The website of the Agency for the Safety of Aerial Navigation in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA) has been hijacked by hackers. Browsing to the site's homepage currently presents visitors with a PayPal phishing site, where visitors are asked to submit PayPal account details, including their password, address and credit card details. After entering these details, victims are redirected to the real PayPal website.
Visitors to the ASECNA homepage are automatically redirected to this phishy PHP script in the root directory.
ASECNA is responsible for managing 16 million square kilometers of airspace (1.5x the size of Europe), covering six flight information regions, but has yet to remove the phishing site from its own homepage. Netcraft detected and blocked the above PayPal phishing site on Tuesday, yet visitors to www.asecna.aero who ignore their browser's warnings are still being presented with the phishing content today (Friday). Comments within the source code suggest that the phishing site was designed by a man living in Salé, Morocco.
A second PayPal phishing site was also found in a subdirectory on the same server, but it has since been deleted. It is possible that it was deleted by the fraudster behind the current attack, as it would be peculiar for ASECNA to have deleted phishing content from a subdirectory while leaving the more obvious phishing content on its homepage. The deleted phishing site used a phishing kit which hid its author's hotmail.fr email address in a Base64 encoded string. This made it less obvious to anyone deploying the kit that a duplicate copy of any stolen credentials would also be surreptitiously emailed directly to the kit's author. The phishing kit author's email address links him to a Facebook account which places him in Rabat, a Moroccan city which attracts many commuters from Salé. The same email address has been found in several other phishing kits, including some which target Visa customers.
It is rather unusual to see phishing sites hosted on .aero domains because they can only be registered by eligible members of the aviation community. SITA (an air transport IT and communications specialist) is responsible for verifying eligibility, and may ask applicants to provide company documents and pilot licenses, which reduces the likelihood of a fraudster registering a .aero domain specifically for the purpose of phishing. Many other top-level domains are easier to register, and some are even free.
.aero is a sponsored top-level domain (sTLD). The original agreement for the domain was signed in 2001, and domains became available for registration in March 2002. In 2009, SITA signed a new 10-year sponsorship agreement for the .aero sTLD with ICANN.
How the ASECNA site looked prior to the compromise.
Netcraft's April 2014 survey found more than 9,000 sites using the .aero sTLD, and in the past 6 months they have hosted a total of 9 phishing sites. Each attack used an established .aero website which was compromised to host phishing content, rather than using a .aero domain registered specifically for fraud.
It is not apparent how the ASECNA website was compromised, although it appears to be running Apache 2.2.14, which could be vulnerable to a plethora of security issues which can be exploited remotely. The server also uses PHP 5.2.5, which was released in 2007, and the entire 5.2 branch of releases reached end of life status at the beginning of 2011. Unless the server is using a backporting approach to software maintenance, this old version of PHP could also expose a large number of vulnerabilities to remote attackers.
Netcraft's continuously updated, professionally validated phishing feed is used throughout the internet infrastructure industry. In addition to internet registries, all of the main web browsers, along with major anti-virus companies, firewall vendors, SSL Certificate authorities, large hosting companies and domain registrars use Netcraft's feed to protect their user communities. Please contact us for more information about these services, or about Netcraft's phishing site takedown service.
Compromised WordPress blogs were used to host nearly 12,000 phishing sites in February. This represents more than 7% of all phishing attacks blocked during that month, and 11% of the unique IP addresses that were involved in phishing.
WordPress blogs were also responsible for distributing a significant amount of web-hosted malware — more than 8% of the malware URLs blocked by Netcraft in February were on WordPress blogs, or 19% of all unique IP addresses hosting malware.
WordPress is the most common blogging platform and content management system in the world: Netcraft's latest survey found nearly 27 million websites running WordPress, spread across 1.4 million different IP addresses and 12 million distinct domain names. Many of these blogs are vulnerable to brute-force password guessing attacks by virtue of the predictable location of the administrative interface and the still widespread use of the default "admin" username.
