New Exploit Targets Web 2.0 Technologies

Just when you thought life couldn't get any riskier for Web app developers, a new species of malicious code is poised to begin oozing onto our networks. Dubbed "Trojans 2.0" by Web security vendor Finjan, this new Web-borne threat leverages Web 2.0 technology -- RSS feeds, social networks, blogs and mashups -- to provide crackers with easy and scalable command-and-control schemes.

The Trojans 2.0 scheme exploits the trust that legitimate Web services have earned through reputation-based security services. The attackers use the malicious code for a wide range of bad behaviors, the company says, including:

  • Botnet delivery of spam
  • Identity theft through keylogging
  • Highly sophisticated financial fraud, corporate espionage and business intelligence gathering

"Until recently, the Trojans out there needed to phone home to the hacker to get these commands," Finjan's CTO, Yuval Ben-Itzhak, said. "So, if you could find the hacker's server and block it, either by IP or URL, you could avoid the attack of the data on your machine. But what we've found recently is that hackers are beginning to take advantage of Web 2.0 sites. Instead of the Trojan phoning home to the hacker's server, it's connecting to a blog or an RSS feed, where the Trojan is not communicating directly to the hacker's server, but sending the data to relatively trusted servers. Essentially, the hacker is using the Web 2.0 platform as an intermediate storage area."

Israel-based Finjan is a global provider of real-time, appliance-based Web security solutions. Its solutions utilize behavior-based technology to repel all types of Web-based threats from spyware to phishing, Trojans to obfuscated malicious code.

The company ID'd the new threat (which it calls "crimeware") in the latest report from its Malicious Code Research Center.

In its report, the company cites "financial reward" as the key driver for malicious code evolution in the coming year. The attacks will become more sophisticated, leveraging advanced Web 2.0 techniques and services to "heighten infection ratios and decrease detection rates." Ironically, Web 2.0 seems to be providing the black hats with more robust and scalable attack frameworks, Ben-Itzhak said, enabling them to hide malicious code within "legitimate" Web traffic.

"Using Web 2.0, these hackers can go undetected," Ben-Itzhak said, "because now there's an intermediary."

How do we protect ourselves from this new threat?

Not surprisingly, Ben-Itzhak recommends that enterprises embark on a strict regimen of infection prevention using real-time malware scanning technology.

"You need security technology that doesn't rely on signatures or URLs," he said, "but that scans the actual code of the Web site, trying to find out what the code is about to do. Is it about to delete a file, change settings -- and then it decides if this page includes malicious code, and blocks it based on that."

What do you do if your site is infected? Monitor the outgoing traffic for suspicious behavior.

"You scan the code to make sure that confidential data isn't going out," he said. "The combination of the two is necessary to secure a corporate network."

Finjan's Web security trend report includes examples of this type of attack, along with details and step-by-step diagrams. The report is available here for download, without registration.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].


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