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More than a year later, Adobe still hasn't removed its XSS security hole


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May 14, 2009

In December 2007, Adobe researchers warned that critical vulnerabilities in Adobe Flash files leave websites vulnerable to phishing and other serious attacks. Today, 16 months later, a wide array of Web pages - some hosted on itself - still remain extremely vulnerable as Adobe has not addressed the security hole.

The security issues come from extremely insecure SWF Flash files that generate banner ads and other animated content for Flash-based sites.

At the end of 2007, a team of researchers discovered the files could be exploited by remote attackers to tamper with websites belonging to banks, government agencies and other trusted organizations. Over the next few months, the researchers repeatedly warned webmasters the problem would be difficult to fix, because it would require potentially millions of graphics files to be regenerated, often from the very beginning.

One reason the vulnerability has been so difficult to repair is that it requires multiple steps. First, webmasters must patch the application they used to render the SWF files. Then they must examine every file hosted on their website and regenerate each one found to be buggy. The flaw resides inside the file's click TAG= parameter, which can easily be manipulated to execute malicious scripts in the browsers of those who view the vulnerable content.

Why Adobe hasn't repaired these critical security issues discovered more than 16 months ago still isn't sure but it has the Internet security community up in arms.

Those warnings now appear to be prescient. As the website XSSed has documented, even has failed to contain the offending SWF files. Other offenders include the Marfin Egnatia Bank and Greek electronics vendor

At the time of writing this, more than 24 hours after the XSSed item was published, all three Web sites still remain vulnerable to security breaches.

"Anyone who includes one of those ads in their site is now susceptible to cross-site scripting and some other things," said Jeff Williams, CEO of web application security firm Aspect Security who reviewed the posting.

"It's definitely not good."

Sites that host the vulnerable files open themselves up to phishing attacks. In some cases, the vulnerability can be used to steal cookie files used to log a user in to sensitive parts of a website.

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Source: Message Labs.


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