Feeds

MI5 website vuln builds mountain out of molehill

Team Elite: Mission Implausible

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Hackers have uncovered information security shortcomings involving MI5's website, even though the problem is nowhere near as severe as one tabloid paper claims.

A breathless Daily Express "exclusive" on Thursday claimed the breach created a possible means for hackers to attack the computers of surfers visiting the security service's website and steal information. It's highly unlikely that confidential data held by the security service itself was exposed by the attack, even the Daily Express concedes.

In any case the flaw has now been resolved, so visitors are no longer at risk.

The Daily Express claims the MI5 attack was carried out by a hacking crew called "Team Elite", who are also reportedly responsible for attacks against the World Health Organisation’s website (as earlier reported by SoftPedia in greater depth here).

Team Elite, which notified MI5 about the problem, explains that MI5's search engine is vulnerable to XSS (cross-site scripting) and iFrame Injection attacks. Screenshots produced by the group suggest hackers could have used the now-patched flaw to present content under their control in frames that would appear (on cursory inspection, at least) to originate from MI5 itself.

The problem, such as it was, arose because the search form on MI5's website allowed code to pass as a search string, creating a code injection risk. XSSed, which maintains an archive of cross-site scripting bugs, reposts similar flaws also involved the search engine of the security service's website but dating from September 2007.

Team Elite published its advisory more than a week ago, on 21 July. Some of the more excitable coverage on Thursday sparked off but far from limited to the Daily Express, suggested the MI5's website was hacked into and that the nation's cybersecurity or perhaps even national security was imperiled as a result.

The truth is far more mundane.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said it was "implausible" for MI5 to hold any sensitive data on systems connected to a public facing website, still less that confidential information would be unencrypted. Although the vulnerability on MI5's website is "highly unlikely to have compromised classified information", it still ought to serve as a wake-up call for sys admins - as Sophos notes, the majority of web-based malware attacks are these days launched from legitimate websites. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
Oi, Europe! Tell US feds to GTFO of our servers, say Microsoft and pals
By writing a really angry letter about how it's harming our cloud business, ta
HACKERS can DELETE SURVEILLANCE DVRS remotely – report
Hikvision devices wide open to hacking, claim securobods
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
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?
Business security measures using SSL
Examines the major types of threats to information security that businesses face today and the techniques for mitigating those threats.