Feeds

Man knows when you're signed in to GMail, Twitter, Digg

Porn and warez logins ahoy!

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

A UK-based web developer has figured out a simple way to tell if visitors to his site are logged in to Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Digg and thousands of other websites.

One method developed by Mike Cardwell of Nottingham makes use of status codes returned by many sites, which differ depending on whether a user is logged in or not. By embedding a small piece of JavaScript that contains a link to one of the sites he's curious about, he can immediately tell if a visitor is logged in. The method works reliably for Twitter, Facebook and Digg when visitors are browsing with Firefox, Safari or Chrome.

It doesn't work when visitors are using Internet Explorer or Opera.

The exploit works by identifying the HTTP status code that's returned when the visitor's browser encounters the link in Cardwell's script. A 200 code, indicating the request was successfully fulfilled, indicates the person isn't logged in, while 404, 500 and other error codes indicate the opposite.

“This can be an awkward problem to avoid if you're developing a website,” Cardwell writes here. “Some of these requests could be stopped by doing referrer checks; reject all external referrers for content only accessible when logged in.

Detecting whether a visitor is logged in to Gmail requires a different script that generates a hidden image stored in Cardwell's mail folder that's configured to be viewable to everyone. Cardwell said he reported his finding to Google and was told it was “expected behaviour.”

“You may not care that I can tell you're logged into GMail, but would you care if I could tell you're logged into one or more porn or warez sites?” Cardwell asks rhetorically. “Perhaps http://oppressive-regime.example.org/ would like to collect a list of their users who are logged into http://controversial-website.example.com/?” ®

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
Infosec geniuses hack a Canon PRINTER and install DOOM
Internet of Stuff securo-cockups strike yet again
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't
We know what's good for you, because we made the mess says Redmond
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
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?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.