Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Major Security Vendors' Sites Could Be Launchpads for Phishing Attacks

McAfee, Symantec, and VeriSign sites all found to contain cross-site scripting flaws

With all the talk about hackers launching attacks from legitimate Websites, you'd think that the major security vendors' sites, at least, would be vulnerability-free.

Not so, according to a report issued yesterday by a security watchdog site.

The site, XSSed, states that it has verified some 30 cross-site scripting vulnerabilities spread across the Websites of three of the industry's best-known security vendors: McAfee, Symantec, and VeriSign. The vulnerabilities could make it possible for attackers to launch phishing campaigns from these sites or even distribute malware to the companies' customers, according to XSSed.

Recent studies have shown that Web-based attacks are increasingly being launched from trusted, legitimate sites, rather than from hastily created sites and servers built by the attackers. By exploiting vulnerabilities in legitimate sites, the attacker gains credibility for phishing or malware links and bypass security tools that blacklist known phishing sites. (See 68% of Malware Now Found on Legitimate Sites and 'Hack-and-Pier' Phishing on the Rise.)

The new XSSed report shows that the big security vendors' sites are no exception to this trend, said Kevin Fernandez, one of the founders of XSSed. "It shows that any company can be infected with XSS," he says. In fact, some attackers have specifically targeted their vulnerability searches on sites such as McAfee, Symantec, and VeriSign, looking on them as a particular challenge, Fernandez says.

"It is unfortunate that many Websites tend to suffer from relatively simple vulnerabilities. It’s worse, though, that the same security vendors who preach security are the ones who often need just as much help as everyone else," says Robert Hansen (aka RSnake), CEO of SecTheory, a security consulting firm. "It just lends credence to the belief that knowledge of the problems doesn’t make you immune to them, which is why education doesn’t appear to be working."

This isn't the first time that XSS vulnerabilities have been exposed on sites such as McAfee's and Symantec's, notes Jeremiah Grossman, CTO of WhiteHat Security. Back in January, XSSed reported that some 60 sites that had received the "hacker safe" label from McAfee's ScanAlert service were vulnerable to XSS attacks. (See Many 'Hacker Safe' Websites Found Vulnerable.)

At the time, Joseph Pierini, director of enterprise services for the ScanAlert "Hacker Safe" program, maintained that XSS vulnerabilities couldn't be used to hack a server. "You may be able to do other things with it," he said. "You may be able to do things that affect the end-user or the client. But the customer data protected with the server, in the database, is not going to be compromised by a cross-site scripting attack, not directly."

"XSS vulnerabilities do present a serious risk; however to date their real-world use has been limited," said Oliver Friedrichs, director of Symantec Security Response, following the XSSed report in January. "XSS vulnerabilities can result in the theft of session cookies, Web site login credentials, and exploitation of trust. XSS vulnerabilities are site-specific, and therefore their lifecycle is limited; they become extinct once they are discovered and repaired by the Website owners."

But both Fernandez and Grossman noted that there have been a number of recent attacks that exploited XSS vulnerabilities in major Websites, including MySpace, Paypal, and major Italian banks.

"Should we be worried? About XSS, yes, but not because these particular security vendors have XSS on their Websites," Grossman says. "Symantec and McAfee really don't specialize in Web application security -- they focus more attention on anti-virus and anti-malware.

"The main worry should be around the more popular and e-commerce driven Websites, like banks, credit unions, social networks, and storefronts," Grossman says. "That is where businesses and users have the most to lose -- and where the real bad guys are focusing their attention."

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.

  • McAfee Inc. (NYSE: MFE)
  • SecTheory LLC
  • Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq: SYMC)
  • VeriSign Inc. (Nasdaq: VRSN)
  • WhiteHat Security

    Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

    Comment  | 
    Print  | 
    More Insights
  • Comments
    Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
    7 Old IT Things Every New InfoSec Pro Should Know
    Joan Goodchild, Staff Editor,  4/20/2021
    Cloud-Native Businesses Struggle With Security
    Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  5/6/2021
    Defending Against Web Scraping Attacks
    Rob Simon, Principal Security Consultant at TrustedSec,  5/7/2021
    Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
    White Papers
    Current Issue
    2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
    We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
    Flash Poll
    How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
    How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
    Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
    Twitter Feed
    Dark Reading - Bug Report
    Bug Report
    Enterprise Vulnerabilities
    From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
    PUBLISHED: 2021-05-16
    The JSON web services in Liferay Portal 7.3.4 and earlier, and Liferay DXP 7.0 before fix pack 97, 7.1 before fix pack 20 and 7.2 before fix pack 10 may provide overly verbose error messages, which allows remote attackers to use the contents of error messages to help launch another, more focused att...
    PUBLISHED: 2021-05-16
    Denial-of-service (DoS) vulnerability in the Multi-Factor Authentication module in Liferay DXP 7.3 before fix pack 1 allows remote authenticated attackers to prevent any user from authenticating by (1) enabling Time-based One-time password (TOTP) on behalf of the other user or (2) modifying the othe...
    PUBLISHED: 2021-05-16
    The SimpleCaptcha implementation in Liferay Portal 7.3.4, 7.3.5 and Liferay DXP 7.3 before fix pack 1 does not invalidate CAPTCHA answers after it is used, which allows remote attackers to repeatedly perform actions protected by a CAPTCHA challenge by reusing the same CAPTCHA answer.
    PUBLISHED: 2021-05-16
    Delta Industrial Automation CNCSoft ScreenEditor Versions 1.01.28 (with ScreenEditor Version 1.01.2) and prior are vulnerable to an out-of-bounds read while processing project files, which may allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code.
    PUBLISHED: 2021-05-16
    Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the Asset module's categories administration page in Liferay Portal 7.3.4 allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the site name.