Feeds

Email-stealing worm slithers across LiveJournal

Son of Samy stopped

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

LiveJournal's security team has disabled some media features on the blogging site after a quick-spreading worm stole user email addresses and caused entries designated as private to be available to everyone.

The self-propagating exploit spread to users who were logged in and did nothing more than view a LiveJournal posting that was already infected. Affected account holders had their email addresses stolen and found that their privacy settings were lowered so that posts that may have been restricted were generally available. The worm then embedded code into infected accounts that attacked other LiveJournal users.

"What occurred today caused a limited but serious privacy breach, so we are making this post in order to inform you of the issue, what actions this exploit performed, and how to know if you have been affected," LiveJournal staff members wrote in a posting that was commendable for the level of transparency and detail it provided.

Passwords, authentication cookies, and other sensitive data were not intercepted. End users' computers were also left unharmed.

The worm spread through malicious Adobe Flash media files that used "cross-domain scripting" to make the unauthorized account changes. The attack, which lasted for about two hours, was halted on Tuesday at about 8:50 pm California time by disabling the embedding of all video and audio. Since then, staffers have re-enabled content from YouTube and RuTube and plan to expand the list in the coming days.

"It does sound like a worm, and it probably could have been a lot worse," said Mike Bailey, a web application security expert who is a senior researcher at Foreground Security. "I'm fairly impressed that it was found and stopped as quickly as it was."

He added that based on this description of the exploit code, it appeared it was allowed to run wild because a parameter known as "allowScriptAccess" was set on the LiveJournal website. It appeared the setting allowed the malicious Flash file to execute javascript with the privileges of the LiveJournal page, something that should never happen on sites that accept user content.

The exploit harkens back to the so-called Samy Worm, which in 2005 knocked MySpace out of commission after it added a million users to the creator's friends page.

Given the ability of the LiveJournal worm to quickly spread and surreptitiously steal email addresses, it's surprising its authors didn't direct it to do more.

"Which begs the question, was this PoC [proof of concept] or actively malicious?" Jeremiah Grossman, CTO of WhiteHat Security observed. "Or somewhere in between."

The LiveJournal posting speculated that fewer than 100 entries were found to embed the malicious Flash file, but it cautioned the number of infected users was probably higher. Based on the number of users who responded that they were hit by the attack, that appeared to be the case.

The staff has created an easy way for users to check to see if their accounts have been infected. Recent entries of affected accounts will show four boxes at the bottom. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
One HUNDRED FAMOUS LADIES exposed NUDE online
Celebrity women victimised as Apple iCloud accounts reportedly popped
Rubbish WPS config sees WiFi router keys popped in seconds
Another day, another way in to your home router
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
NZ Justice Minister scalped as hacker leaks emails
Grab your popcorn: Subterfuge and slur disrupts election run up
HP: NORKS' cyber spying efforts actually a credible cyberthreat
'Sophisticated' spies, DIY tech and a TROLL ARMY – report
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
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.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
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?