Feeds

Interweb Chuck Norris infiltrates Netflix, Tivo

CSRF has two speeds: Hack and Kill

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Researcher Lance James has been busy devising ways to play tricks on some of the world's bigger websites using an exotic attack known as CSRF, or cross site request forgery. While his exploits amount to little more than pranks, they point to the very sobering realization that the net isn't a very secure place.

One proof-of-concept attack targets users of Hulu.com. Clicking on it while logged in to the online provider of TV shows causes Fox Network's Family Guy to be added as a subscription and the documentary Air Force One to be put in the queue. This happens behind the scenes.

Similarly, readers who click here while logged in to Netflix will find the movie Sneakers added to their queue without ever being asked for permission. The link never actually displays a Netflix page, so it's likely users will have no idea the addition has been made until the DVD shows up in their mailbox.

"I can probably figure out how to make you buy my book without realizing it," says James, who is a researcher at Secure Science Corp and the author of Phishing Exposed. (A demonstration of just that attack is available here). "It's kind of like a magic trick when you can do things to people's computers underneath."

James likens CSRF attacks to the oft-repeated tactic used in Chuck Norris movies, where the protagonist breaches his enemy's well-fortified compound by hiding himself under the chassis of a trusted vehicle as it enters. In much the same way, CSRFs are able to trick websites into executing unauthorized commands by exploiting the trust they have for the user.

(Also referred to as session riding and one-click attacks, CSRFs are not to be confused with XSS, or cross-site scripting attacks, in which an attacker injects hostile code and content into a trusted website).

James says sites including MySpace, Twitter, and Google have gone to great lengths to prevent CSRF attacks on their properties, often by requiring users to re-enter passwords before making sensitive changes. But plenty of sites see such safeguards as a potential annoyance to their users and forgo them. And so, he says, it's not hard to spot CSRF vulnerabilities of some of the web's most popular sites.

While the three proofs-of-concept demonstrate relatively innocuous attacks, this does not have to be the case. For anyone logged in to Tivo.com, the link here will silently change the email address associated with the account with no warning at all. (Be sure to change it back if you clicked on it while logged in). An attacker could exploit this weakness in a two-step attack that changes the email address and then uses it to reset the account password.

Plenty of other websites have been bitten by the CSRF bug, including Google, which in September 2007 was found to suffer from a vulnerability that could be used to steal user pictures stored using its Picasa photo organizer.

But even fairly innocuous exploits such as those that add a movie to a user's Netflix queue may have unexpected consequences, given that websites of its size often sell anonymized user selections to marketers.

"If that stuff becomes inaccurate or untrustworthy, the value of the product to Netflix actually goes down," James says. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Regin: The super-spyware the security industry has been silent about
NSA fingered as likely source of complex malware family
Why did it take antivirus giants YEARS to drill into super-scary Regin? Symantec responds...
FYI this isn't just going to target Windows, Linux and OS X fans
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Home Office: Fancy flogging us some SECRET SPY GEAR?
If you do, tell NOBODY what it's for or how it works
HACKERS can DELETE SURVEILLANCE DVRS remotely – report
Hikvision devices wide open to hacking, claim securobods
'Regin': The 'New Stuxnet' spook-grade SOFTWARE WEAPON described
'A degree of technical competence rarely seen'
Syrian Electronic Army in news site 'hack' POP-UP MAYHEM
Gigya redirect exploit blamed for pop-rageous ploy
Astro-boffins start opening universe simulation data
Got a supercomputer? Want to simulate a universe? Here you go
prev story

Whitepapers

Driving business with continuous operational intelligence
Introducing an innovative approach offered by ExtraHop for producing continuous operational intelligence.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Internet Security Threat Report 2014
An overview and analysis of the year in global threat activity: identify, analyze, and provide commentary on emerging trends in the dynamic threat landscape.