Hacking Superbowl Ads

hackingIt was the SuperBowl XXXIV, and ABC decided to try something new called eTV, where they simultaneously linked the SuperBowl Internet site with the live TV broadcast. Scott had invited several friends over for the event. One was the CEO of a small software company. With eTV you could call the next play during the huddle and if you selected the same play as the real QB you got points. It was a compelling, and sticky, method for linking viewers to the event. During TV commercials the website would also feature the same commercial airing on TV. It was during one of these web commercials that Scott had noticed that one of the advertiser’s sites was running a Lotus Domino Server. Two years earlier Scott had a run in with the SVP at Lotus responsible for Domino when his team had exposed over fifty critical security holes in the platform by hacking Lotus’s own Domino hosted site.

Scott pointed out to his friend that this advertiser (NewBeginnings.com) was running Domino, he then keyed in a long cryptic URL. The next page displayed was the web server’s configuration database, in edit mode! Shocked that this bug had still existed two years after his team had reported it, Scott, then demonstrated how one could override the default action of Domino by creating an exception page within this database. Once established, Scott refreshed the page, and it showed that the change was permanent. Later when the server rebooted, it would have taken effect. Scott then backed out the change. He then explained that he could just as easily have mapped the entire website over to their competitor, and on reboot, they would be “virtually” out of business after having spent $250K of their VC’s money on a 30-second Superbowl ad.

It was two years later and Lotus still had their head in the sand regarding network security. In fact, while writing this piece in 2010, Scott did some further research and found an article still talking about some of the same serious security holes which were still in existence. Note all of these flaws in Domino can be mapped around if one invests the necessary time, and changes from the defaults to customized database settings.