It’s not uncommon to see a free iPad scam pop up in your Facebook feed, but the latest apparent hack is a little more about shock than profit. An as yet unknown attack appears to be flooding some users’ feeds with images of gore and pornography. Facebook has acknowledged an increase in reports of such content, ans is investigating.
July 4 turned out to be a field day for hackers and chance cyber-saboteurs as they converged on the world's most popular video streaming site to wreck havoc using a cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability. They inserted malicious code in the comments section of many YouTube videos to trigger a series of anomalous events, including redirects to porn sites and nasty pop-ups, whenever a user visited a targeted video. Justin Bieber fans were probably the worst hit, with hackers and pranksters concertedly targeting the Canadian singer's videos.
But Google wasted little time in plugging the hole. "We took swift action to fix a cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability on youtube.com," a spokesperson for YouTube's parent company said. "Comments were temporarily hidden by default within an hour [of discovering the problem], and we released a complete fix for the issue in about two hours. We’re continuing to study the vulnerability to help prevent similar issues in the future."
We all know that the increasing sophistication of technology opens up literally dozens of new opportunities for those wanting to inflict harm on that technology’s users. The Internet is, if anything, an object lesson for this truism. Once the Internet became mainstream, so to did viruses, spybots, DOS attacks, and all the other nastiness we collectively refer to as malware. One long term weaknesses in the security armor of the Internet is cross-site scripting (XSS). For the better part of a decade it has for Internet users left a door wide open to an unwanted destructive potential.
Michael Sutton, the vice president of security research at Zscaler, says that XSS typically needs a user to click a link, such as those that appear in spam or phishing efforts, which then strikes back at the user. But, he continues, XSS is becoming more sophisticated. Rather than being limited to a user-web site interaction, Sutton says that XSS efforts can now work within a web platform, such as a social networking environment, spreading itself readily among all users in the social network’s ecosystem.
Sutton also says that such sophisticated attacks, so far, have been by “[b]ored and bright individuals...tinkering with the concept”, and that “true criminals wait on the sidelines ready to move in when traditional techniques fail to achieve desired goals.” Translation: another malware threat to be concerned about. Not today, perhaps, but definitely tomorrow.
Solutions aren’t all that difficult. Users could quit doing stupid things. For instance, if you don’t know where an email originated, don’t click the link it contains. But, let’s face it, there’ll always be one or two of us who do it anyway. Which means that another level of protection is needed. Sutton says that’s got to be developers--they need to be more vigilant about writing into code the necessary protections for web programs, such as Microsoft has done with Internet Explorer 8.
Over Easter weekend, many Twitter fans were getting worms instead of finding Easter Eggs, as the developer of a rival microblogging site (StalkDaily), one 17-year-old Michael "Mikeyy" Mooney, was busy drawing Twitter users to his site through infected links and Twitter profiles. According to PCWorld and the Twitter status page, the infection has now been brought under control. But inquiring minds want to know, "what happened?" and "how can we stop a future attack?"
Doing a Google search for "Mikeyy" or "TwitterWorm" isn't the best way to find out, though, as the F-Secure security blog points out that fake news sites are being used to infect curious searchers with (unrelated) malware. To get the real scoop, join us after the jump.
Before you drop in on the American Express website to see how much damage you did to your credit line with holiday shopping, you should know it's vulnerable to an XSS (cross-site scripting) exploit. As The Registerreports, this news comes after a bungled attempt to fix the problem. As El Reg puts it,
The cross-site scripting (XSS) error that makes it trivial for attackers to steal americanexpress.com user's authentication cookies is alive and kicking. The confusion stems from a mistake made by many application developers who incorrectly assume that the root cause of a vulnerability is closed as soon as a particular exploit no longer works.
So far, only proof-of-concept exploits have been written to show how easy it would be to pilfer login credentials, but until AmEx really eradicates this problem, keep a careful eye on your website transactions. For a list of precautions you can take to stop XSS exploits, see our 2007 article.
Have you been victimized by an XSS error? Join us after the jump and sound off.
To find out how long Redmond's known about this problem, and how another browser vendor set Microsoft an example in how to deal with a reported vulnerability, join us after the jump.
While Windows Vista often takes a beating 'round these parts for problems with speed and compatibility with older software, its improved security features are helping make video playback and web browsing more secure. Find out how.
You know that Microsoft never sends out email messages with links to Microsoft Update or Windows Update. Do your friends, family and co-workers know that? If they don't - be prepared to mop up the mess.