Phishing Tale: An Analysis of an Email Phishing Scam

Phishing scams are always bad news, and in light of the Google Drive scam that made the rounds again last week, we thought we’d tell the story of some spam that was delivered into my own inbox because even security researchers, with well though-out email block rules, still get SPAM in our inboxes from time to time.

Here’s where the story begins:

Today, among all the spam that I get in my inbox, one phishing email somehow made its way through all of my block rules.

Spam email in our security team's inbox

Even our security team gets SPAM from time to time.

I decided to look into it a little further. Of course, I wanted to know whether or not we were already blocking the phishing page, but I also wanted to investigate further and see if I could figure out where it came from. Was it from a compromised site or a trojanized computer?

The investigation started with the mail headers (identifying addresses have been changed, mostly to protect my email ☺):

Blog1

The headers tell us that miami.hostmeta.com.br is being used to send the spam. It’s also an alert that some of the sites in this shared server are likely vulnerable to the form: X-Mailer: PHPMailer [version 1.73]. I decided to look into the server and found that it contained quite a few problems. This server hosts about twenty sites, some of which are outdated–WordPress 2.9.2 is the oldest–while others are disclosing outdated web server versions (Outdated Web Server Apache Found: Apache/2.2.22) and still others are blacklisted (http://www.siteadvisor.com/sites/presten.com.br). This makes it pretty difficult to tell where the spam came from, right?

Luckily, there’s another header to help us, Message-ID:. nucleodenegociosweb.com.br is hosted on miami.hostmeta.com.br and it has an open contact form. I used it to send a test message and although the headers are similar, the PHPMailer differs:

Blog2

What Do We Know Now?

We know who is sending the phishing messages, but what host are they coming from? There are some clues in the message body:

blog3

From that image, we can see that http://www.dbdacademy.com/dbdtube/includes/domit/new/ is hosting the image and the link to the phishing scam, but it doesn’t end there. As you can see from the content below, we’ll be served a redirect to http://masd-10.com/contenido/modules/mod_feed/tmpl/old/?cli=Cliente&/JMKdWbAqLH/CTzPjXNZ7h.php, which loads an iframe hosted on http://www.gmff.com.hk/data1/tooltips/new/.

Here is the content:
Phishing email

Problem Solved. Or is It?

In this case, there are three compromised sites being used to deliver the phishing campaign and it’s becoming very common to see this strategy adopted. The problem, from the bad guy’s point of view, is that if they store all of their campaign components on one site, then they lose all of their work when we come in and clean the website. If they split the components up and place them on multiple sites, with different site owners, then it’s unlikely that all of the sites will be cleaned at one time, which means their scam can continue.

As always with malware, it’s not enough for your site to be clean. You also need to rely on everyone else to keep their own site clean. When others don’t, your computer or website can be put at risk.

If you’re interested in technical notes regarding the type of research we do be sure to follow us on Twitter and be sure to check in with our Lab Notes. If you something interesting you’d like us analyze please don’t hesitate to ping us, we’re always looking for a new challenge.

Analyzing a Malicious iFrame – Following the Eval Trail

Over the last week, we’ve been working with some interesting malware injections. Developers and malware prevention professionals usually think of hidden iframes that deliver spam-seo or other malware as easy to spot. Take this injection, for example (Thanks to Sucuri team member, Rafael C., for the sample):

Sucuri - JS Infection II

This is not a traditional iframe src=’http://… code, but you can see where the bad code lives in the example above. This is a problem for the creators of this malware because if an infection is easily detectable then it’s a relatively straightforward process to write a script to detect and clean it up. That’s why the next step for the malware creator is to hide or obfuscate the injection.

Spotting Obfuscated Code

Using JavaScript, there are several ways to obfuscate malicious code like CharCode or URLEncode. In general, obfuscated malware looks like the example below, but of course, the techniques can be more or less advanced. Our team tends to like writing about the more complicated events:

Sucuri - JS Injection Sample

At first glance, this code looks like a CSS related script, i.e. part of your site’s visual architecture, which you don’t want to touch because it could break your site’s look and feel. This, of course, is exactly what the malware creator wants you to think.

Is it Malware?