But remarkably, not a single phishing site was hosted on Automattic's own WordPress.com service in February. WordPress.com hosts millions of blogs powered by the open source WordPress software. Customers can purchase custom domain names to use for their blogs, or choose to register free blogs with hostnames like username.wordpress.com.
Automattic's founder, Matt Mullenweg, was one of the original authors of WordPress when it was released in 2003. Automattic later handed the WordPress trademark to the WordPress Foundation in 2010, but still contributes to the development of WordPress. Such familiarity with the product likely explains why blogs hosted at Automattic are significantly more secure than average.
Bloggers can also go it alone — anybody can download the WordPress software from wordpress.org and deploy it on their own website, and some hosting companies also offer "one-click" installations to simplify the process. Bloggers who install WordPress on their own websites will often also be responsible for keeping the software secure and up-to-date. Unfortunately, in many cases, they do not.
Even well-known security experts can fall victim to security flaws in WordPress if it is not their core activity. For example, in 2007, the Computer Security Group at the University of Cambridge found their own Light Blue Touchpaper blog had been compromised through several WordPress vulnerabilities.
Versions of WordPress after 3.7 are now able to automatically update themselves, provided the WordPress files are writable by the web server process. This has its own security trade-off, however, as an attacker exploiting a new and unreported vulnerability (a zero-day) that has the ability to write files will have free rein over the whole WordPress installation — an attacker could even modify the behaviour of WordPress itself to disable any future automatic security updates.
Over its lifetime, WordPress has been plagued by security issues both in its core code and in the numerous third-party plugins and themes that are available. One of the most widespread vulnerabilities this decade was discovered in the TimThumb plugin, which was bundled with many WordPress themes and consequently present on a large number of WordPress blogs. A subtle validation flaw made it possible for remote attackers to make the plugin download remote files and store them on the website. This allowed attackers to install PHP scripts on vulnerable blogs, ultimately facilitating the installation of malware and phishing kits. Similar vulnerabilities are still being exploited today.
Many of the phishing sites blocked in February were still operational this month, including this Apple iTunes phishing site hosted on a marketing company's website.
Dropzones for WordPress phishing content
Note that the above phishing content is stored in the blog's wp-includes directory, which is where the bulk of the WordPress application logic resides. More than a fifth of all phishing content hosted on WordPress blogs can be found within this directory, while another fifth resides in the wp-admin directory. However, the most common location is the wp-content directory, which is used by just over half of the phishing sites.
The wp-content directory is where WordPress stores user-supplied content, so it is almost always writable by the web server process. This makes it an obvious dropzone for malware and phishing content if a hacker is able to find and exploit a suitable vulnerability in WordPress, or indeed in any other web application running on the server. Shared hosting environments are particularly vulnerable if the file system permissions allow malicious users to write files to another user's wp-content directory. Some examples of directory structures used by phishing sites hosted in this directory on WordPress blogs include:
/wp-content/securelogin/webapps/paypal/ /wp-content/plugins/wordpress-importer/languages/image/Google/Google/ /wp-content/uploads/.1/Paypal/us/webscr.htm
The wp-includes and wp-admin directories can also be written to by other users or processes if the WordPress installation has not been suitably hardened. Failing to harden a WordPress installation and keep all of its plugins up to date could result in a site being compromised and used to carry out phishing attacks. Enabling automatic background updates is an easy way to ensure that a WordPress blog is kept up-to-date, but a significant trade off is that every WordPress file must be writable by the web server user.
Some other examples of directory structures seen in phishing sites hosted on WordPress blogs include:
/wp-includes/alibaba_online/ /wp-includes/www.paypal.com.fr.cgi.bin.webscr.cmd.login.submit.login/ /wp-includes/js/online.lloydsbank.co.uk/ /wp-admin/js/www.credit-mutuel.fr/ /wp-admin/maint/RBS-Card/index.html /wp-admin/Googledoc/
Interestingly, the wp-admin directory appears to be the favourite location for Apple phishing sites – these make up more than 60% of all phishing sites found in this directory.
