10 MLM software security vulnerabilities to consider & its solutions!

10 MLM software security vulnerabilities to consider & its solutions!

Nikhil Ravindran
24 Jul, 2019

The technology has grown in times and has become one of the most important factors for business growth. However, with immense growth, there comes more vulnerabilities and opens up loopholes as an invitation for hackers. MLM Software is no different and as the industry consists of millions of distributors & customers, it's a huge risk!

Yes, MLM Software helps one to minimize the difficulty arising in MLM business with the custom functionalities included in the package. Complete business is thus handled with just a single package but what if some malware or similar attack thrash the system? Millions of dollars flow in & out of the system and can you risk such plentiful of money with a cheap system that offers low-security measures? Obviously, you are not aware of the security issues in an MLM or direct selling software other than certain terminologies like the hacking stuff, ransomware attacks, malware, etc.

We gathered all the common vulnerabilities that might raise in a web-based package from the experts in the network security field. There are 10 must known security vulnerabilities one might face while dealing with a software package and we will guide you on how to deal with such situations without any terrifying moments of loss of data & money.

1. Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

One of the most common attacks that trigger the users to get in the trap from the attacker is CSRF. You click on an unknown link attached with the mail and then you lose your vital data stored in the browser even without your awareness of being attacked!

The attacking mode:

Usually, the method of being attacked works like the below,

  • The attacker creates a forged request through email
  • Someone clicks the link and become a prey
  • The attacker gets all the data of the prey from the browser cookie details
  • The attacker gains the victim’s credentials from the cookie & login to the system using the victim's identity. He gets full access to the private data stored in the system.
  • The entire data can be manipulated by the attacker after such a poor decision of clicking the link from an untrusted source or duplicate resource

In the case of an MLM Software, the users might get a false link and once the user clicks on it, boom, the data is stolen! Even the entire database might become vulnerable and it is necessary to get rid of this security issue during the software development stage itself!

The solution:

As we mentioned earlier, it will be very difficult to distinguish the forge and the real authentication request, the best method to have an ‘untouched’ true distinguishing factor is implementing Anti-CSRF tokens. The server calculates two separate tokens to find out the forgery, where one token is sent to the form as a hidden field and other with the cookie. Once the user submits the request, it will be sent back to the server. The server compares them both and validates them properly. If found mismatch/malicious then the request will be canceled and thus the attack will be thrown out of the radar.

2. Cross-site scripting (XSS)

Cross-site scripting (XSS)

Let us explain this type of attack in simple words, the attacker will attach a malicious code in the website script and once the user loads them in their website, they will become the victims of the attack.

The attacking mode:

Usually, a client-side code injection type of attack, the malicious script will be attached in the script and sent to the user in many ways. If this malicious script is executed then the private data will be open up to the attacker and it will then be easy to access the database.

These scripts will be sent to the user via email or through a fake page or an online advertisement. The code will be thus executed through the browser and will run every time the user calls this function.

Now you may wonder what is the difference between XSS and CSRF attack. Let us provide the reason, in CSRF, attacker aims to trick the user to make an unintended session request whereas XSS make the user execute the malicious code. Both of them are client-side attacks and intends to attack the users instead of directly exploring the server vulnerabilities.

The solution:

The best solution to get rid of XSS attack will be input validation and is considered as the best solution. The software must be coded well enough to validate data from trusted sources and rejects from the untrusted source. We’ll explain why it is important to have input validation in the next successful section.

3. Weak input forums

Weak input forums

If you are into direct selling business, you obviously have to fill in the necessary details for identity as well as the joining packages. There are instances where attackers exploit these input forums if it doesn’t have proper data validation.

The attacking mode:

If you are a new distributor and decided to join an MLM company then you have to fill up the basic details in the input forums (joining forums with KYC details). While you are filling in the forum, you must have come across certain fields where there are certain input limitations like special characters not allowed, no number value can be entered, etc.

You found a field to enter your name and while filling out, you have entered digits in between your name accidentally however, the field accepted the digits and the form is submitted. For a non-technical person, it isn’t a big issue but this is a point where attackers can come in and access the database with certain code attacks. These kinds of vulnerabilities will face a great threat and vulnerable to ‘sql injection’. If the software doesn’t care much about this fact then you may call it the biggest error and causes maximum security issues.

Attackers can easily crawl into the database in these weak set of input forms and the data values can be accessed. It can even access the admin data and reset admin credentials instantly. Any data can be easily modified, and if you are looking for an MLM software provider, you must be aware of this basic fact.

The solution:

Again, the best solution is data validation. Like in the case of XSS attack prevention, the best way to keep this basic issue away will be proper input validation. If a field needs just letters but not numerical values then the field must be validated in a way to accept only letters. If someone types in numbers, the field must not take them as it is never meant to be doing so. In this way, you can eliminate the easy intruder access away from the entire system.

