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Adobe Flash Ads Launching Clipboard Hijack Attacks 353

Posted by kdawson
from the poisoning-the-ad-pool dept.
bullyBEEF writes "Malicious hackers are using booby-trapped Flash banner ads to hijack clipboards for use in rogue security software attacks. In the Web attacks, which affect Mac, Windows, and Linux users running Firefox, IE, and Safari, bad guys are seizing control of the machine's clipboard (probably using the Flash command setClipboard) and inserting a hard-to-delete URL that points to a fake anti-virus program. A number of legitimate sites have been seen to host ads carrying the attack — including Newsweek, Digg, and MSNBC.com. Researcher Aviv Raff offers a harmless demo of how it's done."
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Adobe Flash Ads Launching Clipboard Hijack Attacks

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  • by Derek Pomery (2028) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @09:57PM (#24667473)

    But although the flash launched, that wasn't enough to get the attack going.
    And given how much it takes for me to do even that, I don't think NoScript users have much to be worried about.

    • Opposite experience (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anpheus (908711)

      I enabled the object in Firefox 3.0.1 with NoScript 1.7.8, Flash version is 9.0r124, and yes, it did set my clipboard.

      • NoScript 1.7.8
        Shockwave Flash 10.0.0 d569
        Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv:1.9.0.1) Gecko/2008072820 Firefox/3.0.1
        Ubuntu

        Did you whitelist the domain for javascript as well, or just click on the flash?
        Wonder if it was using 10.0.0 or if I was just lucky.

      • Apologies - indeed whitelisting the flash was all that was needed.
        I had used the X paste buffer (middle click) first time around.
        Retested.
        Worked.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      These days you have to go out of your way to avoid flash by learning about and installing less popular Web browsers like Firefox and installing extensions (Add-ons) like NoScript that you have to educate yourself about. These days even browsers like Firefox come pre-installed with crapware and bloatware like Microsoft DRM and Shockwave Flash. These things I have manually disabled.

      I often hear people on Slashdot claiming that Flash is safe, but I also constantly hear about flash-based exploits as well. To mo

      • > When a Web site says Flash, JavaScript, Silverlight, Internet Explorer or anything else is required then that Website is never again visited. One must separate the wheat from the chaff.

        This maybe is true, except if you want to do a real web application. Loading a whole HTML-page, just to change some state of an (non-form-element) interface element... That's insanity.
        You've done the same that someone in a trauma does. You're created false associations. It's not the technology or even the virtual machine that's bad. It's the implementation.
        Your argument is the same, as if someone who had only bad experiences with x86, while having good ones with his old 86000s, argues that "if an application requires x86, then that application is never again used."
        The same is true for OSes. Someone could implement Windows XP in a proper manner, and make it a very safe system. (I did not say that someone would want, tough ;)

        Or in short:
        Someone can crack a bad JavaScript VM and contaminate the rest of the system. And someone could crack a bad OS, and contaminate the rest of the system. There are even examples for this on virtualization VMs. (Heck, the system's clipboard is accessible to all 3 of them, on modern VMs!)

        So my vote goes for Replacing the JavaScript VM with a hardened generic VM, with a fixed interface to the outside world, and adding JavaScript, Python, Ruby, Haskel, Ocaml and more as languages to it (via add-ons, or pre-compiled?)

        Okay, I think one should remove at least one layer of abstraction/VM and harden the OS so that even OpenGL on JavaScript would not have a performance loss. (Yes, this would be useful. Eg. for quick dynamic data visualization or entertainment applications.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Daengbo (523424)
        I just use SWFDec. It avoids the Flash problem by failing to play about 50% of the stuff out there.

        The demo hijack page doesn't work, either. Surprise!

        Just kidding. I like SWFDec much better than Flash + nspluginwrapper on my 64-bit Lenny.
      • I often hear people on Slashdot claiming that Flash is safe

        Well sir you must view /. at a much lower threshold then I do!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by stewbacca (1033764)
        As with everything in life, you have to find the happy medium. Flash has legitimate purposes (repid e-learning development and delivery, for example) that far outweigh the risks of clicking on a rogue advert. Do I want to disable Flash to feel "safe" and prevent unpleasantries, such as flashing/blinking/buy-me ads at the cost of not being able to conduct the mandatory training module I have to complete for work?
    • by jacquesm (154384) <j@w w . com> on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @05:30AM (#24670375) Homepage

      Worked here as well. One more point against flash, what on *earth* were they thinking when they put that 'feature' in there ?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @09:58PM (#24667481)

    "Malicious hackers are using booby-trapped Flash banner ads to hijack clipboards..."

    booby flash?

  • I closed the demo window and Ctrl-C works as normal

    • Re:Hard to remove? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by INeededALogin (771371) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @10:35PM (#24667825) Journal
      I closed the demo window

      The average user is not going to know that they have been hijacked and they won't necessarily know which window is doing it. The clipboard hijacker could even wait until you copy a url before modifying it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by muffen (321442)
        ... yea, or you can RTFA and reach the following conclusion.

        Demo:
        (BEWARE: If you click on the demo link, your clipboard is automatically hijacked and will only be released if the browser window is closed).

        Exploit:
        From TFA
        My clipboard has been hijacked with this:
        [ malicious URL deleted ]
        And once it's in the clipboard, I can't copy anything else over it until I've restarted the machine.

        So basically, real exploit != demo exploit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Chris Pimlott (16212)

      Congrats. Now imagine that you don't know which window of a dozen well-known webpages has the malicious ad hidden in it.

  • This is yet one more reason why I block all ads.

  • flashblock (Score:5, Informative)

    by owlnation (858981) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @10:00PM (#24667499)
    as though we really need yet another reason to use flashblock...

    This one small piece of technology has made browsing the web bearable again. I can't ever thank its developers enough.
    • by corsec67 (627446)

      I got a step further, and have a primary browser that doesn't have flash installed, and then a second browser with flash and flashblock, for the rare time when I actually want to watch a flash video.

      • Re:flashblock (Score:5, Informative)

        by enoz (1181117) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @10:23PM (#24667725)

        You could just create multiple profiles in Firefox, and then load the secondary profile with "-no-remote" so that it doesn't intercept any URLs or clicks that would normally load in your primary browser.

        • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @10:28PM (#24667763) Homepage Journal
          This is /., where over-engineering would be considered a virtue if laziness hadn't won out.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by gstoddart (321705)

          You could just create multiple profiles in Firefox, and then load the secondary profile with "-no-remote" so that it doesn't intercept any URLs or clicks that would normally load in your primary browser.

          But, you still can't (AFAIK) run two instances of the browser running under different profiles at the same time. Sometimes it would be nice to have 2 different profiles running at the same time so you could go to sites you trust in one, and sites you don't in another.

          Now, I'm perfectly willing to be told I'

          • Re:flashblock (Score:4, Informative)

            by JayGuerette (457133) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @12:06AM (#24668593)

            But, you still can't (AFAIK) run two instances of the browser running under different profiles at the same time. Sometimes it would be nice to have 2 different profiles running at the same time so you could go to sites you trust in one, and sites you don't in another.

            Now, I'm perfectly willing to be told I'm wrong (in fact, if someone can I'd love to know how), but I have yet to find a way to have two profiles of Firefox running under Windows at the same time in the same Windows session.

            Yes, you are completely wrong. My wife and I have discrete Firefox profiles on one computer, and often have 2 browser windows open, one on each profile. She has her own plugins, preferences, bookmarks, & history; and I have mine. Use the profile manager to create the profiles, add "-no-remote -p profilename" to a shortcut, and you're good to go. There was a plugin for FF2 called FireTitle, that allowed us to put our profile names in the window title, but alas it's not been updated for FF3.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by enoz (1181117)

              Try this for overriding an incompatible extension:

              Open the .xpi as a zip file and extract install.rdf

              Edit the em:maxVersion tag and set to 3.*, or whatever version you want it valid until.

              Insert the updated install.rdf into the .xpi and install into Firefox.

              Check that it doesn't implode.

              Enjoy.

              I have successfully used this with several extensions, YMMV.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I am visiting the test site using Firefox with Flashblock on Ubuntu 8.04. I press Ctrl+V, and there it is, http://www.evil.com.

      This only happens sporadically, though, and I can always just Ctrl+C something else. I believe this is because Flashblock blocks ads as they are loaded, not before they load (not 100% sure about this).

      Does anybody else have this issue?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by black_lbi (1107229)

      as though we really need yet another reason to use flashblock...

      I've checked the demo, and although the flash is blocked, it initially modifies my clipboard content. But I can use ctrl-c to replace it with something else. If the flash isn't blocked, ctrl-c is useless.
      So flashblock kinda helps you, but you're still vulnerable.

