LMS Security Threats

by Evnisha Malani
on October 27, 2017

Your learning management system contains sensitive credentials, personal information and data. Keeping your LMS safe is an important task for the company that is involved in its processing and smooth functioning. Looking back in time, we all know how Yahoo, Adobe, LinkedIn, DropBox, eBay etc companies have been intimidated by a breach in their cyber network. With growing number of black hat hackers, cyber security has become an important aspect in the world of modern computing.

Today we are going to talk about your LMS’s security, and how necessary it is to keep a check on its vulnerabilities. We are aware how you rely on your Learning Management System to teach your students, deliver informative webinars, conduct tests and quizzes that mark your student’s progress. It is really important that your LMS is kept secure and safe to avoid any kind of interference with your work. And, the only way it can be achieved is by taking necessary security measures. Let’s discuss some LMS vulnerabilities that can adversely affect your teaching platform and how you can avoid them-

Security Certificates

What is an SSL Certificate?

An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate is a digitally bind cryptographic key that is used to encrypt all transmitted data. A proper SSL certificate also provides proper authentication, one can feel completely secure when they are sending personal or sensitive information online through a website that has valid SSL certificate. The SSL Certificate not only keeps your data safe, it even saves you from probable data thefts. Basically, SSL is the standard security link established in order to create an encrypted link between the user and the server.

What happens when website SSL certificate Expires?

When your security certificate expires your online transactions will no longer be secure, it can be intercepted by third party. Making a transaction through a web page with no SSL certificate may increases chances of phishing attacks.

A cyberpunk attack can be dangerous for your students personal information and their card details. If your SSL certificate is found expired, it can even raise many questions on your reputation and can affect sales of your learning management system.

What to do when your website’s SSL Certificate expires?

You can renew your website’s SSL certificate 90 days before it expires. In case you were not able to renew it, the first thing to do is, generate a new CSR (Certificate Signing Request) code. Once you have generated the CSR code a confirmation mail will find its way to your registered email address. As soon as you receive the mail, all you have to do is select your mode of payment, accept service agreement and you are good to go.

Cross Site Scripting (XSS)

What is XSS ?

Cross Site Scripting (XSS) is a forced fed code which is usually injected in the program or website. XSS manipulates victims scripts and web applications in a manner desired and designed by the attacker. With the help of XSS hackers can execute scripts on victims browser. The code allows the attacker to manipulate victims website, user sessions, and in many cases force user to log into a malicious website. XSS is one of the most common methods used by modern hackers to heckle websites and personal data.

What happens when an (XSS) code is injected?

When you visit a website infected by XSS codes injections, it will allow hackers to conduct an unauthenticated remote attack followed by a series of cross-site scripting attacks. XSS code injections allow the hacker to hijack your cookies and enact your online behaviour. XSS codes are a major threat as they are highly capable of leaking your data online. A black hat with access to your personal data can make your life miserable and can even affect your LMS users personal data.

What to do when you find out an (XSS) code has been injected to your website?

Finding an XSS exploit is a complex task, one can find these threatening codes injected in their website and application script through heavy debugging. The scariest part is, most of the XSS infections are fed by coders and administrators as they are unaware of code sources. Not all coders write their own codes. In many cases coders and developers end up copying codes from different sources and some of these codes are injected with XSS fragments. Debug the code before using copying it from untrusted sources.

To make sure that you don’t invite XSS threats to your website or web application, always follow these rules-

Rule 1 — Never ever put in untrusted codes and data on your website. There are many complications which may arise with your HTML base. If you are planning to put in a code on your website which is from untrusted sources, make sure you test it on different platforms and browsers.

Rule 2 — Always put untrusted data in quotes “data value”. Including this data in other scripts can be dangerous. Avoid using escaping short cuts or the quote character, it may match the HTML attribute parser which is primarily executed.

Rule 3 — Always focus on generating data dynamically. Though it is a tricky process, escape it correctly without breaking the format or the values.

Rule 4 — Sanitize HTML markup with verified library. To do this you will need a OWASP to clean your HTML formatted text. This will add to a layer of protection.

