Posts Tagged With: Security

CircleCI trusts 8 analytics companies with your source code and API tokens

When you navigate to your project in CircleCI's UI, Javascript from eight different analytics companies gets loaded and executed in your browser.

  • Pusher
  • Intercom
  • Launch Darkly
  • Amplitude
  • Appcues
  • Quora (??)
  • Optimizely

You can see this in my Network tab here:

CircleCI network requests

This is a problem because the CircleCI browser context has full access to the CircleCI API, which is hosted on the same domain, so all eight of those companies' scripts can make requests to CircleCI API endpoints. Furthermore CircleCI customers frequently either include credentials in source code or as environment variables in CircleCI. Set these, and you are trusting that CircleCI won't get compromised, or at least, your application is at most as secure as CircleCI is.

However, with eight different companies running Javascript in your browser with access to the CircleCI API, your source code and secrets are at most as secure as the union of eight different analytics companies' Javascript environments. If any of those eight gets compromised, it's trivial to execute Javascript that creates a new API token for your account. Once that token is created, an attacker can easily export it to a domain controlled by the attacker. Once an attacker has the token, they can use the "Test Commands" API to add new commands that will dump your environment variables and/or all files in source code to the logs, then download your logs or artifacts via the same API.

Analytics companies frequently get hacked, serve malware or otherwise contain vulnerabilities. Just last week it was revealed that "Code Hive" was running coin mining code on CBS's website. In 2014, was compromised and used to serve malware. If the same happened to any of the eight companies, you would be screwed.

This is frankly unacceptable for a company that manages source code and secrets for a large number of companies in the industry. It's unacceptable enough that your browsing data on CircleCI is potentially exposed to eight different companies, let alone API access to your source code. There are a number of steps you can take to mitigate the issue:

  • Put all domains used by the above servers in /etc/hosts, for each machine and each person on your team that accesses CircleCI. I have a tool that you can use to automate this process. However, this may break Javascript on CircleCI or other sites that are not coded in a defensive style.

  • Only use command line tools + API's to access CircleCI. I have written one such tool.

  • If there is an API to disable the "Test Commands" setting, turn it off, as an attacker can use that to put data in logs or artifacts without being able to control the circle.yml file or push to Github.

  • Don't put any sensitive keys in CircleCI, or in source code; inject them directly into the production runtime.

  • Demand that CircleCI take steps to make their dashboard and your source code more secure.

Finally, there are a number of steps CircleCI should enable immediately:

  • Don't load analytics scripts from eight different companies on pages that contain sensitive content, or that have access to the CircleCI "create token" API. Host the dashboard and API on a separate domain from the marketing page.

  • Send an email any time an API access token is created. Add a setting to allow org-wide disabling of API token creation.

  • Add an option to disable the "Test Commands" API, as this would allow an attacker without access to Github to place whatever content they want (source code/environment variables) in logs.

  • Add an option to delete old logs. If you have ever dumped env vars to the log file, an attacker can export these.

  • Enable subresource integrity, or serve JS from each of these companies from the CircleCI domain.

With embarrassing compromises literally every week, and new Congressional scrutiny into Facebook and Google's advertising practices in the 2016 election, as an industry we need to do better on issues like this.

Update: CircleCI posted their response.


Why don't you include a POC? I have one that demonstrates this attack, but I don't want to show script kiddies how. If you can't figure out how to construct it by reading the above description and the network traffic, you don't deserve to know how.

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Use a VPN

You should sign up for a VPN service! Yes you, the casual Internet browser. Here is why.

  • Any time you connect from your laptop/phone to a wireless network (SFO Wifi, Starbucks, etc), anyone else on that network can read all of your traffic over HTTP, to sites like Wikipedia, Netflix, YouTube, WebMD and more. This is not good.

  • Your ISP (Comcast, AT&T etc) can also read your HTTP traffic and throttle connections based on it. This is part of the reason for the Net Neutrality hubbub and the poor performance many people suffer when connecting to Netflix.

    When you use a VPN, all of your traffic is encrypted from your computer to your VPN service provider, and you should enjoy good speeds from there to the rest of the Internet.

  • In some cases, an ISP actually intercepts the response from the remote website and inserts its own ads or content. A VPN encrypts all of the traffic and makes this impossible.

  • You can use a VPN to route around location-based IP tracking; for example, if the Warriors are blacked out on NBA TV in your area, you can connect to a VPN server in New York to watch the game.

  • VPN's provide a better level of anonymity. In general, a VPN provider smushes all of its outbound and inbound traffic together so it's harder to track a specific set of requests back to you. Your ISP can no longer log your traffic.

It is pretty easy to set up a VPN for PC or Mac, and cheap (about the price of a coffee every month). I suggest you try it today!

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Virgin Mobile fails web security 101, leaves six million subscriber accounts wide open

Update: Virgin fixed the issue Tuesday night after taking their login page down for four hours. Please see my update at the bottom of this post.

The first sentence of Virgin Mobile USA’s privacy policy announces that “We [Virgin] are strongly committed to protecting the privacy of our customers and visitors to our websites at” Imagine my surprise to find that pretty much anyone can log into your Virgin Mobile account and wreak havoc, as long as they know your phone number.

I reported the issue to Virgin Mobile USA a month ago and they have not taken any action, nor informed me of any concrete steps to fix the problem, so I am disclosing this issue publicly.

The vulnerability

Virgin Mobile forces you to use your phone number as your username, and a 6-digit number as your password. This means that there are only one million possible passwords you can choose.

Screenshot of Virgin Mobile login screen

This is horribly insecure. Compare a 6-digit number with a randomly generated 8-letter password containing uppercase letters, lowercase letters, and digits – the latter has 218,340,105,584,896 possible combinations. It is trivial to write a program that checks all million possible password combinations, easily determining anyone’s PIN inside of one day. I verified this by writing a script to “brute force” the PIN number of my own account.

The scope

Once an attacker has your PIN, they can take the following actions on your behalf:

  • Read your call and SMS logs, to see who’s been calling you and who you’ve been calling

  • Change the handset associated with an account, and start receiving calls/SMS that are meant for you. They don’t even need to know what phone you’re using now. Possible scenarios: $5/minute long distance calls to Bulgaria, texts to or from lovers or rivals, “Mom I lost my wallet on the bus, can you wire me some money?”

  • Purchase a new handset using the credit card you have on file, which may result in $650 or more being charged to your card

  • Change your PIN to lock you out of your account

  • Change the email address associated with your account (which only texts your current phone, instead of sending an email to the old address)

  • Change your mailing address

  • Make your life a living hell

How to protect yourself

There is currently no way to protect yourself from this attack. Changing your PIN doesn’t work, because the new one would be just as guessable as your current PIN. If you are one of the six million Virgin subscribers, you are at the whim of anyone who doesn’t like you. For the moment I suggest vigilance, deleting any credit cards you have stored with Virgin, and considering switching to another carrier.

What Virgin should do to fix the issue

There are a number of steps Virgin could take to resolve the immediate, gaping security issue. Here are a few:

  • Allow people to set more complex passwords, involving letters, digits, and symbols.

  • Freezing your account after 5 failed password attempts, and requiring you to identify more personal information before unfreezing the account.

  • Requiring both your PIN, and access to your handset, to log in. This is known as two-step verification.

In addition, there are a number of best practices Virgin should implement to protect against bad behavior, even if someone knows your PIN:

  • Provide the same error message when someone tries to authenticate with an invalid phone number, as when they try to authenticate with a good phone number but an invalid PIN. Based on the response to the login, I can determine whether your number is a Virgin number or not, making it easy to find targets for this attack.

  • Any time an email or mailing address is changed, send a mail to the old address informing them of the change, with a message like “If you did not request this change, contact our help team.”

  • Require a user to enter their current ESN, or provide information in addition to their password, before changing the handset associated with an account.

  • Add a page to their website explaining their policy for responsible security disclosure, along with a contact email address for security issues.

History of my communication with Virgin Mobile

I tried to reach out to Virgin and tell them about the issue before disclosing it publicly. Here is a history of my correspondence with them.

  • August 15 – Reach out on Twitter to ask if there is any other way to secure my account. The customer rep does not fully understand the problem.

  • August 16 – Brute force access to my own account, validating the attack vector.

  • August 15-17 – Reach out to various customer support representatives, asking if there is any way to secure accounts besides the 6-digit PIN. Mostly confused support reps tell me there is no other way to secure my account. I am asked to always include my phone number and PIN in replies to Virgin.

    Email screenshot of Virgin asking me to include my PIN

  • August 17 – Support rep Vanessa H escalates the issue to headquarters after I explain I’ve found a large vulnerability in Virgin’s online account security. Steven from Sprint Executive and Regulatory Services gives me his phone number and asks me to call.

  • August 17 – I call Steven and explain the issue, who can see the problem and promises to forward the issue on to the right team, but will not promise any more than that. I ask to be kept in the loop as Virgin makes progress investigating the issue. In a followup email I provide a list of actions Virgin could take to mitigate the issue, mirroring the list above.

  • August 24 – Follow up with Steven, asking if any progress has been made. No response.

  • August 30 – Email Steven again. Steven writes that my feedback “has been shared with the appropriate managerial staff” and “the matter is being looked into”.

  • September 4 – I email Steven again explaining that this response is unacceptable, considering this attack may be in use already in the wild. I tell him I am going to disclose the issue publicly and receive no response.

  • September 13 – I follow up with Steven again, informing him that I am going to publish details of the attack in 24 hours, unless I have more concrete information about Virgin’s plans to resolve the issue in a timely fashion.

  • September 14 – Steven calls back to tell me to expect no further action on Virgin Mobile’s end. Time to go public.

Update, Monday night

  • Sprint PR has been emailing reporters telling them that Sprint/Virgin have fixed the issue by locking people out after 4 failed attempts. However, the fix relies on cookies in the user’s browser. This is like Virgin asking me to tell them how many times I’ve failed to log in before, and using that information to lock me out. They are still vulnerable to an attack from anyone who does not use the same cookies with each request. (ed: This issue has been fixed as of Tuesday night)

  • News coverage:

  • This vulnerability only affects Virgin USA, to my knowledge; their other international organizations appear to only share the brand name, not the same code base.

Update, Tuesday night

Virgin’s login page was down for four hours from around 5:30 PDT to 9:30 PDT. I tried my brute force script again after the page came back up. Where before I was getting 200 OK’s with every request, now about 25% of the authentication requests return 503 Service Unavailable, and 25% return 404 Not Found.

Wednesday morning

Virgin took down their login page for 4 hours Tuesday night to deploy new code. Now, after about 20 incorrect logins from one IP address, every further request to their servers returns 404 Not Found. This fixes the main vulnerability I disclosed Monday.

I just got off the phone with Sprint PR representatives. They apologized and blamed a breakdown in the escalation process. I made the case that this is why they need a dedicated page for reporting security and privacy issues, and an email address where security researchers can report problems like this, and know that they will be heard.

I gave the example of Google, who says “customer service doesn’t scale” for many products, but will respond to any security issue sent to in a timely fashion, and in many cases award cash bounties to people who find issues. Sprint said they’d look into adding a page to their site.

Even though they’ve fixed the brute force issue, I raised issues with PIN based authentication. No matter how many automated fraud checks they have in place, PIN’s for passwords are a bad idea because:

  • people can’t use their usual password, so they might try something more obvious like their birthday, to remember it.

  • Virgin’s customer service teams ask for it in emails and over the phone, so if an attacker gains access to someone’s email, or is within earshot of someone on a call to customer service, they have the PIN right there.

  • If I get access to your PIN through any means, I can do all of the stuff mentioned above – change your handset, read your call logs, etc. That’s not good and it’s why even though Google etc. allow super complex passwords, they allow users to back it up with another form of verification.

I also said that they should clarify their policy around indemnification. I never actually brute forced an account where I didn’t know the pin, or issue more than one request per second to Virgin’s servers, because I was worried about being arrested or sued for DOSing their website. Fortunately I could prove this particular flaw was a problem by dealing only with my own account. But what if I found an attack where I could change a number in a URL, and access someone else’s account? By definition, to prove the bug exists I’d have to break their terms of service, and there’s no way to know how they would respond.

They said they valued my feedback but couldn’t commit to anything, or tell me about whether they can fix this in the future. At least they listened and will maybe fix it, which is about as good as you can hope for.

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