Deceptive search engine ads used in Bitcoin wallet attacks

Fraudsters are exploiting loopholes in the presentation of ads by major search engines in order to lure victims to phishing sites. Searching for "blockchain", the name of a popular Bitcoin wallet provider, caused deceptive ads to be displayed at the top of search results pages from Google, Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo. In contrast to the traditional approach of sending emails indiscriminately, links to phishing sites in search engine ads may be much more convincing, especially when the domain they are impersonating is displayed as the destination.

With more than 1.7 million wallets, Blockchain.info is the most popular online Bitcoin wallet. Blockchain's My Wallet service allows users to send and receive payments in Bitcoins. When signing up, users are reminded that they must remember their passwords, as forgotten passwords cannot be recovered and will result in the loss of all Bitcoins stored in the wallet. These passwords are exactly what the fraudsters are after.

Phishing ads in Bing's search engine results. Screenshot taken on 19 June 2014 at 10:16 BST.

The above screenshot shows the results of searching for "blockchain" on Bing. The first link on the page is an ad, supposedly for the official Blockchain wallet service at Blockchain.info. However, clicking on this link actually takes victims to a phishing site under blockchaino.info (note the additional 'o' character).

Bing! There go your coins.

The phishing site at blockchaino.info immediately prompts a victim to enter his identifier and password, whereas the real Blockchain website only prompts for the user's identifier. Blockchain's security recommendations make it clear that the real Blockchain.info will never ask you for your password: "We NEVER need it and we NEVER want it". As soon as the fraudster has tricked the victim into giving up the required information, they "sweep the funds away".

This type of attack is likely to be extremely effective, as the ad displays the same domain name as the site it is targeting, and it is the first link to appear in the search engine results page. Some users may not realise that it is an ad, and instead believe that it is the top organic result. Showing the wrong display URL (green text) is forbidden by most ad networks' policies; however, the fraudsters have evidently managed to bypass these restrictions. Without strict enforcement, the ability to specify the displayed destination leaves such advertising open to fraud.

However, strict enforcement of destination URLs may alienate a search engine's customers — advertisers may use third-party services to manage their advertising and track clicks. These customers will rely on being able to display the final URL despite redirecting via a third-party service before reaching the target site. The use of redirects makes enforcement of any display policy difficult, as there is no guarantee that the target of the redirect will remain constant after the ad has been approved, or that the redirects presented to the search engine are the same as those presented to end users.

Another phishing site advertising at the top of Bing.

Other Bing ads directed victims to different Blockchain phishing sites, all of which used deceptive hostnames such as blockchain-info.itconflux.com, blockchain.info.pl and bllockchain.info.pl, but did not use the display domain of the site they were impersonating, blockchain.info.

It's not just Bing's search engine that has been affected by this phishing campaign. The search ads displayed at the top of Bing search results can appear anywhere on the Yahoo Bing Network. This means that the same fraudulent ads also appear when a victim searches for Blockchain on Yahoo.com. Similar phishing ads are also displayed on the DuckDuckGo search engine, which syndicates its sponsored links from the same network.

The same phishing ads appear on a Yahoo search for "blockchain".

And it is not just the Yahoo Bing ad network which is being exploited by phishers — search giant Google displayed the following phishing ad on its search results pages:

This Google phishing ad directed victims to blockchain-info.itconflux.com.

However, it's not necessarily game over if a victim's password has been stolen. If a Blockchain user has chosen to enable two-factor authentication via SMS, Yubikey or Google Authenticator, the fraudster will be unable to access the wallet at a later date unless he also has access to the victim's physical two factor authentication device (e.g. phone or Yubikey).

All of the sites involved in these attacks against Blockchain were blocked in Netcraft's phishing site feed, which allows third-party developers to integrate anti-phishing services into their products. Some of the domain names used in these attacks were very similar to the real blockchain.info domain. Netcraft's Fraud Detection service helps brand owners pre-emptively identify these types of fraudulent domain registrations, giving an opportunity to take action against the registrants, possibly before the attacks have even started.

Criminals launch mass phishing attacks against online dating sites

Criminals are running massive dedicated phishing campaigns against online dating sites, marking an interesting – but not unusual – shift in focus from the traditional phishing targets such as banks and other financial institutions. The most recent attack used a single compromised website to host hundreds of fraudulent PHP scripts, most of which were designed to steal usernames and passwords from users of the most popular dating sites.

The online dating sites targeted by the latest attack include match.com, Christian Mingle, POF (PlentyOfFish), eHarmony, Chemistry.com, SeniorPeopleMeet, Zoosk, Lavalife, amongst others. Only eight of the 862 fraudulent scripts on the server targeted banks.

