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About.com Cross Site Scripting

About.com Cross Site Scripting
Posted Feb 2, 2015
Authored by Jing Wang

All "topic sites" on about.com suffer from cross site scripting and iframe injection vulnerabilities. The researcher has reported this to about.com but they have not responded nor addressed the issues since October, 2014.

tags | exploit, vulnerability, xss
SHA-256 | 6b185b212d9c7e8b5cca27a8726c53efde81fba88595fbd45215392b45fc3395

About.com Cross Site Scripting

Change Mirror Download
*About Group (about.com <http://about.com>) All Topics (At least 99.88%
links) Vulnerable to XSS & Iframe Injection Security Attacks, About.com
Open Redirect Security Vulnerabilities*

*Vulnerability Description:*
About.com all "topic sites" are vulnerable to XSS (Cross-Site Scripting)
and Iframe Injection (Cross Frame Scripting) attacks. This means all
sub-domains of about.com are affected. Based on a self-written program,
94357 links were tested. Only 118 links do not belong to the topics
(Metasites) links. Meanwhile, some about.com main pages are vulnerable to
XSS attack, too. This means no more than 0.125% links are not affected. At
least 99.875% links of About Group are vulnerable to XSS and Iframe
Injection attacks. In fact, for about.com's structure, the main domain is
something just like a cover. So, very few links belong to them.

Simultaneously, the About.com main page's search field is vulnerable to XSS
attacks, too. This means all domains related to about.com are vulnerable to
XSS attacks.

For the Iframe Injection vulnerability. They can be used to do DOS
(Denial-of-Service Attack) to other websites, too.

In the last, some "Open Redirect" vulnerabilities related to about.com are
introduced. There may be large number of other Open Redirect
Vulnerabilities not detected. Since About.com are trusted by some the other
websites. Those vulnerabilities can be used to do "Covert Redirect" to
these websites.

*Vulnerability Disclosure:*
Those vulnerabilities were reported to About on Sunday, Oct 19, 2014. No
one replied. Until now, they are still unpatched.

*Vulnerability Discover:*
Wang Jing, Division of Mathematical Sciences (MAS), School of Physical and
Mathematical Sciences (SPMS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU),

*(1) Some Basic Background*

*(1.1) Domain Description:*

"For March 2014, 61,428,000 unique visitors were registered by comScore for
About.com, making it the 16th-most-visited online property for that month."
(The New York Times)

"About.com, also known as The About Group (formerly About Inc.), is an
Internet-based network of content that publishes articles and videos about
various subjects on its "topic sites," of which there are nearly 1,000. The
website competes with other online resource sites and encyclopedias,
including those of the Wikimedia Foundation" (Wikipedia)

"As of May 2013, About.com was receiving about 84 million unique monthly
visitors." (TechCrunch. AOL Inc.)

"According to About's online media kit, nearly 1,000 "Experts" (freelance
writers) contribute to the site by writing on various topics, including
healthcare and travel." (About.com)

*(1.2) Topics Related to About.com*
"The Revolutionary About.com Directory and Community Metasite. Hundreds of
real live passionate Guides covering Arts, Entertainment, Business,
Industry, Science, Technology, Culture, Health, Fitness, Games,Travel,
News, Careers, Jobs, Sports, Recreation, Parenting, Kids, Teens, Moms,
Education, Computers, Hobbies and Local Information." (azlist.about.com)

About.com - Sites A to Z
Number of Topics
A: 66
B: 61
C: 118
D: 49
E: 33
F: 57
G: 39
H: 48
I: 32
J: 15
K: 13
L: 36
M: 70
N: 26
O: 23
P: 91
Q: 4
R: 32
S: 104
T: 47
U: 12
V: 9
W: 43
X: 1
Y: 4
Z: 1
SUM: 1039


In fact, those are not all topics of about.com. Some of the topics are not
listed here such as,

So, there are more than 1000 topics related to about.com

*(1.3) Result of Exploiting XSS Attacks*
"Exploited XSS is commonly used to achieve the following malicious results
Identity theft
Accessing sensitive or restricted information
Gaining free access to otherwise paid for content
Spying on user’s web browsing habits
Altering browser functionality
Public defamation of an individual or corporation
Web application defacement
Denial of Service attacks (DOS)
" (Acunetix)