  • by v1 (525388) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @10:00PM (#24667501) Homepage Journal

    it copied "http://www.evil.com/ to my clipboard. Any app I pasted into pasted that url. I tried many apps to copy something to the clipboard but it remained evil.

    The article says in one place you have to restart, and in another you have to close your browser window. I found that closing safari was not sufficient, and I had to quit safari to successfully copy different data into my clipboard with other apps.

    • by ScentCone (795499) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @10:04PM (#24667547)
      confirmed on mac os x 10.5.4

      I'm sorry, but you're using a Mac and anything like this is completely impossible. Why do you hate Mac users, that you would say such a disturbing thing? You are mean.
    • by Mr. Marabou Man (533239) <slashdot#localdomain#deekay> on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @10:08PM (#24667573) Homepage
      Yeah ? Interesting. On my setups (Firefox 3.0.1 on Slackware & Tiger, Safari 3.1.2 on Tiger), closing the tab is sufficient to make it go away. YMMV, obviously.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by fluffman86 (1006119)

        ditto. closing the tab in firefox 3.0.1 on Ubuntu 8.04 works for me.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mr_mischief (456295)

        Closing just the tab worked for me on these browsers on Mandriva:

        Firefox 3.0.1 (from Mozilla's site)
        Firefox 2.0.0.16 (from the repository).
        Opera 9.50 (from Opera's site)

        Too lazy right now to fire up Windows or Mac.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by falconwolf (725481)

        On my setups (Firefox 3.0.1 on Slackware & Tiger, Safari 3.1.2 on Tiger), closing the tab is sufficient to make it go away.

        My setup is Firefox 2.0.0.6 running on 10.4.11 and I had to logout of my user account then log back in. Simply quiting Firefox didn't work.

        Falcon

    • by azav (469988)

      Since Flash files are easily unptrotected and opened up, it would be interesting to see how this is happening. I'll bet that the flash file populates the clipboard several times a second as the flash frame advances. I'm interested how this flash movie stays in memory and keeps running. I seems like it attaches to something to keep its instance running.

    • In Windows I just had to put something else in the clipboard. Wrote some text, highlighted it, Ctrl+C, done.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Here on 10.5.4/Safari 3.1.2, closing the browser window/tab or simply navigating to another page fixes it.

      Still, it's disturbing that a web site can copy data to the clipboard without permission. Browser makers need to make plugin content opt-in (a la flashblock), or at least run plugins in a very limited sandbox until the user requests otherwise.

      • by marxmarv (30295)

        How would you run plugins in a sandbox without running them in a VM? And then, what's the point of the plugin if it isn't native code? Plugins do exactly what they should. Blame the plugin authors for being so obnoxious and presumptive.

    • Ctrl-c with text selected seems to do the trick for windows with me.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by falconwolf (725481)

      it copied "http://www.evil.com/ to my clipboard. Any app I pasted into pasted that url. I tried many apps to copy something to the clipboard but it remained evil.

      The article says in one place you have to restart, and in another you have to close your browser window. I found that closing safari was not sufficient, and I had to quit safari to successfully copy different data into my clipboard with other apps.

      Using Firefox quiting wasn't enough, but logging out of the user then logging back in worked. That's

  • by Z34107 (925136) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @10:01PM (#24667523)

    Good thing my laptop runs EWF drivers. Any changes made to the C volume (a solid state drive) made in memory instead. Everything works like you'd expect it to - delete a file and it's gone - until you reboot, that is, and all of your in-memory changes are discarded.

    I'd like to see XP Antivirus Pro 2008 thoroughly embed its tendrils... and then survive a restart. No changes are committed unless I manually force it.

    Considering that Circuit City will sell you a PC with 6 GB of RAM for $999, I wonder why EWF isn't a standard feature. Probably because somebody would forget that defragging your hard disk would exhaust available RAM and then die, or wonder where that program they just installed went after they rebooted...

    Linux has a similar filesystem, I believe it's used for boot CDs. It pairs the read-only volume with a RAM drive, and all writes are cached there and discarded.

    • by QuantumG (50515) *

      Normal people like to write to their hard disk.

      a PC with 6GB of RAM for $999? Really? That's funny, I don't see a shop by [circuitcity.com] option for 6GB.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by bgerlich (1035008)

        Try searching in desktops, laptop is not the only option in most stores ... yet.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by x2A (858210)

        "a PC with 6GB of RAM for $999? Really? That's funny"

        That's not funny. Funny would involve the computer coming from a man walking into a bar after crossing the road on a chicken, or asking many of those 6gigs of RAM it would take to change a lightbulb. There's no chickens involved here, and definitely no light bulb. I deduce that you're using sarcasm, maybe to convey the idea that you don't believe you can get a computer out of 'em with 6gig RAM... am I right?

