Feeds

Attackers conceal exploit sites with Twitter API

Trends technique suffers hacktile dysfunction

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Drive-by exploit writers have been spotted using a popular Twitter command to send web surfers to malicious sites, a technique that helps conceal the devious deed.

The microblogging site makes application programming interfaces (APIs) such as this one available so legitimate websites can easily plug into the top topics being tweeted. As the concerns and opinions of Twitter users change over time, so too will the so-called top 30 trending topics.

But it turns out that the API for generating the never-ending stream of keywords is being used by miscreants, too. According to researcher Denis Sinegubko, it's being added to heavily obfuscated redirection scripts injected into compromised websites. The scripts, which redirect victims to drive-by sites that attempt to exploit unpatched vulnerabilities in programs such as Apple's QuickTime, use the second letter of a trending topic to arrive at a secret code that's a key ingredient in determining the contents of the domain.

The top term "Jedward" from a few days ago, for instance, becomes ghoizwvlev.com. Other domain names generated this month included abirgqvlev.com, fgxhzgvlev.com and abxhcgvlev.com.

"To make the domain name generation less predictable, they use the code of the second character in the Twitter search that was the most popular two days earlier," Sinegubko writes. "This way they have one day to register a new domain name that will be active the next day."

The Twitter API is a useful weapon in the miscreant's arsenal because it helps prevent malicious scripts from being caught by scanners searching for malicious domain names in web scripts. Instead of seeing a URL known to be distributing malware, the scanners see a widely used API for one of the world's most popular websites.

If the scheme sounds like a lot of work to keep drive-by exploit sites concealed, you're right. Something seems to have gone wrong, and of the many generated names Sinegubko checked, only one was registered, and that one suffered from internal errors.

Still, the technique shows the continuing evolution of attackers striving to find new ways to cloak drive-by attacks. And based on this analysis of the Torpig botnet, Sinegubko isn't the only white hat hacker who has stumbled onto it.

"This is probably the most creative malicious script I've seen so far," Sinegubko writes. "Luckily for us, it was not very well thought out."

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
UK smart meters arrive in 2020. Hackers have ALREADY found a flaw
Energy summit bods warned of free energy bonanza
DRUPAL-OPCALYPSE! Devs say best assume your CMS is owned
SQLi hole was hit hard, fast, and before most admins knew it needed patching
Knock Knock tool makes a joke of Mac AV
Yes, we know Macs 'don't get viruses', but when they do this code'll spot 'em
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
Mozilla releases geolocating WiFi sniffer for Android
As if the civilians who never change access point passwords will ever opt out of this one
Why weasel words might not work for Whisper
CEO suspends editor but privacy questions remain
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.