run-time benchmarks because it has superior fine-grained control over how concurrency works in terms of threads and shared resources2

Additionally, Rust is being considered for use in the Linux Kernel3 by Linus himself, which is no small feat. Rust also supports WebAssembly4, just in case you fancy writing some web stuff 🙂

Rust has also become the ideal candidate for  IoT application development. Labeled as fast, reliable, and secure by Smart Device Management organisation Dwello5 who switched to Rust for their IoT platform. As they build IoT applications, developers have many programming languages to choose from. Some popular options are Java, C, JavaScript and Python. C and C++ are especially popular for device-run code. Another, less popular, option today is Rust, but that is likely to change. Let’s start with the characteristics of any programming language that makes it a good candidate for IoT development.

Application performance is a top priority, especially for code running on devices with minimal CPU and memory resources.  Developers can develop highly performant applications with C and C++, but at a cost. C and C++ developers know all too well the risks and challenges of dealing with bugs related to memory management such as unhandled null pointers and failing to deallocate unused memory.

Another component of a good IoT development language is developer productivity. Productivity is often a byproduct of skills, tools, and programming language abstractions and patterns. Popular programming languages are well supported by development environments. Additionally, developers acquire build tools and skills with time and experience; as a result, language abstractions and patterns are a key consideration with regards to developer productivity.

For those looking for both application performance and developer productivity, Rust is an increasingly popular option. The IoT market size is expected to grow from $250.72 billion in 2019 to $1,463.19 billion by 20276. Clearly, this is an area of the tech world that is only set to expand in influence. Meterian prioritises remaining at the forefront of innovation and supporting languages that have a vital role in ever advancing tech trends.

Why Meterian has decided to add Rust to its supported languages

First of all, Rust is big in open source, so it’s a natural continuation in our mission to support open source. Although security is extremely important in the Rust philosophy, there are vulnerable packages appearing in the wild. The GitHub advisory database7 does not have an entry for Rust (although some advisories do surface here and there) and the NVD database contains only a portion of all the vulnerable Rust components. Meterian is ingesting not only the NVD and other official security Rust databases, but it’s also actively monitoring many Rust open source projects at their source. Our ongoing efforts for getting the optimal coverage of all known vulnerabilities for open source dependencies extends our mission to Rust developers so we can maximise preventative care for Rust coding projects. 

Rust is important to pay attention to because on average every single rust open source project we scanned contains at least 1 vulnerable component that often could be patched.

Sizing up the risks in the Rust ecosystem

Rust, like all other modern languages, has an ecosystem of components, called “crates”, that are available from the open source community, which is accessible at crates.io. Although as a Rust developer you will always prefer writing some code from scratch (at the end of the day, this is a system language), it’s highly likely you won’t be reinventing the wheel. As shown on the screenshot from May 6th, over 60,000 crates with over 6.8 billion downloads, this is a significant size.

There’s a good chance that, if you never checked, you have been using a crate affected by a publicly disclosed vulnerability. Unless you are in application security and unless you spend half of your time reading bulletin boards, advisories, mailing lists, you won’t know about it. However, hackers do. They keep an eye on these vulnerabilities and routinely develop automated attacks to exploit them. In fact, hackers have it nailed to a T. The vulnerabilities are made public on open source vulnerability databases, the code is open source, they already have a botnet to run them (maybe even your Amazon Alexa or Google Play). All of a sudden, your shiny new service written with the latest cutting edge technology is vulnerable, and it can be used to exfiltrate confidential user data from your backend!

Let’s assume, for example, that you are using hyper, an HTTP library:

Screenshot taken from: https://www.rust-lang.org/

Since hyper is a relatively low-level library, it’s meant to be a building block for other libraries and applications. It may be a transitive dependency, a crate that is pulled in your code as the result  of another crate that is used. In particular version 0.12.34 of hyper has an interesting vulnerability: it allows an attacker to remotely execute code on the machine where your code is running. Check out this Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures ID CVE-2020-35863 for more details.  This security vulnerability would allow the attacker, for example, to install a very simple bot on your server, open an undetected tunnel and start pulling data from your proprietary system.

This is the beauty of a tool that detects the problem automatically and informs you promptly. We prioritise your time so that you can focus on the solution to remediate the issue, maximising productivity whilst maintaining high standards of open source security. 

