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September 15, 2008

Distributing Malware Through Trusted Websites

Why bother setting up dedicated websites to host malicious content when you can just infect trusted sites like BusinessWeek? This is becoming something of a trend, as evidenced by the mass SQL Injection attacks from a few months ago.

The idea is simple -- find SQL Injection vulnerabilities in high-traffic, trusted websites where the site's content is dynamically fetched from a database (i.e. just about any content-rich site). Then use an automated tool to prepend or append malicious content to that content in the database. When the unsuspecting user visits the page to read an article, they will be treated to a barrage of <script> or other tags fetching content from sites in .ru, .cn, or who knows where else.

The guidance you give to mom and dad, "don't visit sketchy looking sites in other countries," is no longer good enough. If BusinessWeek can be compromised, it's a given that USA Today, CNN, the New York Times, and other establishments are being targeted as well.

For this and similar examples, NoScript would have thwarted the attack because it wouldn't permit the .js file to be loaded from an off-domain location. But what happens when the attackers start injecting the entire .js payload into the database instead of just a <script> tag? Now the malicious code is coming from the trusted domain, and if I've configured NoScript to allow scripts from, I'm out of luck. In fact, I have no idea why the attackers aren't using this tactic already. Any ideas?

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Chris Eng, Chief Research Officer, is responsible for integrating security expertise into Veracode’s technology. In addition to helping define and prioritize the security feature set of the Veracode service, he consults frequently with customers to discuss and advance their application security initiatives. With over 15 years of experience in application security, Chris brings a wealth of practical expertise to Veracode.

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