GDPR Compliance: How Continuous Vulnerability Scanning is Key

Even months after interest in GDPR compliance peaked, some companies are struggling to make sure they comply with this new set of regulations aimed at protecting the privacy and security of European citizens. The regulation applies to businesses anywhere as long as their users are in the EU, and with the highest penalties potentially reaching the millions of euros, they’re right to worry.

Take the case of British Airways for example. On September 6th, 2018 the airline announced that it had suffered a breach that affected around 380,000 users, and that part of the stolen data included personal and payment information.

Now, although we don’t know the fine that will be levied on British Airways, under GDPR a violation such as this one may lead to a fine of 20 million or up to 4% of a company’s annual turnover in the previous year (whichever is higher), which for BA could reach about £489 million (US$633 million) based on 2017 figures.

A similar case is that of Marriott. In November 2018 they announced that they had been a victim of an attack that compromised the data of 500 million users. Marriott’s annual turnover in 2017 was US$22.9 billion.

More recently, Google has been the target of a 50 million fine in France for failing to provide enough information to users about its data consent policies and not giving them enough control over how their information is used.

Often when we read about GDPR, it may sound like it’s all about notifications (letting users know what kind of data the company is using and how it will be used and notifying them of security breaches in a timely fashion), but if these cases show us anything it’s that companies will be under scrutiny not only for how they use their customer’s data but also how they protect it. This is where early detection and prevention of security vulnerabilities is key.

Article 32 of the GDPR provides that businesses must

“implement appropriate technical and organisational measures to ensure a level of security appropriate to the risk, including […] as appropriate: […] a process for regularly testing, assessing and evaluating the effectiveness of technical and organisational measures for ensuring the security of the processing.”

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These are the 10 web vulnerabilities most frequently found by Hackmetrix

After having run thousands of scans on Hackmetrix we can finally say we officially know the 10 most common vulnerabilities we’ve found across every site we scanned.

The purpose of the article is to be a source of information for users who have found any of these on their sites, to encourage site owners to check their online properties for any of these, and to provide a line or two on how to fix them wherever possible.

If you’re not sure how to check your site for any of the vulnerabilities mentioned here, then a free Hackmetrix account could be a good start. It only takes a minute to sign up and you’ll have your first report in just a couple hours.

As time goes by we’ll also be expanding on each of these with more in-depth guides explaining each of these issues and how to solve them.

Let’s get to it!

  1. Absence of Anti-CSRF Tokens – Risk: Low

Our most frequently found vulnerability is (luckily?) not a high risk one. Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF), is a type of attack that tricks a user’s browser into performing an unwanted action on a trusted site where the user is authenticated, and it works even if the user doesn’t have that site open at the time.

This works because of the trusting nature of web browsers. A browser doesn’t check to see if an outgoing request is going out from a specific domain, and so in a similar way you might be able to tweet or check an Instagram post from an external website, a more ill-meaning site could use an open session in one of those sites to post, or take some other action, on your account without you ever noticing.

For example, let’s say you regularly check Twitter and so your session on that site remains open (an open session is what makes it possible for you to open a new tab and go to twitter.com and see your feed without having to log in every time). While you’re checking your friends’ tweets you click on a very enticing link to a questionnaire to find out what kind of fast food you are. Irresistible.

That questionnaire though, holds hidden and nefarious intentions, and as soon as you click a button on it to see the results it takes advantage of your open session on Twitter to tweet on your behalf a link to itself and follow a bunch of unknown accounts. This without you ever consenting, or finding out until you look at your own feed.

Now take that and imagine it being used on, instead of Twitter, a bank account. CSRF is a common problem, and one of the ways it can be prevented is by using =&2=&.

Using an anti-CSRF token would mean that each time a website loads it includes a unique string of characters, then when a request is made (in our example that would be each time you try perform some action on Twitter), the server expects to receive that same token back, and if it doesn’t then it will refuse to perform the action requested. You can see then why it’s highly recommended to implement an Anti-CSRF Token, and why not doing so is considered a vulnerability.

=&3=&=&4=& Read more

November: New launch and what we’ve been up to

We have entered the final stretch and we want to provide everyone in our community with an update on our progress and upcoming plans. Back in July we outlined a set of initiatives and have made significant progress on them since.

Our roadmap is driven by insights derived from feedback that we’ve received from the community across various channels. This past July, we hosted BeerJS in our offices to bring the JavaScript community together and encourage them to learn from one another. We also participated in EkoParty, the main cybersecurity conference in Latin America, and we won the hacking challenge created by our friends from FaradaySec.

Our Progress over the last three months

Developer Experience

Making Hackmetrix both powerful and simple to use is one of our highest priorities, and we have rolled out significant changes focused on your developer experience. The first change is the introduction of the Report Dashboard, making it faster to access common resources and information, as well as changes to the navigation with quick links to documentation. The second addition to our platform is the Recurring Scans feature, which allows you to make sure your site stays safe scheduling a periodic scan automatically. The third one is a one-click scan launcher, an easy way to start scanning immediately, and we plan on releasing improvements to the overall experience for better discoverability.

Authentication

We are excited to share that we are introducing support for HTTP Basic, Cookies and JWT Authentication. This allows us to make sure that we cover exactly the parts of your website that you think are important.

Development API

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Big Oops: Google+ to shut down after leaving up to 500,000 users exposed

  • A bug in the Google+ API left data like name, email address and gender of up to 500,000 users exposed
  • Google patched the issue earlier this year and didn’t find any evidence of the data being misused
  • This is the final nail in the coffin for Google+, which will be shut down by the end of 2019

In the past couple years we’ve seen a few giants either fall under scrutiny for how they’ve handled their user’s personal information –ahem-Facebook!-, or straight up had their user data held for ransom as was the case with Uber.

Now it seems it’s Google’s turn. The search giant left personal information exposed for more than a few users of its Google+ social network. How many users? Up to 500,000.

Oh My God Wow GIF

Luckily, it seems no one took advantage of the exposed data, so we should all be safe.

Phew!

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