Monday, October 25, 2010

Cross Site Scripting (XSS) Worms and Viruses

Website Security Whitepaper

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On October 4, 2005, the "Samy Worm" became the first major worm to use Cross-Site Scripting2 (“XSS”) for infection propagation. Overnight, the worm altered over one million personal user profiles on, the most popular social networking site in the world. The worm infected the site with JavaScript viral code and made Samy, the hacker, everyone's pseudo "friend" and "hero." MySpace, at the time home to over 32 million users and a top-10 trafficked website in the U.S. (Based on Alexa rating), was forced to shutdown in order to stop the onslaught.
Samy, the author of the worm, was on a mission to be famous, and as such the payload was relatively benign. But, consider what he might have done with control of over one million Web browsers and the gigabits of bandwidth at their disposal – browsers that were also potentially logged-in to Google, Yahoo, Microsoft Passport, eBay, Web banks, stock brokerages, blogs, message boards, or any other custom Web applications. It’s critical that we begin to understand the magnitude of the risk associated with XSS malware and the ways that companies can defend themselves and their users, especially when the malware originates from trusted websites and aggressive authors.

In this white paper we will provide an overview of XSS; define XSS worms; and, examine propagation methods, infection rates, and potential impact. Most importantly, we will outline immediate steps enterprises can take to defend their

10 Quick Facts About XSS Viruses and Worms:
What You Need to Know Now

XSS Outbreaks:

  1. Are likely to originate on popular websites with community-driven features such as social networking, blogs, user reviews, message boards, chat rooms, Web mail, and wikis.
  2. Can occur at any time because the vulnerability (Cross-Site Scripting) required for propagation exists in over 80% of all websites.
  3. Are capable of propagating faster and cleaner than even the most notorious worms such as Code Red, Slammer and Blaster.
  4. Could create a Web browser botnet enabling massive DDoS attacks. The potential also exists to damage data, send spam, or defraud customers.
  5. Maintain operating system independence (Windows, Linux, Macintosh OS X, etc.), since execution occurs in the Web browser.
  6. Circumvent network congestion by propagating in a Web server-to-Web browser (client-server) model rather than a typical blind peer-to-peer model.
  7. Do not rely on Web browser or operating system vulnerabilities.
  8. May propagate by utilizing third-party providers of Web page widgets (advertising banners, weather and poll blocks, JavaScript RSS feeds, traffic counters, etc.).
  9. Will be a challenge to spot because the network behavior of infected browsers remains relatively unchanged and the JavaScript exploit code is hard to distinguish from normal Web page markup.
  10. Are easier to stop than traditional Internet viruses because denying access to the infectious website will quarantine the spread.
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