Feeds

Code for open-source Facebook littered with landmines

Diaspora release not for noobs

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Four New York University students who raised a bundle of cash to build a privacy-preserving alternative to Facebook sure have their work cut out for them.

The release of pre-alpha source code for their Diaspora social Website was only a few hours old on Wednesday when hackers began identifying flaws they said could seriously compromise the security of those who used it. Among other things, the mistakes make it possible to hijack accounts, friend users without their permission, and delete their photos.

“The bottom line is currently there is nothing that you cannot do to someone's Diaspora account, absolutely nothing,” said Patrick McKenzie, owner of Bingo Card Creator, a software company in Ogaki, Japan.

“About the only thing I haven't been able to do yet is to compromise the security of the server that Diaspora is installed on. That's not because that isn't possible. If a professional security researcher goes after this, I have every confidence that they will be able to do that.”

Diaspora grew out of deep-rooted dissatisfaction many people expressed earlier this year in response to Facebook privacy changes that without warning exposed details many users didn't want to share with world+dog. When the developers sought funding, according to The New York Times, they asked for $10,000. So strong was the discontent of some Facebook users that they ended up with donations exceeding $200,000.

McKenzie first voiced his concerns on a online hacker discussion devoted to Wednesday's release. Diaspora representatives didn't respond to an email seeking comment.

To be fair, the Diaspora creators are very clear that Wednesday's release comes with “no guarantees” and includes known “security holes and bugs.” But McKenzie said he isn't sure that message has reached some of the project's most fervent fans.

“If you've been on the Diaspora mailing list, there are people who are clearly not security professionals who are asking each other, 'OK, what do I need to do to get this running because I hate being on Facebook,'” he said. “They are going to get burned in a very serious manner very, very quickly if they actually succeed in doing what they're trying to do.”

He's not the only one who has found bugs. Among the list of reported issues in the code are numerous XSS — or cross-site scripting — attack vulnerabilities, a session token that's easy to steal, a lack of user input filtering, and repeated errors when a null character is entered into web fields.

Encryption features in Diaspora, which runs on the Ruby on Rails software stack, is also susceptible to a recently enhanced “Oracle Padding attack,” being demonstrated this week at the Ekoparty conference in Argentina, but then again, so are many banking apps. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

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
Regin: The super-spyware the security industry has been silent about
NSA fingered as likely source of complex malware family
You stupid BRICK! PCs running Avast AV can't handle Windows fixes
Fix issued, fingers pointed, forums in flames
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
HACKERS can DELETE SURVEILLANCE DVRS remotely – report
Hikvision devices wide open to hacking, claim securobods
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
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.
Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
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?