Feeds

Tunisia plants country-wide keystroke logger on Facebook

Gmail and Yahoo! too

Remote control for virtualized desktops

Malicious code injected into Tunisian versions of Facebook, Gmail, and Yahoo! stole login credentials of users critical of the North African nation's authoritarian government, according to security experts and news reports.

The rogue JavaScript, which was individually customized to steal passwords for each site, worked when users tried to login without availing themselves of the secure sockets layer protection designed to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks. It was found injected into Tunisian versions of Facebook, Gmail, and Yahoo! in late December, around the same time that protestors began demanding the ouster of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the president who ruled the country from 1987 until his ouster 10 days ago.

Danny O'Brien, internet advocacy coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, told The Register that the script was most likely planted using an internet censorship system that's long been in place to control which pages Tunisian citizens can view. Under this theory, people inside Tunisian borders were led to pages that were perfect facsimiles of the targeted sites except that they included about 40 extra lines that siphoned users' login credentials.

“Because it seems to be a perfect copy of the Facebook page, the first thing you assume is the Tunisian government has very cleverly injected the JavaScript as the data went through,” he said.

He said similar phishing attempts targeting Tunisian protestors date back to June, and possibly much earlier.

Although The Tech Herald reported on the rogue scripts three weeks ago, the revelations escaped wide notice until now. On Monday, members of the anti-Tunisian TAKRIZ network warned supporters to stop relying on its Facebook page (at facebook.com/takrizo) after discovering on Friday that all administrative access to it had been suspended.

This is consistent with Danny O'Brien's findings from earlier this month, which said that unknown parties have used the pilfered credentials “to delete Facebook groups, pages, and accounts, including Facebook pages administrated by Sofiene Chourabi, a reporter with Al-Tariq al-Jadid, and the account of local online video journalist Haythem El Mekki.”

Also on Monday, The Atlantic reported that members of Facebook's security team first became aware of the mass credential slurp in the days immediately following Christmas, when they began receiving similar reports of mass deletions of Tunisian dissidents' pages.

“After more than ten days of intensive investigation and study, Facebook's security team realized something very, very bad was going on,” The Atlantic article stated. “The country's internet service providers were running a malicious piece of code that was recording users' login information when they went to sites like Facebook. By January 5, it was clear that an entire country's worth of passwords were in the process of being stolen right in the midst of the greatest political upheaval in two decades.”

Facebook Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan reportedly responded by programming his site to automatically establish an encrypted, HTTPS connection with anyone trying to view the site from inside Tunisia's borders.

“It wasn't a totally perfect solution,” The Altantic noted. “Most specifically, ISPs can force a downgrade of https to http, but Sullivan said that Facebook had not seen that happen.”

Facebook's response is problematic for another, more basic reason: Tunisia's government, with its control of The National Digital Certification Agency, already has the authority to generate valid SSL certificates. That gives it the ability to create HTTPS addresses for Facebook or any other website that it wants to impersonate.

Still, it's nice to see Facebook offering Tunisians a more reliable way to connect over encrypted channels. If only the site would only offer the rest of the world the same basic amenity. ®

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
'Regin': The 'New Stuxnet' spook-grade SOFTWARE WEAPON described
'A degree of technical competence rarely seen'
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
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 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.
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.
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.
The Heartbleed Bug: how to protect your business with Symantec
What happens when the next Heartbleed (or worse) comes along, and what can you do to weather another chapter in an all-too-familiar string of debilitating attacks?