Risk
1/23/2009
05:49 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

White House Web Site Revisits Privacy Policy

Staffers address privacy concerns after a 1-by-1-pixel image file loaded by Web page code for tracking purposes is revealed.

With the Obama administration now in place, White House media staff has been reviewing the WhiteHouse.gov Web site this week to address issues raised by privacy advocates.

Embedded YouTube videos, which previously loaded and deposited a persistent third-party YouTube cookie in visitors' browsers automatically, have been moved behind an image of the video player that must be clicked to initiate loading. This addresses an inconsistency in the White House site's privacy policy, which stated that there was a way to view videos without receiving a persistent cookie.

The review could lead to changes in the site's privacy policy designed to clarify its privacy practices.

This action appears to be in keeping with a commitment to be responsive to community concerns. In the first blog post on the new WhiteHouse.gov on Tuesday, Macon Phillips, director of new media for the White House, solicited user input and said that "this online community will continue to be a work in progress as we develop new features and content for you."

Revamped on Tuesday, the new WhiteHouse.gov Web site immediately elicited criticism for transmitting data about its visitors to WebTrends, a Web analytics company, without adequate disclosure.

On the Interesting People e-mail list, maintained by Carnegie Mellon computer science professor David Farber, Karl Auerbach, CTO of at InterWorking Labs and an attorney, warned Tuesday that the WhiteHouse.gov site contains a Web bug.

A Web bug, also known as a Web beacon by those who prefer terminology less suggestive of surveillance (WebTrends uses "Clear GIF"), is a file loaded by Web page code for tracking purposes. It often comes in the form of a 1-pixel-by-1-pixel image file, which is too small to be noticed but nonetheless registers in server logs like any other file.

The Web bug on the WhiteHouse.gov home page is fetched by JavaScript code -- called via the script at www.whitehouse.gov/includes/webtrends.js or through the URL enclosed in [noscript] tags -- that collects data about the visitor's computer configuration and packs that information into the URL used to request the Web bug.

Thus, in the process of receiving the remote request from WhiteHouse.gov to serve a 1-by-1-pixel graphic, WebTrends also receives certain details about those visiting the White House Web site.

Auerbach observed in an e-mail that while he recognized some of the data requested -- his screen resolution and whether he had Microsoft Silverlight installed -- the other data gathered by WebTrends was unclear.

In a separate e-mail message sent to Farber's list, Steven Champeon, CTO of Hesketh.com, deciphered the WebTrends JavaScript.

Previous
1 of 4
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Security Operations and IT Operations: Finding the Path to Collaboration
A wide gulf has emerged between SOC and NOC teams that's keeping both of them from assuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of IT systems. Here's how experts think it should be bridged.
Flash Poll
New Best Practices for Secure App Development
New Best Practices for Secure App Development
The transition from DevOps to SecDevOps is combining with the move toward cloud computing to create new challenges - and new opportunities - for the information security team. Download this report, to learn about the new best practices for secure application development.
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2017-0290
Published: 2017-05-09
NScript in mpengine in Microsoft Malware Protection Engine with Engine Version before 1.1.13704.0, as used in Windows Defender and other products, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (type confusion and application crash) via crafted JavaScript code within ...

CVE-2016-10369
Published: 2017-05-08
unixsocket.c in lxterminal through 0.3.0 insecurely uses /tmp for a socket file, allowing a local user to cause a denial of service (preventing terminal launch), or possibly have other impact (bypassing terminal access control).

CVE-2016-8202
Published: 2017-05-08
A privilege escalation vulnerability in Brocade Fibre Channel SAN products running Brocade Fabric OS (FOS) releases earlier than v7.4.1d and v8.0.1b could allow an authenticated attacker to elevate the privileges of user accounts accessing the system via command line interface. With affected version...

CVE-2016-8209
Published: 2017-05-08
Improper checks for unusual or exceptional conditions in Brocade NetIron 05.8.00 and later releases up to and including 06.1.00, when the Management Module is continuously scanned on port 22, may allow attackers to cause a denial of service (crash and reload) of the management module.

CVE-2017-0890
Published: 2017-05-08
Nextcloud Server before 11.0.3 is vulnerable to an inadequate escaping leading to a XSS vulnerability in the search module. To be exploitable a user has to write or paste malicious content into the search dialogue.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
In past years, security researchers have discovered ways to hack cars, medical devices, automated teller machines, and many other targets. Dark Reading Executive Editor Kelly Jackson Higgins hosts researcher Samy Kamkar and Levi Gundert, vice president of threat intelligence at Recorded Future, to discuss some of 2016's most unusual and creative hacks by white hats, and what these new vulnerabilities might mean for the coming year.