Web content and applications delivery specialist Akamai has warned its users of a potentially serious security vulnerability in its popular Download Manager application that could lead to online drive-by attacks.
Akamai has issued a patch for the problem and reported that the vulnerability requires a user to visit a malicious URL to be infected. Once tricked into visiting such a site, the user's browser could automatically download and execute arbitrary code on their systems.
This company said that the vulnerability exists only in the Download Manager client software and does not affect its Web application and advertising delivery services in any way. The affected versions of the product included releases up to the 220.127.116.11 iteration of Download Manager, and the problem is patched in a new version, 18.104.22.168.
Akamai Download Manager is a client software application that aims to allow users to download content more quickly and reliably. Made available as an ActiveX component or Java applet, the program promises to provide users the ability to pause downloads, resume downloading at a later time, and automatically recover from dropped connections or system crashes.
A copy of the security bulletin published by Akamai can be found here, and the company said that visiting this page or any other Download Manager-enabled page will automatically prompt a user to install the latest version of the software.
The company said further that it has successfully coordinated with each of its enterprise customers to ensure that they are all distributing the patched version.
Security researchers have become increasingly wary of such automated download technologies as attackers have increasingly moved to tap into the tools' capabilities to secretly inject their attacks via Web sites, in particular via subverted legitimate URLs.
For the last several years researchers have devoted significant time at conferences such as the annual Black Hat hacker confab to the dangers related to the functionality of similar Web 2.0 technologies such as AJAX which are meant to increase the interactivity of Web sites and allow URLs to dynamically download content to update themselves, or respond to end user activities.
Experts with the FortiGuard Global Security Research Team claim to have been the first to identify the vulnerability. The researchers specifically warned of the potential for the issue to allow a remote file to be transferred to an arbitrary location on an end user's system through Akamai's ActiveX control.
"Exploits [like this] have the potential to be especially harmful, as when executed correctly, a malicious file could be downloaded in a 'drive-by' nature without user interaction," Derek Manky, security researcher for Fortinet, said in an e-mail.
Matt Hines has been following the IT industry for over a decade as a reporter and blogger, and has been specifically focused on the security space since 2003, including a previous stint writing for eWeek and contributing to the Security Watch blog. Hines is currently employed as marketing communications manager at Core Security Technologies, a Boston-based maker of security testing software. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Core Security, and neither the company, nor its products and services will be actively discussed in the blog. Please send news, research or tips to SecurityWatchBlog@gmail.com.