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Risk

1/16/2008
02:35 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
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Web 2.0 And Social Networks Ripening Targets For Hackers And Fraudsters

We're on the verge of an upswing in Web 2.0 and social networking security attacks and fraudulent scams. Just yesterday, Thomas Claburn reported on a serious Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) vulnerability that can be exploited through malicious SWF (Flash) files on Web sites. Successful attacks can be used to sidestep firewalls, access Web router admin pages, and alte

We're on the verge of an upswing in Web 2.0 and social networking security attacks and fraudulent scams. Just yesterday, Thomas Claburn reported on a serious Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) vulnerability that can be exploited through malicious SWF (Flash) files on Web sites. Successful attacks can be used to sidestep firewalls, access Web router admin pages, and alter network settings.

When you combine threats like that with social networks, you have a problem.In fact, Facebook users were greeted by the New Year with a spyware widget known as "Secret Crush" or "My Admirer" that apparently tried to nail users with junk advertising and phone charges. The widget purportedly tried to install Zango software. The company Zango has denied having anything to do with this.

It's a safe bet to assume that throughout this year more attackers will find ways to exploit vulnerabilities in music and video files, mashups, widgets, and social sites in an attempt to stream malware right onto end user systems. This may even prove to be a faster vector of attack than e-mail. If an attacker can scheme a way to infect you, you'll unwittingly infect those who trust you, and they'll infect their friends. On it will go, and it may not take long to saturate the entire social/trust network. The same would be true for spreading fraudulent pyramid schemes or Nigerian 411-like scams.

The propagation of worms on social networks has already started, such as with the cross-site scripting "Samy" worm, and the JavaScript QuickTime worm that surfaced in mid-2006. But just as was the case with mass-mailer e-mail worms (remember those?), it took a number of successful runs, such as with Melissa and the I Love You virus, before the problem was taken seriously. These events also occurred several years into the widespread use of e-mail. And they were the beginning of the e-mail/malware problem, not the end.

This is about where we stand today with Web 2.0 attacks. And this is a problem for so-called Web 2.0 and social networking sites that will grow -- especially as these sites publish APIs and increasingly transform themselves from closed networks to Web development platforms.

I'd like to take a closer examination of Web 2.0 security concerns in future posts. And I'm curious to hear what enterprises are doing to mitigate the risk. Is the primary defense content filtering? Are companies banning access to sites like MySpace and Facebook, or even those aimed at corporate users such as LinkedIn from work systems?

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