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.

Perimeter

6/8/2009
02:12 PM
John H. Sawyer
John H. Sawyer
Commentary
50%
50%

Hacking Challenge Shows XSS Still King

Last week, another company got egg on its face by running a "we're-so-secure-you-can't-hack-our-stuff contest." When are companies going to learn claims like that always backfire?

Last week, another company got egg on its face by running a "we're-so-secure-you-can't-hack-our-stuff contest." When are companies going to learn claims like that always backfire?The latest "victim" is StrongWebMail, a company that said its Webmail solution was unhackable because it required two-factor authentication using the customer's phone. Of course, it was wrong. It published details of a contest that said it would award $10,000 to the person who successfully hacked into the Webmail of the company's CEO and retrieved the details of a task that was due on June 26. Mike Bailey, Lance James, and Aviv Raff stepped up and delivered the required information, which was then confirmed by the CEO.

Several different sources are currently reporting that the exploit was carried out through cross site scripting (XSS), but the company has yet to confirm the details, and the possible winners are not allowed to disclose their methods. (See PC World and Skeptikal.org for more information.)

Do PR stunts like this one make sense when trying to get your company's name or new product out there? How does someone sell the rest of the company after putting a sign on your own back that reads, "HACK ME!"? Especially to the legal team?

There's a saying that bad publicity is better than no publicity, and maybe that's what StrongWebMail is banking on here since the authentication mechanism isn't what was exploited. Exploiting an XSS vulnerability is an exploitation of the Website itself, the Web browser, and user behavior of either opening the e-mail or clicking on the link from an attacker. It was not a compromise of two-factor authentication. That said, does it matter? Not if the attacker can get to the data. Who cares how he got to it?

Maybe StrongWebMail's intentions were not so much PR. As I mentioned, it wanted to tout the greatness of its two-factor authentication and how it couldn't be circumvented. That in itself is putting a target on its back for any hacker and security researcher to take a whack at them. It's the kind of challenge, and money, that will bring all levels of hackers out of the woodwork. With a reward of $10,000, this challenge had to be one of the cheapest pen-tests ever, considering how much manpower was probably focused on it.

Whatever its goal, XSS has again proved to be more than a simple parlor trick for causing pop-up messages on affected sites. And just because you have multifactor authentication, encryption, and more, social engineering a user into opening an e-mail or clicking on a link is quite effective at bypassing all of those layers.

When are they going to learn?

John H. Sawyer is a senior security engineer on the IT Security Team at the University of Florida. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are his own and do not represent the views and opinions of the UF IT Security Team or the University of Florida. When John's not fighting flaming, malware-infested machines or performing autopsies on blitzed boxes, he can usually be found hanging with his family, bouncing a baby on one knee and balancing a laptop on the other. Special to Dark Reading.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Zero-Factor Authentication: Owning Our Data
Nick Selby, Chief Security Officer at Paxos Trust Company,  2/19/2020
44% of Security Threats Start in the Cloud
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  2/19/2020
Firms Improve Threat Detection but Face Increasingly Disruptive Attacks
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  2/20/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
6 Emerging Cyber Threats That Enterprises Face in 2020
This Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at six emerging cyber threats that enterprises could face in 2020. Download your copy today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises Are Developing and Maintaining Secure Applications
How Enterprises Are Developing and Maintaining Secure Applications
The concept of application security is well known, but application security testing and remediation processes remain unbalanced. Most organizations are confident in their approach to AppSec, although others seem to have no approach at all. Read this report to find out more.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-8860
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-22
This vulnerability allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code on affected installations of Samsung Galaxy S10 Firmware G973FXXS3ASJA, O(8.x), P(9.0), Q(10.0) devices with Exynos chipsets. User interaction is required to exploit this vulnerability in that the target must answer a phone call. ...
CVE-2020-8861
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-22
This vulnerability allows network-adjacent attackers to bypass authentication on affected installations of D-Link DAP-1330 1.10B01 BETA Wi-Fi range extenders. Authentication is not required to exploit this vulnerability. The specific flaw exists within the handling of HNAP login requests. The issue...
CVE-2020-8862
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-22
This vulnerability allows network-adjacent attackers to bypass authentication on affected installations of D-Link DAP-2610 Firmware v2.01RC067 routers. Authentication is not required to exploit this vulnerability. The specific flaw exists within the handling of passwords. The issue results from the...
CVE-2020-9330
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-21
Certain Xerox WorkCentre printers before 073.xxx.000.02300 do not require the user to reenter or validate LDAP bind credentials when changing the LDAP connector IP address. A malicious actor who gains access to affected devices (e.g., by using default credentials) can change the LDAP connection IP a...
CVE-2020-9327
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-21
In SQLite 3.31.1, isAuxiliaryVtabOperator allows attackers to trigger a NULL pointer dereference and segmentation fault because of generated column optimizations.