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JavaScript botnet code escapes ShmooCon, leaks to Web

Fast-typing attendee has a naive moment, and then Digg kicked in

By Robert McMillan
April 2, 2007 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - Software that could be used to turn a Web browser into an unwitting hacker's tool has been posted to the Internet, after it was downloaded by a quick-thinking attendee at last month's Shmoocon hacker conference.

The software, called Jikto, was written by Billy Hoffman, lead researcher at Spy Dynamics Inc. Hoffman demonstrated the code on March 24 as part of a presentation on the dangers of JavaScript malware.

Hoffman had discovered a way to write a Web vulnerability scanner in JavaScript, a Web language that can run in any browser. This technique circumvents JavaScript's security restrictions and, concerned that his Jikto code could be misused, Hoffman says he took extra steps to prevent the code from getting out.

However, in order for his demonstration to work, he had to post the Jikto code somewhere on the Internet. "Very briefly you could see the original URL of where the Jikto code got fetched," Hoffman said.

That was enough for show attendee Mike Schroll to snag a copy.

"I was sitting pretty close to the front and had my laptop out already," said Schroll, an information security consultant at Security Management Partners Inc. "The second I saw it i just started typing away."

Schroll posted the code on his Web site March 25, and submitted a link to the code on Digg.com. He removed the software several hours later at Hoffman's request.

Schroll said he posted the code because he thought it would be useful to other security professionals looking for ways to illustrate just how dangerous a scripting attack can be. "I was pretty interested in it because we do some engagements with clients where we do fake phishing sites," he said. "I wasn't trying to be nefarious or malicious."

The software was downloaded from his Web site about 100 times, Schroll said.

Over the past weekend, the code surfaced again, this time on the Sla.ckers.org online discussion forum.

With Jikto now public, security researchers worry it could be misused by criminals to scan internal networks for sensitive information, or to build a malicious botnet code. "This particular tool is designed to take control of the Web browser," said Jeremiah Grossman, chief technology officer at WhiteHat Security Inc. "It will crawl other Web sites and scan them, looking for vulnerabilities."

Hoffman was sanguine about the release of his tool, saying that criminals would probably have been able to develop something similar to his short, 800-line application.

"It's kind of a tragedy that this ended up getting released," Hoffman said. "But in reality the bad guys probably knew this and even if they didn't have it they were probably a couple of months away."

He said he's not angry at Schroll for snagging and releasing the Jikto code. "He probably did what any curious individual would have done," Hoffman said. "I really can't fault someone for being curious because that's what my job is."

[Editor's note: This story was originally posted with an incorrect spelling of the word Jikto. It was updated on April 2 to correct the spelling.]

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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