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9/16/2010
01:52 PM
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CSRF Vulnerabilities Rise, Overall Vulnerability Disclosures Dip

Old-school attacks still alive and well, too, report says

More than 80 percent of this year's security attacks targeted Web-based systems, and the number of dangerous cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerabilities is on the rise, according to a newly released report from HP/TippingPoint DV Labs, Qualys, and SANS.

Overall, the number of vulnerability disclosures for the year is gradually declining to around 4,500 from nearly 7,000 last year, with the exception of CSRF, which had 155 vulnerabilities as of the first half of the year. CSRF is a pervasive but difficult-to-detect flaw that can be exploited to trick a user into generating a request or action on a website that he or she didn't intend.

"CSRF is difficult ... and complex," says Wolfgang Kandek, CTO at Qualys. Kandek says attackers are increasingly going after Web applications with attacks such as CSRF because the old-school attack vectors, like email, are getting better filtered by security tools.

And while operating systems are getting more secure, applications are still weak security-wise, he says. "They aren't difficult to fix. Most [attacks] are due to bad patching" practices, he says.

The report calls out SQL injection, PHP file include, and others as some of the top types of Web attacks that have doubled in the past six months, while attacks targeting browsers, QuickTime, and Flash have tripled so far this year. These applications typically serve as a stepping stone to the victim's internal network.

Malicious JavaScript attacks are hot this year, growing more than 60 percent in the first six months of the year, according to HP TippingPoint IPS filter data.

And multiple researchers are now more often discovering the same vulnerabilities. "While the ZDI program is constantly discovering new vulnerabilities in these products and managing their disclosure responsibly, it is important to note that malicious attackers often times have huge monetary incentives for selling vulnerabilities to the black market," the report says. "This means that there are likely more unknown vulnerabilities in use by malicious attackers. This may seem far-fetched, but it is now common for ZDI researchers to independently discover the exact same vulnerability as other researchers."

This occurred 18 times last year, according to ZDI, including one vulnerability that three different researchers each discovered separately and already has happened 13 times this year.

"I was surprised about this concurrent discovery of vulnerabilities by researchers," Qualys' Kandek says. "That means more people are looking, both on the good- and bad-guy side. The main point is that vulnerabilities are not that difficult to find."

Even so, attackers still employ old threats, like SQL Slammer, Code Red, and Conficker. SQL Slammer, which was born in 2004, today triggers HP TippingPoint's IPS filters 10 times as much as any other filter, the report says.

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Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. 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 ... View Full Bio

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