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Facebook increasingly the target of links to malware and nasty viruses

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Oct. 4, 2011

Over the past three to four years, Facebook has increasingly been the ultimate target of all kinds of nasty viruses and malware with the placement of links on its site that take you to websites infected with all kinds of malware program that will infect a visitor's computer.

Those links are placed by scammers and hackers that have nothing best to do with their time. And now the social site has recruited Websense to scan its vast social network for links to malicious sites.

Scammers are using Facebook as a means to drive traffic towards malware and exploit portals or internet scam sites. In response, Facebook has contracted with Websense for security technology that will soon analyse what's going on.

Cloud technology will assign a security classification to sites, presenting users with a warning if the location is considered dangerous.

A warning page will explain why a site might be considered malicious. Users can still proceed, but at their own risks. The approach is similar to Google Safe Browsing warning technology, which is integrated into Firefox and Chrome.

Previously, individual users had the option to add additional security filtering apps, such as Bitdefender Safego, to their profiles as a means to scan for potential spam and/or malicious links.

Facebook is now offering this type of technology by default as an extension of its previous relationship with Websense.

In other internet security news

The University of Sydney in Australia and technical publisher Elsevier said earlier this morning that they are holding their first official competitive hackathon for security students and professional software developers.

The Sydney Hackathon allows teams of up to five, a twenty-four hour time frame to develop an application to improve content delivery for scientific, technical and medical publisher Elsevier, publisher of The Lancet and SciVerse Science Direct.

"The hackathon is designed to encourage students and internet security professionals to build creative and innovative software applications for science, using data from open application program interfaces," said SUITS (Sydney Uni IT Society) president James Alexander.

The inaugural Sydney Hackathon is being held this weekend, and will offer cash prizes of up to $1500 AU to the winning team. What's more, competitors can even retain the official ownership of any intellectual property developed during the event.

Entrants have from 2.00 PM Saturday to develop an application of any kind as long as it's from Elsevier’s SciVerse and ScienceDirect platforms, which include over 10 million scientific publications from 2600 journals.

Application developers and security software designers, students from any University in Australia or full time programmers are invited to enter the hackathon.

In other internet security news

Over the past weekend, Oracle broke away from tradition with the publication of an unscheduled security patch. The security update addresses a DDoS (distributed denial of service) vulnerability in its Apache web server software.

This represents only the fifth time that Oracle has published a security update outside its quarterly patch schedule it began at the start of 2005.

The security patch provides an updated Apache web server and a new http daemon to Oracle's Fusion Middleware and Application Server products.

The former product includes Apache httpd 2.2. The latter includes Apache httpd 2.0.

The new security vulnerability is cataloged as CVE-2011-3192 and it creates a method to trick web clients into requesting multiple parts of the same file at the same time, causing systems to get hopelessly tied up in a loop and crash altogether.

The Apache Foundation addressed the same underlying byte-range flaw first with an 2.2.20 update at the end of August. Last week, it ironed out a few glitches in this bug fix with a further update, 2.2.21.

At this time, it isn't exactly clear which code base Oracle has used, although giving testing schedules and the like, the earlier patch seems more likely.

Whatever code base used, the database giant is emphatic that system admins need to apply the patch sooner rather than later.

"Due to the threat posed by a successful attack, Oracle strongly recommends that customers apply Security Alert fixes as soon as possible," it said in its advisory.

In other internet security news

According to internet security researchers in Romania, Android malware threats could increase by a factor of 60 by March 2012. It the threats happen, this could see the number of Android mobile malware samples increasing from 200 now to about 12,000 in six months from now. Many examples of Android malware involve the insertion of malicious code into legitimate apps before they are uploaded to third-party Android marketplaces.

During a demonstration on Sep. 13, BitDefender security researchers demonstrated that it was possible to easily perform such a task with just ten lines of base script code. In most cases, users can avoid becoming victims by reviewing the permissions that an item of software requests before agreeing to install an app.

For example, there is no legitimate reason why a so-called 'torch app' would need the ability to send SMS messages. "The trouble with permissions is that it ultimately falls down to user selection, discretion and interpretation," said Viorel Canja, head of anti-malware and anti-spam labs at BitDefender.