It is likely that the criminals who steal accounts on these sites will go on to use them to commit online dating fraud — many dating sites only allow messages to be exchanged with other users after a subscription fee has been paid; by compromising existing paid accounts, the fraudsters can reduce their traceability by avoiding the need to make payments.

Part of one of the fraudulent scripts

Online dating fraud is often orchestrated by criminal gangs who use fake profiles to trick victims into developing long distance relationships. Once the fraudsters have gathered enough sympathy and trust from a victim, they will exploit this by claiming they need money to pay for travel costs, or to afford medical treatment for a family member. After the money has been stolen, the criminals will make up further reasons why they need more money. In some cases, the fraudsters blackmail their victim into sending money - if the victim has sent any explicit photos or videos to the criminals, they may threaten to send them to the victim's friends and family.

The amount of money involved in these scams can be considerable. In 2011, a woman in Britain was tricked into sending more than $59,000 to a pair of fraudsters who pretended to have inherited millions of dollars from a military friend in Nigeria. The fraudsters - who were actually a mother and daughter in America - managed to net more than a million dollars before being jailed in 2013.

While many online dating sites take measures to identify fake profiles, phishing for genuine established accounts gives fraudsters the edge. If a legitimate profile has been in active use for several months without cause for concern, then compromising this profile will allow the fraudster to benefit not just from the plausible appearance of the profile, but also take over several ongoing conversations. The real owner of the hijacked account will have already done the hard bit by establishing dialogues with other members on the site, possibly gaining enough trust to allow the fraudsters to strike immediately with success.

The latest attacks make use of a phishing kit which contains hundreds of PHP scripts, configured to send stolen credentials to more than 300 distinct email addresses. More than half of these addresses used the yahoo.com domain, while gmail.com was the next most common choice. Although most of the fraudster's scripts target online dating sites, some of them are also designed to steal credentials from users of these webmail platforms. Email accounts are often shut down after the provider notices they have been used for fraudulent purposes, so ensuring a fresh supply of compromised accounts gives fraudsters the opportunity to send even more phishing emails before the accounts get closed.

The phishing kit contains over 300 PHP scripts, most of which target online dating sites.

An attacker would typically deploy the phishing kit by uploading a zip file to a compromised web server and unzipping the tree of contents into a writable directory. Similar kits uploaded over the past few months have used various file names, such as moving.zip, send.zip, orokionline.zip, amioroki.zip and samoroki.zip. Each script within these kits is very similar in terms of functionality — they simply collate a set of POST parameters into the body of an email message, and then send it to two or more email addresses. The subject of the email is modified to describe what type of credentials are in the email (e.g. "MATCH ID & PASSWORD"), and after the emails have been sent, the victim is redirected to an appropriate URL on the target website, such as http://www.match.com/login/login.aspx?lid=2.

Each compromised server which hosts these scripts acts merely as a "dropsite" in the fraudsters' phishing campaigns. Rather than displaying any phishing content, the server simply accepts values that have been submitted from elsewhere, such as a form hosted on another website or within a phishing email. The victim is then immediately redirected to the legitimate website, most likely without realising that his credentials have just been transmitted to a different website.

Some of the scripts are also designed to steal credentials from Photobucket users, possibly so the fraudsters can host photos and other images to further their scams. It is not unusual for fraudsters to encourage their victims to migrate to instant messaging software or even text messages instead of continuing to chat on a dating site, which could be monitored to prevent such fraud.

June 2014 Web Server Survey

In the June 2014 survey we received responses from 968,882,453 sites, six million less than last month.

The battle between Microsoft and Apache heated up this month, with Apache losing 13 million sites and Microsoft gaining 26 million. The resultant changes in market share have left Apache barely clinging onto the lead — Microsoft is now only 0.15 percentage points behind. This is the closest Microsoft has ever been, giving it a good chance of taking the lead for the first time next month.

However, Apache continues to dominate in terms of active sites, i.e. sites which are actively managed by humans rather than being automatically generated for use in activities such as link farming and domain squatting. Under this metric, Apache's losses were less significant, still leaving it with more than half of the market share, and more than 36 percentage points ahead of its closest competitor, nginx.

In terms of all websites, nginx suffered the second largest loss of 8.6 million sites. nginx is very often used as a reverse proxy, although other web servers can also fulfill this role. Apache's mod_proxy module allows it to be configured as either a forward or reverse proxy, and Microsoft IIS can be configured to act as a reverse proxy with the URL Rewrite and Application Request Routing modules. Microsoft Azure Web Sites can also achieve the same functionality once the proxy feature has been enabled.

Tengine, which is based on nginx, also fell by three million sites this month. This web server software is used extensively by its originators, Taobao, and has been an open source project since 2011. Tengine supports all of the features of nginx 1.4.7, plus some additional features which are not present in the stable releases of nginx 1.4.x or 1.6.x, such as syslog and pipe support. However, the most recent mainline version (nginx 1.7.1), which was released on 27 May, does now allow the error_log and access_log directives to be logged to syslog.

