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Turks hijack Kiwi MSN via DNS cracks

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RSA The New Zealand version of Microsoft's MSN website was briefly hijacked after attackers penetrated that country's prominent domain name registrar. Websites for Sony, BitDefender, and HSBC were also commandeered.

The mass defacements came as security researchers gathered in San Francisco discussed vulnerabilities in the DNS, or domain name system, and BGP, or border gateway protocol. The two technologies form the core infrastructure for routing traffic over the internet, so the weaknesses have the ability to compromise the integrity of the entire worldwide network by allowing huge chunks of it to be hijacked or rerouted.

MSN's front page was altered to show a picture from 1998 of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates with pie in his face. A headline read: "Microsoft New Zealand Hacked by Peace Crew." According to the Zone-h website here, the attack was carried out by a Turkish crew that managed to compromise New Zealand registrar Domainz.net by exploiting a simple SQL injection vulnerability. Once in, the group changed domain name system settings for MSN and the other affected websites.

The Domainz.net website remained unreachable at the time of writing. MSN and other affected websites were restored to their normal working order.

The episode is a potent reminder of the fragility of the internet's routing system. In this case, a small portion of it was compromised by a single web application error. In other cases, attackers are able to exploit weaknesses in DNS itself. Either way, the attacks are only possible because DNS - which converts easy-to-read domain names into machine-readable IP addresses - has no mechanism to validate that the server providing the translation is duly authorized to do so.

At the RSA security conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, researcher Dan Kaminsky called once again for deployment of a technology known as DNSSEC, which would use a hierarchy of cryptographic signatures to authenticate valid DNS servers.

"It's actually doable within the RFCs that already have been written," said Kaminsky, who last year revealed a DNS bug that could allow millions of people to be redirected to fraudulent websites even though they typed in the correct address. "It's not just about who do I hit with a stick until it's deployed."

Bradesco, one of Brazil's biggest banks, was reportedly hit by a DNS cache-poisoning attack recently that redirected its customers to an impostor website.

While vulnerabilities in DNS are well known, weaknesses in BGP have gone less noticed. Anton Kapela, who last year demonstrated systemic flaws in the technology, said he didn't see any easy fixes on the horizon, in large part because there they would require all 31,000 or so participants in the BGP system to deploy significant overhauls of their networks.

"Getting 31,000 organizations to install some new code or upgrade their platforms when the platforms are a wide variety seems like a really tough thing to do," said Kapela, who is data center and network director at 5Nines Data. "I'm no organizational manager, but it sounds hard."

Two of the more popular proposed fixes include Secure BGP and Secure Origin BGP. ®

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