LinkedIn Profiles Are Not “Serving” Malware


The past few days there has been a bit of a stink about some bogus LinkedIn profiles. There have been plenty of news sources reporting that LinkedIn profiles are serving malware or making it seem like profiles are infected somehow. A few examples of that can be found here and here and here. At least The Register called these people falling for this fools. What the titles of these reports imply are dead wrong. LinkedIn profiles are not actively attacking users.

The issue is very simple, it is a hyperlink to another site that infects idiots with Malware. A hyperlink to another site, not getting attacked from viewing a profile. When you allow users to link to off-site content, you lose control of the request, however, this isn’t like allowing users to pull content in from other sites to display on their profiles. This typically has very little impact. This is no different than any other site, message board, or social network.

Give me a break, like Beyoncé Knowles has a LinkedIn page and is going to have a hyperlink on there to a place to view her nude pictures. That’s the issue these sites are referring to, dumb isn’t it? How does that get turned in to words like serving, harboring, or redirecting? These words imply some sort of active action on LinkedIn’s part, which doesn’t describe the situation here AT ALL. If you ran a message board and someone had a hyperlink to Goatse, does that mean you are serving, harboring, or redirecting to Goatse? Of course it doesn’t. This would just be an indication of your user base. I wonder how many people were brave enough to click the Goatse link above :) It’s not Goatse, promise.

Is there really no end of the Internet news stories this week to scare people with so people decided we should be scared of LinkedIn? This is basically spreading FUD. I personally don’t see why LinkedIn should take any heat from this. The feature of LinkedIn that allows you to link to your Company, personal site, or some other site should remain a part of LinkedIn’s features. I really hope they don’t go with something like MySpace did with the msplinks stuff. This would basically put a big obnoxious splash page up that states you are about to visit content off of the site. Yeah, well no crap I just clicked on the link so of course I want to visit the page. I personally don’t think that is a very effective control for these types of attacks anyway. The only time that control is effective is if it isn’t clear to the user that they are visiting content off the particular site they are on. I have seen in the past MySpace profiles that were compromised and the whole profile links to a bogus MySpace login page. In that case the user seeing the warning would be alerted that something is wrong, however, you are still going to have a large amount of people just cough up their credentials anyway. Sometimes all the controls in the world just can’t fix stupid. The same people that would fall for this are the same ones that click on spam emails claiming the same thing. It’s a mentality not a technical security issue.

Let me state this, if you are not a complete idiot then this issue will not affect you in the least bit. These profiles are not performing any active attacks on users of LinkedIn. There are much more scary things out there than this, trust me. Don’t fear using LinkedIn because of issues like this. LinkedIn really has a very limited feature set which lowers their attack surface. They have much less functionality that other social network such as MySpace, Facebook, Hi5, etc. Would you really care to see Beyoncé Knowles’ LinkedIn profile anyway? I bet she is boring and fake. Her LinkedIn profile would state, “I have never had to work for anything in my life and everything has been handed to me because dummies think I have talent. I love screwing over my friends and taking money out of their pockets”. She should apologize to the world for creating that DirecTV Upgrade song. Yuck! Wait a minute, she doesn’t write her own music… Anywhoo….

I can’t believe I had to write this blog post, but the sheer number of people talking about this and linking to these stories was too much. Just practice smart Internet browsing habits mixed with common sense and you will be fine. As always, I recommend using the Firefox web browser with the extensions NoScript and Adblock Plus. Have a good week, the end of the Internet is next week :)

First Twitter Phishing Attack of 2009

Welcome to 2009! As many have said…it was just a matter of time before Twitter had a somewhat significant attack…well, here it is! I just had a post up last week about how many of us that use social media just blatantly trust every site that asks us for Twitter credentials. Well if you don’t look at the URL carefully even the security aware could be fooled by this one. Tonight there was a lot of tweets about the following phishing attack….

You will get a DM (direct message) in your email from a user with the following message:

hey! check out this funny blog about you…

If you click on blogspot link this is basically a redirect to the following fake Twitter site:

Twitter Phishing Site

Looks just like an identical copy of the real Twitter site except for the URL! (don’t go to this URL…)

About an hour after this started going around Twitter it looked like Firefox 3 picked up that this was a reported phishing site and you now get the following message:

Web Forgery Reported

Looks like Twitter and others moved quickly to get the redirect shut down. If ignore the Firefox warning to the blogspot page you get this:


However, the phishing site is still active and will probably be for awhile. Do not enter in any login credentials at any site other then The fake site in this case is Note that if you take off the “login” at the end of the URL you are sent to a fake Facebook login page! Looks like these guys have been doing this for quite some time.

