McAfee's website full of security holes, researcher says

McAfee.com has again been found to be susceptible to XC scripting and other flaws, research says

The McAfee.com website is full of security mistakes that could lead to cross-site scripting and other attacks, researchers said in a post on the Full Disclosure site on Monday. The holes with the site were found by the YGN Ethical Hacker Group, and reported to McAfee on Feb. 10, YGN says, before they were publicly disclosed to the security/hacking mailing list.

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[UPDATED] In addition to cross-site scripting, YGN discovered numerous information disclosure holes with the site including seeing an internal hostname and finding 18 source code disclosures. The portion of the site that could be used for XC scripting attack hosts some of McAfee's files for downloading software, YGN says on its Full Disclosure post. A spokesperson from McAfee replied to inquiries from Network World saying, "McAfee is aware of these vulnerabilities and we are working to fix them. It is important to note that these vulnerabilities do not expose any of McAfee's customer, partner or corporate information. Additionally, we have not seen any malicious exploitation of the vulnerabilities."

Nevertheless, this isn't just embarrassing, but also somewhat discrediting for McAfee, which markets a McAfee Secure service to enterprises for their customer-facing websites. McAfee Secure scans a website daily for "thousands of hacker vulnerabilities," the company advertises. If the site is found to "be certified" to McAfee's "high standard of security," then users of McAfee anti-malware products see a "McAfee Secure" label in their browsers. McAfee Secure claims to test for personal information access, links to dangerous sites, phishing, and other embedded malicious dangers that a website might unknowingly be hosting.

"In other words, the presence of this label means that the website is not vulnerable to the exact same vulnerabilities [McAfee.com] currently has," writes security researcher Pablo Ximenes, from the Information Security Research Team of the State University of Ceará, Brazil, in his blog. "Don't get me wrong, I have no interest in damaging McAfee's image, I even own a company that sells McAfee products, but this is a serious lack of diligence with customers and resellers that must not go unnoticed," he writes.

According to YGN, after reporting the flaws on the McAfee website to the vendor on Feb. 10, McAfee responded to the report on Feb. 12, saying, "We are working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible." When, as of March 27, YGN found the flaws "to be unfixed completely," YGN publicly disclosed them. YGN offered two tongue-in-cheek recommendations to McAfee for addressing the issues: that the company should make better use of its own internal website security experts from Foundstone, a Web security services company McAfee acquired in 2004, and that the company should "use outbound monitoring of traffic to detect potential information leakage."

[UPDATED] The McAfee spokesperson clarified the potential impact of the three vulnerabilities cited by the researchers: "Cross Site Scripting in download.mcafee.com: In a worst case scenario this vulnerability could allow attacks that spoof the McAfee brand by presenting a URL that looks like it directs to a McAfee Web site but in fact directs elsewhere. Information disclosure on www.mcafee.com: This issue gives some detail on an internally used application to measure Web traffic, but doesn't disclose any proprietary information or any customer information. Information disclosure on download.mcafee.com: This issue provides access to the source code for some of the interactive pages on our Web site, but this also does not disclose any sensitive information or any customer information."

This is not the first time that McAfee's website was found to be lacking security. In 2008, websites from McAfee, Symantec and VeriSign were all found to have cross-site scripting (XSS) errors, according to security watchdog at the time XSSed.

Additionally, in 2009, white-hat hacker Methodman, a member of the Team Elite, published proof-of-concept attacks against websites kc.mcafee.com and mcafeerebates.com. In April 2010, the McAfee.com community forums were defaced via an XC scripting attack.

[UPDATED] McAfee told Network World, "McAfee has strict policies in place for its own Web sites and for services provided by third parties. We are investigating how these particular vulnerabilities were not identified in our screening process and will adjust our processes if necessary.”

Bort writes the Microsoft Update, Source Seeker and Cisco Odds and Ends blogs for Network World's Microsoft Subnet, Open Source Subnet and Cisco Subnet communities. Follow Bort on Twitter @Julie188.

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