Sunday, February 28, 2010

Online Theft / Robbery


Online Theft / Robbery, originally uploaded by iQoncept.
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While security vulnerability research can expose technical weaknesses that may be exploited, incident research provides

in-depth information about the most common targets, motives and attack vectors of modern hackers.

And where better to turn for a sense of where we stand today than the Web Hacking Incidents Database (WHID). Analysis of WHID

reveals that in 2009 social networks were at the greatest risk, malware and defacement remained the most common outcome of

Web attacks, and SQL injection was the most common attack vector. Here's a deeper dive on the findings and what you can do

about them.

Perhaps not surprisingly, analysis of Web hacking incidents reveals that social network sites such as Twitter and Facebook

are becoming premier targets for hackers. One in five incidents (19%) between January and June 2009 targeted social network

sites, making them the most commonly attacked market.

Many attacks on social networks involve cross-site scripting (XSS) worms. Additionally, insufficient anti-automation controls

permit hackers to brute force attack log-in credentials. In one incident, an attacker accessed a Twitter Admin account that

had a password reset tool and compromised 33 high-profile accounts, including President Obama's.

Web attacks are driven by crime. Most occur because the hacker wants money, not glory. However, in some instances, the attacks

are performed by professionals seeking to advance a cause.

In 2009, defacement of Web sites was still the number one driver for Web hacking (28%). Defacement includes visible changes

and covert changes, such as the planting of malicious code. Criminals exploit Web application vulnerabilities to plant malware

that subsequently infects clients who visit the Web site. The hacked sites become the hacker's primary method of distributing

viruses, Trojans and root kits.

On the other end of the spectrum, ideologists use the Internet to express themselves using Web hacking to deface Web sites.

The majority of defacement incidents are of a political nature, targeting political parties, candidates and government departments,

typically with a specific message related to a campaign.

Web defacements are a serious problem and a critical barometer for estimating exploitable vulnerabilities in Web sites. Defacement

statistics are valuable since they are one of the few incidents that are publicly facing and thus cannot be easily swept under

the rug.

SQL Injection remains the number one attack vector, accounting for nearly one-fifth of all security breaches (19%). These

attacks alter the contents of the back-end database and inject malicious JavaScript. Interestingly, the overall attack more

closely resembles a XXS methodology, as the end goal of the attack is to have malicious JavaScript execute within victim's

browsers to steal login credentials to other Web applications.

Attack vectors exploiting Web 2.0 features, such as user-contributed content from social media applications, are also commonly

employed: authentication abuse is the second most active attack vector (11%), and cross site request forgery (CSRF) rose to

number five (5%).

While not a new attack vector, attacks that take advantage of insufficient authentication are increasingly severe due to the

proliferation of user-contributed and managed Web sites. This is closely related to CSRF, a vulnerability that was recognized

several years ago as a potentially potent attack vector. While it took longer for CSRF to appear than expected, the rise in

CSRF incidents is in line with authentication abuse since it provides an alternative mechanism for performing actions on behalf

of a victim.

Regardless of the target, motive or vector, Web attacks seek to exploit the connectivity, complexity and extensibility of

the Internet. A lack of input validation, poor database configuration and the priority of new features over security enables

hackers to access sensitive information.

The connectivity of the Internet is a blessing and a curse. HTTP is allowed through virtually every network firewall, opening

up the network to external attackers. HTTP is also a very open protocol, which often integrates XML and SOAP inside to help

facilitate Web service functions. The explosion of Web 2.0 architectures has shattered the traditional network boundaries,

making it even more challenging to secure Web input and output.

Underscoring these issues is the fact that many internal databases are now becoming "Webified" and accessible to external

users. Properly configured databases and SQL construction is critical. Developers that are not trained in secure coding put

too much trust in user input. It is this lack of input validation that enables mass SQL Injection bots to successfully attack


Finally, the extensibility of Web applications leads to greater vulnerabilities since the priority of features usually comes

before security. All too often "scope creep" comes into play as new widgets, bells and whistles are added in the midst of

the software development life cycle. These additions should require a security review, but this rarely happens. A common complaint

heard by Web application security professionals is that implementing security to an application under development is like

trying to change a tire on a car that is still moving.

It is not enough to know about these incidents and risk factors; you must also understand how to protect the integrity of

Web applications. If you know a hurricane is approaching, it is irresponsible not to shutter your house. Likewise, if you

know Web security incidents are occurring, it is irresponsible not to protect the Web site.

An effective Web security strategy should be able to correlate Web activity to the responsible user, as well as detect abnormal

actions. Additionally, poorly coded applications that are not functioning properly or are leaking sensitive information must

be identified. Finally, operations, security and development teams should be able to quickly conduct proper incident response

by utilizing operation data to trouble shoot problems and remediate identified vulnerabilities.

Companies with these security strategies can be assured they are running a safe and secure site.

Barnett is director of application security research for Breach Security, a SANS Institute faculty member, the OWASP ModSecurity

Core Rule Set (CRS) Project Leader and also a member of the Web Application Security Consortium (WASC) where he leads the

Distributed Open Proxy Honeypot Project.

Source Citation
"The State of Web Security Issues." Network World (2010). Computer Database. Web. 28 Feb. 2010.
Document URL

Gale Document Number:A219437900

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