Vulnerable WordPress blogs can also be used for other nefarious purposes. A botnet of more than 162,000 WordPress blogs (less than 1% of all WordPress blogs) was recently involved in a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack against a single website. Attackers exploited the Pingback feature in these WordPress blogs (which is enabled by default) to flood the target site with junk HTTP requests, causing it to be shut down by its hosting company.
A quarter of the phishing sites hosted on WordPress blogs in February targeted PayPal users, followed by 17% which targeted Apple customers.
An EA Games server has been compromised by hackers and is now hosting a phishing site which targets Apple ID account holders.
The compromised server is used by two websites in the ea.com domain, and is ordinarily used to host a calendar based on WebCalendar 1.2.0. This version was released in September 2008 and contains several security vulnerabilities which have been addressed in subsequent releases. For example, CVE-2012-5385 details a vulnerability which allows an unauthenticated attacker to modify settings and possibly execute arbitrary code. It is likely that one of these vulnerabilities was used to compromise the server, as the phishing content is located in the same directory as the WebCalendar application.
The phishing site attempts to trick a victim into submitting his Apple ID and password. It then presents a second form which asks the victim to verify his full name, card number, expiration date, verification code, date of birth, phone number, mother's maiden name, plus other details that would be useful to a fraudster. After submitting these details, the victim is redirected to the legitimate Apple ID website at https://appleid.apple.com/cgi-bin/WebObjects/MyAppleId.woa/
The compromised server is hosted within EA's own network. Compromised internet-visible servers are often used as "stepping stones" to attack internal servers and access data which would otherwise be invisible to the internet, although there is no obvious outward facing evidence to suggest that this has happened.
In this case, the hacker has managed to install and execute arbitrary PHP scripts on the EA server, so it is likely that he can at least also view the contents of the calendar and some of the source code and other data present on the server. The mere presence of old software can often provide sufficient incentive for a hacker to target one system over another, and to spend more time looking for additional vulnerabilities or trying to probe deeper into the internal network.
As well as hosting phishing sites, EA Games is also the target of phishing attacks which try to steal credentials from users of its Origin digital distribution platform. For example, the following site — which has been online for more than a week — is attempting to steal email addresses, passwords and security question answers.
EA's Origin servers also came under attack earlier this year, causing connectivity and login problems in various EA games. A tweet by @DerpTrolling appeared to claim responsibility for the outages, while also suggesting that it was a distributed denial of service attack which caused the problems.
We've directed the Gaben Laser Beam™ @ the EA login servers. Origin #offline— DERP (@DerpTrolling) January 3, 2014
("Gaben" is a reference to Gabe Newell, managing director of Valve Corporation, which owns the competing Steam digital distribution platform)
Netcraft has blocked access to all phishing sites mentioned in this article, and informed EA yesterday that their server has been compromised. However, the vulnerable server — and the phishing content — is still online at the time of publication.
The Audited by Netcraft service provides a means of regularly testing internet infrastructure for old and vulnerable software, faulty configurations, weak encryption and other issues which would fail to meet the PCI DSS standard. These automated scans can be run as frequently as every day, and can be augmented by Netcraft's Web Application Security Testing service, which provides a much deeper manual analysis of a web application by an experienced security professional.
Netcraft has found dozens of fake SSL certificates impersonating banks, ecommerce sites, ISPs and social networks. Some of these certificates may be used to carry out man-in-the-middle attacks against the affected companies and their customers. Successful attacks would allow criminals to decrypt legitimate online banking traffic before re-encrypting it and forwarding it to the bank. This would leave both parties unaware that the attacker may have captured the customer's authentication credentials, or manipulated the amount or recipient of a money transfer.
The fake certificates bear common names (CNs) which match the hostnames of their targets (e.g. www.facebook.com). As the certificates are not signed by trusted certificate authorities, none will be regarded as valid by mainstream web browser software; however, an increasing amount of online banking traffic now originates from apps and other non-browser software which may fail to adequately check the validity of SSL certificates.
