So you want to do transaction signing to protect against online banking Trojans? Here is a few videos to help to compare usability of the options.
"Since the records began", here at Cronto we have been talking about AND working on addressing the Banking Trojans and Man-in-the-Browser. Back then, there were very few public real-world examples of successful attacks and 2FA (Two-Factor Authentication), especially in a form of showing a picture of your dog, was all the rage
While we pronounced 2FA dead back in the beginning of 2008, it wasn't until Gartner's Avivah Litan, vice president and analyst, stated in December 2009:
"These attacks have been successfully and repeatedly executed against many banks and their customers across the globe in 2009"
publishing the report on shortcomings of 2FA methods to address Trojan-based attacks that the Man-in-the-Browser/Trojan has arrived .
It's arrived and it's going mainstream judging from the recent article by USA Today:
First, they [criminals] acquire valid account log-ons, often by purchasing them from specialist data thieves. Next, they quietly access accounts, making note of high cash balances and access to credit lines. They also familiarize themselves with the bank's protocols for authorizing the creation of new online accounts and approving cash transfers.
They look for coding security holes — and invariably find them in the Web browser, the tool banks rely on to run programs that serve as a virtual bank teller. But Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Google Chrome and Apple Safari are designed to let users navigate the entire Internet; they weren't meant to execute secure financial transactions [Sounds familiar? See The most insecure banking/sales terminal]. Cyberrobbers craft banking Trojans that inject software code into the Web browser, letting the attacker take control of online banking sessions, alter what the account holder sees and make stealthy transactions.
and talking about the solutions:
Litan, the Gartner banking security analyst, says banks need to move away from technologies that rely on common Web browsers, which is where banking Trojans thrive. Handheld optical readers, a more advanced technology, are available from Gemalto and Cronto. These devices must be used to take a picture of a visual cryptogram — a secure image produced by the bank — as part of authorizing any cash transfers.
It is absolutely great to see our technology - the Cronto visual cryptogram - mentioned in the article. A bit unfortunate that it only refers to the standalone hardware device - optical reader - whereas in fact our solution offers either a mobile app for your cellphone or a dedicated device. As we strongly believe in the power of choice when it comes to authentication solutions for banks and their customers, offering both options allows us to achieve the most optimal combination of usability, security and cost.
Now that the Trojan problem has become mainstream, there will be another "gold rush" of vendors to address it. Also, as usual, there will be some smart solutions and many not so smart Yet, we believe the visual channel is the best way to provide full secure "free-text" transaction signing and as of today the Cronto visual cryptogram is the only mature solution designed specifically to requirements of the online banking security market.
Want to see it in action? Watch this video, demonstrating the Cronto Blackberry mobile client app used for the visual transaction signing at Commerzbank AG, the second largest bank in Germany:
The increasing number of online banking attacks from phishing to trojans has been largely driven by a high Return on Investement (ROI): buy a toolkit, rent a botnet and get access to a high numbers of compromised accounts. It is all about the Economy of Scale - a single piece of malware can infect millions of computers and attack hundreds of banks.
The malware technology has been rapidly evolving, yet it is a known fact that some tasks are still better done by humans than a machine. Resolving CAPTCHAs is one of them, hence they are often used to circumvent automated mass scale attacks (e.g. blogs comments spam), hitting e-crime where it hurts - its ROI.
Unfortunately, these measures are no longer effective – E-crime crowd-sourcing has arrived! The screenshot on the left advertises "Easy money here!" and offers a job of "re-typing text from pictures". Required skills: "knowledge of English letters" and "medium proficiency in English keyboard layout". Paid for every correctly recognised picture, the site promises rates up to 3 dollars/hour with daily payouts.
Wondered why would anyone need this? Have a look at this in-depth analysis of Koobface - the Facebook virus that needs to resolve CAPTCHAs in order to propagate itself.
"Every time Koobface runs into CAPTCHA protection at Facebook, it transfers that image to its command-and-control server. From there, the image is relayed to an army of CAPTCHA resolvers, who work day and night ready to pick up a new image from their profile, solve it, submit an answer, and get paid something like 0.5 cent for the answer."
Now, apply the same concept to the Man-in-the-Browser attack on online banking and it becomes Hu(Man)-in-the-Browser – a real-time Trojan+Human attack. These attacks, already seen in the wild, indicate a shift from the basic "spray and pray" approach to maximising the return value of each compromised account - a human can assess the account balance, overdraft limit, payments patterns (e.g. when does your salary arrive) in a matter of seconds allowing then to choose the optimal amount and time for the attack.