What can Meterian do for you?

Sign up for a free account to see how our invisible security platform can work seamlessly in your software development life cycle (SDLC) and auto-remediate vulnerable components.

1 https: //insights.stackoverflow.com/survey/2020#overview

2 Howarth, Jesse. “Why Discord is switching from Go to Rust”. Discord, 4 Feb 2020, https: //blog.discord.com/why-discord-is-switching-from-go-to-rust-a190bbca2b1f

3 Salter, Jim. “Linus Torvalds weighs in on Rust language in the Linux kernel”. Arstechnica, 25 March 2021, https: //arstechnica.com/gadgets/2021/03/linus-torvalds-weighs-in-on-rust-language-in-the-linux-kernel/

4 “Why Rust?”, https: //www.rust-lang.org/what/wasm

5 Hiner, Jeff. “We Rewrote Our IoT Platform in Rust and Got Away With It”. Medium, 31 July 2019, https: //medium.com/dwelo-r-d/we-rewrote-our-iot-platform-in-rust-and-got-away-with-it-2c8867c61b67

6 Fortune Business Insights, https: //www.globenewswire.com/en/news-release/2021/04/08/2206579/0/en/Global-IoT-Market-to-be-Worth-USD-1-463-19-Billion-by-2027-at-24-9-CAGR-Demand-for-Real-time-Insights-to-Spur-Growth-says-Fortune-Business-Insights.html

7 https: //github.com/advisories

Rust— the new language shaking up the open source programming world

Open Source Licensing- the Weirder the Better

5 minute read

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

As it’s a requirement that all open source projects are released under at least one open source license, they hold a great deal of influence in how said open source code is used and re-distributed by others. Whilst some licenses can be difficult to make head or tail of due to complicated non-developer language, there are some more relaxed licenses that take the opportunity to have some fun with their requirements. So, to save you doing it, we have assembled our top 5 all time quirky open source licenses to look out for: 

  1. The Beerware License

Written by Danish software developer Poul-Henning Kamp, this license states that if the user thinks the stuff they reuse is worth it they must buy the creator a beer in return. The license’s original notation can be found here. Kamp states his reasoning for the Beerware license is an act of defiance against ‘lawyers trying to interpret freedom’, believing that free open source code should remain free regardless of how much profit is made through its use. Since the requirement is optional, based on the contingency that the user believes the code is ‘worth it’, this license falls under the category of ‘CopyRight only’ licenses. If the requirement were mandatory, the license would be classed as ‘non-free’, and Kamp would most likely be drunk a lot of the time. 

  1. The Chicken Dance License

Otherwise known as the CDL, this license requires employees affiliated with organisations using the open source code to perform ‘The Chicken Dance’ for varying amounts of time, depending on how many units are distributed. The license was created by Andrew Harris with the goal of making “intellectual property far more entertaining to deal with”. Similarly to Kamp, Harries includes himself in wanting fewer lawyers in software – suggesting that the motive behind this wacky license holds strong roots in open source principles of open collaboration. The ‘Chicken Dance’ in question can be found here, but if you can’t master it don’t worry- the license states that moving in a chicken like manor is sufficient.

  1. The Don’t Ask Me About It License 

Perhaps the most simple of the licenses included in the blog, this license simply requests that users do not pester the creator with any issues they may be having with the file. The nod to lack of responsibility is admirable, there is something to be said for wanting to lead a quiet life post software development.

  1. The Hot Potato License

This license states that ‘all rights are reserved by the last person to commit a change to this repository’. Thus, the rights are passed on from person to person infinitely- like a game of hot potato. However, to avoid anyone interrupting this game of hot potato, users are prohibited from making drastic changes to the repository that would do so. It’s a nice touch from the creator to give us all the opportunity to control the rights of such a well known open source license at least once in our life 

  1. The Do What The F*** You Want License

The Do What The F*** You Want License is a ‘very permissive’ license that can be taken as a direct stand against the principle of licencing software in general. Whilst playing by the rules of licencing, this license intends to be a free pass for distribution without any constraints. However, in the attempt of being so liberal, this license actually poses an issue for some major corporations. For example, Google finds the license too unclear to use confidently. As a result, they have banned the use of components under this license completely. However, if you like the look of this license don’t let Google scare you off, wtfpl.net offers guidance on how to make the most of it.

