Report highlights several security issues within HealthCare.gov

TrustedSec report cites vulnerabilities including open redirection, XML injection

While most of them have been fixed, a report recently delivered to Congress highlighted several security problems on Healthcare.gov, most of which could've easily been addressed by a basic security check. Said check didn't happen however, as HealthCare.gov was given a security waiver prior to launch.

[Missing standards created integration struggles with Healthcare.gov]

Earlier this month, CBS News discovered that the final security checks for HealthCare.gov were delayed three times. Eventually, the Obama administration granted itself a waiver, and launched the key website for the Affordable Healthcare Act with a level of uncertainty that was regarded as high risk.

Following that story, CSO spoke with Kyle Adams, the chief software architect for Junos WebApp Secure at Juniper Networks, who examined HealthCare.gov as well as other healthcare websites managed by Kentucky, Vermont, and Maryland. HealthCare.gov, when examined by Adams, produced errors that suggest buggy code, raising a red flag, as buggy code often means vulnerable code.

"The likely first and most popular attacks will be cross-site scripting (XSS), SQL injection, cross-site request forgery (CSRF) and Open Redirection. Some of the sites did in fact have signs of CSRF protection, but not all of them. I think the first round of exploits we are likely to see will involve phishing. For example, if an attacker finds an XSS, CSRF, or open redirect, all of those would allow them to launch extremely effective phishing campaigns," Adams explained at the time.

In a report presented to a Republican-sponsored hearing by the House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee, Dave Kennedy, the CEO of TrustedSec LLC, reported some of those exact flaws.

TrustedSec's report, available for download here, highlighted one of the same flaws that Adams was concerned about. One of the vulnerabilities from the report is open redirection; a flaw that enables an attacker to redirect visitors to a domain simply by clicking a link, which is a ready-made phishing attack vector.

One likely attack would see a person clicking on a HelthCare.gov link that is by all normal views legitimate, but the final part of the URL points to "[...]proxy.php?url=http://[...]" — where the attacker would link their own domain.

[Healthcare.gov will eventually be functional, but how secure?]

The TrustedSec report also singles out other basic security errors including XML injection, test domains that were left exposed to the public, user profiles that were exposed to the public, information being shared with third-parties not related to government (including a separate listing for data shared with Experian), publically available file upload scripts (jQuery.js), and HTML5 issues related to cross-origin sharing.

In his testimony during the hearing, Kennedy remarked that based on what he could see, HealthCare.gov is "either hacked already, or soon will be."

However, at least one person questioned the report, and how it was presented. Jeffery Carr, known for his stance on Stuxnet that it originated in China, and his book "Inside Cyber Warfare" took issue with the TrustedSec report, calling Kennedy's actions questionable.

He went on to infer that Kennedy's testimony and report were done in order to "to support a Right-wing political agenda," adding that "If he had done that against a private company, he'd be sued."

Later, Carr lowered his tone, explaining that he wasn't calling Kennedy unethical, but trying to say that what he did, "raises questions in my mind about what is currently considered to be ethical in the security field."

The change in tone seems to have come after various other security experts, including Kennedy himself, entered into a charged debate online. The comments in the original blog previously referenced, and a follow-up post on the TrustedSec report by Carr, are — as one observer told CSO — a perfect example of why politics and InfoSec do not mix.

While TrustedSec's actions are clearly within the scope of ethical testing, and the disclosures made to the House (including those not made public) were responsible, the larger question remains\ — will the government be able to fix HealthCare.gov?

Unfortunately, many security experts are of the logical mindset that functional doesn't equate to secure. So if the site is eventually cured of all security problems, that won't happen any time soon and it certainly won't happen within the next eight days.

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