Risk
7/18/2008
03:51 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Picture Leak: O2's Security Through Obscurity Can't Stop Google

Some O2 customers' private photos taken with their mobile phones are publicly accessible online.

Customers of U.K. mobile network operator O2 may believe that photos taken with their mobile phones and sent via MMS to friends are private. But if the recipient's phone isn't capable of receiving MMS data, as is the case with Apple's iPhone 3G, those pictures may be publicly accessible.

O2's security for this scenario is security through obscurity: It makes pictures sent via MMS viewable on non-MMS devices by posting them online with a URL that's difficult to guess.

But thanks to Google, there's no need to guess the URL. It can be found using the inurl: search query operator with mms2legacy as the argument.

The reason for this, explained Ken Simpson, CEO of anti-spam company MailChannels, is that one's Google Toolbar may be configured to pass URLs that one visits to Google for indexing. "If you run Google Toolbar, it knows pages you visit," he said.

As Google explains in its Google Toolbar privacy policy, "Certain optional Toolbar features operate by sending Google the addresses or other information about sites when you visit them. Web History, PageRank, and Safe Browsing in Enhanced Mode all work this way."

The ostensibly private O2 picture-share URLs could probably be guessed even without Google. The code that protects them is a 16-digit hexadecimal number and many people are capable of writing a script to try every code combination.

A spokesperson for O2 wasn't immediately available for comment because it was late Friday evening in the United Kingdom.

Simpson, however, believes that someone at the company is aware of the problem and has been trying to cover it up. He said that someone had posted information about the issue in the online forum for O2 customers and that the post had subsequently vanished.

Another O2 customer, however, has chimed in. "I have reported the case to several agencies in the U.K. -- including the ICO, Ofcom, O2, and my excellent local MP," said someone using the name "duguk." "Hopefully something will be done about this."

Simpson said that while he hadn't come across any overly embarrassing pictures, many of the photos that are exposed show people's children.

In a post on the MailChannels blog, senior software engineer David Cawley notes that, ironically, O2 maintains a Protect Our Children Web site. "Well, a good first step would be to avoid leaking customer photos," he said.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest, Dec. 19, 2014
Software-defined networking can be a net plus for security. The key: Work with the network team to implement gradually, test as you go, and take the opportunity to overhaul your security strategy.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2015-2086
Published: 2015-02-26
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the live preview in the Panopoly Magic module before 7.x-1.17 for Drupal allows remote authenticated users to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via a pane title.

CVE-2015-2087
Published: 2015-02-26
Unrestricted file upload vulnerability in the Avatar Uploader module before 6.x-1.3 for Drupal allows remote authenticated users to execute arbitrary PHP code by uploading a file with a PHP extension, then accessing it via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2015-2088
Published: 2015-02-26
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in unspecified administration pages in the Term Queue module before 6.x-1.1 for Drupal allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via unknown vectors.

CVE-2015-2089
Published: 2015-02-26
Multiple cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerabilities in the CrossSlide jQuery (crossslide-jquery-plugin-for-wordpress) plugin 2.0.5 for WordPress allow remote attackers to hijack the authentication of administrators for requests that (1) change plugin settings or conduct cross-site scripting (...

CVE-2015-2090
Published: 2015-02-26
SQL injection vulnerability in the ajax_survey function in settings.php in the WordPress Survey and Poll plugin 1.1.7 for Wordpress allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary SQL commands via the survey_id parameter in an ajax_survey action to wp-admin/admin-ajax.php.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
How can security professionals better engage with their peers, both in person and online? In this Dark Reading Radio show, we will talk to leaders at some of the security industry’s professional organizations about how security pros can get more involved – with their colleagues in the same industry, with their peers in other industries, and with the IT security community as a whole.