The tricky thing here is that this function is actually creating a CSS rule. Were we wrong to think that it’s malicious?

last_style_node.addRule(selector, declaration);

What we need to do to find out is look at the content of the rule. To do that, we look for the function call.

createCSS('#va', 'background:url(data:,String.fromCharCode)');

The code is defining the background image for the #va selector. When you look closely you can see that String.fromCharCode is not a valid URL. Remember, malware creators need to figure out how to hide their code injections. In this scenario, storing the functions it needs inside a CSS style is ingenious.

Now that we know where the malware lives, we can find out how it is recovering those strings:

Sucuri - JS Infection III

Putting It All Together

In the code above, we see that the vkk variable is used as the fromCharCode function and uu variable contains a va string. At this moment, this doesn’t make sense, but it starts to come together as we keep moving through some lines of code.

Sucuri - JS Infection IV

It’s important to the hacker that nothing is stored in plain sight (if it was, it’d be much easier to clean). In this instance, take the t variable as an example; it contains the number 2. In this case, this value is attributed by subtracting 2 from the number of seconds of a date stored in the knr variable. That’s pretty complex, right?

This t variable is used to multiply all entries of the xt array*

*Some of the content of this variable has been removed to shorten the post. It doesn’t affect the code’s logic.

Next, there is an empty function called g, which is attributed to hhhu variable, and within these parameters the uu is being used to create the function. By concatenating the e, va(the content of uu) and l we end up with, eval! Now we’re finding some malware.

Then, another chain of variables, hhhu, is now attributed to ac with a different function–the one inside the variable ry, which, previously, we saw contains String.fromCharCode. Now it’s eval’ing String.fromCharCode for CharCodes that are stored in the xt variable.

Finally, after all this, it calls the eval again–the hhhu–but now to execute the code inside dwms variable, which was decoded using the for loop from before.

Dissecting Malware is A Full Time Job

That was an illustration of one payload. It’s just one data point that articulates the sort of complex obfuscation we deal with on a daily basis and, we can say without reservation, as we continue to find new ways to detect it more easily, malware creators will find ways to make their obfuscation more and more complex. If you’re having trouble with malware or blacklisting, take a look at the symptoms of malware and ask us to help.

Do you have samples you’d like us to analyze? Feel free to engage us on Twitter at SucuriLabs or feel free to send us an email at labs@sucuri.net.

Highly Effective Joomla Backdoor with Small Profile

It feels like every day we’re finding gems, or what appear to be gems to us. We try to balance the use of the term, but I can’t lie, these are truly gems. The things they are doing, and by they I mean the attackers, are in some instance ingenious. I think you’ll agree that this case falls into that category.

In short, this is a highly effective backdoor that carries little profile, making it Hight Speed Low Drag.

Understanding Attackers

As we’ve discussed in the past, most attackers have a pretty standard workflow when compromising websites. Here’s that process in it’s simplest form:

  1. Identify point of entry / weakness
  2. Exploit the entry / weakness
  3. Ensure that they can retain access
  4. Cover your tracks

I agree, nothing earth shattering, but it does help us understand what it is we need to be looking for.

Many will make the argument that a site is not clear if you haven’t performed some level of forensics to understand what happened. Often this same analysis will lend itself to items 3 and 4 in the list. Reverse engineering their attempts to clean up their traces and finding those backdoors, diamonds in the ruff.

Unfortunately, this level of forensics is not for everyone and contrary to popular belief it’s not as simple as looking for simple obfuscation. No, these days the backdoors are becoming highly sophisticated, making use of built-in functions and carry little trace of what you might consider to be traditional backdoors.

What many also don’t realize is how important the third step is. If done correctly, the attacker is able to bypass all your access control mechanisms, i.e., logins like administrator and FTP, and work right off your server with little hesitation.

This post is an example of that, for instance take into consideration these two images:

Image #1

Sucuri-Joomla-Backdoor-I

Image #2

Sucuri-Joomla-Backdoor-II

Can you pinpoint the difference or the backdoor? Is there a backdoor?

Joomla Specific Backdoor

The images above are an example of what we recently found and the purpose of this post.

Yes, I agree, it’s unfair for us to ask you to pinpoint the difference in the images; besides, the total change is no greater than 304 bytes.

But for those keen eyes, you probably noticed the difference in the if-clause, here specifically:

if (!in_array($format, $allowable) && !in_array($format,$ignored))

Versus this:

if ($format == '' || $format == false || (!in_array($format, $allowable) && !in_array($format,$ignored)))

For those that are completely lost, it all comes down to how the $format variable is created. For that we have to look here:

$format = strtolower(JFile::getExt($file['name']));

This tell us that the variable is getting the file’s extension using a Joomla native function called getExt. This function does this:

function getExt($file) {
$chunks = explode('.', $file);
$chunksCount = count($chunks) - 1;

if($chunksCount > 0) {
return $chunks[$chunksCount];
}

return false;
}

This in turn breaks the file name into pieces based on the positions of the dot, returning false if there are not dots. If everything is ok it returns the latest group after the last dot, i.e., the extension.

This is where the canUpload function will check if the extension is part of the allowed ones or not. This goes back to the very first if clause shared above.

In the second set, you see two additional conditions, if $format is false or if it’s empty. That’s then followed by another .OR. operator just before checking if the extension is allowed.

In these cases, if the extension is empty or if it’s false or allowed, the file can be uploaded. This and nothing is the same thing, right?

Wow, that one hurt my head too, sorry.. but hang in there.

In order to make the $format false, or empty, the attacker would need to add a trailing dot to the end of the file, like backdoor.php.. But it’s not that simple, the upload alone won’t make it useable.

That brings you to the next obvious question, “Fio, if it’s not usable why the heck did you take us down riddle man?” Glad you asked…

First, because I probably had one too many beers while writing this.

Second, it comes down to this code:

function makeSafe($file) {
// Remove any trailing dots, as those aren't ever valid file names.
$file = rtrim($file, '.');
$regex = array('#(\.){2,}#', '#[^A-Za-z0-9\.\_\- ]#', '#^\.#');
return preg_replace($regex, '', $file);
}

I mean seriously, have you ever seen code in better shape than this? The lines, the logic, even the commenting..

// Remove any trailing dots, as those aren’t ever valid file names.

And you have to appreciate the irony in the function name, makeSafe. Make safe a backdoor that is going to do anything but make your website safe.

Here is the kicker, for those that didn’t catch it, this is a valid function inside ./libraries/joomla/filesystem/file.php, a core file of Joomla. This function, by design, cleans out all odd characters from a filename and returns a safe filename. Sound familiar? Remember that trailing dot? Pretty sure that’s unsafe, Joomla core agrees with us, as such it does what it’s supposed to do, makes a previously unsafe file, safe. Ain’t that something?

Perfect example of a feature that gets abused for bad when it was designed for good.

The Ever Evolving Landscape

I chose to share this little gem with the world because it talks volumes to the evolution in the attacks that we’re seeing. The website security market has turned into a gold rush as of late, but with that growth we have seen new innovation in the way attackers are 1) attacking websites and 2) how they’re retaining control of those same websites.

This is forcing us to really look deep into the various detection and remediation technologies to better understand how to prevent scenarios like the one described in this post.

This attack specifically is not something a signature would have ever picked up, it’s tightly integrated and dependent on what most would categorize as “good” code, and by good I mean it’s part of core and designed to do a good thing. Now extend this line of thinking, think beyond core.

If attackers are starting to look at how “good” code functions and finding ways to manipulate its use, what is to stop them from extending that thought process to code found in your templates, themes, extensions, plugins? This is a real problem that extends far beyond Joomla and will soon plague other CMS applications, if they are not already.

If you have something to add or share on the post, use the comments we’d love to get your hear from you.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, suffering repeated attacks or infections be sure to contact us. Whether you’re infected and need to be cleared, or prefer not to have to deal with this at all, we have a complete security solution to keep your website clean and safe.

Malicious iFrame Injections Host Payload on Tumblr

It’s always fun to watch malware developers using different techniques to code their creations. Sometimes it’s a matter of obfuscation, placement, injection, but this time it’s how they code it to be dynamic.

I believe this is not the first one that uses this service, but it’s the first time I’m seeing it. The concept is not new, we have often seen Twitter and Ask.fm accounts being used as malware Command & Control (C&C) servers, but now we can add Tumblr to the list.

