Risk
3/25/2008
09:47 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
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Web App Threats Rising

Great news: 1 out of 10 Web sites you visit may actually be secure.

Great news: 1 out of 10 Web sites you visit may actually be secure.According to a report published yesterday by Web security firm WhiteHat Security, nine out of 10 Web sites have significant vulnerabilities that can be exploited by attackers. The report also finds that Web sites, on average, have seven flaws that make them vulnerable to attack.

Not surprisingly, cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities is still the most prevalent Web security problem out there, with 70% of Web sites vulnerable to this form of attack.

Simply put, XXS is a vulnerability that allows attackers (or anyone who feels like it, really) to inject code, such as HTML, into a site. These types of vulnerabilities can be used to bypass Web site access controls, and has been used by phishers to conduct mass-scale fraud.

Now, fraudsters are likely to turn to an emerging type of attack, similar to XXS, known as cross-site request forgery, or CSRF. Beyond being yet another acronym we need to remember, this type of attack doesn't require code be injected into a Web site.

Rather, users authenticated, or logged-in, to a Web site can be attacked while the session is active. This means, if you're logged into your bank, it could be possible for someone to use your active session to transfer money out of your account without you being aware. Until it's too late, of course.

Here's what WhiteHat Security had to say about CSRF in a statement:

However, CSRF, while known in the public domain for years, has recently garnered more attention from malicious hackers. Attackers using CSRF can easily force a user's Web browser to send unintended HTTP requests such as fraudulent wire transfers, change passwords and download illegal content. Effective automated CSRF detection techniques have eluded all technology scanning vendors in the space, making identification a largely manual process.

That means it's tough to find this flaw in existing code. Your best defense make be making sure you pick the one site (out of 10) that is secure.

There may be a couple more practical steps you can take to avoid CSRF attacks on your sessions:

  • Don't have multiple Web sites open in your browser while doing any type of banking, or other types of high-value transactions.
  • Always remember to properly log out from credit card and banking-related Web sites.
  • Anyone else have any useful suggestions?

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