About Estevao Avillez

Estevao is a Operations Manager at Sucuri. He is also on twitter at @estevaoavillez

Not Just Pills or Payday Loans, It’s Essay SEO SPAM!

Remember back in school or college when you had to write pages and pages of long essays, but had no time to write them? Or maybe you were just too lazy? Yeah, good times. Well, it seems like some companies are trying to end this problem. They are offering services where clients pay them to write these essays for you.

Essay SEO SPAM

The problem is that this is not only wrong, but it’s also becoming a competitive market where some companies are leveraging SEO SPAM to gain better rankings on search engines (i.e., Google, Bing). They are also using popular sites like bleacherreport.com and joomlacode.org to add their spam links.

Here are a couple example URL’s from sites that got hit (URL’s are still showing SPAM):

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Avira, AVG and WhatsApp Defaced

If you visited the web sites for Avira, AVG or WhatsApp this morning, you probably saw that they didn’t look like they should. All of them were defaced and looked like this:

02 avira defaced

It is a bit horrifying when you see such big sites, including security sites from major Anti Virus products (like AVG and Avira) getting compromised. But what really happened? Did they really get hacked?

DNS redirection

In a broader sense, they did get hacked, but not through a compromise on their servers or network. It looks like the attackers got access to their domains registration panels at Network Solutions and modified their name servers.

For example, these were the new name servers for Avira:

$ host -t NS avira.com
avira.com name server ns1.radioum.com.br.
avira.com name server n1.ezmail.com.br.
avira.com name server n2.ezmail.com.br.
avira.com name server ns2.radioum.com.br.

And these new names servers were pointing Avira’s IP address to 173.193.136.42, instead of the real IP address. That’s why visitors to the site were greeted with a defacement page.

What causes a bit of suspicion is that all these domains are hosted at Network Solutions, so we have to wait a bit more to see if it was caused by a breach on their end or something else.

Update: Avira posted the following on their tech blog: “It appears that our account used to manage the DNS records registered at Network Solutions has received a fake password-reset request which was honoured by the provider. Using the new credentials the cybercriminals have been able to change the entries to point to their DNS servers.” So it doesn’t looks like Netsol was directly hacked, but the attackers found a way to reset the passwords for certain accounts.

Over 10% of Alexa TOP Million Websites Found Not Safe – Infographic Report

We scan a lot of websites per day. Through our daily work we see all sizes and types of websites compromised, blacklisted, and filled with various security issues. But, we don’t often aggregate the results to provide a public report of what we are seeing.

So last month, we decided to do just that. We decided to scan the most popular websites on the internet to see how bad, or good, they are in terms of web security.

Our testing was very simple. We chose the top 1 million sites (according to Alexa), and checked the sites for those 4 issues:

  • Is the site Blacklisted? Sites were checked on Google, Norton, McAfee, ESET and Sucuri Labs.
  • Is the site infected with hidden SPAM?
  • Is the site infected with malware like drive-by-downloads, exploit kits, and similar issues?
  • Is the site running outdated software?

If the site passed those 4 tests, it would be considered safe for our testing purposes. Let’s see how the sites did.


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More Creative Backdoors – Using Filename Typos

When a site gets compromised, one thing we know for sure is that the attackers will leave some piece of malware in there to allow them access back to the site. We call this type of control capability a backdoor.

Backdoors are very hard to find because they don’t have to be linked anywhere in the site, they can be very small, and can be easily confused with “normal” code. Some of them have passwords, some are heavily encrypted/encoded and can be anywhere in your site.

As part of our job remediating (cleaning) websites, we get to see all types of backdoors. One thing we are noticing is how the attackers are getting more creative each day, always trying to find ways to be more “discrete”. They often mix the backdoor files or code with core website files so that they won’t be noticed easily.

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Malware Infection – Blocked by Day Limit

This week while working on a compromised site, I found an interesting variation of the Blackhole injection. We work with many sites injected with Blackhole, like this one:

Blackhole Injection

However, on this specific site, instead of the common injection we were expecting, there was an unocommon error:

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Brazilian Protests Leading to Mass Defacements

Lately, Brazil is going through a series of political protests against the current administration and the large amount of over expenses related to the 2014 Soccer/FIFA World cup. When the police started to close down the protesters in the streets, they went online. We won’t go into much more politics, but those online protests recently switched from Twitter/Facebook discussions into a mass defacement of multiple high profiles sites (and Twitter accounts).

It includes the Twitter of the Veja Magazine (with over 2.5m followers – one of the biggest in Brazil):

Revista Veja compromised

And the site for Brazilian’s richest man, Eike Batista:

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 5.09.36 PM

Government sites affected too

And that’s not all, many government sites are getting hacked and defaced as part of the protest. All of them begging for the population to join them in the streets and in front of the soccer stadiums to show their dissatisfaction with what is happening. This is a small list of the ones defaced early today:

http://samu192.com.br/

http://www.juazeirinho.pb.gov.br/

http://www.camaradocabo.pe.gov.br/

http://www.macaeprev.rj.gov.br/

http://www.ciscel.mg.gov.br/

http://copa2014.gov.br/

http://www.saofelixdoaraguaia.mt.gov.br/

http://copaemcuiaba.com.br/

http://www.frentedetrabalho.sp.gov.br

We are also seeing some sites suffering from DDOS (denial of service) attacks. We don’t know exactly how those sites are getting hacked, but we will keep monitoring the situation and providing updates as they come. Note that none of the compromised sites were injected to host malware.