One interesting note about this attack…how does someone send you a DM without you following them? There was an interesting hack that is documented here that used to work, however…Twitter fixed this a few months ago. My only guess is that multiple hacked accounts were used to send legitimate DM’s. I’m not 100% sure how DM’s are being propagated in this case but it should be interesting to find out how the attack started in the coming days.

Kudos to the Twitter team and all the Twitter users that retweeted and got to word out. This alone hopefully mitigated much of the threat. I even saw in the Twitter web client that @twitter posted a warning message on the page about the threat. Great work Twitter team!

What if you gave your credentials away to this site?
Change your password immediately! Also, do you use this same password for Facebook, Myspace, email and other sites? Change those as well! Give a password manager like 1password or KeePass (KeePass is free BTW) a try to set unique passwords for every site/application you use. That way if your Twitter account did get compromised, your other accounts are safe. See this post for more information.

What’s behind that short URL?

plz click this short url

There was a good post over at ThreatChaos the other day about a new Firefox extension which will automatically show you the real URL’s of shortened URL’s. What is URL shortening? For example…this long URL:,-95.677068&sspn=33.764224,56.25&ie=UTF8&ll=38.905996,-77.023773&spn=0.25915,0.439453&z=11&g=washington+dc&iwloc=addr


By using a service like Tinyurl or one of the many other sites available you can easily shorten a URL so your friends don’t freak when you send them long links. When it comes to Twitter it becomes almost mandatory that you shorten that long URL to meet the 140 character limit in your tweets.

What’s the problem?
Getting people to click on a malicious link just got easier with these services. Sure, people will still click on strange URL’s without a mask (even manually typing in strange URL’s as I showed in this post), however, by masking *any* URL with these services a phishing or malware attack can be even more successful.

Also, how can you *easily* see what the real site is behind one of these short URL’s? TinyURL and others offer you a service to “preview” URL’s but many sites don’t offer this and who is actually going to attempt to manually verify what is behind those links? That’s way too much work.

Another problem is that some of these short URL services allow you to obfuscate an already short URL with another short URL. Take for example The TinyURL above ( becomes This throws off the preview feature of many sites like this. This problem could add multiple redirects and levels of obfuscation to malicious links. All it takes is the right combination of short URL sites.

Right before I was about to post this I saw a post by Jennifer Leggio over at ZDNet regarding the URL redirection issue. She mentions that FriendFeed has implemented a feature that reveals short URL’s if you hover your mouse over the links. This is great…for FriendFeed, what about other more popular social media sites? Check out her article for a good overview of the issue and some interesting information about what other social media sites are doing and not doing about this problem.

The “Long URL Please” Solution
While not 100% perfect this a great start and it looks like the developer is working on improving the Firefox extension and API. You can even use it with other web browsers besides Firefox with a bookmarklet available on his site. Simply click on the bookmarklet and it will transform all the short URL’s on the web page currently loaded.

The Long URL Please Firefox extension will automatically show you the true URL of 30 supported short URL site’s. No hovering over a link or clicking to a site to preview it. It just shows you the link…no extra work on your part. This works great for the Twitter web client as well as any web page that has a link from one of the 30 supported services. One problem I saw was that short URL sites like and others will keep popping up (I listed a site above that links 70 of these services). It’s going to take some work from the developer side to keep up with all of these new services. In addition, this doesn’t help with Twitter applications like ones that are Adobe Air based or developed using another type of framework. However, it looks like the developer is working on it and he is trying to get other applications to integrate to his API. Either way, check out this great extension and follow the developer on Twitter to get news on improvements. I look forward to see how this type of extension will evolve.

Short URL’s won’t be going anywhere soon…lets hope social media applications and end users start using them with a little bit security in mind.

What solutions do you think could solve the short URL problem?

Who are you giving your Twitter account to?

Twellow anyone?

It’s always interesting to me when I check out a new Twitter application, it always seems to ask you to “verify” your account or ask you to pass your Twitter user name/password to their application. This of course is done without any protections or any way of knowing what happens to your account information on the other end.

Take for example a recent find called Twellow which is basically a big directory of Twitter users (like the yellow pages). Twellow has some neat features like searching for other Twitter users by keywords and interests. Twellow like many of these types of Twitter applications work by scraping public timelines to populate their site with your information. Twellow asks you to “claim” your profile by putting in your Twitter password. This is where it gets interesting…

To the unsuspecting user it’s tempting to just give your credentials away to every website that asks for it. Twellow is a good looking, legitimate website right? Did you stop to think what could happen to your login credentials? Can you really trust that they don’t record your credentials? The disclaimer says they don’t use your password for anything…you trust everyone right? :-)

