Just a few thoughts about an interesting behavior of a black-hat SEO doorway.
Typically hackers create doorways on compromised sites to make search engines rank them for certain keywords and then, when searchers click on the links in search results, those doorways redirect them further to a site that hackers really promote. Sometime that redirect may go through some TDS (traffic directing service) but the whole scheme remains pretty much the same:
Search results -> doorway -> beneficiary site
Today, when doing a backlink research of one of such pharma doorways, I encountered a different scheme — a one with a loop.
Data Driven Security took the time to analyze the raw data that I published in my recent post on Sucuri blog about how I used Bitly data to understand the scale of the Darkleech infection.
In their article, they have a few questions about data formats, meaning of certain fields and some inconsistencies, so I’ll try to answer their questions here and explain how I worked with the data.
Joomla has been one of the most popular CMS for a long time. It powers a huge number of sites. That’s great! The flip side of this fact is Joomla has been very popular for a long time and there are still very many sites that use older versions of Joomla as well as older version of Joomla components. For example, the 1.5.x branch of Joomla (2008-2010) still has a noticeable share in live Joomla sites.
Old versions may work well for your site but they have multiple well known security holes, so they are the low hanging fruit for hackers. Let me show this using a real world example.
Since July of 2008 when I released the first public version, Unmask Parasites was a “one man project” and it worked fine for me most of the time. I did everything myself from server setup to site development, from web attack investigations to blogging here. During these years Unmask Parasites became quite noticeable both within webmasters and Internet security community. And I always tried to meet their expectations providing a tool that could reveal various obscure website security issues and sharing information on how and why websites get hacked, and what can be done to prevent it.
Hacking websites using FTP access has been one of the most popular attack vectors during the last few year. I can still see many massive site infections done via FTP.
In most cases, the first step of such attacks is stealing FTP credentials from local computers of webmasters. Back in 2009, I described how PC malware stole passwords saved in popular FTP clients such as FileZilla, CuteFTP, SmartFTP and many more. This is still a prevailing vector. More exotic password theft methods include keyloggers, FTP traffic sniffing, and stealing user databases of hosting providers who prefer convenience over security and store actual client passwords in plain text or slightly encrypted (instead of storing only hashes of passwords).
If you ask regular webmasters how hackers can break into their server via FTP, many of them will answer that hackers could guess the password (hence the need to have hard-to-guess passwords). Of course, it is hard to guess whatever password at the first attempt, so one might expect to see multiple such attempts (so-called brute force attacks) before a password is cracked and hackers get access to a server. However in real life, I haven’t come across such FTP brute force attacks. Until this month…
Earlier this week, Sucuri wrote about auto generated iframes in hacked WordPress blogs. The malicious PHP code fetched the iframe URLs from a remote server (hxxp://82 .200 .204 .151/config.inc.php) on-the-fly every time someone loaded infected web pages. This trick helped regularly update the malicious URLs without having to change the code on each hacked site individually. All the URLs had the same format http://<domain-of-a-hacked -site.com>/news/faults-ending.php. For example, hxxp://brewerstire .com/news/faults-ending.php .
This reminded me of another ongoing attack that also rotates iframe URLs in a similar way. However it has some distinguishing features that make it worth it to describe it separately.
Competition in search marketing can be tough. Regardless of number of businesses/products/services relevant to a specific keyword there is only one top position and unless it’s your site at the top you miss out on the hefty share of the search traffic generated by that keyword. The lower the result is displayed the less attention it gets.
Even if you are in “business” of black hat SEO and can use whatever dirty tricks you like, you still can’t guarantee the top position for the most popular keywords since there are already many established reputable sites and other black hats competing for the same keywords. But if you can’t always get the top position, you can still try to make your results look more attractive than the rest and increase their click through rate, right? Right! And this post will be about one of such tricks