Feeds

Amateur goof makes Twitter account hijacking a snap

Just add XML

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Twitter is sitting on an amateur configuration blunder that makes it trivial for attackers to take control of user accounts, a researcher said Friday.

The error resides in an Adobe Flash object hosted on the microblogging site, said Mike Bailey, a senior security analyst with penetration testing firm Foreground Security. Contrary to Adobe recommendations, the object is free to load files hosted virtually anywhere on the net, including those containing booby-trapped javascript and action script.

"This is not Adobe's fault," Bailey told El Reg. "This is due to the fact that a lot of really bad programmers are coding Flash objects. I've seen literally hundreds of these things across the web."

The list of other offenders making the same goof reads like a who's who of search engines, software companies and news sites. Bailey shared the names with The Register on the condition they not be published. He plans to out many of the sites during a talk scheduled for next month at the Black Hat security conference in Washington DC.

Using an XML file hosted on one of his servers, Bailey was able to exploit the weakness to cause a dummy account to tweet: "@mckt_ just pwned my Twitter account. Neat." All that was required was that a link on Bailey's server be clicked while logged in to Twitter. (As usual, the NoScript addon for Firefox blocked the exploit.)

Screenshot of pwned Twitter account

Pwn me, please

But the consequences could have been more malicious.

"In reality, I have full access to everything your Twitter account has on the web," Bailey said. "I can think of a million ways to use this as an attacker."

Actions include adding or removing account followers and reading direct messages presumed private.

Reconfiguring an object not to talk to strange files generally takes a matter of minutes, maybe an hour or two at most. And yet, at time of writing, the flaw was still active more than 24 hours after Bailey reported it. That doesn't give us a warm and fuzzy feeling about the site's security. ®

Update

Around the same time this article was published, Twitter said it had disabled the misconfigured Flash object "out of an abundance of caution" while the situation is assessed.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
Carders punch holes through Staples
Investigation launched into East Coast stores
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.