Feeds

Security gumshoes locate source of mystery web compromise

How dunnit plot gets scripted

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Updated 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.

It seemed 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. Although first thought to be linked to the compromise of thousands of "mom and pop" websites (uncovered by security researcher Mary Landesman, of ScanSafe) it now seems to be related to a different attack.

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 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. ®

Updated

ScanSafe has been in touch to say that the executable analysed by the ISC is not the source of the mass infection it warned about in January.

"The tool that SANS referenced is not new. It has been known to researchers for some time. There are dozens of these types of tools. These are used for SQL injection attacks and it was not used in the widespread website compromises Mary initially reported on in January (the one that affected thousands of small "mom and pop" sites)," it said.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
'Regin': The 'New Stuxnet' spook-grade SOFTWARE WEAPON described
'A degree of technical competence rarely seen'
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
You stupid BRICK! PCs running Avast AV can't handle Windows fixes
Fix issued, fingers pointed, forums in flames
Regin: The super-spyware the security industry has been silent about
NSA fingered as likely source of complex malware family
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
HACKERS can DELETE SURVEILLANCE DVRS remotely – report
Hikvision devices wide open to hacking, claim securobods
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
The Heartbleed Bug: how to protect your business with Symantec
What happens when the next Heartbleed (or worse) comes along, and what can you do to weather another chapter in an all-too-familiar string of debilitating attacks?