What’s your Twitterank?
If you are a heavy Twitter user you may remember the Twitterank fiasco about a month ago. Like many people on Twitter just hearing of a website that will calculate your “rank” on Twitter sounded like a cool idea. No harm in this right? Rumors quickly spread on Twitter and in the blogosphere that Twitterank was a phishing site and that the developer was harvesting Twitter accounts. It ended up that this was most likely a legitimate application…BUT…why do you trust it? Why as social media users do we blatantly trust every Twitter or social media developer out there? No offense to the developer of Twitterank but there are way too many of these sites out there that ask for your account information. A real Twitter phishing site is easy to do using these same tactics. All you need is a legitimate looking website that preys on human weakness…we all want more followers and more rankage, right? For example, if you want to see a spoof Twitter phishing site, check out Twitter Phisher done by the fine folks over at Hak5 (be sure to view source in your browser for some extra lolz).

What’s the fix?
First, social media users need more education. Seriously, don’t just give your credentials away to anyone that asks for it (this actually applies to everything in life). Is your Twitter ranking really that important?

If you did give your credentials away, hopefully you used a different and unique password for that particular account. That way, if your account did get compromised then only one account is compromised, not your entire portfolio of accounts. How do you manage multiple passwords? Give a password manager like 1password or KeePass a try to create and manage unique passwords for each of your social media accounts.

Secondly, social media websites like Twitter need to use better forms of authentication. How about something similar to what FriendFeed is doing by issuing users a “remote key” for all third-party interactions with your account. Of course this isn’t perfect but it’s a step in the right direction. I applaud FriendFeed for having the remote key functionality a required part of the API. BTW, Twitter has been talking about using nifty solutions like OAuth, so do it already @Twitter! HTTP Basic Authentication just doesn’t cut it.

Authentication of user credentials and social media is a big problem…(actually verifying who you say you are is a another topic altogether). What authentication solutions for social media do you think should be adopted?

Analysis of a new Facebook phish

Beware of this wall post!

I just posted an article for Blogsecurify about a new Facebook phish that I stumbled upon. Thanks again to Greg and Tyler for helping out with some of the detailed analysis! You guys rock!

LinkedIn Apps Announced

Posted originally on, re-posted with permission:

Business social network LinkedIn announced their LinkedIn Applications today. The applications directory can be viewed here There are only several applications to chose from at the moment. I am sure that number will grow soon. LinkedIn uses Google’s OpenSocial just like other social networks such as MySpace, Orkut, hi5, etc. I only spent like 5 minutes looking at a couple of things. So, the following are only my quick thoughts and impressions.

The applications are delivered though the domain This makes them easy to identify and block if that’s what you would like to do.

At first glance it appears that the vetting process for LinkedIn is higher than some of the other social networks. They appear to only want known businesses to create applications for their network at this time. This would help root out some possible malicious users. A vetting process is a good first step in thwarting that type of malicious behavior. I didn’t look at the difficulty in attaining a developer account, but I am assuming it is much more difficult than other social networks like MySpace, Facebok, etc. Now, whether this vetting process will stay this stringent will remain to be seen. These procedures may be relaxed in the future due to demand.

Just because the name has changed doesn’t mean the threats have changed. As a matter of fact there may actually be more on the table. Business networks such as LinkedIn are more likely to contain real information about people vs other non-professional social networks. Not that people don’t share enough about their real self on other social networks. This means the same threats exist for the capture of information as on other social networks.

There are still technical threats from social network applications on LinkedIn as well. These are the very same issues as other social networks that we have discussed in the past and demonstrated. Malware distribution, social engineering, attacking clients, information harvesting, click fraud are just some of these threats from social network applications. Moral of the story is be careful. Don’t install apps you don’t need, even though you may do so on your iPhone ;)

So all in all the threats are the same with LinkedIn as any other social networks that employ applications. However, with a more stringent vetting process this should reduce the possibilities for malicious by making accounts harder to get.

Facebook Privacy & Security Guide Released

Today at the Ohio Information Security Summit I released my Facebook Security & Privacy Guide. This guide gives you suggested “baseline” security settings that you can use when configuring your Facebook account. Obviously, you can adjust these settings based on your own level of risk but it should give you a good starting point.

How did this project get started?
I have been doing several months of research with my own Facebook account as well as gathering the input of other Facebook users to determine what the privacy and security settings would be without loosing the key features of using a social network website…the networking!

Please feel free to distribute this document to friends and family or use it for any security awareness campaigns. I will hopefully be keeping up with any updates to the document when Facebook changes things. I might be putting together a similar document together for MySpace but MySpace is a totally different animal altogether. We shall see! :-)

You can download a pdf version of the guide here.

Exploiting trust in social networks

Over the weekend I posted my first article on Social Network/Media security over at Blogsecurify. You can check out the post here. My next article will talk about the security of third-party applications and widgets for social media applications.

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