IPv4 addresses nearing total exhaustion

On 20 May, ICANN announced that it had begun the process of allocating the remaining blocks of IPv4 addresses to the five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs). As the total number of available 32-bit IPv4 addresses dwindles, network operators are being encouraged to adopt the use of 128-bit IPv6 addresses, which will allow a significantly larger number of unique addresses: IPv4 can only provide 4.3 billion addresses, whereas IPv6 can provide nearly 8×1028 times as many.

Unfortunately, adoption of IPv6 is proving to be a slow process. Only 3% of the hostnames in this month's survey can be resolved to IPv6 addresses, and the total number of IPv6 addresses used by websites has increased by only 18% over the past 12 months.

ICANN's statement says the process of allocating the remaining blocks was triggered when Latin America and Caribbean Network Information Centre's (LACNIC) supply of IPv4 addresses dropped to below 8 million.

Topically, this month's survey saw ICANN's website at www.icann.org change its Server banner from Apache to BigIP. For the past few years, it had either been "Apache" or "Apache/2.2.3 CentOS", although the operating system has consistently been identified as F5 BIG-IP throughout. Adobe's community forums at forums.adobe.com also switched to BigIP this month, from Apache-Coyote/1.1.





DeveloperMay 2014PercentJune 2014PercentChange
Apache366,262,34637.56%353,672,43136.50%-1.05
Microsoft325,854,05433.41%352,208,48736.35%2.94
nginx142,426,53814.60%133,763,49413.81%-0.80
Google20,685,1652.12%20,192,5952.08%-0.04
Continue reading

Most Reliable Hosting Company Sites in May 2014

Rank Performance Graph OS Outage
hh:mm:ss
Failed
Req%
DNS Connect First
byte
Total
1 Qube Managed Services Linux 0:00:00 0.004 0.113 0.039 0.080 0.080
2 Datapipe FreeBSD 0:00:00 0.011 0.113 0.018 0.037 0.055
3 EveryCity SmartOS 0:00:00 0.015 0.100 0.066 0.133 0.133
4 Dinahosting Linux 0:00:00 0.015 0.259 0.091 0.182 0.182
5 Aspserveur Linux 0:00:00 0.019 0.289 0.085 0.413 0.750
6 Hosting 4 Less Linux 0:00:00 0.019 0.198 0.129 0.254 0.447
7 ServerStack Linux 0:00:00 0.022 0.085 0.076 0.151 0.151
8 Hyve Managed Hosting Linux 0:00:00 0.026 0.264 0.077 0.145 0.169
9 Pair Networks FreeBSD 0:00:00 0.026 0.231 0.082 0.167 0.571
10 Logicworks Linux 0:00:00 0.030 0.162 0.072 0.148 0.304

See full table

Qube had the most reliable hosting company site in May, with only one failed request. London-based Qube has performed remarkably well so far this year, fitting in with its vision to be the most reliable and trusted managed hosting company in the industry. As well as coming first three times so far this year, Qube also narrowly missed out on another first place in January.

With only three failed requests, Datapipe had the second most reliable hosting company site in May. Datapipe has also performed well this year, achieving first place results in both January and March; so far this year, only Qube and Datapipe have achieved first place. Over the past eight years, Datapipe has racked up an impressive 100% uptime record, and 99.994% since Netcraft started monitoring its website in June 2003 (downtime is only recorded when all of Netcraft's performance monitors simultaneously record an outage).

In third place, with four failed requests, was EveryCity, which has only been monitored by Netcraft since April. EveryCity started more than six years ago and its offices have been based near London's Tower Bridge ever since. Its primary datacenter is powered by 100% renewable energy and it offers various products and services, including public and private cloud hosting, dedicated servers, domain names, SSL certificate management, disaster recovery and content delivery.

The Linux operating system was used by seven of May's top ten hosting company websites, while two used FreeBSD. www.everycity.co.uk runs on SmartOS, which combines the ZFS file system, DTrace dynamic tracing, kernel-based virtual machines and Solaris Zones operating system-level virtualisation into a single operating system based on a community fork of OpenSolaris.

Netcraft measures and makes available the response times of around forty leading hosting providers' sites. The performance measurements are made at fifteen minute intervals from separate points around the internet, and averages are calculated over the immediately preceding 24 hour period.

From a customer's point of view, the percentage of failed requests is more pertinent than outages on hosting companies' own sites, as this gives a pointer to reliability of routing, and this is why we choose to rank our table by fewest failed requests, rather than shortest periods of outage. In the event the number of failed requests are equal then sites are ranked by average connection times.