Whilst there is a funny side to open source licensing, failure to stay on top of your business’s license compliance management could be detrimental. A strong defence of these risks, as well as efficient software composition analysis tools will help manage the use of open source in your code base and avoid hefty fines and diminished customer relations. In this way, legal due diligence is an important step in agile development as it allows to ‘push forward’ and remediate any legal obstacles blocking a decision from being made. To read more about cyber due diligence, check out our past blog.

Get in touch with a member of our team to learn more about how Meterian can help your business master License Compliance Management.

Open Source Licensing- the Weirder the Better

Which Open Source License is best for you?

3 minute read

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The right open source license is necessary to protect your intellectual property and an important factor in maintaining license compliance management. As well as this, open source licensing underpins the essence of open source values in facilitating open redistribution. The integration of license compliance management into your CI/CD pipeline is just another way of optimizing the efficiency of your software supply chain. The best license for you will be shaped by your reason for creating code and your goals for redistribution. Use our introductory guide to decide which is best for you. Licenses and legal terminology are that of a very different world than what developers are used to. Because of this, we have organised our guide into developer persona categories. Simply pick the Dev that aligns most closely with yourself to learn more.

Devs working within a community:

If you are collaborating with an existing community or project, the best option for you is to align with the community you are a part of by adopting the project’s existing license. This can be found under the ‘license’ or ‘copying’ file of a project. If this fails, simply contact the maintainers of your community for clarification. As the licensing decision has already been made for you, you can spend less time on legalities and more time on software innovation- lucky you.

Devs not looking to overcomplicate:

The MIT license is perfect for devs that want to keep things straightforward. It is relaxed in that redistribution requires little to no control criteria other than the continuation of copyright and licensing details. The material that falls under this license is able to be used for both commercial and private use, as long as a copy of the license and copyright notice is included in any instances of modification or distribution. However, when using this license you should be aware that limitation of liability is included. As well as this, there is no warranty provided with this license.

Devs that care about sharing improvements:

The GNU General Public License v3.0 allows you to copy, distribute and modify projects under the condition you note all modifications and dates of modification in the source files. All modifications made to GPL-license code must also be made available under the GPL with installation instructions for future devs. This license forbids users from sub-licensing, although it provides software that does have the right to run and distribute the code. Users should be aware that this license includes a limitation of liability, meaning that the owner cannot be charged for damages associated with code using this license.

We hope this quick read has shed some light on the world of license compliance management. Whilst it may be confusing at first, it is worth taking the time to pick the right license for you and your project to best publish your software and display your innovation. For more information on potential risks associated with license compliance, see our past blog: ‘How the wrong license can harm your business’.

Get in touch with a member of our team to learn more about how Meterian can help your business master License Compliance Management.

Which Open Source License is best for you?

Meterian Spotlight: A quick look at Honda’s open source software supply chain

Photo of front view of white honda car with headlights on at dusk
Photo by Douglas Bagg on Unsplash

Earlier this month, Honda announced it has suffered a cyber attack on its network.  It was affecting its operations around the world: their manufacturing plants have shut down, customer service work has been forced to stop, and their internal communication systems were affected.  Additionally, systems outside of Japan were affected due to a “virus” that spread through the network.  No further details on the root cause of the attack yet, but at Meterian we have done a quick surface scan of their websites honda.com and www.honda.co.uk.  Similar issues were found on both.  We’ll focus our blog post on Honda UK’s site.

From the summary report above, we see their website’s security scored 0 From the summary report above, we see their website’s security scored 0 out of 100 because it has 19 vulnerabilities, including jquery 1.4.2 which is vulnerable and outdated.  Honda.co.uk’s basic cybersecurity hygiene could be improved by making sure to not launch the website with vulnerable and old components — jquery 1.4.2 is from 2010.  Similar issues were found after analysing honda.com.

Although we don’t know if these two components’ weaknesses contributed to the hack of Honda’s systems, while investigations are private, we know every software application is part of a company’s digital estate.  Altogether, front end systems (like websites and mobile apps) and back end systems (like databases, servers, APIs that store or access a company’s customer data, intellectual property — the real business logic of the services) make up the digital estate.  Any security hole is a vulnerable entry point for cyber criminals to exploit and gain unauthorized access to information or systems to cause damage.  Last year in 2019, over 40GB of Honda’s data were breached, exposing details about internal systems and devices on their network. Cyber criminals have strategically targeted Honda again.  

