Hackers ramp up Facebook, MySpace attacks

Five-exploit toolkit includes code aimed at Image Uploader ActiveX control

Hackers are actively exploiting an Internet Explorer plug-in that's widely used by Facebook and MySpace members with a multi-attack kit, a security company has warned.

The exploit directed at Aurigma's Image Uploader, an ActiveX control used by Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites to allow members to upload photos to their profiles, is just one of five in a new hacker toolkit being used by several Chinese attack sites, said Symantec.

Attacks begin when users receive spam or an instant message with an embedded link, said Darren Kemp, the Symantec analyst who authored the advisory. The link takes users to a bogus MySpace log-in page, which tries to steal members' credentials as it also silently probes the their computers for vulnerabilities in Uploader, Apple's QuickTime, Windows and Yahoo Music Jukebox.

Although the Windows and QuickTime bugs were patched 8 and 13 months ago respectively, the Uploader and Yahoo vulnerabilities were made public and fixed only within the last few weeks. Kemp noted the hackers' fast reaction time. "[This demonstrates] how quickly attackers are leveraging new vulnerabilities," said Kemp. "It is unlikely that attackers will stop trying to leverage this vulnerability any time soon."

The Aurigma bug was disclosed at the end of January by researcher Elazar Broad; shortly after that, a spokeswoman for Facebook and MySpace claimed that the social networking sites were alerting members of the danger. New bugs cropped up a week later, however, forcing Aurigma to again patch the ActiveX control. Not until February 13 did the company claim "Image Uploader is safe again!"

Yahoo, meanwhile, plugged a pair of holes in Music Player on February 6, two days after Broad published attack code for both.

Symantec has been tracking attacks against the Aurigma vulnerabilities most of the month. More than three weeks, ago, for example, another of its analysts reported seeing evidence of a new multi-exploit hacker toolkit -- presumably the same one analyzed by Kemp -- that included an Image Uploader attack.

Exploits against ActiveX controls are nothing unusual; scores of bugs in the Microsoft-made technology were uncovered and exploited in 2007, according to Symantec. It counted 210 ActiveX vulnerabilities in the first half of last year alone, a prime factor in making IE a popular attack target.

In fact, after the Uploader and Yahoo Music Jukebox vulnerabilities were disclosed, the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), which is part of the US Department of Homeland Security, recommended IE users disable ActiveX.

Kemp, however, saw the social networking angle as just as important. "Given the growing popularity of social-networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, attacks leveraging vulnerabilities in their client-side components are not surprising," he wrote in the warning.

Symantec urged users to update the Image Uploader ActiveX control to version

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Gregg Keizer

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