Fake certificates alone are not enough to allow an attacker to carry out a man-in-the-middle attack. He would also need to be in a position to eavesdrop the network traffic flowing between the victim's mobile device and the servers it communicates with. In practice, this means that an attacker would need to share a network and internet connection with the victim, or would need to have access to some system on the internet between the victim and the server. Setting up a rogue wireless access point is one of the easiest ways for an individual to carry out such attacks, as the attacker can easily monitor all network traffic as well as influence the results of DNS lookups (for example, making www.examplebank.com resolve to an IP address under his control).
Researchers from Stanford University and The University of Texas at Austin found broken SSL certificate validation in Amazon's EC2 Java library, Amazon's and PayPal's merchant SDKs, integrated shopping carts such as osCommerce and ZenCart, and AdMob code used by mobile websites. A lack of certificate checks within the popular Steam gaming platform also allowed consumer PayPal payments to be undetectably intercepted for at least 3 months before eventually being fixed.
Online banking apps for mobile devices are tempting targets for man-in-the-middle attacks, as SSL certificate validation is far from trivial, and mobile applications often fall short of the standard of validation performed by web browsers. 40% of iOS-based banking apps tested by IO Active are vulnerable to such attacks because they fail to validate the authenticity of SSL certificates presented by the server. 41% of selected Android apps were found to be vulnerable in manual tests by Leibniz University of Hannover and Philipps University of Marburg in Germany. Both apps and browsers may also be vulnerable if a user can be tricked into installing rogue root certificates through social engineering or malware attacks, although this kind of attack is far from trivial on an iPhone.
The following fake certificate for facebook.com is served from a web server in Ukraine. There are clearly fraudulent intentions behind this certificate, as browsing to the site presents a Facebook phishing site; however, the official Facebook app is safe from such attacks, as it properly validates SSL certificates and also uses certificate pinning to ensure that it is protected against fraudulently issued certificates.
Similarly, this wildcard certificate for *.google.com could suggest an attempted attack against a multitude of Google services. The fake certificate is served from a machine in Romania, which also hosts dozens of websites with .ro and .com top level domains. It claims to have been issued by America Online Root Certification Authority 42, closely mimicking the legitimate AOL trusted root certificates which are installed in all browsers, but the fake certificate lacks a verifiable certificate chain. Some browsers' default settings will not allow a user to bypass the resultant error message.
Not all fake certificates have fraudulent intentions, though. The KyoCast mod uses a similar wildcard certificate for *.google.com, allowing rooted Chromecast devices to intentionally send certain traffic to KyoCast servers instead of Google's. The fake certificate is issued by "Kyocast Root CA". Using the Subject Alternative Name extension, the certificate specifies a list of other hostnames for which the certificate should be considered valid:
Russia's second largest bank was seemingly targeted by the following certificate – note that the issuer details have also been forged, possibly in an attempt to exploit superficial validation of the certificate chain.
A similar technique is used in this certificate which impersonates a large Russian payment services provider. SecureTrust is part of Trustwave, a small but bona fide certificate authority.
GoDaddy's POP mail server is impersonated in the following certificate. In this case, the opportunities could be criminal (capturing mail credentials, issuing password resets, stealing sensitive data) or even state spying, although it is unexpected to see such a certificate being offered via a website. Although the actual intentions are unknown, it is worth noting that many mail clients allow certificate errors to be ignored either temporarily or permanently, and some users may be accustomed to dismissing such warnings.
Apple iTunes is currently the most popular phishing target after PayPal. In this example, the fake certificate has an issuer common name of "VeriSign Class 3 Secure Server CA - G2", which mimics legitimate common names in valid certificates; however, there is no certificate chain linking it back to VeriSign's root (so it is a forgery rather than a mis-issued certificate).
It is not always criminals who use fake certificates to intercept communications. As a final example, the following fake certificate for youtube.com was served from a machine in Pakistan, where there is a history of blocking access to YouTube. This certificate is probably part of an attempt to prevent citizens from watching videos on YouTube, as the website serves "This content is banned in Pakistan" when visited.