"It's a repeat of the same old issue over and over we've had on the desktop for so many years," added Canja.

"If Google locks down its applications, it risks losing developer interest, something that happened to Symbian before it. Android is not yet the new Windows for malware but it is going that way at the moment," he added. "So Google is a bit stuck between a rock and a hard place right now, but it will soon snap out of it" he said.

BitDefender is developing a mobile security application for Android. The product, currently in beta, includes remote wipe and a filter designed to allow users to easily review application permissions as well as malware detection features.

Under current plans, the software would be released free of charge to mobile uesrs but neither this or the release date for the software are confirmed. The application has been designed to minimise battery impact.

Competing security company G Data agreed with BitDefender's assessment that the rate of growth of mobile malware - which it said grew by an incredible 273 percent in the first half of 2011 alone - is only going to get a lot worse over the immediate future.

“With mobile malware, cyber criminals have discovered new ways to deliver more evil on unsuspecting users," said Eddy Willems, security specialist at G Data. "At the moment, the perpetrators mainly use backdoors, spy programs and expensive SMS services to harm their victims.

"Even though this special underground market segment is still being set up, we currently see an enormous risk potential here for mobile devices and their users. We are therefore expecting another huge spike of growth in the mobile malware sector in the second half of 2011, and with even more of that in the first half of next year."

The sophistication as well as the sheer number of malware strains targeting Android smartphones is increasing very rapidly, and this is really disturbing.

For example, Trusteer warned earlier this week over the appearance of a strain of the SpyEye banking Trojan that infected Android smartphones in order to intercept text messages that many financial institutions use to prevent fraud.

In other internet security news

GlobalSign said earlier this week that it has suspended the issuance of SSL security certificates as a precaution in the wake of unverified statements by a hacker linked to various security attacks on Comodo and DigiNotar.

The hacker used pastebook last March to claim responsibility for various attacks against Comodo that allowed the issuance of fake SSL certificates.

After months of silence, the individual also claimed responsibility this week for the DigiNotar hack and bragged that he was still able to create bogus SSL certificates after compromising systems at 4 other certificate issuance authorities.

He claimed to be an Iranian working alone with no connections to the Iranian government, and then named one of the compromised security certificate issuer as GlobalSign.

But the hacker didn't provide any proof that GlobalSign had been compromised nor did he name the three other supposed companies that were involved in the attacks.

The individual's latest post suggests that his claimed hack against GlobalSign was ultimately thwarted. "GlobalSign was lucky enough-- I already connected to their HSM, got access to their HSM, sent my request but lucky Eddy (StartCom CEO Eddy Nigg) was sitting behind HSM and was doing manual verification at the same time I did that."

GlobalSign has responded to the accusation by suspending the publication of digital certificates while it investigates the said claims and audits the security of its systems. The company then apologized for the inconvenience to its users while giving no immediate indication on when it might be able to restore services.

On September 5th the hacker previously confirmed to have hacked several Comodo resellers, and then claimed responsibility for the recent DigiNotar hack. In his message, he also referred to having access to four further high profile Certificate Authorities, and named GlobalSign as one of the four.

"GlobalSign takes this claim very seriously and is currently investigating. As a responsible certificate authority, we have decided to temporarily suspend the issuance of all SSL certificates until the investigation is complete. We will post updates as frequently as possible," said the company statement on its website.

The company's bold decision contrasts sharply with delays in getting to the root of the problem or going public by DigiNotar after it confirmed its systems had been compromised, to say nothing about the shockingly insecure state of its systems prior to the attack.

Forged certificates created the mechanism to pose as the targeted websites as part of either man-in-the-middle or of various phishing attacks. On Aug. 30, forged SSL credentials were also used to spy on 300,000 Iranian internet users, according to authentication lookup logs on DigiNotar's systems, and separate evidence from Trend Micro.

The hacker posted portions of what purports to be the offending library from systems run by an Italian Comodo reseller to pastebin in order to substantiate claims he was behind the Comodo forged SSL certificate hack back in March.

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