    • Good thing my laptop runs EWF drivers.

      Earth, Wind and Fire? [google.com] So are you running the "Time is on Your Side" edition or maybe, "They Don't See [the disk writes]" version?

    • by WK2 (1072560) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @12:10AM (#24668609) Homepage

      So, basically, writing to your hard drive is twice as hard as it is on a normal computer? And you call that a feature that should be installed by default?

      Your original problem is that have programs installed that do stuff to your computer that you don't want. And your solution is an extra layer that those programs are not designed to penetrate. There are two problems with having such software installed by default:
      a) it would be twice as hard to do stuff. I'm sure you realize this, and have already gotten used to it, and accept it.
      b) if this software became popular, then any malicious, or just poorly behaved software that does stuff you don't want, such as write to the hard disk, will write to the hard disk as normal, and then penetrate your extra layer of obscurity to actually write to the hard disk. Programmers would be somewhat inconvenienced, and would have to use special libraries for writing to the hard disk, and users would be annoyed.

      This EWF software you speak of is for a niche market, and would fail for everybody if it became popular. It's sort of how Linux doesn't have many viruses. Except Linux not having viruses is a side effect, and there are plenty of other reasons to use Linux if it became popular and malware authors decided to target it, whereas your software would fail if it became popular, and malware authors targetted it.

      It's kind of like how the Windows outgoing firewall is useless. Every piece of malware knows to put themselves on that whitelist. Whereas if you use a software firewall that is not installed by default, then chances are good that the malware author didn't spend time on bypassing that one.

  • Yes, its annoying (Score:3, Interesting)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @10:05PM (#24667551) Homepage Journal

    But I fail to see how you can leverage this to gain privs.

    If that's possible, then maybe that should be the subject of the article.

    • Re:Yes, its annoying (Score:5, Interesting)

      by slashqwerty (1099091) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @10:22PM (#24667705)

      But I fail to see how you can leverage this to gain privs.

      I suppose it would be possible to populate the clipboard with corrupted contents, perhaps a string of XML that another app would try to consume. If that other app, designed strictly for desktop use, has a vulnerability in the way it processes said XML an attacker may be able to gain privileges. It's possible such an app will examine the clipboard contents just to determine if it should enable the Paste menu. Which means you could be vulnerable even though you never paste from the clipboard.

      • Considering there are websites out there that can own a Windows PC just by having someone visit a page with IE, I'd say this is a pretty good attack vector. You might not get many, but you'll get some who copy and paste a URL or accidentally paste it into an email instead of the string they meant and not notice until they've hit enter or clicked send.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ZorbaTHut (126196)

        Some P2P clients support a "pull links directly from clipboard" feature, where they watch the clipboard for any link with the format they use and automatically download what it's pointing to.

        The danger in this - both the parsing, and the downloading - is obvious. I don't believe any clients run downloaded things by default, but it's still potentially quite nasty.

    • by jesser (77961) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @11:31PM (#24668293) Homepage Journal

      But I fail to see how you can leverage this to gain privs.

      1. Every 100ms, put some evil UNIX commands on the clipboard, surrounded by line breaks. I'm sure you can come up with a one-liner that compromises a user's system.

      2. Hope someone will paste into a Terminal window while your evil page is open.

      I paste into Terminal windows all the time. For example, I might copy an error message and then grep another file for the message. If there's an evil web page open while I do that, the paste will own me.

  • Shockwave... (Score:5, Informative)

    by azav (469988) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @10:07PM (#24667561) Homepage Journal

    I'll bet you can do it too in Shockwave with copyToClipboard. It is a little trickier though as copytoClipboard holds the reference to the Director member copied IIRC. Thinking about it, any web service that supports the clipboard should be able to do this.

  • How to fix this: (Score:5, Informative)

    by MrMista_B (891430) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @10:08PM (#24667581)

    http://adblockplus.org/en/ [adblockplus.org]

    Problem solved!

    Seriously, blocking ads and javascript and flash stuff is like a game for me now, I get a little thrill of victory every time I block one of those things, it's great.

    • by AceofSpades19 (1107875) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @10:10PM (#24667593)
      You have problems....
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by redcaboodle (622288)

        You have problems....

