The "No Network is 100% Secure" series
- Drive-by web site exploits -
A free, safe test
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Easyrider LAN Pro, NOC Design Consultants
There is absolutely NO malware on this page!: Do not be alarmed by the various
demonstration messages and alerts on this page. And while there is absolutely no
malware on this page, always be aware that allowing ANY plug-in is a risky proposition
these days. Our advice is to always "just say NO!"
What is a drive by exploit?: A drive-by is an action that is automatically performed on your computer without your consent or even your knowledge. Unlike a pop-up, which asks for assent (albeit in a calculated manner likely to lead to a "yes"), a drive-by can be initiated by simply visiting a Web site or viewing an HTML e-mail message. If your computer's security settings are lax, it may be possible for drive-by exploits to be performed without any action on your part.
In addition to downloading malware, drive by sites will commonly probe a visiting computer to see if it has any one of dozens of known vulnerabilities. These include vulnerabilities for which there is currently no patch to correct. It is estimated that any given computer will have an average of eight vulnerabilities... any one of which could cause a visiting computer to be compromised. It is important to note that a large percentage of drive by sites are legitimate web sites that have themselves been compromised, typically via an SQL injection exploit.
Drive-by infections are a major security issue. In April 2007, researchers at Google discovered hundreds of thousands of Web pages that initiated drive-by exploits. One in ten pages was found to be suspect. Sophos researchers in 2008 reported that they were discovering more than 6,000 new infected Web pages every day, or about one every 14 seconds. Many of these infections are connected to botnets, in which each PC is turned into a zombie that may then be directed to further malicious activity, like spam or DDoS attacks.
This page collects (and displays, for your review) the same types of information that malicious web sites use to attack visiting computers. This information is used to tailor an attack strategy. Not only is the browser and operating system probed for vulnerabilities. Drive by sites endeavor to learn about any installed application or plug-in that might be vulnerable to attack.
Demonstration: For demonstration purposes, we have disabled the use of your ALT key on this page. This should give you some idea just how much control hackers have over your browsing session and, in fact, over your entire computer. It would be trivial to remap certain keys to get you to unwittingly download a virus. But in reality, there are easier ways to infect your computer without your knowledge. Assume that we have also disabled your mouse (again, trivial to do). Try shutting down your browser session by doing an ALT F Close. Doesn't work, huh? Sure, there are ways around what we did (this time).. but you can be sure that hackers would plug all of the back doors so that you would be 100% under their control.
Starting to understand why these drive-by sites are so insidious?
Listed below is just some of the information that miscreant hackers know about you when you visit a hacked web site. These sites will silently check to see if any operating system, application, plug-in and other software is vulnerable. If a vulnerability is found, it will be immediately exploited. Users no longer have to actually do something (e.g. opening an e-mail attachment) to have a virus or trojan installed on their computer.
You have visited this page times.
Your IP address is:
Check your vulnerability to a drive-by exploit: Click on
the "How vulnerable am I?" button above to run a (completely safe) test.
If a new window does NOT open, you are about as safe as you can be, at least until
these hackers come up with some new exploit. Note that you still need to have ALL
of your software (not just the operating system) patched to the latest level
since there are lots of other ways to pick up trojans and viruses besides visiting
a compromised, infected drive-by web site.
Here's another safe little test you can try:
An important note: And worth repeating... you or your users don't need to actually do anything to be infected by many of these viruses and trojans that are out there such as gumlar. Simply visiting a legitimate site such as Walmart or whitehouse.gov, if it's been compromised, is all it takes. There's some 80,000 of these perfectly legitimate web sites that are currently and unknowingly compromised. Once you visit a compromised web site, that's it. You don't have to click on anything.. you don't have to do a single thing. And in fact, there's not a thing you can do to prevent getting infected at this point. If your computer is vulnerable to any one of dozens of exploits... some of which do not even have patches available to fix, you're cooked!
Malicious hackers are exploiting a zero-day (unpatched) vulnerability in Adobe's ever-present PDF Reader/Acrobat software to hijack data from compromised computers. According to an advisory from Adobe, the critical vulnerability exists in Adobe Reader and Acrobat 9.2 and earlier versions. It is being exploited in the wild as of 12/11/09.
Or, better yet, use an alternative PDF Reader software program.
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About the Author
Frank Saxton is a computer network security engineer and Easyrider LAN Pro principle. Home-based in Portland, Oregon, Frank has been designing remote diagnostic and network enterprise monitoring centers since the late 1970s. Prior to becoming a professional systems engineering consultant in 1990, Frank had a 20 year career in computer systems field engineering and field engineering management. Frank has a BSEE from Northeastern University and holds several certifications including Network General's Certified Network Expert (CNX). As a NOC design engineer and architect, Frank works regularly with enterprise-class monitoring tools such as HP Openview Operations, BMC Patrol and others. In his enterprise security audit work, Frank uses sniffers and other professional grade monitoring tools on a daily basis.
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Last modified March 25, 2009
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