There are many strategies to build up an organization’s cyber resilience, including cybersecurity cultural awareness among employees and operational and software development best practices.  Meterian helps customers reduce the time to detect, mitigate and resolve issues in applications’ software supply chain. These known vulnerabilities are easy to fix with Meterian because:

1. Safe coding practices can be easily adopted into the software development lifecycle  

2. Automated controls fit directly into the software development workflow for continuous monitoring

3. Meterian can be set up to run continuously and prevent such vulnerabilities from going live 

Most importantly, developers are empowered to recognise and address the issue early with information at their fingertips.  As stewards of software, they can automatically cyber-proof their apps with Meterian so the business can run continuously and avert giving unwanted prying eyes unauthorized access to systems and data.

To this day, Equifax’s mistake for not fixing a known security hole in its software application’s open source component still has consequences since the 2017 mega breach they suffered.  See TechRadar’s lackluster review of Equifax’s identity theft protection service, which they did not include in their article “Best identity theft protection for 2020.”   

Good practices in cybersecurity can help protect a company’s reputation and growth.  As we’ve also seen following the EasyJet hack incident revealed in May, business productivity and customer satisfaction can be adversely affected due to any cyber hack incident.  You can read our recent analysis on easyjet.com’s website.  

To see if your own public assets have open source vulnerabilities that anyone could find out about (and exploit to enter your systems), try our webscanner or project scanner.

Meterian Spotlight: A quick look at Honda’s open source software supply chain

jQuery, Javascript vulnerability of the month

Artwork by Marco Sciortino

Here we are! Guess what’s vulnerable again?
On April 10th 2020 it was made public that a vulnerability has been exploited in the most popular Javascript library ever implemented: jQuery 3.4.1.

Why is jQuery 3.4.1 vulnerable?

Vulnerability score: 5
Platform: Javascript
Components: jQuery, all versions before 3.5.0

When jQuery is invoked, it reads the HTML document and returns requested fragments of it.
Now, while reading the document it might find that the one or more requested fragments are not in the correct format, so it tries to translate them. Although most of the times the translation is correctly performed, it’s been demonstrated that in particular cases the conversion (or parsing) could lead to an XSS cross-site scripting vulnerability.

An XSS cross-site scripting is a type of code vulnerability that allows attackers to insert malicious code into the web pages viewed by other users. It might be exploited to steal information such as access tokens or other sensitive information. This is what a criminal or Black Hat hacker would do.

This is what a criminal or Black Hat hacker would do. White Hat hackers, on the other hand, would behave ethically and use their software White Hat hackers, on the other hand, would behave ethically. Using their software engineering knowledge, White Hat hackers would show how to exploit a vulnerability: publish useful information about it to make sure both users and owners of the vulnerable library could take actions to prevent attacks.

What actions are required to safely update?

The first thing to know is that all the old versions of jQuery have some sort of vulnerability.  Up until April 10th, version 3.4.1 was the only safe version available.  Fortunately, the new minor release 3.5.0 has been published to fix the XSS security vulnerability.

As suggested in the jQuery release note, updating to this latest version might break your code as, to prevent the abuse of this vulnerability, the HTML element phrase is no longer converted.
Therefore, a code review might be in order.

There is a lot of time-consuming effort involved in staying on track with all the latest code vulnerabilities as they are discovered but, fortunately, Meterian can help you with that.

When added to the CI/CD pipeline of any application, Meterian will automatically detect such vulnerabilities, or even fix them for you, and it will help you avoid the risk of an attack before it becomes a problem.

Beat open source vulnerabilities with Meterian.

jQuery, Javascript vulnerability of the month

Vulnerability Focus: Javascript

Welcome back to Meterian’s next Vulnerability Focus report edition. This week we are talking about Javascript vulnerabilities which need to be addressed. Both have been published in recent months and have a medium severity threat. The first vulnerability could result in a cross-site scripting attack whilst the second is to do with a cryptographic issue. There are over 1.6 billion websites in the world, and JavaScript is used on 95% of them, be sure to check if you could be affected.