*(1.4) Basics of Iframe Injection (Cross-frame-Scripting) Vulnerabilities*
"In an XFS (Cross-frame-Scripting) attack, the attacker exploits a specific
cross-frame-scripting bug in a web browser to access private data on a
third-party website. The attacker induces the browser user to navigate to a
web page the attacker controls; the attacker's page loads a third-party
page in an HTML frame; and then JavaScript executing in the attacker's page
steals data from the third-party page." (OWASP)

"XFS also sometimes is used to describe an XSS attack which uses an HTML
frame in the attack. For example, an attacker might exploit a Cross Site
Scripting Flaw to inject a frame into a third-party web page; or an
attacker might create a page which uses a frame to load a third-party page
with an XSS flaw." (OWASP)

*(1.5) Basic of Open Redirect (Dest Redirect Privilege Escalation)
"An open redirect is an application that takes a parameter and redirects a
user to the parameter value without any validation. This vulnerability is
used in phishing attacks to get users to visit malicious sites without
realizing it." (OWASP)

Open redirect is listed in OWASP top 10. The general consensus of it is
"avoiding such flaws is extremely important, as they are a favorite target
of phishers trying to gain the user's trust."

*(2) About Group About.com All Topics (At least 99.88% links) Vulnerable to
XSS (Cross-Site Scripting) Security Attacks*

*Vulnerability description:*

A method was found to attack users of About.com based XSS attacks.

All links under the topics of about.com can be used for this attack.

Just attach "/lr/" to any About.com's sub-domains. Then attach "any codes +
sciript" or attach "script" code directly is OK. The structure is "

The vulnerability can be attacked without user login. Tests were performed
on Mozilla Firefox (26.0) in Ubuntu (14.04) and Microsoft IE (9.0.15) in
Windows 7.

*POC Codes, e.g.*

*POC Video:*

*Blog Detail:*

*(3) About Group About.com Main Page's Search Field XSS (Cross-Site
Scripting) Security Vulnerabilities*

*Vulnerability description:*

About Group has a security problem. It can be exploited by XSS (cross site
scripting) attacks.

The vulnerability occurs at about.com main page's search field, e.g.

*POC Codes, e.g.*
"--/>"><img src=x onerror=prompt(/tetraph/)>
http://www.about.com/?q="--/>"><img src=x onerror=prompt(/tetraph/)>

*POC Video:*

*Blog Details:*

*(4) About Group About.com All Topics (At least 99.88% links) Vulnerable to
Iframe Injection (Cross Frame Scripting) Security Attacks*

*Vulnerability description:*
About Group has a security problem. It can be exploited by Iframe Injection
(Cross Frame Scripting) attacks.

The vulnerability occurs at about.com "offsite.htm" page with "zu"
parameter, e.g.

Use "http://whitehatpost.blog.163.com/" for the following test.

The vulnerabilities can be attacked without user login. Tests were
performed on Microsoft IE (10.0.9200.16750) of Windows 8, Mozilla Firefox
(34.0) & Google Chromium 39.0.2171.65-0 ubuntu0. (64-bit) of
Ubuntu (14.04),Apple Safari 6.1.6 of Mac OS X Lion 10.7.

*Vulnerable URLs:*


*POC Video:*

*Blog Details:*

*(5) About (about.com <http://about.com>) Open Redirect Multiple (Dest
Redirect Privilege Escalation) Security Vulnerabilities*

The vulnerabilities can be attacked without user login. Tests were
performed on Microsoft IE (10.0.9200.16750) of Windows 8, Mozilla Firefox
(34.0) & Google Chromium 39.0.2171.65-0 ubuntu0. (64-bit) of
Ubuntu (14.04),Apple Safari 6.1.6 of Mac OS X Lion 10.7.

Use one of webpages for the following tests. The webpage address is "
http://www.inzeed.com/kaleidoscope/". Suppose that this webpage is

*Vulnerable URL 1:*



*Vulnerable URL 2:*


*Vulnerable URL 3:*


*POC Video:*

*Blog Details:*

*Blog Details:*

Wang Jing,
Division of Mathematical Sciences (MAS),
School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (SPMS),
Nanyang Technological University (NTU),

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