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Hackers warn: We'll hit US banks... again

Insecure PHP web apps powering zombie DDoS assault

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Hackers who claimed responsibility for a series of denial of service attacks against US banks in September have warned the US they plan to renew their assault shortly.

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters named US Bancorp, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, PNC Financial Services Group and SunTrust as possible attack targets for the second phase of its Ababil operation. "In new phase, the wideness and the number of attacks will increase explicitly; and offenders and subsequently their governmental supporters will not be able to imagine and forecast the widespread and greatness of these attacks," it said in a statement posted on Pastebin on Monday.

The group of hackers continue to be incensed with the presence of the inflammatory and amateurish Innocence of Muslims video on YouTube. Pull the film and the attacks will be called off or stopped, the group says. The group doesn't accept arguments that the banks have no influence on clips hosted by YouTube.

Security researchers analysing the earlier attacks quickly came to the conclusion that they were largely powered by bots. DDoS mitigation experts Arbor Networks reckons most of the attack traffic was launched from insecure websites rather than malware-infected PCs.

Many compromised PHP web applications were used as bots in the [September] attacks. Additionally, many WordPress sites, often using the out-of-date TimThumb plugin, were being compromised around the same time. Joomla and other PHP-based applications were also compromised. Unmaintained sites running out-of-date extensions are easy targets and the attackers took full advantage of this to upload various PHP webshells which were then used to further deploy attack tools.

Several PHP-based tools were used in the September attacks, the most prominent of which was Brobot along with two other tools, KamiKaze and AMOS. A revamped version of the tool has been deployed in the second phase of the attacks, which have already begun to surface.

On December 11, 2012, attacks on several of these victims were observed. Some attacks looked similar in construction to Brobot v1, however there is a newly crafted DNS packet attack and a few other attack changes in Brobot v2.

A blog post by Arbor covering lessons learned from earlier attacks as well as preliminary observations about the latest run of assaults can be found here. ®

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