Monday, April 2, 2007

Fortify Software Documents Pervasive and Critical Vulnerability in Web

Advisory details a fix for ubiquitous JavaScript Hijacking vulnerability that allows an attacker to emulate a Web 2.0 user’s identity to fraudulently access software applications

PALO ALTO, Calif., April 2, 2007 - Fortify Software, the leading provider of security products that help companies identify, manage and remediate software vulnerabilities, today announced that its Security Research Group has documented the first major vulnerability associated specifically with Web 2.0 and AJAX-style software. Termed JavaScript Hijacking, the vulnerability allows an attacker to steal critical data by emulating unsuspecting users. To combat this issue, Fortify has released an in-depth security advisory that details this vulnerability, how enterprises can determine if they are vulnerable and how they can fix the issue. A copy of this advisory can be downloaded at

JavaScript Hijacking appears to be a ubiquitous problem. As part of Fortify’s work, the 12 most popular AJAX frameworks were analyzed, including frameworks from Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), Yahoo! (NASDAQ: YHOO) and the open source community. Fortify determined that among them, only Direct Web Remoting (DWR) 2.0 implements mechanisms for preventing JavaScript Hijacking. The rest of the frameworks do not explicitly provide any protection and do not mention any security concerns in their documentations. Even if an application does not use any of the frameworks listed above, it may be vulnerable if it contains AJAX components that use JavaScript as a data transfer format for sensitive data.

“With recent surveys from McKinsey indicating that almost 75 percent of enterprises plan on increasing their investment in Web 2.0 technologies, it is clear that we need to address the issue now,” said Brian Chess, Fortify Software’s co-founder and Chief Scientist. “Unlike vulnerabilities that are tied to a specific application or operating system, there is no single vendor to which this issue can be reported and resolved. In fact, many rich Web applications don't use any framework at all. As a result, we need to educate software developers about the risk that Web 2.0 brings.”

Fortify contacted a large group of security researchers, enterprises deploying Web 2.0, industry analysts, software developers and framework architects to determine the best course of action. The general consensus was that Fortify needed to inform the industry in a timely fashion while ensuring a fix was available. Fortify’s Web 2.0 Security Advisory was written to explain the issues to the business community as well as help developers fix the problem at the source code level.

“There are some worrying estimates of the percentage of websites with vulnerabilities, so I think it's good for the industry to focus on greater security, particularly in understanding the risks,” said Joe Walker, CEO of Getahead Ltd. and a developer and consultant working on advanced web development techniques like AJAX. “I'm pleased to see that Fortify is spending time to explain the problem and investigate the issues.”

Although Web 2.0 functionality has already seen mainstream use by consumers (e.g. social networking sites like MySpace), enterprises are recognizing the growing value of pushing applications to the Web, and are rapidly deploying frameworks to facilitate quick access to information, improve application performance and encourage collaboration. According to a March 2007 McKinsey survey, the industries most likely to adopt Web 2.0 technologies are retail, high tech, telecommunications, finance and pharmaceuticals.

The vulnerability opens businesses up to malware that can allow an attacker to access proprietary information. JavaScript Hijacking allows an attacker to pose as the user accessing the Web 2.0 application. Once the attacker successfully emulates the victim, they can read sensitive data transmitted between the application and the browser that uses JavaScript as a transport mechanism. These attackers can then buy and sell goods, trade stocks, adjust security settings for an enterprise network or access and manipulate customer, inventory and financial information.

Any framework or application that meets these criteria may be at risk from JavaScript Hijacking and the developers responsible for these frameworks and applications should take immediate measures to prevent the vulnerability. Fortify Software advocates a two-pronged approach that allows applications to decline malicious requests and prevent attackers from directly executing JavaScript the applications generate.

Security researchers like Jeremiah Grossman have already demonstrated the viability of this new class of vulnerability in specific instances. “New technology often leads to new risks and opens unforeseen avenues of malicious attack. Once understood, developers need to ensure the necessary safeguards are in place when they break new ground,&rdquop; said Grossman, CTO of WhiteHat Security. “Those responsible for the security of Web 2.0 deployments need to take this issue seriously and implement the steps necessary to resolve the issue before the risk results in an incident.”

About Fortify Software, Inc.

Fortify Software products protect companies from the threats posed by security flaws in business-critical software applications. Its software security products—Fortify SCA, Fortify Manager, Fortify Tracer and Fortify Defender—drive down costs and security risks by automating key processes of developing and deploying secure applications. Fortify Software's customers include government agencies and FORTUNE 500 companies in a wide variety of industries, such as financial services, healthcare, e-commerce, telecommunications, publishing, insurance, systems integration and information management. The company is backed by a world-class team of software security experts and partners. More information is available at