Feeds

That password-protected site of yours - it ain't

Google exposes the Net's dirty secrets

Seven Steps to Software Security

It's one of the simplest hacks we've seen in a long time, and the more elite computer users have known about it for a while, but it's still kinda cool and just a little bit unnerving: A hacker has revealed a way to use Google and other search engines to gain unauthorized access to password-protected content on a dizzying number of websites.

While plenty of webmasters require their visitors to register or pay a fee before viewing certain pages, they are typically more than eager for search engine bots to see the content for free. After all, the more search engines that catalog the info, the better the chances of luring new users.

But the technique, known as cloaking, has a gaping loophole: if Google and other search engines can see the content without entering a password, so can you. Want to read this forum from the InkDrop Styles website? You can, but first you'll have to enter a user name and password. Or you can simply type "cache:http://forums.inkdropstyles.com/index.php?showtopic=4227" into Google. It leads you to this cache, which shows you the entire thread.

The technique yields plenty of other restricted forums, including those here, here and here.

Those in the know have been using the trick for years, but a hacker who goes by the handle Oxy recently made this post that shares the technique with the world at large. It reminds us of a similar approach for accessing restricted sites that involves changing a browser's user agent to one used by search engine bots.

The hack is one example of the security problems that result from the practice of cloaking. Robert Hansen, the web security guru and CEO of secTheory recently alerted us to the compromised blog of Blake Ross, the co-founder of the Mozilla Firefox project who recently went to work for Facebook. For more than a month, unknown miscreants have been using his site to host links to sites pushing diet pills and other kinds of drugs.

Thanks the some javascript magic, users who visit the site never see evidence of the compromise, i.e. the links are cloaked. But the image below shows what happens when javascript is disabled.

Screenshot of site with javascript turned off

We've contacted Blake about his website, but haven't yet received a response. Cleaning up the site ought to be as easy as updating his badly out-of-date version of WordPress. Addressing the shadowy world of cloaking will take a bit more work. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
BMW's ConnectedDrive falls over, bosses blame upgrade snafu
Traffic flows up 20% as motorway middle lanes miraculously unclog
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.