Feeds

Ghost of HTML5 future: Web browser botnets

With great power comes great responsibility ... to not pwn the interweb

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

B-Sides HTML5 will allow web designers to pull off tricks that were previously only possible with Adobe Flash or convoluted JavaScript. But the technology, already widely supported by web browsers, creates plenty of opportunities for causing mischief.

During a presentation at the B-Sides Conference in London on Wednesday, Robert McArdle, a senior threat researcher at Trend Micro, outlined how the revamped markup language could be used to launch browser-based botnets and other attacks. The new features in HTML5 - from WebSockets to cross-origin requests - could send tremors through the information security battleground and turn the likes of Chrome and Firefox into complete cybercrime toolkits.

Many of the attack scenarios involve using JavaScript to create memory-resident "botnets in a browser", McArdle warned, which can send spam, launch denial-of-service attacks or worse. And because an attack is browser-based, anything from a Mac OS X machine to an Android smartphone will be able to run the platform-neutral code, utterly simplifying the development of malware.

Creating botnets by luring punters into visiting a malicious web page, as opposed to having them open a booby-trapped file that exploits a security flaw, offers a number of advantages to hackers.

Malicious web documents held in memory are difficult to detect with traditional file-scanning antivirus packages, which seek out bad content stored on disk. JavaScript code is also very easy to obfuscate, so network gateways that look for signatures of malware in packet traffic are trivial to bypass - and HTTP-based attacks pass easily through most firewalls.

Additional dangers involve social engineering using HTML5's customisable pop-ups that appear outside the browser to fool users into believing the wording on an alert box. More convincing phishing attacks can be created using the technique, McArdle said.

"The good stuff in HTML5 outweighs the bad," he added. "We haven't seen the bad guys doing anything bad with HTML5 but nonetheless it's good to think ahead and develop defences."

Web developers should make sure that their sites are not vulnerable to Cross-Origin Resource sharing, cross-domain messaging or local storage attacks, McArdle advises. Utilities such as NoScript can also help punters.

More details on HTML5 attack scenarios and possible defences can be found on html5security.org, a website devoted to the topic. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
'Kim Kardashian snaps naked selfies with a BLACKBERRY'. *Twitterati gasps*
More alleged private, nude celeb pics appear online
Home Depot ignored staff warnings of security fail laundry list
'Just use cash', former security staffer warns friends
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
UK.gov lobs another fistful of change at SME infosec nightmares
Senior Lib Dem in 'trying to be relevant' shocker. It's only taxpayers' money, after all
Who.is does the Harlem Shake
Blame it on LOLing XSS terroristas
Snowden, Dotcom, throw bombs into NZ election campaign
Claim of tapped undersea cable refuted by Kiwi PM as Kim claims extradition plot
Freenode IRC users told to change passwords after securo-breach
Miscreants probably got in, you guys know the drill by now
THREE QUARTERS of Android mobes open to web page spy bug
Metasploit module gobbles KitKat SOP slop
BitTorrent's peer-to-peer chat app Bleep goes live as public alpha
A good day for privacy as invisble.im also reveals its approach to untraceable chats
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
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?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.