Christopher Kunz reports on the existence of another web app worm, this time exploiting in the widely used Mambo portal/CMS system. Like the Santy worm that attacked phpBB, Elxbot identifies vulnerable installs via Google, but goes way beyond simple site defacement.
Jeff Moore discusses this as a good example of why web apps need better installation/update systems. He’s absolutely right. Wordpress, one of the most popular open-source web apps, has a fairly decent installer, but is a nightmare to upgrade. The developers don’t even release “upgrades” per se, but give users some minimal instructions on what files to overwrite and what to skip. Even though the XML-RPC vulnerability that hit Wordpress and many other PHP-based apps a few months ago was patched immediately, it seems likely that there are large numbers of Wordpress users that are unaware of the problem and have not installed (it’s difficult to find sources for stats on this, though).
Beyond that, this underlines the need for both educating developers on secure coding practices, and developing freely available tools to help developers audit their applications. This is particularly important for the open-source web applications that drive a large portion (a majority?) of dynamic web sites. An Information Week article from a couple weeks ago that discusses how malicious coders are now targeting applications (including web apps) quotes Howard Schmidt:
In an e-mail, Howard Schmidt, a noted cyber-security expert and former CSO for both Microsoft and eBay, said the SANS report highlights the utility of hardening the presentation and application layers as a means to reduce cyber security events. “The first stop on the way to fix this is through secure coding and better QA of development processes, penetration testing on compiled code as well as vulnerability testing of integrated deployed applications via Web front ends,” he wrote.
Hopefully more people will start to realize this before the problem gets worse.
In this version, the CIRDB has been updated to import XML data from the National Vulnerability Database, and a few bug fixes were made (a library file was missing in the previous distribution to support RSS feeds of the status of each domain over SSL).
I am pleased to announce the availability of the first beta of my_cassandra.php, which can be downloaded from my home page
(change the extension from phps to php after you download it).
Because you get the source code and the custody of your profiles, this version of Cassandra should not generate the privacy concerns that the online version did. As it is under your control you can also run it at the intervals you choose. It is made available under an open source license so you can modify it. It runs under PHP so it should run on almost any platform by changing the path to PHP (from “#!/usr/bin/php -q” for MacOS X).
P.S.: I already received a patch from Benjamin Lewis from Purdue ITSP, improving robustness while reading a profile. Thanks Ben!
It has been argued that, since the 1960’s, an emphasis on individualism and personal autonomy have shaped public policy debates, including debates about the right to personal privacy. While many scholars and advocacy groups claim that privacy is under siege, an alternate view of privacy exists, one in which it is weighed against other public interests. In The Limits of Privacy, Amitai Etzioni espouses a communitarian approach to determining the relative value and, as the title suggests, the limits of privacy. Privacy, the author argues, is not an absolute right, but is a right that must be carefully measured against the “common good,” which for Etzioni is defined as public health and safety. At the heart of this book is the question of if and when we are justified in implementing measures that diminish privacy in the service of the common good.
To answer this question and to identify criteria for evaluating the relative trade-offs between privacy and the common good, Etzioni examines several examples in which privacy, depicted as an individual right, is in conflict with societal responsibilities. Five public policy issues—namely the HIV testing of newborn babies, Megan’s Laws, encryption and government wiretapping, biometric national ID cards, and the privacy of medical records—are examined in detail. Through his analysis, Etzioni attempts to prove that, in most cases, champions of privacy have actually done more harm than good by stifling innovation and curbing necessary democratic discussions about privacy. A notable exception is in the case of personal medical records: The author notes that, while “Big Brother” is normally associated with privacy violation, in the case of medical records, unregulated private industry, which Etzioni aptly coins “Big Bucks,” is a pertinent and immediate threat.
Etzioni’s analysis, while flawed in several respects (e.g. Etzioni largely ignores evidence suggesting that national IDs will do more harm than good from a security perspective), results in four criteria that can be used in examining the tension between liberty and the public interest, or in this case privacy and public health and safety. The four criteria are as follows:
The Limits of Privacy is necessary reading for anyone involved in accepting, shaping, debating, and enacting privacy policies, both at the organizational and public-policy level. While many readers, including this reviewer, disagree with many of Etzioni’s proposed solutions to the problems he examines, his four criteria are useful for anyone attempting to understand the intricacies involved. Likewise, while Etzioni’s views are contrary to many of his peers, whose arguments he credits in his analysis, his arguments for justifiable invasions of privacy are a useful foil for privacy advocates and a useful reminder that privacy issues will always present real and costly trade-offs.