Automated hacking tools swarm Web site login pages

You may think most visitors to a Web site login page are people, but the reality is the vast majority are automated tools used by criminals looking for weak passwords.

[Twitter's latest login security feature may be too complex for most users]

Over a recent 90-day period, Incapsula monitored access attempts at 1,000 client Web sites and found that 94 percent were by malicious automated tools. The remaining attempts were either by people or what the Web site security vendor called "benevolent bots," such as search engines, legitimate crawlers and RSS readers.

On average, 15 of every 16 visitors at the sites Incapsula monitored were attempting to break in. Overall, Incapsula recorded 1.4 million unauthenticated access attempts and roughly 20,000 authenticated logins.

While acknowledging that the study is biased toward Incapsula customers, the company believes its findings are indicative of what many Web sites experience.

"We definitely believe that this is a good representation, or an accurate representation, of what's going on out there," Marc Gaffan, co-founder and vice president of marketing and business development at Incapsula, said.

Malicious login scanners typically look for application vulnerabilities and try numerous commonly used passwords in what experts call a brute-force attack.

In August, Arbor Networks identified such an attack that had broken into 6,000 sites using the Joomla, WordPress or Datalife Engine blogging and content management systems. Dubbed Fort Disco, the attack started in late May and stemmed from a half dozen command-and-control sites that ran a botnet of more than 25,000 infected Windows computers.

The top 10 passwords used to crack the sites were "admin," "123456," "123123," 12345," "pass," "123456789," {domain}, "1234 150," "abc123" and "123321."

Enforcing strong passwords is the first line of defense against such attacks, experts agree. For example, a 12-character password changed every 30 days, coupled with allowing only four login attempts every 15 minutes, would make a successful brute-force attack "improbable," Paul Henry, forensic analyst for Lumension, said.

A site can simply lock out visitors after several login attempts, but doing so can burden help desk and can also be exploited to launch a denial of service attack, Henry said.

[Save your Internet bacon with two factor authentication]

Using two-factor authentication, such as a password and random number sent to a mobile phone, is another option. "I am a big fan of two-factor authentication and I think it solves this problem quite nicely," Wolfgang Kandek, chief technology officer for Qualys, said.

However, such mechanisms can be difficult to deploy and be a hassle for site visitors. So another option would be to use a CAPTCHA challenge, if repeated attempts are detected from an IP address, Kandek said.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags security

More about Arbor NetworksArbor NetworksLumensionQualys

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Antone Gonsalves

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