The MLM Software providers are always keen to avoid such circumstances and provide such security measures.

4. DDoS attack

DDoS attack

Injecting huge traffic on a website and make the website unavailable to public access is the primary motto of this type of attack. There are different methods of DDoS attack and it is very difficult to recognize the genuine traffic from the traffic caused by the attack.

The attacking mode:

Flooding the website with unusual traffic creates panic in every business and it's too hard to accept in the direct selling business. As a matter of fact, lots of e-commerce business initiates with affiliate and direct selling programs to boost sales as well as the increase or widen the customer network. So the competitors might inject such volume of unwanted traffic and make their website unavailable for online customers. A business that hugely depends on a website faces a big loss due to this attack and they must be aware of this kind of attack.

  • HTTP flood: An HTTP request is a data request between the computers to communicate with each other and normally it's from the client end to the server end. When too many such requests get into the server, cause too many issues as there exist too many processing requests.
    The HTTP request comes from a web browser when it tries to communicate with the application. Standard URL requests are used in this scenario.
  • SYN flood: Yet another type of DDoS attack and they are somewhat similar in nature. These type of requests are accompanied by an acknowledgment after receiving the requested set of packets. Confirmation won’t be received from the other end if too many requests (packets) are sent and finally, there won’t be any answers which cause SYN flood.
  • DNS amplification: What if too much data is requested out and the server is obliged to respond with such marvel. Initially, the attacker requests for a larger volume of data but with certain amplification. Here, each DNS packet is sent using a special protocol extension (EDNS0 DNS) or a cryptographic feature to increase the packet size.
    The normal requests are thus amplified to a much bigger size and then the server resources are mostly used up in this way. You can imagine what will be the result of a usual DDoS attack were too many requests are initialized and what happens if such requests are increased in size. Because of this reason, tracking is very difficult!

These are certain ways to create excessive traffic to a website and the result will be a denial of service.

The solution:

Finding the source of such traffic is rather difficult and the best solution is rate-limiting. If too many unwanted requests come from a single source then the server can be set to block that particular IP address. The hit count is taken to stop the flooding and the software package providers must follow this up correctly. Having a web application firewall is the perfect method to minimize the issue and one must consider this scenario.

5. Weak file permissions

Weak file permissions

To access any files, you need to have special permissions set from the admin and thus distributors can enjoy such privileges.

The target file system must provide standard permissions from the root access and if not problems begin to arise.

The attacking mode:

As mentioned in the above section, weak file permissions on the files in the software system can be easily exploited by an attacker. If the directory permissions are weak, then one may call it as a security vulnerability! The one who seeks permission has to request access and after getting the permission granted, the server sees him/her as a user.

The attacker gets permission to change the file system and its details easily. Manipulations can be done easily and never forget the fact that the system consists of millions of users and their transaction records too.

The solution:

The file permissions have to be set very accurately and precisely to avoid any weaker connections in the system. Permissions have to set with right parameters and the restricted files are to be kept in that way that follows the privacy policies.

6. CMS security vulnerabilities

CMS security vulnerabilities

You must have heard about Drupal, Magento, WordPress, etc. These are certain platforms that offer CMS functionalities which let users to simply manage the whole content easily without the need of a dedicated webmaster. However, there are certain issues regarding these CMS platforms if they are not updated regularly.

The attacking mode:

If your MLM business is automated then there is an 80% probability that your software providers use a CMS platform. Those platforms are regularly met with updates and the team needs to update them with the latest versions. Usually, the new versions are provided to get away from the existing security vulnerabilities & usually, a security patch is provided in the later versions.

If not updated within a short span of time, the attackers will find the loopholes and explore those areas.

The solution:

The solution is simple and this has to be done from the developer end in the exact time. Your client must be aware of performing the updates if any available. It’s always important to carry out these updates if not the attackers utilize the opportunity to hack into your system and even wipe your digital wallet money or the worst case, the whole business amount from every user.

7. Control panel attack

Control panel attack

Cpanel, Plesk or similar kind of web control panels help to manage the web hosting services with many functionalities. Basically, its a web hosting management software tool to set up emails, configure FTP accounts, CDN’s, etc. However, there are certain vulnerabilities that might become loopholes to exploit from the intruders.

The attacking mode:

Do your web host team provide you Cpanel access to gain control of your website and server functionalities? If yes, then you might be familiar with them and if the answer is no then the web host team itself might be in control and you ask them to do it for you. But do you know about the security vulnerabilities caused by them?

Attackers might do the trick of accessing the URL from their end and hack into them with various methods like cross-site scripting (explained earlier), weak permissions and login credentials, shared server issues, etc. phpMyAdmin is also vulnerable to these attacks and the public availability of Cpanel address is a weak point of exploitation.