  • CVE-2019-12043: there is a vulnerability in remarkable 1.7.1 affecting the unknown processing in the library lib/parser_inline.js of the component URL Handler. Manipulation of this component can lead to cross-site-scripting.
  • CVE-2019-9155: OpenPGP.js has a cryptographic issue which could allow attackers to conduct an invalid curve attack and gain the victim’s ECDH private key

CVE-2019-12043

Vulnerability Score: 6.1

Platform: Javascript

Components: remarkable version 1.7.1

Read up Javascript users! This vulnerability was posted last year in 2019, yet because of the significant amount of people using Javascript for their web apps, we thought it would be useful to inform people who might not have had time to address the issue. 

This vulnerability has been found in remarkable 1.7.1 and is considered problematic. The component mishandles URL filtering, which allows attackers to trigger an XSS attack via unprintable characters.

Cross site scripting is an injection of malicious code into a trusted web app. As described above, this happens when the user input is not sufficiently validated either on the client or server side. The scripts injected will have malware which then allows the hacker to do a series of exploits. What is more concerning is that the attack could then alter the appearance of the web app and also commence attacks on users visiting that site.

An image of a computer with three people huddled around it, pointing at the screen.
https://unsplash.com/photos/2FPjlAyMQTA

The solution for this vulnerability is to replace remarkable 1.7.1 with versions 1.7.4 to 2.0.0.

CVE-2019-9155

Vulnerability Score: 5.9

Platform: Javascript openpgp

Components: openpgp versions up to 4.2.0 included

This Javascript vulnerability was published in September 2019 and has a medium severity score of 5.9. 

The vulnerability is a cryptographic issue in OpenPGP.js up to and including 4.2.0. This is a library in Javascript and therefore can be used on nearly any device. Users do not have to install a gpg on their machines in order to use this library, and therefore it can be reused in other projects that have browser extensions or server apps. Its main function is to sign, encrypt, decrypt and verify any kind of text, specifically emails. 

The problem allows hackers, who can provide forged messages and get feedback on whether decryption of these messages succeeded, to eventually figure out and extract the victim’s private key.

An image of a key.
https://unsplash.com/photos/Nel8STCcWy8

To avoid this type of attack in the future, developers should identify sensitive data and encrypt them, even if stored on a hard drive. There should also be an effort to ensure the data cannot be overwritten by overwriting sensitive memory locations straight after the data is no longer needed in memory. 

In regards to this specific vulnerability, it is suggested to upgrade openpgp to version 4.3.0 or above. 

That is it from us…for now! Make sure to spread the word on these Javascript vulnerabilities in order to help protect your apps or the apps you develop. Read also our post about javascript vulnerabilities and remote code execution

As you all know, open-source vulnerabilities are discovered daily, so you can expect us to be back with new vulnerabilities very soon!

Knowing is half the battle. The other half is doing. Let Meterian help your dev team stay in the know and on top of the latest updates to secure your apps continuously. Sign up here to download the Meterian client today. You’ll get an instant analysis of your first project for free.  See the risks immediately and know which components to remove or upgrade to secure your app.

Vulnerability Focus: Javascript

The Automotive Industry: Cyber Hacks. A Growing Threat.

5min read

The inside of a car, looking out into the motorway.
https://unsplash.com/photos/MyjVReZ5GLQ

There is no question that the automotive industry is one undergoing constant innovation and digital transformation. Nowadays, people expect to stay connected when commuting in their vehicles at all times and locations. Modern cars will have built-in navigation systems, Wi-Fi access, as well as in-vehicle infotainment systems (a combination of entertainment and information delivery to drivers). Alas, with the rise of new technologies, comes the rise of new hacks and gateways for cyber criminals to penetrate car systems. 

Yet, it is also true that these cyberattacks are not just occurring out of new technologies, there is still clearly a lack of scrutiny over vulnerable open-source components within a company’s software code. This is confirmed by a 2019 survey by Synopsys and SAE International on current cybersecurity practices which found 62% of professionals interviewed believe malicious attacks on software and open source components are bound to occur in 2020 within the automotive industry. Clearly, these security holes are major contributors as to why malicious actors have been so successful in penetrating systems and networks. 

This article intends to enlighten readers on the problems which certain hacks can cause to the automotive industry and its customers, as well as insight into ways this industry could prevent future exploits as part of their digital transformation. 

What can go wrong?

