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posted by janrinok on Thursday November 24, @12:12PM   Printer-friendly
from the lock-that-elephant-trunk-up-tight dept.

As the open source social media network grabs the spotlight as a Twitter replacement, researchers caution about vulnerabilities:

As Mastodon experiences explosive user growth as a replacement for Twitter, infosec experts are pointing out security holes in the social media network. From an anonymous server collecting user information to configuration errors that create vulnerabilities, the increased popularity of the platform is leading to increased scrutiny of its flaws.

Unlike other social media apps, which have a central authority, Mastodon is a federation of servers that can communicate with each other, but which are maintained and run separately by independent admins. That means different rules, different configurations, and sometimes different software versions could apply to different users and postings.

One of the most popular "instances" — the Mastodon term for individual servers/communities — for the cybersecurity community is infosec.exchange, and its members certainly scrutinize its configuration. Gareth Heyes (@gaz on infosec.exchange), a researcher at PortSwigger, uncovered an HTML injection vulnerability stemming from attributes of the specific software fork used.

In another example from a recent Security Week article, Lenin Alevski (@alevsk on infosec.exchange), a security software engineer at MinIO, pointed out a system misconfiguration that would allow him to download, modify, or delete everything in the instance's S3 cloud storage bucket.

Finally, researcher Anurag Sen (@hak1mlukha on infosec.exchange) discovered an anonymous server that was scraping Mastodon user data.


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  • (Score: 1) by Runaway1956 on Thursday November 24, @03:26PM (5 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Thursday November 24, @03:26PM (#1281490) Homepage Journal

    I thought he hijacked a Mastodon, put his name on it, then used it to censor opinions that differed from his own. That's not a great advertisement for Mastodon.

    --
    "no more than 8 bullets in a round" - Joe Biden
  • (Score: 0, Redundant) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 24, @04:13PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 24, @04:13PM (#1281496)

    Mastodon and all the other Fediverse software are open source, so what he did was fine. It talks using an open protocol (ActivityPub) and some Mastodon servers block the Parler instances with cries of "censorship and oppression!"

  • (Score: 5, Informative) by number11 on Thursday November 24, @08:16PM

    by number11 (1170) on Thursday November 24, @08:16PM (#1281520)

    Trump (or rather, his minions) did copy the software. Being OSS that's allowed, so long as Pravda Social gives credit, which after some tussle they started doing. Who knows, maybe Pravda will even make some improvement to the software that can be incorporated elsewhere. Not likely, but you never know. But Pravda is stand-alone, not part of the larger network, the Fediverse is unlikely to ever allow that.

    It's a little like the mass killer driving a Ford. It's not great for Ford, but it's not the point either.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 25, @05:12PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 25, @05:12PM (#1281608)

    I thought he hijacked a Mastodon, put his name on it, then used it to censor opinions that differed from his own. That's not a great advertisement for Mastodon.

    Not so much. Trump Social forked Mastodon for its own use, but didn't provide appropriate attribution [pcmag.com]. That's not hijacking.

    it's just like someone buying a gun to hunt with. They keep it locked up separate from ammunition and take it out to go hunting. Then there's someone who buys a gun to sell to criminals so they can shoot people.

    The guns themselves didn't make those decisions, rather the people interacting with those guns did.

    The same is true for Mastodon. When and how it's used is up to the folks who use/manage it. The software isn't responsible for how it's used. If Trump Social (or anyone else) is censoring (or not censoring), that's not the fault of Mastodon, is it?

    In fact, since anyone can set up their own Mastodon instance (as compared with twitter, FB, IG, etc.), it's more egalitarian than other platforms.

    Or did you miss that part?

    • (Score: 2, Funny) by Runaway1956 on Friday November 25, @07:46PM (1 child)

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Friday November 25, @07:46PM (#1281630) Homepage Journal

      So, basically, you're saying that anyone can set up a Mastodon instance, with which to harvest user data, and censor opinions that the administrator doesn't like. It isn't even necessary to make false claims of ownership, or authorship, or to even change the name of the Mastodon instance, like Trump did.

      Got it.

      --
      "no more than 8 bullets in a round" - Joe Biden
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 26, @04:17AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 26, @04:17AM (#1281683)

        Pretty much, yes, at least as far as I understand it. But other Mastodon/fediverse instances don't have to connect to it and can actively block them. Gab did that. They started out setting up a Mastodon instance (this after raising almost $6M in donations to write their own software, then just picked the open source code out there), but the majority of instances in the fediverse blocked them, so they left the fediverse and supposedly wrote their own backend.