A few weeks ago we found an iFrame injection that was relying on Tumblr to trigger the payload.

Tumblr lets you effortlessly share anything. – Tumblr

It appears they take this motto to heart!

How Does It Work?

The anatomy of this attack is very interesting.

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The Hidden Backdoors to the City of Cron

An attackers key to creating a profitable malware campaign is its persistency. Malicious code that is easily detected and removed will not generate enough value for their creators. This is the reason why we are seeing more and more malware using creative backdoor techniques, different obfuscation methods, and using unique approaches to increase the lifespan of any given attack.

Cron Malware Backdoor

Today we found this malware: A simple, but heavily encoded SPAM injector that was prepended to a valid Joomla File. Yes, nothing new, we have thousands of blog posts that show this kind of malware:


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Understanding Google’s Blacklist – Cleaning Your Hacked Website and Removing From Blacklist

Today we found an interesting case where Google was blacklisting a client’s site but not sharing the reason why. The fact they were sharing very little info should not be new, but what we found as we dove a little deeper should be. The idea is to provide you webmasters with the required insight to understand what is going on, and how to troubleshoot things when your website is blacklisted.

Get Your Bearing

While investigating the website, we found that some Google shortened URLs were being loaded and redirecting to http://bls.pw/. Two of the goo.gl links were pointing to Wikipedia images, their icon to be specific, and one was redirecting to http://bls.pw/ shortener.

goo.gl/9yBTe - http://bits.wikimedia.org/favicon/wikipedia.ico
goo.gl/hNVXP - http://bits.wikimedia.org/favicon/wikipedia.ico?2x2
goo.gl/24vi1 - http://bls.pw/

A quick search for this last URL took us to /wp-content/themes/Site’sTheme/css/iefix.sct. As malware writers like to do, it was trying to trick us into believing it was good code. In this case, the Sizzle CSS Selector Engine code (Real code here) was the target:

Sucuri  Sizzle CSS Selector Engine Modified III

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Blackhat SEO and ASP Sites

It’s all too easy to scream and holler at PHP based websites and the various malware variants associate with the technology, but perhaps we’re a bit too biased.

Here is a quick post on ASP variant. Thought we’d give you Microsoft types some love too.

Today we found this nice BlackHat SEO attack:

Sucuri SiteCheck ASP Malware

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Joomla – Fancy SPAM Injections

Malware writers can be really ingenious when it comes to obfuscating their code. And let’s face it, in today’s anti-malware push, they have to; the slightest variation will often trigger warnings that will make it look suspicious in turn shortening its life-span.

When we talk about obfuscation the first thing we think is base64 encoding, gzinflate or any other built-in function that will help making the code illegible for the average user, but they’ll often stick out to the trained eye.

With that in mind, obfuscating the malware code to look like good code is the best approach to make it last longer.

Take this code, for example:

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vBulletin Conditional Malware – myFTP.biz Malicious iFrames

We have to be honest here, there’s no fun in cleaning up infected .htaccess files. It’s boring, but it happens a lot! But it’s not the case here. I will also caveat that while in this specific instance we’ll be talking to one specific platform, we are seeing this same tactic spread across a number of other popular platforms as well like Joomla and WordPress.

There are different types of infection, some are automated (like the htaccess I mentioned) and some are targeted and well crafted, like the one we saw today.

One of our clients was receiving complaints from the site’s readers that when accessing the site it was trying to do a drive-by-download, install malicious software on their computer[s].

When checking the page source we found the following code in the headers:

Screen Shot 2013-06-12 at 12.57.21 PM

This code translates into a hidden iframe:

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Joomla Pharma Hack – Web Malware Removal

In my last SEO poisoning post I wrote about some really nasty conditional malware. In this one, we’re going to revert our attention to the more common variation of the attack, and look at the Joomla CMS.

Joomla Pharma Hack

This variation will be the Pharma hack. As of late, it seems to be going on a rampage on a number of CMS applications and many of its characteristics are similar. The objective appears to be clear though, find its way into Google’s search engine result pages (SERP).

While we can only speculate, the idea is simple – The SERPs are a cached product and as long as they keep the injections benign of malware they increase their odds of bypassing detection until someone spots it and reports.

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