Cyberattacks to the automotive industry can have health, financial and reputational consequences. Take the examples below:

  1. A scary reality is if the hackers access the brakes or steering wheel. We have already seen an example of this in April 2019, where a hacker broke into two GPS tracking apps (ProTrack and iTrack). This resulted in access to personal data, the monitoring of the vehicle location and the ability to stop the engine altogether. This type of hack could cause serious accidents and therefore threatens the health and safety of the passenger.
  1. Automakers also have to take care of cybersecurity within their designs or else they could suffer severe financial repercussions. For example, a global automaker recalled around 1.4 million cars in 2015 due to cybersecurity risks, resulting in the potential cost of the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) of nearly $600 million. The impact here is not only financial loss, but the automaker loses a certain amount of credibility as a provider, further damaging their business.
  1. Losing control of a web or mobile app also has its downfalls. Ransomware attacks or data breaches could expose a lot of sensitive data, as well as stop systems from running. As automotive companies compile a significant amount of this customer data, they become a plausible target for hackers. For example, in April 2019, Toyota announced a breach had exposed the data of up to 3.1 million customers. This disrupts the business, causes financial problems and most certainly diminishes the reputation of the company. Additionally, the leaking of software IP can also be damaging to a business, as it can give information to hackers for future exploits.

Cybersecurity is like a seatbelt

A driver with a seatbelt.
https://unsplash.com/photos/stLYAO8Vx1E

Until 1966, cars were often made without seat belts. But now, it would never cross the mind of any manufacturer to not include seatbelts in the design of a car, as it would be a major risk to the health and safety of the passenger. Here we can make a parallel with cybersecurity. In the same way there is a blatant risk of not wearing a seatbelt due to the possibility of a car accident, there is also a major risk of letting software-driven devices run without having secured their entire software supply chain to de-risk the possibility of a cyber attack via a vulnerable software component.  Everyone should wear a seatbelt in a car, so why does the automotive industry not treat cybersecurity with the same mentality? 

It is suggested the automotive industry lacks a standard approach for dealing with cybersecurity. This problem can stem from the relationship between OEMs and suppliers. Currently, contractual arrangements often do not allow OEMs to test the end-to-end cybersecurity of a vehicle platform made up of parts from different suppliers. Subsequently, this makes it hard to achieve strong cyber security when automotive software is developed and tested. 

Businesses within the car industry, may feel that they haven’t got the time to focus on cybersecurity. Too many companies will not feel the urgency until they have experienced a cyber attack themselves. For that reason, there seems to be a shortage in cybersecurity professionals globally. A Cybersecurity Workforce study has interviewed over 3200 security professionals around the world and found that the number of unfilled positions has risen from 2.93 million in 2018 to 4.07million in November 2019.

How to improve cybersecurity in a constantly evolving industry?

For manufacturers and suppliers in the automotive industry, there is a need to prioritise cybersecurity as part of the automobile’s e-safety. Collaborators in the automobile value chain must take into consideration the digital life cycle of the vehicle’s software as part of the vehicle’s holistic life cycle. Therefore producers of intelligent cars (or their electronic subcomponents) powered with software must include these 4 pillars:

  1. A good baseline: understanding the relevant legislation in the OEM markets and making sure to uphold all the existing cybersecurity standards involved. This will help all parties deliver secure software.
  1. Enforce a security-by-design culture within the engineering process. This should focus on secure development practices, software testing and new supplier-audit processes that include cybersecurity issues. Here there should also be testing or evaluating the components within code, to check for vulnerabilities.
  1. Monitor the cybersecurity of cars on the road. This means having a clear view of a vehicle’s configuration and setting up a security operations center for cars. Here the center could use correlation and artificial intelligence to detect adverse events and respond efficiently. The use of new technologies adds to how the industry needs to digitally transform to address cybersecurity effectively.
  1. Ensure software updates to vehicles pass security and safety tests. This should be run by the OEM through a software-engineering approach. This shows automakers are testing and securing changes to the vehicle as part of their continuous maintenance.
A car in a factory, being constructed by machines.
https://unsplash.com/photos/jHZ70nRk7Ns

