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Following the Black Hat SEO Traces

14 Aug 11   Filed in Tips and Tricks, Website exploits with 6 Comments

This is a follow up to my last week’s post about hacked WordPress blogs and poisoned Google Images search results. Cyber-criminals infiltrated 4,000+ self-hosted WP blogs and created doorway pages that would redirect visitors coming from Google Images search to scareware sites. A few days ago I posted a short update to let you know that Google has removed the doorway pages from its index. I also promised to share some new interesting details about that black hat SEO campaign. So here we go!
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Hacked WordPress Blogs Poison Google Images

05 Aug 11   Filed in Website exploits with 12 Comments

After a series of posts about Google Image poisoning campaigns that used hot-linked images a main trick to get top positions in search results, I’d like to describe a different Google Image poisoning attack that affects WordPress blogs and uses self-hosted images.
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Tweet Week: July 18-24, 2011

26 Jul 11   Filed in Tweet Week with 1 Comment

Selected short messages and links you might have missed if you don’t follow me on Twitter.

Google’s warning, G.CO, Python in WordPress!?, Joomla 1.7, follow up on the tattoo spam »»

Tattoo Ideas For … Spammers

21 Jul 11   Filed in General with 1 Comment

Do you know how many people use Google Images to see a new tattoo of some celebrity or to search for tattoo ideas? What about using image search for hairstyle lookups? Or to find new wallpapers for your computer desktop? I’d say millions do it. That’s why these niches are particularly interesting for “black hats”.
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Tweet Week: July 4-10, 2011

11 Jul 11   Filed in Tweet Week with Comments Off

Selected short messages and links you might have missed if you don’t follow me on Twitter.

WordPress 3.2 new sys requirements, Joomla and phpMyAdmin updates, poisoned Microsoft search results »»

Tweet Week: June 27 – July 3, 2011

04 Jul 11   Filed in Tweet Week with Comments Off

Selected short messages and links you might have missed if you don’t follow me on Twitter.

banned CO.CC and CO.BE sites, WordPress 3.2 new sys requirements, 1000 tweets, Unmask Parasites turns 3 years old »»

Google Image Poisoning. What’s New in June?

29 Jun 11   Filed in Website exploits with 3 Comments

This is the second (more techie) part in the series of posts about a new wave of the Google Image poisoning attack. This part will heavily refer to the detailed description of the attack that I made back in May. Most of the aspects are still true so I will only talk about changes here. If you want to have a complete picture, I suggest that you read the original description first.

Changed doorway behavior

After May 18th, I noticed that doorway pages no longer redirected me anywhere when I clicked on poisoned search results. Neither to bad sites nor to home pages of compromised sites. Instead they displayed the spammy content generated for search engine crawlers only.

That was strange. That could never happen if the old algorithm was still in use.

Then I checked the cache directories (./.log/compromiseddomain.com/) and found new maintenance files there: don.txt and xml.txt. The don.txt file contained HTML template of spammy pages and was a replacement for the shab100500.txt file used by the original algorithm. The xml.txt contained the following string: bG92ZS1ibG9nY29tLm5ldA==, which decoded (base64) to “love-blogcom.net“. It was clear it was a more secure replacement for xmlrpc.txt that stored the domain name of a remote malicious server in plain text.

A few days later, the xml.txt files was replaced by xml.cgi, which was a clever step since .cgi files produce server errors when you try to open them in directories that aren’t configured to execute CGI scripts.

So I knew that the doorway script was updated, but I couldn’t understand why the doorways exhibited no malicious behavior when I clicked on hijacked image search results. That didn’t make much sense. What was the purpose of showing those spammy unintelligible pages without trying to monetize the traffic? The only plausible idea was they were playing the “long game” and needed some time to have the new pages rank well without risks of being identified as cloaked or malicious content, and when many pages reach prominent positions in search results they’ll start redirect web searchers to bad sites. Well, that was a working hypothesis until I got the source code of the new doorway script. The reality is crooks don’t want to play “long games” if they can monetize right away – the new doorway pages did redirect to bad site but my virtual environment wasn’t properly configured to trigger the redirects.
Continue – Dissecting the updated Google Image poisoning attack »»

Google Image Poisoning. Mitigation and the New Wave.

23 Jun 11   Filed in General, Short Attack Reviews with 1 Comment

In May, I wrote a big article about my investigation of a massive Google Image poisoning attack. A quick recap: cybercriminals created millions of doorway pages on dozens of thousands compromised websites. Those pages exploited a flaw in Google Image search algorithm that made it possible for pages with hot-linked images to hijack search results of websites where the images actually belonged to. The attack scheme was very efficient and hundreds of thousand (if not millions) people clicked on poisoned image search results every day.

Not only did I publish results of my investigation on my blog but also shared a great deal of gathered information (lists of compromised sites, algorithms, etc.) with Google and antivirus vendors. I hope this made some difference as I started observe changes literally the next day after the article publication.

In this 2-part series of posts, I will talk about what’s changed since then. Specifically about how Google addressed this problem (part I) and how cybercriminals changed the attack scheme (part II).
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Two Tweet Weeks: May 16-29, 2011

30 May 11   Filed in Tweet Week with Comments Off

Selected short messages and links you might have missed if you don’t follow me on Twitter.

SEO poisoning, canonical hacks, SmartScreen, WordPress, Facebook clickjacking …

Tweet Week: May 9-15, 2011

16 May 11   Filed in Tweet Week with Comments Off

Selected short messages and links you might have missed if you don’t follow me on Twitter.

Google Image poisoning: articles, domains, statistics; free and dangerous WP themes, 1K subscribers …