Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Web Application Email Harvesting Worm

This is a rare example of a web application vulnerability worm, targeting one of the most popular free email providers by harvesting emails within their 1GB mailboxes, and of course propagating further.

"Yahoo! on Monday has repaired a vulnerability in its email service that allowed a worm to harvest email addresses from a user accounts and further spread itself. The JS/Yamanner worm automatically executes when a user opens the message in the Yahoo Mail service. It uses JavaScript to exploit a flaw that until today was unpatched. Yahoo later on Monday fixed the vulnerability. "We have taken steps to resolve the issue and protect our users from further attacks of this worm. The solution has been automatically distributed to all Yahoo! Mail customers, and requires no additional action on the part of the user," Yahoo! spokeswoman Kelley Podboy said in an emailed statement."

Web application worms have the potential to dominate the malware threatscape given the amount of traffic their platforms receive, my point is that even within a tiny timeframe like this, one could achieve speed and efficiency like we've only seen in single-packet worms.

In a previous post related to the "Current State of Web Application Worms", you can also find more comments and resources on the topic. Rather defensive, the content spoofing exploiting the trust between the parties that I mentioned is nothing compared to the automated harvesting in this case. As there's naturally active research done in Bluetooth honeypots, IM honeypots, ICQ honeypots, Google Hacking honeypots, it's about time to start seeding your spam trap emails within free email providers or social networking providers.

The stakes are too high not to be exploited in one way or another, I hope we'll some day get surprised by a top web property coming up with a fixed vulnerability on their own. Realizing the importance of their emerging position as attack vector for malware authors is yet another issue to keep in mind. And the best part about web services is their push patching approach, you're always running the latest version, so relaying on end users is totally out of the question.

Find out more details on the worm, and comments as well.

UPDATE: Rather active month when it comes web application malware events, another Data-Theft Worm Targets Google's Orkut.