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Friday, December 12, 2008

SANS OnDemand Security Times Newsletter


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Whether you are a small Mom & Pop shop or a multinational corporation,
your employees are almost certainly leveraging sites with user generated
content. User generated content sites (e.g. Myspace, Youtube, Facebook,
Craigslist, Blogger, and Flickr) are routinely in the top 20 most
visited websites.

From a numbers perspective, it goes without saying that your
employees/colleagues/superiors, and likely you, are users of these
popular sites. Although the most obvious risk posed by employee usage
of these sites is productivity loss [1], perhaps the more serious risk
is posed by the break-neck speed with which these sites are allowing
active user generated content and applications to flourish [2][3].
Therein lies part of the appeal, but so too, some of the risks. In order
for these sites to be useful, users configure their browsers to allow
this content to run virtually unfettered. However, the risk posed by
active content isn't the point of this article either [4]...

A somewhat less discussed "feature" of sites containing user generated
content is the significant information disclosure posed by users from
your organization. Imagine, if you will, that you were being targeted
by an attacker. Of course, _you_ aren't being targeted, but just bear
with me... Perhaps you have really done a bang up job hardening your
perimeter, patching systems, etc., such that you feel relatively secure
in your overall security program and architecture. If an attacker could
find a trusted insider that was willing to disclose details regarding
the products, programming languages, patch levels, etc., in use at your
organization, could it subvert some of those feelings of security? In
effect, social networking sites are a veritable treasure trove for
attackers wishing to gain this type of intelligence. What's more,
sometimes they are able to gain this information without engaging in
even the most rudimentary of social engineering attacks. For instance,
users with profiles on LinkedIn frequently list their resume, including
both specialties and employers, for the world to see. This and other
information is like gold to an attacker. This type of information,
coupled with attackers armed with information mining tools like Maltego
(i.e., Rapleaf and Spock transforms) can really lower the bar for a
successful targeted attack [5].

Now that the little thought experiment is over, let's think about the
primary assumption - you are being targeted by an attacker. Some of you
fully accept this as a given, but most of you likely dismiss this
without much thought (we are too small, no one has heard of us, why
would anyone come after us). Well, consider that restaurants in West
Monroe, LA (pop. 12,951)[6] were part of a group of restaurants in
Mississippi and Louisiana targeted by a ring of thieves harvesting
credit card numbers [7]. If something as innocuous as a family owned
diner can be targeted for an attack, then certainly any organization can
become a likely target.

The risks associated with websites, in general, and social networking
sites, in particular, are discussed in several SANS courses available
via OnDemand (AUD507, MGT512, SEC401 and SEC502). The social
engineering and reconnaissance exposure made possible by these sites is
explored in SEC560.

For more info on these courses, visit:
AUD507: Auditing Networks, Perimeters & Systems
MGT512: SANS Security Leadership Essentials For Managers
SEC401: SANS Security Essentials
SEC502: Perimeter Protection In-Depth
SEC560: Network Penetration Testing and Ethical Hacking

Seth Misenar
SANS OnDemand Virtual Mentor

1: "Facebook 'costs businesses dear' " -
2: More than 33,000 Facebook applications -
3: More than 400,000 registered Facebook developers -
4: "Elaborate Facebook Worm Spreading" -
5: "Maltego Part I - Intro and Personal Recon" -
6: U.S. Census Bureau, 2007 Population Estimates -
7: "Attacks Continue on Retail Stores, Restaurants" -

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