IBM WebSphere is a software framework and middle ware that hosts Java-based web applications. This means that it’s similar to Adobe’s Flash Player, in a way that it allows Java-based applications to run on a web browser. This also means that since it hosts Java-based content, any and all information on sessions involving such applications will be taken note of, until the next time that the Java application is accessed. This threat is performed through inserting Java-based code on an application being ran, and this code is enough to send copies of information that’s been input towards a different location.
For example: you’re playing a Java-based game on your browser and made an in-game purchase. For these purchases to take effect, you will have to input your credit card information, as well as other personal information that they will keep on file. If the vulnerabilities on WebSphere have been exploited, a code has already been inserted towards the page wherein you input the said information, and sends copies of It to a location where the perpetrator has access to, hence, immediately putting your financial security at risk. This is a form of injected phishing that targets a specific platform, and millions have been victims of such an activity.
The reported affected versions of WebSphere are as follows:
- IBM WebSphere Application Server 9.0 versions prior to 22.214.171.124, with an interim fix on version 126.96.36.199 that has since been attacked
- IBM WebSphere Application Server 8.5 versions prior to 188.8.131.52, with an interim fix on version 184.108.40.206 that has since been attacked
- IBM WebSphere Application Server 8.0 versions prior to 220.127.116.11
- IBM WebSphere Application Server 7.0 versions prior to 18.104.22.168
The interim fixes have been attacked primarily due to government institutions making use of this platform. This issue is due to the unsafe handling of JAVA object de-serialization through the SOAP connector. An attacker can exploit this issue by sending a specially crafted object through the SOAP connector. Upon successful exploitation, the attacker can then have full privileges on the platform, which allows them to edit, create, delete and export data with no inhibitions. That’s a major threat.
There are several preventive measures that we can apply to try and mitigate the damage this can cause:
- Upgrade to the latest version of IBM WebSphere Application Server.
- Verify no unauthorized system modifications have occurred before applying any patches.
- Apply the principle of Least Privilege to all systems and services.
- Remind users not to visit websites or follow links that come from untrusted sources.
These are not absolute fixes, but these can help reduce the risk of being exposed to this vulnerability. Until IBM designs a vaccine for this threat, this would be our best course of action.