Netcraft's Mobile App Security Testing service provides a detailed security analysis of phone or tablet based apps. A key feature of this service is manual testing by experienced security professionals, which typically uncovers many more issues than automated tests alone. The service is designed to rigorously push the defences of not only the app itself, but also the servers it interacts with. It is suitable for commissioning, third party assurance, post-attack analysis, audit and regulatory purposes where independence and quality of service are important requirements.
GCHQ's website at www.gchq.gov.uk is exhibiting some noticeable performance issues today, suggesting that it could be suffering from a denial of service attack.
Last week, documents from whistle-blower Edward Snowden revealed that GCHQ carried out denial of service (DoS) attacks against communications systems used by the hacktivist group Anonymous during their own Operation Payback, which itself involved carrying out denial of service attacks against high profile websites such as MasterCard, Visa, Amazon, Moneybookers, and PostFinance.
This caused some furore amongst supporters of Operation Payback, some of whom were tried and convicted for carrying out denial of service attacks. Denial of service attacks are illegal in the UK under the Police and Justice Act 2006, yet the leaked slides suggest that GCHQ may have used such techniques against Anonymous, resulting in 80% of IRC users leaving within a month.
Part of a statement published by Anonymous on AnonNews.
Following these revelations, a statement on GCHQ's war against Anonymous was posted on the AnonNews website. The statement ends with a suggestion that some kind of retaliation could be expected: "Now that we truly know who it was who attacked us, Expect all of us."
Twitter accounts associated with Anonymous also fuelled suggestions that they could be responsible for GCHQ's website woes, with some referring to the #TheDayWeFightBack hashtag.
Curiously, a much larger amount of downtime has been observed from Netcraft's Romanian performance monitor since the leaked slides were made public. That could indicate much more extreme DDoS mitigation techniques are being applied to these requests, and this in turn suggests that if an attack is occurring, perhaps Romania is one of the countries from which the attacks are being launched.
The www.gchq.gov.uk website is served from a content delivery network run by Limelight Networks, who claim to be one of the world's largest, best performing, and most highly available content delivery networks. Although it remains hosted at the same location, the website changed its Server header from "WebServer" to "EdgePrism/184.108.40.206" earlier this week. Limelight Networks first unveiled EdgePrism in 2001, so any similarities to the name of the NSA's PRISM mass electronic surveillance program are presumably coincidental.
Apache has been the most common web server on the internet since April 1996, and is currently used by 38% of all websites. Most nefarious activity takes place on compromised servers, but just how many of these Apache servers are actually vulnerable?
The latest major release of the 2.4 stable branch is Apache 2.4.7, which was released in November 2013. However, very few websites claim to be using the stable branch of 2.4 releases, despite Apache encouraging users to upgrade from 2.2 and earlier versions.
Less than 1% of all Apache-powered websites feature an Apache/2.4.x server header, although amongst the top million websites, more than twice as many sites claim to be using Apache 2.4.x. Some of the busiest websites using the latest version of Apache (2.4.7) are associated with the Apache Software Foundation and run on the FreeBSD operating system, including httpd.apache.org, www.openoffice.org, wiki.apache.org, tomcat.apache.org and mail-archives.apache.org.
The most recent security vulnerabilities affecting Apache were addressed in version 2.4.5, which included fixes for the vulnerabilities described in CVE-2013-1896 and CVE-2013-2249. Depending which Apache modules are installed, and how they are used, earlier versions may be vulnerable to unauthorised disclosure of information and disruption of service. The previous release in the 2.4 branch (2.4.4), also addressed several cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in various modules; such vulnerabilities can severely compromise a web application by facilitating remote session hijacking and the theft of user credentials. Nonetheless, millions of websites still appear to be using vulnerable versions of Apache, including versions which are no longer supported.
Top 15 versions of Apache in February 2014, where the full version string is announced in the Server HTTP response header.
Note that no versions of the Apache 2.4 branch appear within the top 15.
Apache 1.3.41 and 2.0.63 are both end-of-lined.
