Hackers Change Course

Hackers had a new target in their sights during 2005.

According to the SANS 2005 Top 20 list of the most
critical Internet security vulnerabilities, application programs are the thing of hackers’ dreams.

In particular, the SANS report noted that backup
applications are being increasingly targeted and now hold the No. 1
spot on the “Vulnerabilities in Cross-Platform Applications” listing.

Alan Paller, director of research for the SANS Institute, said that the
vulnerabilities mentioned in the top 20 report are widespread and many are currently being exploited.

“We’re publishing this list as a red flag for individuals as well as IT
departments,” Paller said in a statement. “Too many people are unaware of
these vulnerabilities, or mistakenly believe their computers are protected.”

Earlier this year, SANS raised backup as being particularly vulnerable, a point predicated partially on a US-CERT-issued Technical Cyber Security Alert about a disclosed vulnerability with the Veritas backup server being actively exploited.

Following backup, the top “Vulnerabilities in
Cross-Platform Applications” include anti-virus software, PHP-based
applications, database software, file-sharing applications, DNS software, media players, instant messaging applications and Mozilla and Firefox Web
browsers.

According to the SANS report, “a second important shift in the Top 20 is
public recognition of the critical vulnerabilities that are found in network
devices such as routers and switches that form the backbone of the
Internet.”

The top three “Vulnerabilities in Networking Products” are, Cisco IOS and non-IOS products; Juniper, CheckPoint and
Symantec products; and Cisco devices configuration weaknesses.

Though hackers have shifted their focus somewhat away from operating
systems, that’s not to say there still aren’t untold numbers of attackers
targeting both Unix and Windows-based systems.

According to SANS, the top “Vulnerabilities in Windows Systems” are Windows Services, Internet Explorer, Windows Libraries, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Outlook Express and Windows Configuration weaknesses.

On Unix and Linux systems, the top vulnerability is configuration
weakness.

“All versions of Unix are potentially at risk from improper and default
configurations,” the report states. “All versions of Unix may be affected by
accounts having weak or dictionary-based passwords for authentication.”

Since SANS first
began issuing its top 20 list in 2000, hackers’ favorite targets had been
operating systems and core Internet services, such as e-mail and
Web servers.

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