        Surely - because with Adblock you block AFTER you have seen the Flash. So unless the Flash comes from an already blocked source (*.doubleclick.com?) it will already have done its evil magic.

        Only if you block all Flash you did not specifically allow you are clear. NoScript should work, then.

        And some of us have to develop in Flash (stupid designer - stupid clients) so NoScript is out of the question.

    • A better way to fix it would be a good /etc/hosts file that blocks all adservers and malware. So even if it did direct you to an evil site, it would be blocked.
    • AdBlock Plus + OpenDNS = I haven't seen an ad online in over 9 months. My life is better now.
    • I get a little thrill of victory every time I block one of those things, it's great.

      Who is pleased easily is pleased often.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tlhIngan (30335)

      http://adblockplus.org/en/ [adblockplus.org]

      Problem solved!

      Seriously, blocking ads and javascript and flash stuff is like a game for me now, I get a little thrill of victory every time I block one of those things, it's great.

      May I suggest a solution that's better, and doesn't leech?

      Try NoScript - http://noscript.net/ [noscript.net]

      It doesn't leech since static banner ads load up just fine, but NoScript blocks flash, java, and other plug-ins (PDF, etc) by default. It also disables javascript on a per-domain basis (plus detects and blocks X

  • by keeboo (724305) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @10:14PM (#24667633)
    Well I accessed the page under Linux and Firefox 2 and the following things happened:

    The middle mouse button pastes as usual.
    The hijacked content only appeared with CTRL-V.

    All I need to do is to close the page tab and it's gone.

    Disappointing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by marxmarv (30295)

      I think that's an X11 anachronism you're dealing with there. No idea why it still exists in 2008.

    • by jesser (77961)

      FWIW, there's a Firefox bug that lets sites hijack your 'primary' clipboard (the one that middle mouse clicks paste). See bug 265868. So you're not safe just by avoiding Ctrl+V yet.

  • by YeeHaW_Jelte (451855) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @10:24PM (#24667729) Homepage

    ... on this old system with SuSE 9.1, FF 2.0.014, flash 7.

    Hoorah for lazy upgrading ;)

  • evil (Score:2, Insightful)

    by duckInferno (1275100)
    Just further proof that Adobe Flash is evil.
  • iPhone (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Now we know why the iPhone has no copy/paste support. It's a security issue!

  • Whew. (Score:4, Funny)

    by rascher (1069376) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @10:59PM (#24668035)

    Its about time they start making software that runs on Linux too.

  • Most computer users don't even know that Windoze has a clipboard, let alone know how to press Ctrl-V to do something with it, nevermind getting some program to actually follow the link.

    It looks like a big ball of nothing to me.

  • Just a loop (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Twillerror (536681) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @11:17PM (#24668155) Homepage Journal

    Okay so the flash ad just copies something to the clipboard in a loop. Closing the tab or browser stops this. I suppose if you are running your browser in the background this would be very annoying and you wouldn't know.

    Today firefox and IE prompt if you want to use the clipboard from javascript, but it used to not be this way. I'm sure Adobe will patch this soon enough.

    This is like old popups...and oversight that is being exploited by the annoying "internet bully". It's like getting a wet willing or you head stuffed in a toilet.

    The issue is here that both Flash and the underlying operating system don't have any kind of cut and paste protection. X, Mac OS X, and XP/Vista should not allow a program to copy and paste the same dam string to the clipboard over and over. Really kind of annoying that we have to spend so many human hours fixing "problems" like this...but such is life I suppose.

  • FireFox, Adblock, NoScript, all latest versions, and the flipping thing didn't work. I'm not concerned.

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday August 19, 2008 @11:49PM (#24668443) Homepage Journal

    So now it seems that Linux's nonintegrated multiple clipboards and their UIs (Ctrl-c, and select/middle-click) are a security feature, not a bug.

  • Same Ol' Same Ol' (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @12:53AM (#24668889) Journal

    Once again we see the serious consequences of allowing a single company to serve a proprietary solution which opens up browsers and the platforms they run on to serious security flaws. This is ActiveX Part Deux, or perhaps Son of ActiveX.

    To some extent I blame the guys writing the browsers. They're the ones letting plugins and extensions to have this much control over clipboards. The solution here is obvious, though Adobe may not like it, but at this point I think Adobe's concerns shouldn't even enter the equation.

In specifications, Murphy's Law supersedes Ohm's.

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