In simple words, alongside the advantages of having the access, there are certain loopholes too, in MLM business it’s important to keep the complete data inaccessible to the outside world and providing the maximum security is very much needed. If the attacker is able to break-in through via Cpanel then the complete server control can be easily gained alongside the database, basically, everything will be then with the control of the attacker!

The solution:

To keep things secure from all the vulnerabilities, the initial factor to consider will be regular updates. Just like performing the regular updates in developing platforms (CMS), Cpanel or similar hosting managing tool updates have to be carried out regularly.

The next security measure to perform will be providing a multi-factor authentication which is an additional layer of security to verify the user’s identity. Before the user gets the access of Cpanel or the web control panel one has to verify the identity first and if the user is verified then s/he will get the Cpanel URL access. Only verified users can access web host management functionality.

The next method is to hide the Cpanel link from intruders by setting proper permissions where valid users can only gain access.

These three methods can help an MLM system to get away from similar troubles and it's very recommended to follow every single method provided in the above section.

8. OS Command injection

OS Command injection

OS Command injection is one of the command-based attacks that might trigger security vulnerabilities in a software package. Arbitrary commands execution in host OS from an external source via vulnerable applications.

The attacking mode:

Command injection is also known as shell injection where attacker executes OS commands on the server that runs the application and is considered as a blind vulnerability among the list. Here the application doesn’t return output from the commands with an HTTP response.

Usually, the attack occurs once the app gets through unsafe cookies, forms, etc. This vulnerability will attack the server and connected roots if the permissions are not set correctly. The entire system might impact from this attack and determined once the website is faced with certain issues.

The solution:

The best method to get a solution from the command injection is to avoid user-controlled data from the OS commands. Reject inaccessible code and proper validation is necessary to get rid of the issue.

9. Buffer overflow

Buffer overflow

Usually, a buffer memory allocated to contain strings and integers with a specific size. Everything does have a specific capacity, isn’t it? What if more data is added to the buffer size, the data will overflow and a similar thing happens in a buffer overflow.

The attacking mode:

If too much data is stuffed in a buffer than its storage capacity then it causes an overflow. Data overflow to the adjacent storage and causes software crashes. In an MLM Software, it's important to have a neat and strong coding, if not these kinds of stuff cause security vulnerabilities.

The software will crash once the buffer overflow occurs and often the adjacent storages get over-written from this cause. It opens up a weak point to the attackers and they can easily find such vulnerabilities as there exist many website scanning tools. Attackers can use this cause to alter the data or add malicious code injected into the system and get access to sensitive data.

The solution:

The best method to eliminate the chances of being explored to such security vulnerabilities will be proper software testing. Make sure your MLM Software team provides a fully-tested package and provide instant bug fixing support. By proper testing, code validation can be established and rectify during the development stage itself.

10. Directory or path traversal

Directory or path traversal

Yet another attack caused by some weak coding status but this time the attackers gain access to every root directory. It’s one of the coding vulnerabilities that cause the directory traversal and yes, it points out the quality of MLM Software system.

The attacking mode:

The mode of attack is usually done through attacking commands and the weaker part of the coding is exposed before the attacker. Usually, failure to input sanitization causes the intruders to attack the system with control over the directories and then traverse through to the other files outside the accessed root file.

This attack can gain information from other directories that might include sensitive data and it’s a simple way to manipulate an application by providing certain codes like ‘../’ and thereby traverse through other directories. If they managed to get access to the important files then they can even trick the system by encoding with new codes. Attackers used to perform a trial & error method and try their best to get access.

The solution:

Saving the day from the attackers is quite a task and the directory traversal attack can be minimized with certain actions like sanitizing the entire codes and keep the server up-to-date with security patches. Input validation is yet another way to resolve many of the issues in this list very consciously.

Apart from these security risks, one must consider keeping the sensitive data from the hands of attackers by using proper encoding or cryptography or similar kinds of technologies. Broken authentication needs to be checked and need to rectify it before the attackers find the opportunity to crack the data. Often change the login passwords for best results, never provide these sensible data to another person, and become aware of new threats in the digital world.

So, now that you have got enough awareness about most of the security vulnerabilities, it is important to check whether the software providers are keen enough to follow the necessary measures as well as additional layers of security.

Find yourself safe in a world of such agony and make your network marketing team secure from the threats.

We recommend to try the package offered by Team Epixel, we have taken care of similar security considerations and developed the package to get rid of any breaches & attacks. Apart from these security considerations, we have more to offer like the GDPR compliance, PCI compliance, secure access control, two-factor authentication, KYC modules, bypass uploading a malicious file, Brute force detection & prevention, auto-logout after session expiry, audit logs, secure admin access, database encryption, web application firewall, secure payout system, etc. Providing a well-secured package is what always focus on with regular security fixes and up-to-date technology integrations.

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