The Apache 2.0 branch was retired in July 2013 with the conclusive release of Apache 2.0.65. This release addressed a few security vulnerabilities, but no subsequent vulnerabilities will be addressed by official patches or subsequent releases in the 2.0 branch. Anyone still using this branch of releases should strongly consider updating to the latest version in the stable 2.4 or legacy 2.2 branches.
Nevertheless, 6.5 million websites claim to be using the end of life 2.0 branch of Apache, with the most common versions being 2.0.63 and 2.0.52. Only 12k sites are running the conclusive release of this branch (2.0.65). However, it is worth noting that just over half of all Apache-powered websites hide their version numbers, so it is not always possible to accurately determine which version is installed without carrying out additional tests. Hiding software version numbers is usually a deliberate act by a server administrator – Apache 2.4.7 will reveal its full version number by default when installed on Arch Linux, and installing the apache2 package on the latest version of Ubuntu Linux will also reveal "Apache 2.4.6 (Ubuntu)" as the default Server banner.
Due to hidden version numbers, the number of sites openly reporting to be running Apache 2.4.x could be regarded as a lower bound, but conversely, exhibiting a vulnerable version number does not necessarily mean that a server can be exploited by a remote attacker.
For example, the Red Hat Linux operating system uses a backporting approach to applying security fixes, which means that a vulnerability in Apache 2.2.3 can be patched without affecting the apparent version number of the software. From an external point of view, the server will still appear to be running Apache 2.2.3, but it might not be vulnerable to any security problems that would affect a fresh installation of Apache 2.2.3.
Red Hat 5 and 6 use Apache 2.2.3 and 2.2.15 respectively, which explains why these seemingly old versions remain so prominent today (2.2.3 was originally release in July 2006). Both are still supported by Red Hat, and providing the necessary backported patches have been applied, Red Hat Apache servers which exhibit these version numbers can be just as secure as the latest release of Apache. However, because the version numbers correspond to Apache versions which were released several years ago, it is not unusual for Red Hat powered websites to attract unfair criticism for appearing to run insecure versions of Apache.
Certain Apache vulnerabilities can also be eliminated by removing or simply not using the affected modules – a configuration which is also difficult to ascertain remotely. However, exhibiting an apparently-vulnerable version number can still have its downsides, even if there are no vulnerabilities to exploit – as well as attracting unwarranted criticism from observers who falsely believe that the server is insecure, it could also attract undesirable scrutiny from hackers who might stumble upon different vulnerabilities instead. These are both common reasons why server administrators sometimes opt to hide version information from a web server's headers. Sites which do this include wikipedia.org, www.bbc.co.uk, www.nytimes.com and www.paypal.com, all of which claim to be running Apache, but do not directly reveal which version.
A further 6.0 million websites are still using Apache 1.3.x, even though the final version in this branch was released four years ago. The release of Apache 1.3.42 in February 2010 marked the end of life for the 1.3 branch, although 2.4 million sites are still using the previous version, (1.3.41), which contains a denial of service and remote code execution vulnerability in in its mod_proxy module.
The busiest site still using Apache 1.3 is Weather Underground, which uses Apache 1.3.42. This currently has a Netcraft site rank of 177, which makes it even more popular than the busiest Apache 2.0.x website. It is served from a device which exhibits the characteristics of a Citrix NetScaler application delivery controller. Weather Underground also uses Apache 1.3.42 for the mobile version of its site at m.wund.com.
Amongst the million busiest websites, Linux is by far the most common operating system used to run Apache web server software. With near-ubiquitous support for PHP, such platforms make tempting targets for fraudsters. Most of the phishing sites analysed by Netcraft rely on PHP to process the content of web forms and send emails.
The Audited by Netcraft service provides a means of regularly testing internet infrastructure for similarly vulnerable web server software, faulty configurations, weak encryption and other issues which would fail to meet the PCI DSS standard. Netcraft's heuristic fingerprinting techniques can often use the behaviour of a web server to identify which version of Apache is installed, even if the server does not directly state which version is being used. These automated scans can be run as frequently as every day, and can be augmented by Netcraft's Web Application Security Testing service, which provides a much deeper manual analysis of a web application by an experienced security professional.