Security gumshoes locate source of mystery web compromise

Security gumshoes locate source of mystery web compromise
Security gumshoes locate source of mystery web compromise 

By John Leyden
The Register
16th April 2008

The source of the mystery infection of more than 10,000 websites back in 
January has been uncovered.

Thousands of legitimate websites were compromised at the start of the 
year to serve up malware, as we reported [1] at the time.

It seemed [2] that the exploitation of SQL Injection vulnerabilities was 
involved in the automated attacks. The precise mechanism was unclear 
until earlier this week when security researchers discovered a malicious 
executable later linked to the attack on a hacker site.

The hacker utility used search engines to find insecure websites that it 
then tried to exploit using an SQL injection attack. The exploit 
included an SQL statement that tried to inject a script tag into every 
HTML page on the website.

The tool - which had an interface written in Chinese - was programmed by 
default to insert a tag to the same malicious JavaScript file that 
featured in the January attack, solid evidence that it was at least 
partially behind the assault.

The tool runs a script called pay.asp, hosted on a server in China. This 
suggests that hackers running the attack were keeping count of the 
number of sites they had compromised, in order to work out how much they 
stand to get paid.

Further analysis of the tool by security researchers at the SANS 
Institute's Internet Storm Centre (ISC) is ongoing. The tool came to 
their attention via a tip-off from Dr Neal Krawetz. The initial attack 
was uncovered by security researcher Mary Landesman, of ScanSafe, who 
described it as the time as a new type of compromise.

The constant, changing flux of the malicious JavaScript served up by 
compromised sites made initial analysis difficult. With the benefit of 
the hacker tool used to pull off the attack this all becomes much 
clearer, much like it was easier for scientists to unravel a cure for 
the mystery pandemic that blighted mankind in the Twelve Monkies [3] 
after they obtained a sample of the pure source.

"The nice thing about this is that we finally managed to confirm that it 
is SQL Injection that was used in those attacks. The tool has more 
functionality that we still have to analyze but this is the main 
purpose," writes ISC handler Bojan Zdrnja.

Website owners ought to use the discovery as a wake up call on the need 
to ensure that their web applications are secure, he added. 


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