Thousands of Web sites stung by mass hacking attack

Attack methods are similar to those used by the Russian Business Network, a disbanded cybercriminal gang

Up to 40,000 Web sites have been hacked to redirect unwitting victims to another Web site that tries to infect PCs with malicious software, according to security vendor Websense.

The affected sites have been hacked to host JavaScript code that directs people to a fake Google Analytics Web site, which provides data for Web site owners on a site's usage, then to another bad site, said Carl Leonard, threat research manager for Websense.

Those Web sites have likely been hacked via a SQL injection attack, in which improperly configured Web applications accept malicious data and get hacked, Leonard said.

Another possibility is that the FTP credentials for the sites have somehow been obtained by hackers, giving them access to the inner workings of the site. It appears the hackers are using automated tools to seek out vulnerable Web sites, Leonard said.

The latest campaign underscore the success hackers have at hosting dangerous code on poorly secured Web sites.

Once a user has been directed to the bogus Google analytics site, it redirects again to another malicious domain.

That site tests to see if the PC has software vulnerabilites in either Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser or Firefox that can be exploited in order to deliver malware, Leonard said.

If it doesn't find a problem there, it will launch a fake warning saying the computer is infected with malware and tries to get the user to willingly download a program that purports to be security software but is actually a Trojan downloader, Leonard said. Those fake security programs are often called "scareware" and don't work as advertised.

As of last Friday, only four of 39 security software programs could detect that Trojan, although that's now likely changed as vendors such as Websense swap malware samples with other companies in order to improve overall Internet security.

It's not clear what the hackers are doing with the newly compromised PCs, although it's possible they can be configured to send spam, become part of a botnet or have data stolen from them.

The malicious domain serving up the malware is hosted in the Ukraine, the same region where notorious Russian Business Network (RBN) operated.

RBN is a gang of cybercriminals involved in phishing campaigns and other malicious activity, Leonard said. That Web site appeared to be down as of Tuesday afternoon. The RBN is thought to be inactive now.

"Whether this is a part of that group or whether it's a copycat using some of the techniques that are similar to those used by the malware group in the past we are not quite certain yet," Leonard said. "It is very difficult to pinpoint the exact people behind this."

Since so many Web sites have been hacked to deliver the attack, it's nearly impossible to contact them all, Leonard said.

Websense said the latest attacks don't appear to be related to Gumblar, a malware campaign under way last month.

Gumblar resulted in at least 3,000 Web sites getting infected with malicious code that scanned users' computers for vulnerabilities in Adobe Systems software.

Once on a PC, Gumblar steals FTP log-in credentials, using that information to help spread to other computers. It also commandeers a person's Web browser and replaces Google search results with other dangerous links.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags gumblartrojanmalwarecybercrime

More about Adobe SystemsAdobe SystemsetworkGoogleMicrosoftWebsense

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Jeremy Kirk

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts