Akamai Diversity
Home > October 2014

October 2014 Archives

Preparing for the Holidays: Security Trends

Last time in our "Preparing for the Holidays" series, we focused on what you should know about mobile trends. And as promised, we're back at it with some more trends you should be aware of. This time, it's all about security. If security hasn't been top of mind in the past, it certainly is (or should be) now, given the number of high-profile breaches we've seen over the past several months. With that said, here's what you need to know:
In this latest episode, I talk to Akamai Security Advocates Dave Lewis and Martin McKeay about the increased frequency of severe vulnerabilities affecting SSL and related technology.

We start with the most recent case, Poodle, and move on to Shellshock and Heartbleed. A full list of resources for all of these incidents can be found here.

We also look ahead to potential security trends in 2015.


Akamai's Prolexic Security Engineering & Research Team (PLXsert) issued a new advisory Monday that provides a full analysis of the Poodle vulnerability, including actions companies can take to blunt the impact.

It's the latest in a series of postings Akamai has done to keep the public informed of its Poodle response. In addition to reviewing this new advisory, please refer to the following posts as well:

This is the latest in a string of severe vulnerabilities this year, including Shellshock and Heartbleed. A full list of resources for all of these incidents can be found here.

Preparing for the Holidays: Mobile Trends

While the holiday season may seem far off to consumers, retailers know all too well that it has already begun. But just as the hot toy changes from year to year, so do the issues that retailers face. It's never too early to prepare for the holiday rush, so over the next few weeks we'll be sharing what you should know when it comes to mobile and security trends and how you can prepare accordingly. So first up: mobile trends.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - October 23, 2014 - Akamai Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: AKAM), the leading provider of cloud services for delivering, optimizing and securing online content and business applications, today announced availability of the Q3 2014 State of the Internet - Security Report. Akamai's Prolexic Security Engineering and Research Team (PLXsert) is a recognized leader in Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) protection services and strategies. This quarter's report, which provides analysis and insight into the global attack threat landscape including DDoS attacks, can be downloaded at www.stateoftheinternet.com/security-report.

"DDoS attack size and volume have gone through the roof this year," said John Summers, vice president, Security Business Unit at Akamai Technologies. "In the third quarter alone, Akamai mitigated 17 attacks greater than 100 gigabits-per-second, with the largest at 321 Gbps. Interestingly, we witnessed none of that size in the same quarter a year ago and only six last quarter. These mega-attacks each used multiple DDoS vectors to deliver large bandwidth-consuming packets at an extremely high rate of speed."

Akamai PLXsert's Q3 2014 State of the Internet Report

Today we've launched the first all-security edition of the State of the Internet report. State of the Internet also has its own website now, where readers can delve into Akamai's threat intelligence, threat advisories, data visualizations and more.

Highlights of the security edition for Q3 2014 include a four-fold year-over-year increase in DDoS attack size and volume; new attacks targeting hand-held devices and the proliferation of easy-to-use attack tools.

In the latest episode of the Akamai Security Podcast, I talk to CSIRT Manager Mike Kun about what he calls an "interesting new attack vector" where bad actors forgo direct attacks against websites in favor of targeting third-party services the site is using.

"Rather than go against a target directly, bad actors are looking at what other services that website is using," Kun explains. "A simple one is DNS. If the attacker can compromise the registrar a site is hosted with, they can easily change the IP address mapping and point that at some other site."

Those who go for such attacks include hactivist groups looking to deface sites, or someone looking to steal information or drop malware for myriad purposes.

Widget providers are among the targeted. Kun notes that the chat function now available on many e-commerce sites is usually supplied by third parties.

"Sites are linking to code from third-party sites instead of running local code," Kun says. "So if an attacker can compromise that widget, they can attack your site."

The correlation between the success of a company and its operational agility is no secret - the faster an enterprise is able to tackle new challenges and introduce new innovations, the more likely it is to be successful in those areas. The rapid pace of technological developments in the modern world has introduced wrinkles to this paradigm and left many businesses shackled to old methods of networking and legacy hardware even as new means of application delivery offer a path forward. The first step to understanding how businesses can take advantage of these new options is to consider where enterprise application delivery has come from and where it's going.

Poodle, Shellshock and Heartbleed: Resources

It's been a year of major security vulnerabilities. Last week we worked to mitigate the Poodle vulnerability. Two weeks before that was Shellshock and in April we had Heartbleed. All have shaken the security industry to the core, and Akamai staff have spent countless hours working to protect customers against these threats.

To get a wider perspective of our actions in the face of such incidents, here's a collection of resources -- essentially everything we've had to say about Poodle, Shellshock and Heartbleed.

May you find it useful and insightful.

Akamai InfoSec at BASC 2014

The Boston Application Security Conference (BASC) was this past weekend, and Patrick Laverty from Akamai InfoSec's CSIRT team gave a talk called "How Hackers View Your Web Site."

Patrick recorded the talk and posted it on his YouTube channel. Like everything he does, it's quite good. So I'm sharing it here.

Laverty described his talk this way:

"As defenders, we have to be right 100% of the time where an attacker only needs to be right once. The attack surface of a modern web site is incredibly large and we need to be aware of all of it. Additionally, individual attacks may not always be effective but sometimes using them together can gain the desired effect. In this talk, we'll take a look at the whole attack surface for a typical web site and the various ways that an attacker will use to compromise a site."

The Best of #AkamaiEdge 2014!

Akamai Edge 2014 may have wrapped up last week, but it's all we can think about! We had such a great time with all of you in Miami, and we hope you had a great time with us as well. With over 1,500 attendees, it was our largest Akamai Edge yet. Ready to relive a little bit of it? Check out our social story! What was your favorite part of the conference? Let us know by tweeting to us using the hashtag #AkamaiEdge. 

Poodle FAQ: What Akamai Customers Need to Know

The Poodle attack (CVE-2014-3566) raised many questions from our customers, peers, auditors, and prospects. This post addresses some of the most frequently asked questions, and provides an update on how Akamai is handling its operations during this industry-wide event. For a basic background on Poodle, please read Akamai CSO Andy Ellis's overview blog post, or Akamai Security Researcher Daniel Franke's in-depth analysis.

UPnP Devices Used in DDoS Attacks

Attackers are using Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) devices to launch massive DDoS assaults, Akamai's Prolexic Security Engineering & Research Team (PLXsert) warned this morning in an advisory.

PLXsert estimates that 4.1 million UPnP devices are potentially vulnerable to exploits used for reflection DDoS attacks. That's about 38 percent of the 11 million devices in use around the world. PLXsert plans to share the list of potentially exploitable devices to members of the security community in an effort to collaborate with cleanup and mitigation efforts.

SSL is dead, long live TLS

An attack affectionately known as "POODLE" (Padding Oracle On Downgraded Legacy Encryption), should put a stake in the heart of SSL, and move the world forward to TLS. There are two interesting vulnerabilities: POODLE, and the SSL/TLS versioning fallback mechanism. Both of these vulnerabilities are discussed in detail in the initial disclosure.


POODLE is a chosen-plaintext attack similar in effect to BREACH; an adversary who can trigger requests from an end user can extract secrets from the sessions (in this case, encrypted cookie values). This happens because the padding on SSLv3 block ciphers (to fill out a request to a full block size) is not verifiable - it isn't covered by the message authentication code. This allows an adversary to alter the final block in ways that will slowly leak information (based on whether their alteration survives verification or not, leaking information about *which* bytes are interesting). Thomas Pornin independently discovered this, and published at StackExchange.

Excerpt: How POODLE Happened

The following is an excerpt from Akamai Security Researcher Daniel Franke's blog post on the POODLE vulnerability.  

Bodo Möller, Thai Duong, and Krzysztof Kotowicz have just broken the internet again with POODLE, a new and devastating attack against SSL. POODLE, an acronym for Padding Oracle On Downgraded Legacy Encryption, permits a man-in-the-middle attacker to rapidly decrypt any browser session which utilizes SSL v3.0 -- or, as is generally the case, any session which can be coerced into utilizing it. POODLE is a death blow to this version of the protocol; it can only reasonably be fixed by disabling SSL v3.0 altogether.

This post is meant to be a "simple as possible, but no simpler" explanation of POODLE. I've tried to make it accessible to as many readers as possible and yet still go into full and accurate technical detail and provide complete citations. However, as the title implies, I have a second goal, which is to explain not merely how POODLE works, but the historical mistakes which allow it to work: mistakes that are still with us even though we've known better for over a decade.

For the full post, please visit Franke's blog

Your Microsoft Patch Update for October 2014

Microsoft released its October 2014 Security Update Tuesday. Windows, Internet Explorer, Office, Developer Tools and .NET Framework are among the items affected.

Here is the full patch matrix:

When you consider security solutions, there is no catchall Internet security solution that addresses every web application security challenge. A multi-layered approach to Internet security is the most effective way to guard against all types of cyber-attacks, including DDoS, application-layer attacks and data breaches. But this is much more security technology and tools. You need to add what we call "Internet hygiene" to your defenses - taking internal measures to identify and minimize vulnerabilities in your websites and web applications.

Five Good Security Articles

Articles I'm reading include such topics as the mounting cost of social engineering, the Mayhem Botnet's exploitation of Shellshock, and some tips for better security in the healthcare industry.

Akamai University: FedRAMP 101

Akamai Edge 2014 continues today with the second day of Akamai University and API Boot camp. To coincide with this, I'm running two security lessons that are part of an upcoming video series. This is the final installment, and was written by Akamai program managers James Salerno and Dan Philpott.

Akamai Edge 2014 begins today and tomorrow with two days of Akamai University and API Boot camp. To coincide with this, I'm running two security lessons that are part of an upcoming video series. This is the first installment, written by Akamai CSIRT researcher Patrick Laverty.

Akamai Edge 2014: Shellshock and Heartbleed Resources

Akamai Edge attendees will hear the names of two security vulnerabilities a lot this week: Shellshock and Heartbleed. Both shook the security industry to the core this year, and Akamai security staff spent countless hours working to protect customers against these threats.

Before Edge gets underway, here are some resources to get familiar with what we've done to address the threats.

More on the Web Security Track at Akamai Edge 2014:

Akamai/Vubiquity Win MCN Innovator Award

We're thrilled that Multichannel News has recognized Akamai's joint Content-as-a-Service (CaaS) offering with Vubiquity as one of its inaugural Innovator Award winners. According to the publication, the awards are intended to "honor distinctive new products at the 2014 SCTE Cable-Tec Expo," which took place in Denver this week. Winners were "selected by a panel of cable executives and Multichannel News contributors."

The Power of the Community

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure to deliver an Ignite session at WebPerfDays NY. In my talk, I explained how humans have reached the top of the food chain by managing knowledge in better ways than other species (slides). One of the key differentiators in human management of knowledge is how we interact with one another socially. Bees don't tell bees from a different beehive where to find food, but humans like to share and learn from others. This is one of the reasons why we love Internet as much as we do - wikis, social updates and blogs all provide us with real-time shared information at our fingertips.

DNS DDoS Takes Down Hong Kong Paper

The ongoing protests in Hong Kong are attracting worldwide attention. Less visible is a connection to the ongoing DNS-based DDoS attacks that started early this year. On Sunday, Sept 28 attackers used DNS based DDoS to target Passion Times, a local Hong Kong newspaper (http://www.passiontimes.hk/). The site was brought down for most of the day and had to resort to Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/passiontimes) in order to get the news out.

Akamai has created custom rules to help protect customers from the Shellshock-Bash vulnerabilities. The official names of these vulnerabilities and the WAF rules to address them are as follows:

Remember Saved by the Bell? You know, Zack Morris, A.C. Slater, Screech and the gang from the early 90's Saturday morning TV show? Mindlessly flipping through the late night channels, I landed on the episode in which Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies) was trying to impress a "scholarly gentleman" by posing deep questions about life:

"What is art? Are we art? Is art, art?"

Yesterday, we released an article on Akamai's security site detailing all of the CVE advisories now in circulation for Shellshock, and how they relate to Akamai's mitigation strategies. At the time we published, details had not yet been released for two of the six advisories -- CVE-2014-6277 and CVE-2014-6278.

Late yesterday, those details were finally released.

Shellshock Update

The Shellshock vulnerability, originally announced as one critical issue in bash that allowed an adversary to execute arbitrary code, has grown from one vulnerability to six in the last week. For background on Shellshock, we've collected an overview and list of the vulnerabilities; for some history on Akamai's initial responses, read our original blog post
 Shellshock raised a lot of questions among our customers, peers, auditors, and prospects. This post addresses some of the most frequently asked questions, and provides an update on how Akamai is handling its operations during this industry-wide event.
Are Akamai production servers vulnerable?  What is the status of Akamai mitigation?
Akamai's HTTP and HTTPS edge servers never exposed any vulnerability to any of the six currently available CVEs, including the original ShellShock vulnerability.  Our SSH services (including NetStorage) were vulnerable post-authentication, but we quickly converted those to use alternate shells. Akamai did not use bash in processing end-user requests on almost any service. We did use bash in other applications that support our operations and customers, such as our report generation tools. We switched shells immediately on all applications that had operated via bash and are deploying a new version of bash that disables function exporting. 
Akamai's Director of Adversarial Resilience, Eric Kobrin, released a patch for bash that disables the Shellshock-vulnerable export_function field. His code has aggregated additional upstream patches as available, meaning that if you enable function import using his code, the same behaviors and protections available from the HEAD of the bash git tree are also available. His patch is available for public review, use, and critique.
We do not believe at this time that there is any customer or end user exposure on Akamai systems as a result of Shellshock.
What about Akamai's internal and non-production systems?
Akamai has a prioritized list of critical systems, integrated across production, testing, staging, and enterprise environments. Every identified critical system has had one or more of the following steps applied:
  • Verify that the system/application is not using bash (if so, we disabled the vulnerable feature in bash or switched shells);
  • Test that the disabled feature/new shell operates seamlessly with the application (if not, we repeated with alternate shells);
  • Accept upstream patches for all software/applications where available (this is an ongoing process, as vendors provide updates to their patches); and
  • Review/Audit system/application performance to update non-administrative access and disable non-critical functions.
Can we detect if someone has attempted to exploit ShellShock? Has Akamai been attacked?
Because the ShellShock Vulnerability is a Remote Code Execution vulnerability at the command shell, there are many possible exploits available using the ShellShock vulnerability. Customers behind our Web Application Firewall (WAF) can enable our new custom rules to prevent exploits using legacy CGI systems and other application-level exploits. These WAF rules protect against exploits of four of the six current vulnerabilities, all that apply to our customers' layer seven applications.
However, because ShellShock was likely present for decades in bash, we do not expect to be able to find definitive evidence -- or lack thereof -- of exploits.
There have been news reports indicating that Akamai was a target of a recent ShellShock-related BotNet attack. (See information about WopBot). Akamai did observe DDOS commands being sent to a IRC-controlled botnet to attack us, although the scale of the attack was insufficient to trigger an incident or need for remediation. Akamai was not compromised, nor were its customers inconvenienced.  We receive numerous attacks on a daily basis with little or no impact to our customers or the services we provide. 
Akamai's Cloud Security Research team has published an analysis of some attack traffic that Akamai has seen across its customers for Shellshock. As the authors note in that article, the kinds of payloads being delivered using the ShellShock vulnerability have been incredibly creative, with Akamai's researchers seeing more than 20,000 unique payloads. This creativity, coupled with the ease of the ShellShock vulnerability, is one of the many reasons that Akamai is keeping a close eye on all of the associated CVEs and continuing to update its systems and developing better protections for its customers, including custom WAF rules.
Where can I find updates on Akamai's WAF rules?
Information about our WAF rules can be found on our security site
How will Akamai communicate updates?
We will maintain this blog with interesting news from Akamai. 
As the list of CVEs and implications of ShellShock expand, we do our best to only deliver verified information, sacrificing frequency of updates for accuracy.
Akamai is maintaining additional materials for the public on its security site at , including a running tally of the bash-related vulnerabilities.
If you have questions that aren't addressed by one of these vehicles, please feel free to contact your account team.