Security Threats to E-commerce:
E-Commerce security requirements can be studied by examining the overall process, beginning with the consumer and ending with the commerce server. Considering each logical link in the commerce chain, the assets that must be protected to ensure secure e-commerce include client computers, the messages travelling on the communication channel, and the web and commerce servers – including any hardware attached to the servers. While telecommunications are certainly one of the major assets to be protected, the telecommunications links are not the only concern in computer and e-commerce security. For instance, if the telecommunications links were made secure but no security measures were implemented for either client computers or commerce and web-servers, then no communications security would exist at all.
Client threats: Until the introduction of executable web content, Web pages were mainly static. Coded in HTML, static pages could do little more than display content and provide links to related pages with additional information. However, the widespread use of active content has changed this perception.
Malicious codes: Computer viruses, worms and trojan horses are examples of malicious code. A trojan horse is a program which performs a useful function, but performs an unexpected action as well. Virus is a code segment which replicates by attaching copies to existing executables. A worm is a program which replicates itself and causes execution of the new copy. These can create havoc on the client side.
Server-side masquerading: Masquerading lures a victim into believing that the entity with which it is communicating is a different entity. For example, if a user tries to log into a computer across the internet but instead reaches another computer that claims to be the desired one, the user has been spoofed. This may be a passive attack (in which the user does not attempt to authenticate the recipient, but merely accesses it), but it is usually an active attack.
Communication channel threats : The internet serves as the electronic chain linking a consumer (client) to an e-commerce resource. Messages on the internet travel a random path from a source node to a destination node. The message passes through a number of intermediate computers on the network before reaching the final destination. It is impossible to guarantee that every computer on the internet through which messages pass is safe, secure, and non-hostile.
Confidentiality threats: Confidentiality is the prevention of unauthorized information disclosure. Breaching confidentiality on the internet is not difficult. Suppose one logs onto a website – say www.anybiz.com – that contains a form with text boxes for name, address, and email address. When one fills out those text boxes and clicks the submit button, the information is sent to the web-server for processing. One popular method of transmitting data to a web-server is to collect the text box responses and place them at the end of the target server‘s URL. The captured data and the HTTP request to send the data to the server is then sent. Now, suppose the user changes his mind, decides not to wait for a response from the anybiz.com server, and jumps to another website instead – say www.somecompany.com. The server somecompany.com may choose to collect web demographics and log the URL from which the user just came (www.anybiz.com). By doing this, somecompany.com has breached confidentiality by recording the secret information the user has just entered.
Integrity threats: An integrity threat exists when an unauthorized party can alter a message stream of information. Unprotected banking transactions are subject to integrity violations. Cyber vandalism is an example of an integrity violation. Cyber vandalism is the electronic defacing of an existing website page. Masquerading or spoofing – pretending to be someone you are not or representing a website as an original when it really is a fake – is one means of creating havoc on websites. Using a security hole in a domain name server (DNS), perpetrators can substitute the address of their website in place of the real one to spoof website visitors. Integrity threats can alter vital financial, medical, or military information. It can have very serious consequences for businesses and people.
Availability threats: The purpose of availability threats, also known as delay or denial threats, is to disrupt normal computer processing or to deny processing entirely. For example, if the processing speed of a single ATM machine transaction slows from one or two seconds to 30 seconds, users will abandon ATM machines entirely. Similarly, slowing any internet service will drive customers to competitors‘ web or commerce sites.
Server threats: The server is the third link in the client-internet-server trio embodying the e-commerce path between the user and a commerce server. Servers have vulnerabilities that can be exploited by anyone determined to cause destruction or to illegally acquire information.
Web-server threats: Web-server software is designed to deliver web pages by responding to HTTP requests. While web-server software is not inherently high-risk, it has been designed with web service and convenience as the main design goal. The more complex the software is, the higher the probability that it contains coding errors (bugs) and security holes – security weaknesses that provide openings through which evildoers can enter.
Commerce server threats: The commerce server, along with the web-server, responds to requests from web browsers through the HTTP protocol and CGI scripts. Several pieces of software comprise the commerce server software suite, including an FTP server, a mail server, a remote login server, and operating systems on host machines. Each of this software can have security holes and bugs.
Database threats: E-commerce systems store user data and retrieve product information from databases connected to the web-server. Besides product information, databases connected to the web contain valuable and private information that could irreparably damage a company if it were disclosed or altered. Some databases store username/password pairs in a non-secure way. If someone obtains user authentication information, then he or she can masquerade as a legitimate database user and reveal private and costly information.
Common gateway interface threats: A common gateway interface (CGI) implements the transfer of information from a web-server to another program, such as a database program. CGI and the programs to which they transfer data provide active content to web pages. Because CGIs are programs, they present a security threat if misused. Just like web-servers, CGI scripts can be set up to run with their privileges set to high – unconstrained. Defective or malicious CGIs with free access to system resources are capable of disabling the system, calling privileged (and dangerous) base system programs that delete files, or viewing confidential customer information, including usernames and passwords.
Password hacking: The simplest attack against a password-based system is to guess passwords. Guessing of passwords requires that access to the complement, the complementation functions, and the authentication functions be obtained. If none of these have changed by the time the password is guessed, then the attacker can use the password to access the system.