Flash Attack Hits Insecure Web Design

The web world is vibrating with news that an un-patched security risk involving Adobe Flash creates a possible mechanism for hackers to load exploits onto websites.

The vulnerability was discovered by security researchers at Foreground Security and reported to both Adobe and Google, whose Google Applications, including Gmail, are potentially vulnerable to exploit.

No fix is currently available. However, exploitation of the security flaw would be far from straightforward, especially on Gmail because hackers would have to figure out message IDs in order to create any mischief. Foreground has not detected any attacks using the technique, which affects sites that allow users to upload active content onto trusted domains.
Mike Bailey, the senior researcher who first documented the vulnerability, agreed with that point while adding that Adobe also has a role to play in fixing the problem.

“For website owners, all user-supplied content should be served from a completely separate domain,” Bailey said. “This is already implemented by Yahoo mail, Hotmail, Wikipedia, and many other major websites, but a huge variety of self-contained web applications do not do so.”

“The ideal fix should involve Adobe implementing a more sensible origin policy for Flash objects,” Bailey added. However, the downside of making Flash more secure in this way is that it would break legitimate (though arguably badly coded) functionality on many sites.

Surfers are advised to mitigate against the possible risk of attack by disabling Flash in their browsers or by using browser plug-ins, such as NoScript for Firefox or ToggleFlash for IE, to reduce their exposure whenever possible.

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