JavaScript botnet code leaked to Internet

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 a security conference last month.

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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 security conference.

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

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 grab a copy.

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

Schroll posted the code to his Web site 25 March 25, and submitted a link to the source 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 with WhiteHat Security. "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 copying and releasing the Jikto code. "He probably did what any curious individual would have done," he said. "I really can't fault someone for being curious because that's what my job is."

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