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Google Reader Koobface spotlights security risk 2.0

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The rising use of social networking and collaboration apps on corporate networks has spawned increased security risks beyond potential productivity losses, firewall vendor Palo Alto warns. The warning coincides with the appearance of a variant of the Koobface worm linked to Google Reader accounts controlled by hackers.

Aside from acknowledged business benefits, Web 2.0 applications can transfer files, propagate malware, and have known security flaws that might be exploited by hackers. Despite many enterprises' attempts to block applications like Facebook and Twitter, the rate at which they are making the crossover from personal to business use is occurring faster than occurred during previous cross-over such as the enterprise debut of instant message technologies, according to a study by Palo Alto.

Palo Alto's semi-annual analysis of application usage on enterprise networks covered more than 200 organisations worldwide. The latest survey identified 255 Enterprise 2.0 applications - of which 70 per cent might be used for file transfer, 64 per cent have known vulnerabilities, 28 per cent are known to propagate malware, and 16 per cent can tunnel other applications - in a total of 651 unique applications.

The survey discovered 27 different social networking applications in all. Nearly all (95 per cent) of the participating organizations had some sort of social networking activity going on.

Asked to comment on whether enterprise attempts to block access to Web 2.0 sites were actually working, a Palo Alto spokesman said users have found ways around such restriction using tools such as Tor and other techniques.

"Anecdotally, we know that employees who want to use these apps will figure out a way to do so. Proxies, encrypted tunnels, remote desktop access - all are known to be used by employees to do what they want," he said.

Examples of threats brought into enterprise networks by social networking applications include the infamous Koobface worm, which is designed to hijack accounts and personal data after taking over Facebook profiles.

As part of a new Koobface attack, links to Google Reader URLs controlled by cybercrooks are being spammed by Koobface onto social network sites, including Facebook and MySpace. The hundreds of Google accounts involved host a page with a fake YouTube video. Attempts to view this supposed video expose Windows users to infection by Koobface.

The attack follows an attempt last week to spread the Zeus bank trojan via Facebook phishing scam emails. The spoofed Facebook login page linked to the scam also attempts to download malware onto the machines of visiting surfers, security firm Red Condor warns.

Malware can also spread through P2P applications. One example is Mariposa, a botnet client that spreads through either one of nine P2P networks or MSN instant messages. ®

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