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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: 4, Funny) by Snort on Thursday November 24, @03:45PM (4 children)

    by Snort (5141) on Thursday November 24, @03:45PM (#1281491)

    usenet with extra steps.

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  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 24, @04:58PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 24, @04:58PM (#1281501)

    ... in the same way as Teams, Discord etc are really just IRC with a fancy UI.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by driverless on Friday November 25, @05:50AM

      by driverless (4770) on Friday November 25, @05:50AM (#1281545)

      Teams isn't IRC with a fancy UI, Teams is like... when a French-speaking manager tried to describe IRC to an English-speaking manager and they had to communicate mostly through gestures, and at the same time the English-speaking manager had various ideas about all sorts of cool features that were needed based on some stuff his daughter talked about wanting for her Android tablet, something he heard in a TED talk, and vague memories of playing with an iPad in an airport lounge a year or two back.

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 24, @05:00PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 24, @05:00PM (#1281502)

    > usenet with extra steps.

    You're in good (err, fast) company, see: https://www.fastcompany.com/90807496/mastodon-servers [fastcompany.com] [warning, Privacy Badger reports 45 potential trackers blocked]

    I think that as Mastodon gets a more mainstream audience, we’ll see the process of spinning up a Mastodon server get easier. The third-party hosting service Masto.host was flooded with demand over the weekend, clearly showing that people want to take part. If it keeps up, general-interest cloud hosting companies like Vultr and DigitalOcean will probably start promoting one-click Mastodon installs, for example, as they do for Ghost, Minecraft, and WordPress.

    But for folks who find this state of affairs confusing, yes, it is. But historically, social communities have looked much more like Mastodon than they have Twitter. Usenet was built in exactly the same way. So was Yahoo! Chat, ICQ, and IRC. Twitter’s main innovation, in many ways, is that it combines all of these people into one giant public feed and lets users find their people, building interesting conversations from the collisions that this unusual state of affairs created. Eventually algorithms helped with this, but they also made people more comfortable with those contours, and Twitter was only taking steps to resolve this with groups.

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by Magic Oddball on Saturday November 26, @11:16AM

    by Magic Oddball (3847) on Saturday November 26, @11:16AM (#1281712) Journal

    The only real similarity is that it's decentralized... Usenet servers were set up to mirror the contents of each others' public newsgroups (or a subset of them, in addition to any local groups) so users would still see roughly the same content regardless of which server they connected to. Server-level content controls only existed in the forms of a) ".moderated" versions of newsgroups and b) a small percentage of specialized Usenet servers that only mirrored newsgroups that matched their specialty (e.g. Christian news).

    Mastodon is seemingly set up more like email, in that you can connect with an individual or apparently join server-specific discussions, but servers do not echo content and searching across servers isn't possible. Further, the majority of Mastodon servers will only allow connections to other servers that enforce extremely strict censorship rules [reason.com], which is obviously very different from other decentralized services of the past.