Google Intros Site Assessment Tool

By Matthew Hines  |  Posted 2008-07-10 Print this article Print

Hats off to Google for chipping in a new (free) tool to help Web site builders scour their URLs for potential security vulnerabilities.

The tool was first detailed in a blog post July 1 by Michal Zalewski, a highly respected security researcher who has gone to work for the company that aims to "do no evil," but which has increasingly been accused by some parties of not making enough of an effort to help drive malware-infested sites out of its search results or strike stolen personal data from its memory banks. The tool, dubbed Ratproxy, appears to be pretty useful.

Described as a utility designed to "transparently analyze legitimate, browser-driven interactions with a tested Web property, and automatically pinpoint, annotate and prioritize potential flaws or areas of concern," the open-source program was developed by Google's internal information security engineering team, Zalewski said in the blog.

"The proxy analyzes problems such as cross-site script inclusion threats, insufficient cross-site request forgery defenses, caching issues, cross-site scripting candidates, potentially unsafe cross-domain code inclusion schemes and information leakage scenarios, and much more," the researcher said.

As opposed to other URL security vulnerability testers or manual exploit frameworks, Zalewski claims that Ratproxy generates fewer site disruptions, cuts across greater numbers of "complex, client-driven application states in Web 2.0 solutions" and offers "insight into dynamic cross-domain trust models."

The open-source approach was chosen so that others might continue to contribute to the project, he said.

"We decided to make this tool freely available as open source because we feel it will be a valuable contribution to the information security community, helping advance the community's understanding of security challenges associated with contemporary Web technologies," Zalewski wrote. "We believe that responsible security research brings a net overall benefit to the safety of the Web as a whole, and have released this tool explicitly to support that kind of research."

Ratproxy can be downloaded here.

With all the verbiage that's been given over to the runaway problem of legitimate Web sites that have been hacked and loaded down with drive-by infections and cross-site scripting attacks (including discussion in this here blog space), it's pretty cool to see one of the big boys stepping up to the plate.

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 |

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