Vulnerabilities / Threats
12/8/2009
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Hacker Exposes Unfixed Security Flaws In Pentagon Website

Romanian hacker posts proof-of-concept attacks for Pentagon's public Website

A Romanian hacker has posted a proof-of-concept attack exploiting vulnerabilities on the Pentagon's public Website that were first exposed several months ago and remain unfixed.

The hacker, who goes by Ne0h, demonstrated input validation errors in the site's Web application that allow an attacker to wage a cross-site scripting (XSS) attack. The XSS vulnerability had been previously disclosed by at least two other researchers several months ago -- and Ne0h's findings show the bug is still on the site.

The site, which is run by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, is basically a tourist site for the Pentagon and doesn't appear to house any sensitive data. But a security researcher who studied the Ne0h's work says the Pentagon Website could be used to redirect users to a malicious site posing as the Pentagon site.

Daniel Kennedy, partner with Praetorian Security Group, says the session ID appears to be a tracking cookie, and JavaScript can be injected into the page itself to redirect a user to another site, for instance. "Since I can pass that page a reference to an external JavaScript, I can do most anything I can do in JavaScript," says Kennedy, who blogged about the find yesterday. "That includes basic stuff, like crafting a URL to send to users that appears to be from the Pentagon, but actually redirects to 'evil.org,'" for example, he says.

Kennedy says another possible attack would be on more sensitive sites under the Pentagon's domain, which is afis.osd.mil. "The next thing I would do if testing...is to attempt to do some cookie manipulation to try to affect the behavior of, or grab cookies from, a more sensitive site under the same domain. I don't know that it's possible -- the cookies I checked were set properly with the subdomain -- but it's the next thing I would play with," he says. "The black-hat world is not limited by the limitations of my imagination, though."

Ne0h also demonstrated in his blog post an attack exploiting an iFrame inclusion flaw on the Pentagon's site. The attacker can load content from another Website onto the Pentagon Website, according to Kennedy.

The bugs are a result of weak validation values received by the browser in a photo-album application that includes tours of the Pentagon, according to Kennedy.

The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs had not responded to requests for an interview on the vulnerabilities as of this posting.

Kennedy says he doesn't know whether the DoD had been alerted of these bugs, but that it doesn't appear any fixes were attempted. "The Pentagon will always be the subject of unsolicited penetration tests from around the world. Their logs would show the attacks the site is facing -- many are probably not relevant, but this one was," he says.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Senior Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise Magazine, ... View Full Bio

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