Primary schools hit by smut hack

Sleaze merchants infiltrate kids' web pages

UK primary school sites are being targeted by sleazy hackers in an attack that has reportedly resulted in hardcore porn appearing on web pages bearing school logos.

Twenty schools' sites have fallen victim to the spoofed or defaced web page porn assault, the Times Educational Supplement reports. Many of the sites use Moodle, an open source content management system that is used to create online learning sites, sparking the theory that flaws in older versions of the package have been used to mount the attacks.

Moodle, whose development and marketing team in Australia is assisted by consultants and integrators across the world, is working with schools to investigate the attacks.

"We're concerned about this issue since the defaced sites were apparently Moodle sites," a Moodle representative told El Reg. "We're trying to find out more about the spammer attack and whether they used a known Moodle vulnerability or exploited some other issue on that server to change content on the site."

"Moodle is constantly fixing bugs, like all software does (http://secunia.com/advisories/) and we publish details at http://moodle.org/security. We are not aware of any vulnerabilities in our most recent versions. It's possible that these sites in question were not upgraded and configured correctly, and spammers exploited this to gain access unlawfully, but this is not known for sure yet."

Schools hit by the attack include St Dunstan’s Catholic Primary in Kings Heath, Birmingham. The attack means that when you search for the school returned results include links to a "bogus site that bears the school’s name but is filled with hardcore pornography". Content filtering technology and firewalls mean it is unlikely that the offensive material was seen by any children, at least from within school.

Searches on the school in Google come back clean so we cannot say for certain whether web page defacement, simple counterfeiting or the insertion on links to third-party smut sites is behind the outrage. Link spamming attacks of the latter type were recently used to exploit weak security on UK local government websites to increase the search engine ranking of hardcore porn sites.

Judging by Moodle's statement, the UK schools smut hack looks more like a case of website defacement, where sleazy material was uploaded onto vulnerable systems.

We ran reports of the attack past Thomas Kristensen, technology chief at security notification firm Secunia, who notes that the stories fail to give a clear picture.

"I can't provide you anything conclusive due to lack of details about what actually was placed on the Moodle sites and what was hosted elsewhere," he told The Register.

If vulnerabilities in Moodle are indeed the cause of the attack then Kristensen names a Moodle script insertion and cross-site request forgery flaw (here) as the likely candidate. Another Moodle bug (here) is another possibility, he added.

Without commenting on the recent spate of attacks, a spokeswoman from the Department for Children, Schools and Families said it provides guidance for schools on internet policy and online child safety. ®

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