Tool Turns Any JavaScript-Enabled Browser into a Malicious Drone

A new tool called Jikto can turn any PC or device with a browser into a site attacker.

A new tool too dangerous to give away can turn any PC—Windows, Mac, Linux—or any device with a browser into a site attacker.

The tool, called Jikto, is a Web application scanner that searches for cross-site scripting vulnerabilities. Billy Hoffman, a security researcher with SPI Dynamics, demonstrated what the tool could do at the ShmooCon hacker convention March 24. Namely, Jikto, which is written in JavaScript, can surreptitiously latch onto a browser that has JavaScript enabled.

After silently inserting itself to run inside any browser—be it that of a PC, a cell phone—Jikto can then search sites for cross-site scripting vulnerabilities and report its findings to a third party without the user of the infected browser being aware.

It can also replicate itself onto sites containing cross-site scripting vulnerabilities and then spread via latching onto visiting browsers, Hoffman told eWEEK in an interview.

This is something that JavaScript wasnt supposed to be able to do, but unfortunately, Hoffman said, it can.

JavaScript was originally Netscapes version of the ECMAScript standard, a scripting language based on the concept of prototype-based programming.

Now controlled by the Mozilla Foundation, JavaScript is best known for its client-side use in Web sites.

/zimages/1/28571.gifRead more here about cross-site scripting attacks.

In that context, a major use of JavaScript is to write functions that are embedded in HTML pages and which interact with the DOM (Document Object Model) of the page to do things that HTML cant do on its own: create pop-up windows, validate Web form input values or change images as a mouse cursor moves over them, for example.

Web application vulnerability scanners have been around some seven years. Most have been software installed on a PC.

Jikto, because its written in JavaScript, doesnt need to be grounded on a client, Hoffman said.

"Your browser just visits a page. If it contains JavaScript, it can start scanning other sites for vulnerabilities," he said.

The ShmooCon audience, which contained members of Microsofts Internet Explorer team and representatives from Mozilla—the makers of the FireFox browser—were "kind of shocked" to learn what the evil one can do with JavaScript, Hoffman said.

Thats good, the security researcher said—"By getting them interested, we can use that to [heighten the awareness of the dangers of Web site vulnerabilities]."

As it is, over the past few years, security researchers have seen attackers doing much more with Web site vulnerabilities, particularly with cross-site scripting vulnerabilities, where attackers can inject JavaScript into a site, he said.

For example, instead of typing a message or a question on an online guestbook or forum, an attacker could insert JavaScript. The malicious HTML then downloads to a browser.

Examples of recent JavaScript exploits have included the Windows Live Italy search engine getting hit by a link bomb earlier in March, with some 95 percent of search results on "hot" keywords leading to malware and exploit sites.

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