Group Warns of Top Web 2.0 Security Threats

One of the many lures of Web 2.0 is that users do the heavy lifting, generating content and uploading it to Web sites. Enterprises are increasingly adopting Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, Wikis and RSS .

But are they adopting security best practices to keep pace? If not, the Secure Enterprise 2.0 Forum is offering a top 10 list of security issues related to the evolving technology.

The list includes threats specific to Web 2.0 technologies as well as older threats leveraging Web 2.0 type behavior such as content sharing, and community participation.

The Web 2.0-specific threats include cross-site scripting (XSS), various new types of injection attacks, and information leakage.

“In our experience, cross-site scripting is probably the most pernicious Web 2.0-related threat that companies should be made aware of,” said David Lavenda, a vice president of marketing and product strategy at WorkLight, which sells security software for Web 2.0 environments. “This type of attack is hard to detect,” he wrote in an e-mail. (The security company helped form the Secure Enterprise 2.0 Forum, which includes technology companies, research firms and security experts.)

Web 2.0 technologies are particularly susceptible to XSS attacks because of content sharing, Lavenda said.

Hackers often use XSS attacks on large sites to maximize the impact of the attacks. For example, a vulnerability that could have resulted in the theft of the identities of thousands of people was discovered on Yahoo’s (NASDAQ: YHOO) HotJobs Web site in October.

The group estimates that, together with SQL injection attacks, cross-site scripting through JavaScript comprises about 60 percent of all Web site attacks.

However, SQL injections are not the only type of injection flaws — the Secure Enterprise 2.0 Forum said Web 2.0 technologies are vulnerable to new types of injection attacks, including XML injection and JavaScript injection. Also, because Web 2.0 applications rely heavily on client-side code, they often perform client-side input validation which attackers can bypass, the Forum said.

User generated content’s curse

User-generated content, which is a key feature of Web 2.0 technologies, also causes information leakage, the Forum said. This could lead an enterprise to host inappropriate content, which could impact its brand.

Companies could take a two-pronged approach to tackling this problem the way clothing and footwear retailer Karmaloop, which banks heavily on Web 2.0 technology, does.

First, it screens all content that is uploaded to its site, Karmaloop CEO Greg Selkoe told Second, it leverages users by making its site very appealing and building communities among users. “We have people constantly viewing our site and if they see anything inappropriate they tell us and we take it down,” Selkoe said.

Another way to tackle user-generated content is to automate the screening of consumer-facing Web sites, using technology such as Optenet’s HostSecure. This examines and categorizes all user-generated content and makes it easy to remove such content. HostSecure uses multiple proprietary intelligent content filtering techniques and IP address analysis together with databases of millions of URLs.

The bottom line for enterprises that incorporate Web 2.0 tools into their business, Lavenda said, is this: be aware of threats to Web 2.0 and how they operate. Implement usage policies that clearly dictate what employees can and cannot do at work.

“We find that most businesses do not have such policies, and, of those that do, the policy is usually ‘Don’t use the technologies at all,” Lavenda said, noting too, that a blanket clampdown can be too restrictive for most people, particularly the younger generation that expects collaborative tools and work methods.

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