Robin Hood Gone Evil: Loophole Leading To Cloud Pickpocketing Identified

Robin Hood Gone Evil: Loophole Leading To Cloud Pickpocketing Identified

Researchers at North Carolina State university and University of Oregon have proposed a jaw-dropping price tag for performing heavy duty cloud computing task – as low as zero dollars. Experiments reveal that cloud-based web browsers can be exploited to hijack the underlying computational power, and that as well, in total anonymity.

The result could be as unforgivable as cloud computing time theft of mammoth proportions. The pickpocketed resources, once fallen into the wrong hands, can be used for just about anything, including brute force password crack attempts, denial of service attacks and other genres of cycle-hungry attacks.

Contrary to relying upon the end-user’s device to perform the number crunching, cloud-based browsers make the most out of cloud resources to process and deliver web pages. This functionality of cloud-based browsers (likes of Opera Mini, Amazon Silk and Puffin) can be imitated by creating customized variants that have the potential to trick servers into performing word counts, string parsing, text search and other tasks for free. The above is accomplished by a neat hack termed as the browser MapReduce, BMR.

BMR spawns from Google’s MapReduce, an alternative mechanism to manage parallel processing of utterly large datasets. In simple words, Browser MapReduce operates by amassing free JavaScript processing cycles, in unison with a punctilious scheduling plan to effectively work around the processing bounds enforced originally by the cloud-browser providers.

The team has proved their point by saving chunks of data on URL-shortening sites, effectually deceiving them and the cloud browser providers into processing about 100MB of data for free. “What we were able to do was chain together a bunch of requests to make a larger computation“, Enck, the primary research investigator, explained.

Things are not all gloomy though. The team also presented ways to fix the cloud exploitation problem, the most effective requiring a check on the number of requests that can be directed towards the core server cluster originating from a single user. A user-authentication mechanism built into the browser should do the trick pretty well. Enck pointed out that “Instead of allowing anyone on the Internet to make requests of their servers, end users should have accounts.”

Such a methodology would allow for the service providers to notice whenever one account is generating requests that are enormously volumetric for a genuine human user. The team is all set to present their research findings at the Annual Computer Security Alliance summit to be held in the first week of December 2012.

The title of the research work, “Abusing Cloud-Based Browsers for Fun and Profit” almost says it all – cloud security measures associated with mobile devices require further fortification.

Loopholes of such sort continue to assist the bad guys in using cloud computing horsepower for not-so-noble purposes. Its about time that cloud-browser service providers take note of such weak links in the mobile cloud computing chain before the tables are turned on them.

By Humayun Shahid

About Humayun

With degrees in Communication Systems Engineering and Signal Processing, Humayun currently works as a lecturer at Pakistan's leading engineering university. The author has an inclination towards incorporating quality user experience design in smartphone and web applications.

View All Articles

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.

Connecting With Customers In The Cloud

Connecting With Customers In The Cloud

Customers in the Cloud Global enterprises in every industry are increasingly turning to cloud-based innovators like Salesforce, ServiceNow, WorkDay and Aria, to handle critical systems like billing, IT services, HCM and CRM. One need look no further than Salesforce’s and Amazon’s most recent earnings report, to see this indeed is not a passing fad, but…

Having Your Cybersecurity And Eating It Too

Having Your Cybersecurity And Eating It Too

The Catch 22 The very same year Marc Andreessen famously said that software was eating the world, the Chief Information Officer of the United States was announcing a major Cloud First goal. That was 2011. Five years later, as both the private and public sectors continue to adopt cloud-based software services, we’re interested in this…

Despite Record Breaches, Secure Third Party Access Still Not An IT Priority

Despite Record Breaches, Secure Third Party Access Still Not An IT Priority

Secure Third Party Access Still Not An IT Priority Research has revealed that third parties cause 63 percent of all data breaches. From HVAC contractors, to IT consultants, to supply chain analysts and beyond, the threats posed by third parties are real and growing. Deloitte, in its Global Survey 2016 of third party risk, reported…

Lavabit, Edward Snowden and the Legal Battle For Privacy

Lavabit, Edward Snowden and the Legal Battle For Privacy

The Legal Battle For Privacy In early June 2013, Edward Snowden made headlines around the world when he leaked information about the National Security Agency (NSA) collecting the phone records of tens of millions of Americans. It was a dramatic story. Snowden flew to Hong Kong and then Russia to avoid deportation to the US,…

The Rise Of BI Data And How To Use It Effectively

The Rise Of BI Data And How To Use It Effectively

The Rise of BI Data Every few years, a new concept or technological development is introduced that drastically improves the business world as a whole. In 1983, the first commercially handheld mobile phone debuted and provided workers with an unprecedented amount of availability, leading to more productivity and profits. More recently, the Cloud has taken…

Digital Twin And The End Of The Dreaded Product Recall

Digital Twin And The End Of The Dreaded Product Recall

The Digital Twin  How smart factories and connected assets in the emerging Industrial IoT era along with the automation of machine learning and advancement of artificial intelligence can dramatically change the manufacturing process and put an end to the dreaded product recalls in the future. In recent news, Samsung Electronics Co. has initiated a global…

How To Humanize Your Data (And Why You Need To)

How To Humanize Your Data (And Why You Need To)

How To Humanize Your Data The modern enterprise is digital. It relies on accurate and timely data to support the information and process needs of its workforce and its customers. However, data suffers from a likability crisis. It’s as essential to us as oxygen, but because we don’t see it, we take it for granted.…

How The CFAA Ruling Affects Individuals And Password-Sharing

How The CFAA Ruling Affects Individuals And Password-Sharing

Individuals and Password-Sharing With the 1980s came the explosion of computing. In 1980, the Commodore ushered in the advent of home computing. Time magazine declared 1982 was “The Year of the Computer.” By 1983, there were an estimated 10 million personal computers in the United States alone. As soon as computers became popular, the federal government…

Achieving Network Security In The IoT

Achieving Network Security In The IoT

Security In The IoT The network security market is experiencing a pressing and transformative change, especially around access control and orchestration. Although it has been mature for decades, the network security market had to transform rapidly with the advent of the BYOD trend and emergence of the cloud, which swept enterprises a few years ago.…