For other business providers working within the automotive industry it is also important to adapt to changing technologies so that your cybersecurity is up to date. For example, there are many companies now promoting different ways to own a car through web and mobile apps and shared-platforms such as Turo, Drover or Avis. Here criminals could target the business because of the abundance of sensitive customer data. This could be supported when Verizon’s Data Breach Investigation report saw 60% of the time, web apps are the unlocked doors that hackers use to access user data or bring your business to a stand still. These are some tips to protect your apps:

  1. Make sure to secure vulnerabilities within your business code – more than 40% of cyberattacks originate in software servers, vehicle mobile apps and the infotainment system combined. Addressing software vulnerabilities should be a consistent practice as they are discovered daily and hackers exploit them automatically using bots and programs. The scale of vulnerabilities which a company could obtain over time is seen through the example of Uber who have 1,345 resolved bug reports and have paid out over $2.3 million. To understand the scale, Uber has received up to 111 bug reports in the past 90 days.
  1. Implement a cyber resilient culture within your business. To go through digital transformation, companies need to adapt to the growing sophistication of cyber criminals. This means there needs to be qualified teams with expertise ready and prepared to respond to malicious actors. Clearly this is something which needs to be implemented with more rigour in the automotive industry, as FleetNews’ recent survey of 500 businesses in the sector found that 65% did not have a cyber security team. 
  1. Look into the future. When investing in new technologies, understand how this will impact your business models, operational processes and the user experience. Successful transformations also depend on how firms manage digital transformation process through leadership and governance (not solely its implementation). If businesses don’t keep up with evolving technologies, how will they be able to keep up with the growing sophistication of hackers? Research by Accenture has highlighted the advantage which digital transformation provides to companies: early innovators are 67% more likely to outperform compared to 18% for market share protectors.

Let Meterian be your seat belt

Meterian can automatically inventory your open source components and analyse them to check if they are up-to-date or have any publicly disclosed security and licence risks. Get started on building a proactive defence for your customer data and software IP as your business goes through digital transformation. Try our FREE web scanner today to get a preview of what kind of potential vulnerabilities are in your website.  We can provide more in-depth analyses for all your software code bases. Get in touch today.

The Automotive Industry: Cyber Hacks. A Growing Threat.

Love Your Developer: How to maintain & secure your open source components?

6min read

Happy Valentine’s Day! Meterian is feeling the love, so we want to share it by telling you the best way your business can love their developers! In this article we highlight the benefits and costs of using open-source software.  We’re also going the extra mile to give you tips on how to secure and maintain these components without slowing down your developers – the guardians of your business’ software that can propel you ahead of competitors.  

Here’s a little history lesson for you to begin with! Back in the 1940s-70s, software innovated at a slow pace. It wasn’t even regarded as a valuable asset in the working environment. The 1980s came and we see how software copyright was introduced, commencing a period where there was a boom in software innovation and a burst in software companies.  As the decades went on, people started to realise the value of open source software.

In 2000, the use of open source projects as well as components, began to grow significantly. Market research has predicted the global market size to grow from USD 11.40 billion in 2017 to USD 32.95 billion by 2022. Open source software has lowered development costs and accelerated innovation by reducing time to market. Now we see that companies who innovate early are 67% more likely to outperform.

Benefits of open source software 

Sometimes taking advantage of free resources is better. For example, in 2010 the use of open source was so common, it became a table stake. All companies were using it, otherwise they would fall at a disadvantage to their competitors. Open source solutions speed up software/hardware solutions, save money, provide flexibility and help companies stay on top of technological developments. This is supported by a survey which found 53% of companies have an open source program or plan to establish one in the near future

Developers are able to become creative and help solve problems in the software space when using open source solutions. It is the consumer and producer relationship that makes open source software thrive. As a result, there is more software availability for all users without having to reinvent the wheel. This in turn helps organizations. Recent research from Harvard Business School has shown that open source contributing companies capture up to 100% more productive value from open source than companies that do not contribute back. It creates a snowball effect: the more companies use it, the more the community is able to survey, criticize and praise it. Therefore, this strengthens the quality of the software used, including its security, usability and stability.

Open source software also comes with management benefits. Organizations tend to struggle when managing huge volumes of structured and unstructured data. This is where open source solutions can help! It helps to simplify business processes, as well as saving resources for things which are not needed for the success of a business. Essentially, it provides more flexibility for the company.

