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Hackers load malware onto Mercury music award site

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Hackers have been able to load malware onto the official Mercury music awards site, as well as hundreds of other sites, after breaking into the systems of US-based hosting firm DreamHost.

DreamHost blamed a security flaw in its web control panel software for an attack that allowed hackers to compromise a "very small subset" of user accounts. Affected customers have been notified by email. DreamHost said only web content - not credit card or billing information - was compromised.

In a statement published Wednesday, DreamHost said: "The security flaw allowed the attackers to log into our customer web control panel with the access privileges of another user. From our web panel they were able to access individual user password information. The attackers also attempted to gain access to our central database and billing information but were ultimately thwarted in that attempt. No credit card information or customer personal information was obtained."

DreamHost takes care of more than 500,000 domains, according to the firm. An email sent by DreamHost to its customers on 5 June, said approximately 3,500 separate FTP accounts were compromised by the hack. DreamHost has advised its customers to change their FTP account passwords immediately. The firm has promised to update concerned punters about the steps it is taking to prevent a repetition.

News of the attack followed just hours after DreamHost said it had upgraded its WebFTP systems. The timing of this announcement suggests this was more likely to have been part of DreamHost's efforts to put its house in order rather than the cause of its problems.

UK-based web security firm ScanSafe, which has been monitoring the attack, said attackers used the insecure web controls at DreamHost to load Trojan downloader malware onto well known and trused sites. Confirmed targets of the attack include nationwidemercurys.com, the Mercury music awards site (which is sponsored by building society Nationwide), and UK law firm Clintons, whose clients include Paul McCartney, The Who, and U2.

ScanSafe said it first detected malware on the Clintons site on 1 June and on the Mercury site on 4 June, a few days before DreamHost published its alert.

Both the Clintons and Mercury sites exposed visitors via unknowingly hostile exploit code that attempted to take advantage of the well-known iFrame vulnerability in Internet Explorer in attempts to download Trojan horse malware onto the PCs of visiting surfers running vulnerable versions of Windows.

ScanSafe contacted both organisations to notify them of the threat. ®

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