With the required technology infrastructure in place: Compromised Computer – Command & Control centre – Human Operator, it is only a matter of time, before the virtual gold digging sweatshops switch to a more lucrative revenue stream.
Since the beginning of the 2FA "hype", many have advocated that the most reliable way of authentication is when it's taken Out of Band, meaning that authentication happens on a different channel to the one where the action requiring authentication is taking place.
In the online banking world it means using a different channel to the Internet connection to customer's computer (the most insecure banking terminal), generally achieved by providing additional authentication codes via SMS messages or phone calls. Overall, this is definitely a better idea than asking the user to e.g. manually re-enter transaction details into a separate device or having them to connect another device to the computer. The issue however is that of cost and availability...
SMS has never been a Quality Assured channel as it mostly works in "fire and forget" mode, with delivery speed depending on many factors outside the sender's (bank's) control. The bank also has to maintain the current user phone number and have a secure procedure for changing it. Furthermore, the cost of an SMS is still relatively high. Assuming 1m online users with 10 transaction per month, the bank will be sending 10m messages that, at the average SMS cost of 5 cents, will translate into 0.5m euro per month or 6m euro per year (or 6 euro per user per year).
A phone call is a better option since it establishes a real-time independent connection with the user and has, in principal, unlimited bandwidth (subject to cost and usability). It does come at the price of a higher overhead in managing multiple user's phone numbers and the cost of the call varies depending on a particular implementation and user location (wouldn't want to use this method on a mobile phone during a holiday abroad where a missed call can cost 5 euro, thanks to hidden operator's charges!).
The SMS/phone call Out of Band approach works as a relatively simple to roll-out complimentary method of authentication suitable for small size deployments. It does not scale. When having just 0.1% failed/delayed delivery rate for the SMS would mean 1m failed transactions per month for a bank with 1m online customers – this will have a significant impact both on customer retention levels and the support calls volume (and associated costs).
At Cronto, we believe the visual channel meets these requirements. The bank can generate a special image – e.g. the Cronto visual cryptogram – that could be displayed in any browser just as any other image (= no cost and availability issues) and the user can decode it using an independent device: a cameraphone or a standalone optical token, ensuring channel separation.
The use of visual channel is definitely gaining momentum; Cronto has recently launched the deployment with Commerzbank AG, a number of vendors are announcing optically capable devices, and academic researchers are designing cameraphone-based solutions:
This month Finextra has launched the Innovation Showcase – "a new feature on Finextra.com highlighting the most innovative financial technology developments over the past 12 months". Cronto is pleased to be named as one of the leading innovators in Authentication and Security category.
Using innovation to improve processes and focusing on retaining the customer is vital in the current economic environment, and the visual channel offers the optimal Out of Band-type solution for banks looking to reduce/prevent fraud damages in a cost-effective and scalable way, while delivering better customer experience.
One of the frequently proposed ideas for reducing bank fraud is to train customers to identify and ignore phishing emails. The problem with this approach is that the criminals sending such emails quickly adapt to circumvent the advice given to customers, as can be seen in this quiz.
Even worse is that the emails sent by banks often resemble phishing attempts, and sometimes directly violate the advice given to customers. With this “do as I say, not as I do” approach, it is no surprise that customers regularly fall for the scams. In fact, sometimes a legitimate email look so fake that the bank's own security staff think it's a phish.
And it's not just banks which are slipping up. I received an email from Paypal, asking users to “click here and enter your password” despite the warning on the same page: “PayPal will never ask you to enter your password in an email”. What can customers be reasonably expected to do, given this type of training? I simply closed my account.
Email is a valuable sales channel for banks, and marketing teams evidently have not being willing to sacrifice it, despite the (justified) concerns of the security departments. This fact, coupled with the weak authentication schemes currently deployed, makes life for fraudsters easy. Paypal have tried one alternative approach – a two-factor token – but these are still vulnerable to attack. Strong security solutions, accepted both by customers and marketing, are needed to mitigate the large damages from fraud we see today.
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Securing personal financial transactions online and all that comes with it: trojans and man-in-the-browser, e-banking and e-commerce, usability and scalability. By Igor Drokov, Elena Punskaya et al. at Cronto - the inventor of Visual Transaction Signing.