Feeds

TinyURL, your configs are showing

Twitter pal leaves server wide open

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

SANS - Survey on application security programs

TinyURL - the site that converts unwieldy web addresses into short, manageable URLs - has been caught running a server so poorly configured it represents a serious risk to its millions of trusting users, a security expert is warning.

At time of writing, the site's PHP module was actively broadcasting dozens of sensitive configuration settings. The information, which includes the web server's IP address, operating system and web application server, are all included, making the job of penetrating the widely-used service that much easier.

Even more remarkable, the server user is listed as root, and its group is wheel. These so-called "god" settings would allow anyone who is successful in breaking into the box to maximize the damage that could be caused. Even novice server admins know they should run the server in a setting known as "nobody" or something similar, which protects sensitive parts of the server from tampering.

Screenshot of TinyURL configuration settings

"This is the epitome of bad-practice," security consultant Rafal Los told The Register a few hours after publicly disclosing the misconfiguration on his blog. "Why would you want to run a web service as 'Administrator' because if I figure out a way to jack that service, I completely, 100% own that machine."

Los said he sent email to TinyURL addresses on Wednesday morning California time but never received a response. Emails The Register sent to various addresses, including one belonging to the site's founder, Kevin Gilbertson, weren't returned at time of writing. We'll be sure to update this story if we hear back.

The site's sloppy administration is much more than a mere curiosity. Because TinyURL significantly shortens long URLs, it's impossible it can be difficult for some end users to know where one of the site's links leads until they click on it. That makes the site the perfect vector for sending people to websites used in spam, malware attacks and other online scams. TinyURL's popularity has skyrocketed in the past year as it became the main way people on Twitter to share links.

The misconfiguration came to light through the collective sleuthing of Los and several readers of his blog. After noticing some strange errors in Twitter posts made by Fox News, Los originally suspected flaws in the online microblogging site. With the help of a user named Mubix and others, they quickly realized the errors were the result of poor practices at TinyURL. ®

Update

About four hours after this story was published, Gilbertson responded with the following statement: "That security 'expert' sure doesn't know how to read that. No daemons are run under an administrator or root user."

This story was corrected to reflect that it's not impossible to know where a TinyURL link leads. The site offers a preview feature.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
Mounties always get their man: Heartbleed 'hacker', 19, CUFFED
Canadian teen accused of raiding tax computers using OpenSSL bug
Heartbleed exploit, inoculation, both released
File under 'this is going to hurt you more than it hurts me'
Arts and crafts store Michaels says 3 million credit cards exposed in breach
Meanwhile, Target investigators prepare for long process in nabbing hackers
Canadian taxman says hundreds pierced by Heartbleed SSL skewer
900 social insurance numbers nicked, says revenue watchman
prev story

Whitepapers

SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.