Feeds

Spotted in the wild: Home router attack serves up counterfeit pages

Drive-by pharming

Application security programs and practises

A security researcher says he has observed criminals using a new form of attack that causes victims to visit spoofed banking pages by secretly making changes to their high-speed home routers.

According to Symantec researcher Zulfikar Ramzan, the attack changes a router's settings controlling the domain name system server that translates domain names like theregister.co.uk into numerical IP address.

Malicious javascript code embedded into one email message he uncovered caused the URL for a popular Mexico-based bank to map to a fraudulent website controlled by the attackers. Anyone who tried to do business on the rogue site would have their banking credentials lifted.

The attack blends two methods that have grown increasingly common over the past year. Criminals have already been caught using large numbers of rogue DNS servers that silently send people to counterfeit versions of trusted websites.

Add to that the increasing number of documented security bugs in home routers, which frequently allow attackers thousands of miles away to make administrative changes that open end-users up to identity theft and other risks.

Last February, Ramzan first theorised about the possibility of what he termed "drive-by pharming" attacks. They'd come in the form of websites or emails that could change router DNS settings through a technique known as cross-site request forgery.

The attack would require the router's administrative password to be entered, but given the high percentage of home users who never bother to change a default password, he reckoned that the exploit would nonetheless be effective.

As it turns out, the attacks Ramzan has since witnessed were even more effective than he expected, at least when used against certain brands of routers, which were penetrated even without a password being entered (Ramzan didn't identify the specific router or vulnerability that made this possible. It sounds vaguely similar to an authentication bypass bug recently documented in routers made by Thomson/Alcatel, but that's just a guess on our part).

While the email is believed to be the first time the attack has been spotted in the wild, Ramzan says he's not particularly surprised.

"Given the simplicity of the attack and the potential widespread implications, we always felt that it would simply be a matter of time before it happened," he writes. "The building blocks have been out there for some time and anyone with sufficient familiarity could easily put them together." ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Sysadmin Day 2014: Quick, there's still time to get the beers in
He walked over the broken glass, killed the thugs... and er... reconnected the cables*
SHOCK and AWS: The fall of Amazon's deflationary cloud
Just as Jeff Bezos did to books and CDs, Amazon's rivals are now doing to it
Apple fanbois SCREAM as update BRICKS their Macbook Airs
Ragegasm spills over as firmware upgrade kills machines
Amazon Reveals One Weird Trick: A Loss On Almost $20bn In Sales
Investors really hate it: Share price plunge as growth SLOWS in key AWS division
EU's top data cops to meet Google, Microsoft et al over 'right to be forgotten'
Plan to hammer out 'coherent' guidelines. Good luck chaps!
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.