Information on the measurement process and current measurements is available.

National Crime Agency “urgent alert” site knocked offline

With only two weeks until the recently seized Gameover Zeus botnet is likely to be functioning again, the UK's National Crime Agency has published urgent advice on how to protect computers against the Gameover Zeus and CryptoLocker trojans.

Unfortunately, the page hosting this urgent advice is proving rather troublesome to view:

GetSafeOnline, Offline

When it can be viewed, the NCA's advice page at www.getsafeonline.org/nca/ outlines the threat and lists a set of tools which can be used to check for the presence of malware. The page also notes that the NCA "cannot over-stress the importance of taking these steps immediately" and "You must follow the advice on this page straight away".

With expectations of high traffic and the need for users to act immediately, it is surprising that this important information was not hosted on a platform which was capable of handling the load. Last night's tweet by @GetSafeOnline suggests that the performance issues are being caused by lots of traffic; there are no indications of an attack against the site.

Reverse DNS lookups for the www.getsafeonline.org hostname resolve to 170-203-253-62.static.virginm.net,
and the final hop in a traceroute is spc1-barn6-0-0-cust460.asfd.broadband.ntl.com

The FBI believes the Gameover Zeus trojan is responsible for more than one million computer infections, resulting in financial losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars. A Russian man believed to be involved in these attacks has been added to the FBI's Cyber's Most Wanted list.

The NCA announced the urgent alert on Facebook yesterday, prompting a stream of comments about the site not working

Since referring to the NCA's advice page in an article yesterday, the BBC's Dave Lee has mirrored the content on evernote so others can see it.

Ask.fm users being redirected to malware sites

Malicious adverts displayed on the Ask.fm website have been automatically redirecting users to malware sites, where they are prompted to install unwanted or malicious software under the pretense of Java and Flash Player updates.

This particular advert is benign and serves only as an example of the banner's placement

Ask.fm is a popular social network which allows its users to receive and answer anonymous questions, but both registered users and anonymous question askers are being put at risk by some of the adverts it displays: Merely viewing a user's profile on Ask.fm caused some users to be redirected to the following page, which claimed that an outdated Java plugin had been detected (even when Java had been disabled).

Rather than downloading a Java update, victims will instead end up installing a program which several anti-virus vendors identify as DomaIQ. This is an advertising platform used by adware and other malicious programs to display unwanted pop-up ads within Internet Explorer, Firefox and Google Chrome.

The rogue advert responsible for performing the redirection was initially served through ADTECH GmbH, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of AOL. However, the trail does not end there – the framed content served by ADTECH subsequently requested several pages from AppNexus servers at ib.adnxs.com and ams1.ib.adnxs.com, before one of these pages initiated a request to a Java servlet on exchange.admailtiser.com. Finally, this servlet page caused the parent frame to be redirected from Ask.fm to the page on www.updriong.com, essentially taking the browser to a different website without requiring any user interaction.

After returning to the Ask.fm website, another rogue advert immediately redirected the browser to a fake Adobe Flash update site. Again, no user interaction was required – the chain of requests initiated by the third party advert automatically redirected the user's browser to the fake site hosted in Sweden.

In this case, the rogue advert on http://ask.fm/account/wall was again initially served by ADTECH, but the framed content made its next request to a Yahoo ad server (ads.yahoo.com), which in turn made a request to ad.copa-media.com, which itself made a request for content hosted on an AppNexus server at ams1.ib.adnxs.com.

Finally, a request to another AppNexus server at ib.adnxs.com resulted in the user's browser being redirected to the fake Adobe Flash update site at download.adoocobo.us. The setup.exe file is served from a domain which is known for propagating malware.

Mobile browsers have also been targeted by similar attacks on Ask.fm. The example below shows an Ask.fm webpage displaying an intrusive and unsolicited alert dialog which originates from a Yahoo ad server. If the user clicks OK, he will be taken to a site which falsely claims that his phone has severe battery issues.

Within a few minutes, another advert on Ask.fm attempted to download an Android app directly from a website in France as soon as the user clicked OK. The makers of the genuine Mobogenie Market app recommend that it should only be downloaded from reliable sources such as Google Play, mobogenie.com and other partner networks (although it does not specify who these are).

Incidentally, despite encouraging its users not to reveal their passwords to anyone, the login form on http://ask.fm transmits a user's password over an unencrypted HTTP connection:

Most high profile websites only ever transmit passwords over encrypted HTTPS connections, and many sites also ensure that the entire duration of a browser session remains encrypted, i.e. not just the login process. Sending plain text passwords over an unencrypted connection makes them vulnerable to eavesdropping, giving a correctly-positioned attacker the opportunity to gain unauthorised access to Ask.fm user accounts.