Vulnerabilities / Threats
3/24/2011
01:35 PM
50%
50%

Gmail, Hotmail Pose Government Security Risk

Australian auditor recommends blocking Webmail on government networks to prevent insider and external threats.

How Firesheep Can Hijack Web Sessions
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: How Firesheep Can Hijack Web Sessions
Government use of Webmail is under fire in Australia, with one government oversight group calling for it to be blocked inside government agencies.

That recommendation comes from the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), which recently audited four Australian government agencies to assess the effectiveness of their information security framework, network security management, access management, and equipment security.

The audit examined four groups inside the Australian government: the Office of Financial Management, ComSuper (which handles government pensions), Medicare Australia, and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. They served as a representative cross-sample of agencies and their approach to IT, or ICT (information and communication technologies), as it is often known abroad.

Interestingly, auditors found that government employees were actively using Webmail accounts such as Gmail and Hotmail. According to the ANAO's report, "Webmail accounts were accessible in one of the audited agencies, and logs showed that some staff were using these accounts on a regular basis."

That finding lead the ANAO to recommend that "emails using public Web-based email services should be blocked on agency ICT systems, as these can provide an easily accessible point of entry for an external attack and subject the agency to the potential for intended or unintended information disclosure."

The move would appear designed to help stem Wikleaks-type scandals. But auditors also cited more mundane -- and likely prevalent -- concerns, such as stopping financial cybercrime, as well as simply maintaining service levels. "Vulnerabilities within ICT systems may allow an attacker to gain access to sensitive information, including information about government decision-making, significant financial transactions, and aggregate personal and financial information," according to the report. "Attackers could also potentially cause disruption to agency services, payments, and public information."

From a security and risk standpoint, the audit also identified password practices as a sore point. In fact, auditors were able to compromise roughly 20% of passwords at three different agencies, using brute-force techniques. While this percentage compared favorably with private sector standards, it called on agencies to review their password practices, and especially their administrative password practices, since it successfully cracked multiple administrator passwords as well.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading, January 2015
To find and fix exploits aimed directly at your business, stop waiting for alerts and become a proactive hunter.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-7402
Published: 2014-12-17
Multiple unspecified vulnerabilities in request.c in c-icap 0.2.x allow remote attackers to cause a denial of service (crash) via a crafted ICAP request.

CVE-2014-5437
Published: 2014-12-17
Multiple cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerabilities in ARRIS Touchstone TG862G/CT Telephony Gateway with firmware 7.6.59S.CT and earlier allow remote attackers to hijack the authentication of administrators for requests that (1) enable remote management via a request to remote_management.php,...

CVE-2014-5438
Published: 2014-12-17
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in ARRIS Touchstone TG862G/CT Telephony Gateway with firmware 7.6.59S.CT and earlier allows remote authenticated users to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the computer_name parameter to connected_devices_computers_edit.php.

CVE-2014-7170
Published: 2014-12-17
Race condition in Puppet Server 0.2.0 allows local users to obtain sensitive information by accessing it in between package installation or upgrade and the start of the service.

CVE-2014-7285
Published: 2014-12-17
The management console on the Symantec Web Gateway (SWG) appliance before 5.2.2 allows remote authenticated users to execute arbitrary OS commands by injecting command strings into unspecified PHP scripts.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join us Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to hear what employers are really looking for in a chief information security officer -- it may not be what you think.