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20% of online attacks target social network sites

Nebulas Solutions : 19 August, 2009  (Technical Article)
Bi-annual report from Nebulas Solutions Group indicates the level of growth in online attacks targeting social networking sites
Nebulas Solutions Group, the security, acceleration and Virtualisation specialist, announces the UK launch of the latest Web Hacking Incidents Database (WHID) 2009 Bi-Annual Report in conjunction with its US partner, Breach Security. Accounting for 19% of all hacking incidents, social networking sites were the most targeted vertical market in the first half of 2009, with hackers exploiting Web 2.0 features such as user-generated content including Twitter posts to launch their attacks.

The WHID report was launched in the US by Breach Security, Inc., the leader in web application integrity, security and PCI compliance. The WHID project compiles and analyses application-related security incidents, focusing exclusively on publicly reported web application security attacks that have an identified outcome. The WHID 2009 Bi-Annual report analysed global security incidents that occurred from 1January to 31 July, which showed a 30% increase in overall web attacks compared to 1H 2008.

Nick Garlick, Managing Director of Nebulas Solutions Group commented: "The report's findings clearly show that social networking sites are being targeted. We've seen and heard anecdotal evidence that Web 2.0 applications are being attacked more frequently and more aggressively, but the scale of these findings show very clearly that organisations must now look very closely at their security policies and procedures around Web 2.0. Many companies still don't fully comprehend the security risks that social networking sites and user-generated content can represent, so this report is certainly a wake-up call for them and highlights the need to address these issues as a key priority."

Key findings from this Bi-Annual Report include:

* Drivers for Web Hacking—Defacement, which combines both planting of malware and standard overt changes, remains the most common outcome of web attacks (28%), while leakage of sensitive information is a close second (26%, up from 19% in 2008). Disinformation is a distant third (19%), mostly due to the hacking of celebrity online identities.

* Most Prevalent Attack Vectors—SQL Injection remains the number one attack vector, accounting for nearly one-fifth of all security breaches (19%). Attack vectors exploiting Web 2.0 features such as user-contributed content were also commonly employed: authentication abuse was the second most active attack vector (11%), and Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF) rose to number five with 5% of the reported attacks.

* Vertical Markets Under Attack—Social networking sites emerged as the most targeted vertical market with 19% of the incidents, a dramatic increase from prior years when this sector was not represented, and displacing government/law enforcement from the number one spot in 2008.

"The dramatic rise in attacks against social networking sites this year can primarily be attributed to attacks on popular new technologies like Twitter, where cross-site scripting and CSRF worms were unleashed," said Ryan Barnett, Director of Application Security Research for Breach Security.
"Looking back at 2008, a notable election year, government-related organisations were the top-ranked attack victims and have now dropped to number three. The WHID report demonstrates that hackers can be fickle, following popular culture and trends to achieve the most visible effect for their efforts, which means that companies must be vigilant in implementing web application systems and monitoring application activity."

The Web Hacking Incident Database (WHID) is a project dedicated to maintaining a record of web application-related security incidents. The WHID's purpose is to serve as a tool for raising awareness of web application security problems and provide information for statistical analysis of web application security incidents. Unlike other resources covering web site security - which focus on the technical aspect of the incident - the WHID focuses on the impact of the attack. Breach Security Labs is a WHID project contributor.

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