Rule 5 — Use HTTPOnly cookie flag, this process will migrate XSS flaws and will not be accessible through javascripts. This cookie flag is typically turned on in .NET apps, but in other languages you have to activate it manually.

Rule 6 — Always use an auto escaping template system. AngularJS’s strict contextual escaping tool is quite helpful for this process.

Rule 7 — Always use an X-XSS protection response header. Modern web browsers come pre-installed with these and they are pre-enabled to secure the integrity of the user.

Cross Site Request forgery (CSRA)

What is CSRA?

CSRA (Cross Site Request Forgery) involves stealing information from a user by intruding their personal space masked as a trusted user. The trick is mostly used by hackers who wish to conduct fraudulent financial transactions. The worst part of a CSRA attack is, the user won’t be able to figure out that they are under attack till the damage is done. Through CSRA forgery one can be tricked into sending HTTP requests and send sensitive personal information to the hackers. A CSRA attack is quite sophisticated, it allows the intruder to gain access to your cookies and authentication data. Allowing intruder to make a heavy collateral damage to your financial assets.

What happens when you are under Cross Site Request forgery (CSRA) attack?

Under CSRA attack the user might find it hard to access their email ids, and other personal accounts (depending on the intensity of the attack). In most cases the affected id holder either finds his password altered or in worst-case scenario, finds his bank accounts drained.

The one thing you can do, if you find yourself under such attack is try and find the user who is attempting to get in your personal space. The attacks are socially engineered, so the victim will click on the link or the webpage and grant attacker access through bait.

How can you protect yourself from Cross Site Request Forgery attack?

There are quite many steps one can take to secure your web application from such attacks and threats.

  1. Disable scripting on your browser, use plugins like no script, that makes CSRF hazards difficult to exploit.
  2. Log off as soon as you are done using your browser.
  3. Don’t save username and password on your browser, better remember it by yourself.
  4. Log off immediately after making a bank transaction, it will reduce the risk of getting attacked under CSRF protocol.
  5. Use alternate browser or incognito mode to make online payments, to secure your transaction process.

Insecure Direct Object Preference

What is Insecure Direct Object Preference?

Insecure Direct Object Preference (IDOP) attacks involve masking hackers identity as an admin to bypass authorization process to access system files. The attack is focused on crippling system functions that reduces authorization check, putting the whole database at risk.

What happens when you are attacked through an Insecure Direct Object Preference?

Under an IDOR attack, the victim is guided to a page which looks identical to the page they wish to access. In this process the attacker lures the victim to a page, where the victim fills in his personal details and passwords, allowing hackers to conduct phishing attacks. The attacker can also send data packets than can leverage access to victim’s computer from time to time (till the time, the vulnerability is not fixed or removed). Poor and unmanaged network systems are always late to find out if they have been attacked by an IDOP.

What to do if you are attacked by Insecure Direct Object Preference fatality?

The first thing that you need to do is block out the whole network, even if it means taking a hit on your financials. If you think otherwise, imagine what will happen by the time you reach the root of the IDOP attack.

Once the network is locked down, analyze “all” the log files, if you are in a hurry to get back up, wipe all authorizations off the grid and reauthorize every entity. Once you are done with this process, re-access your network so every activity is being logged.

Activate parts of network, check logs, iterate till you have traced the point of attack. The root cause might be, your code, your network or your people!

How can you protect yourself from Insecure Direct Object Preference attacks?

There are two ways you can protect yourself from Insecure Direct Object Preference attacks.

  1. You can turn off direct object compliance, unabling hackers to directly contact your computer. After implementing this preventive measure, an Insecure Direct Object Preference Attack is less likely to happen.
  2. You can add compliances to your computer to access controls. There are security processes for most frameworks to help developers implement this approach. The system has to be carefully configured to achieve this goal, in order to secure your computer.

These tips and points will help you keep your LMS and web application safe and secure on the long run. There are many different ways a black hat can threaten your computer and your personal information. Keeping up with modern prevention methods will surely help you through.

In case of a network breach, always remember your clients and users are at a risk too. Get your PR team off their chairs and have them reach out to customers and influencers, this will surely help you allay down panic mode.



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