Taking a look at customer value is important. Due to the flexibility of open source software solutions, companies are able to customize to suit the needs of their particular customers. For example when you integrate two pieces of software. This requires less time than if the company were to write the integration software from scratch themselves. Therefore, it benefits both the company and their customers as well. Customers might even be willing to pay more for better solutions if they see this software is meeting their needs so efficiently and rapidly. It is all about viewing open source software as a resource and a powerful motivator.  

Costs 

When it comes to the law, open source solutions can sometimes be restricted to certain countries. For example, GitHub made headlines when it made it difficult for developers in Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria to access private repository services. There have been changes for open source licences in response to these types of situations, as it should be allowed to continue to expand and not interfere with international rules on software access. So companies should always know what licences are tied to the software they are using to avoid an IP breach. Read our past blog post on how the wrong licence can harm your business, if you haven’t already!

Moreover, open source components are attractive to cyber attackers. Firstly, open source vulnerabilities within components are discovered daily. Secondly, traditional testing tools and methods are ineffective in identification and therefore few companies understand the components being used in their applications. This lack of awareness leaves organizations increasingly exposed to an attack. For example Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital in California suffered a ransomware attack due to an outdated JBoss server software. The attacker uploaded malware to the out-of-date server without any interaction with a victim. This resulted in delayed patient care and the hospital had to pay $17,000 to recover access to files and the network.

A further cost or strain is the need to constantly maintain, test and secure these components. For example, in 2018 Sonatype released its fourth annual State of the Software Supply Chain Report and showed how software developers had downloaded more than 300 billion open source components in the past 12 months, 1 in 8 of those components having contained known security vulnerabilities.

Not catching these security bugs early on in the development process can lead to very costly and damaging outcomes.

How to maintain and secure open source components?

Firstly, you can start by making an inventory of all your open source components used when developing software. This inventory must include all the components, versions in use and the download locations for each project. Software bill of materials (SBoM) would be this inventory.

There is also a need to map out any known security vulnerabilities. The National Vulnerability Database (NVD) is a great place to provide information on publicly disclosed vulnerabilities in open source software. However, make sure you do not use this as your sole source for vulnerability information, as sometimes not all vulnerabilities are reported and the format of NVD records make it difficult to see which versions have been affected.   Meterian uses several sources in addition to the NVD.

Open source solutions are a brilliant resource. But to maintain its benefits there needs to be an effort to secure the open source components to lower the risk of them being vulnerable to cyber attacks. For example, a study conducted by Kula et al. on migrations of 4600 GitHub projects showed that 81.5% of them do not update their direct library dependencies, sometimes even in cases when they have been affected by publicly known vulnerabilities. This emphasizes the lack of awareness about security vulnerabilities within open source software. For this reason, to secure your open source components there is an urgency to upgrade software and keep on top of the known vulnerabilities.

https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-photography-of-yellow-green-red-and-brown-plastic-cones-on-white-lined-surface-163064/

Security is a community effort. There is a testing process for each project that is open to everyone. Developers using open source software are able to judge. This community of users are constantly evaluating and testing the security of certain components. Following this, there will be feedback on issues that have been found. For this reason, building open source software is safer than proprietary software because more people can test and contribute to its security. At the same time, there must be care about the code contributions accepted. A governance process and reviews in regards to any open source contribution should be made.

Constant vigilance is key. More than 3,600 new open source vulnerabilities are discovered every year and a significant amount appear daily.  Developers need to make sure their use of open source software is secure. Asking questions such as, is the code I am using good? Does it have any bugs? Due to vulnerabilities being identified on a daily basis–some have more high risk than others–there needs to be a practice within organizations to monitor or test each time the software changes. 

Meterian helps businesses get the most out of their software investments

Open source software has been changing how our world works, giving us a sustainable ecosystem that can work for everyone as long as it is looked after.

Meterian can automatically inventory your open source components and analyse them to check if they are up-to-date or have any publicly disclosed security and licence risks. Get started on building a proactive defence for your customer data and software IP.  Love your developers and let them innovate freely while using Meterian to secure your open source components. We can block insecure code before it goes live.  It will save you and your developers time and money, allowing your business to be less vulnerable to cyber attacks.  

Check if there are any open source security holes in your company’s website that puts your business at risk of a data or IP breach before it’s too late.

Try our free webscanner today.

Love Your Developer: How to maintain & secure your open source components?