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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Friday the 13th – A Gallery of Webmaster Nightmares

This post is dedicated to all you geeky horror movie fans out there!

One morning you open your website and don’t recognize it. Something is devastatingly wrong. You wipe the sleep from your eyes, and instantly you know that you’re living your worst nightmare…

As you gain early morning focus from what you thought was a good night sleep, a scary face stares back at you, and declares that you’ve been hacked!

When you see it you know it’s, it’s…it’s…it’s Friday the 13th!!!

Hacked Website Defacement

It’s always Friday the 13th for webmasters of defaced sites, regardless of what their calendar tells. It becomes the most unlucky day in their webmaster life, the day when only bad things can happen.

Hacked Website Defacement 2

We, at Sucuri, come across such hacked sites every day. Every day we help website owners like you survive your Friday the 13th. We restore your sites and make sure this don’t happen again.

When your site is finally restored, and you calm down after the stressful fight for your site, it may eventually occur to you that the defaced page was a piece of some weird modern cyber art.

Hacked Website Defacement 3

OK, maybe you weren’t comparing your defacement to your favorite Van Gogh. We have seen defaced websites every day for the last few years, and after a while you start finding artistic value in some of the “hacked by..” pages you come across.

Sometimes they are disturbing and offensive, sometimes they are scary. Sometimes they are funny, and sometimes they even provide security advice.
In the end, they all reflect the sub-culture of h4x0r$.

Hacked Website Defacement 4

In this post, we’d like to share our collection of screenshots of defaced websites. Lean back and submerge into the world of cyber-chaos.
Once you emerge back from the craziness, think to yourself, and ask yourself the simple question, “Am I prepared to deal with such unfortunate events?”

Hacked Website Defacement 5

Hacked Website Defacement 6

Hacked Website Defacement 7

Hacked Website Defacement 8

Hacked Website Defacement 9

Hacked Website Defacement 10

Hacked Website Defacement 11

Hacked Website Defacement 12

Hacked Website Defacement 13

You can find 100 more screenshots and the whole collection on the Sucuri Facebook page.

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Have you encountered such defaced pages on the Internet? Share your own website nightmare, on this eery Friday the 13th!

How We Decoded Some Nasty Multi-Level Encoded Malware

From time to time, we come up with interesting bits of malware that are just calling us to decode and learn more about them. This is one of those cases.

Recently, I crossed pathes with this little gem:

dissecting-malware-step-1

That snippet is encoded malicious content. The full payload is is much bigger, 12816 characters, to be exact. Seems benign, right? At least it looks interesting. So interesting that I decided to dissect it, piece by piece.

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Phishing Emails to Install Malicious WordPress Plugins

When all else fails, the bad guys can always rely on some basic social engineering tactics with a little hit of phishing!!

Over the weekend, a few of our clients received a very suspicious email telling them to download a new version of the popular “All in One SEO Pack” plugin for WordPress. What a win, right? It wasn’t just the plugin, but the Pro version too. To top it off, it was for Free!!! This is where the journey begins…

Happy Black Friday / Cyber Monday


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Another Fake WordPress Plugin – And Yet Another SPAM Infection!

We clean hundreds and thousands of infected websites, a lot of the cleanups can be considered to be somewhat “routine”. If you follow our blog, you often hear us say we’ve seen “this” numerous times, we’ve cleaned “that” numerous times.

In most cases when dealing with infected websites, we know where to look and what to remove, generally with a quick look we can determine what’s going. Despite our experience and passion for cleaning up a hacked website, there are always surprises lurking and waiting for us, almost every day.

Some of the most interesting routine cases we deal with are often websites with SPAM. SPAM is in the database, or the whole block of SPAM code is stored in some obscure file. We also deal with cases where the SPAM is loaded within the theme or template header, footer, index, etc. Sometimes these SPAM infections are conditional (e.g. They only appear once per IP), sometimes not.

More often than not however, these infections is not too difficult to identify and remove. In the case we’re writing about in this post, we were able not only to remove malware, but also take a look at what’s going on behind the curtain.

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Case Study: Analyzing a WordPress Attack – Dissecting the webr00t cgi shell – Part I

November 1st started like any other day on the web. Billions of requests were being shot virtually between servers in safe and not so safe attempts to access information. After months of waiting, finally one of those not so safe request hit one of our honeypots.

We won’t get into the location of the site because it really doesn’t matter, a fact that most critics don’t realize. As is often the case, the honeypot site was quiet without much traffic and the weakness was access control.

We intentionally left the password to the site to one of the top 10 passwords, with continuous attempts it took about 3 months before it was accessed.

This time though we were ready and this is how it went..

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WordPress 3.6.1 Released – Includes Security Fixes

The WordPress team just pushed out a new version of WordPress. WordPress 3.6.1 is a maintenance release that includes some security bug fixes. Straight from their release post, these are the security changes:

  1. Block unsafe PHP unserialization that could occur in limited situations and setups, which can lead to remote code execution. Reported by Tom Van Goethem.
  2. Prevent a user with an Author role, using a specially crafted request, from being able to create a post “written by” another user. Reported by Anakorn Kyavatanakij.
  3. Fix insufficient input validation that could result in redirecting or leading a user to another website. Reported by Dave Cummo, a Northrup Grumman subcontractor for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We asked WordPress Lead Developer, Andrew Nacin for a bit of clarity around the author role issue that was fixed, here’s what Andrew said:

A user can reassign the authorship of a post to another user, even when they are not allowed to do so. (For example, the user is an Author and not an Editor.) The user must already be allowed to edit content — and specifically edit that post. They also then lose the ability to edit that post, but this “forging” could still cause a compromised account or malicious user to post as another user.

In closing the conversation with Andrew, he remarked that WordPress is not vulnerable to the remote code execution issue by default:

I’ll emphasize that WordPress is *NOT* exploitable to the RCE out of the box, despite it being a doozy. It requires a vulnerable object (which core does not have), as well as a vulnerable character set. It is a “perfect storm” vulnerability.


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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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Big Increase in Distributed Brute Force Attacks Against Joomla Websites

Update: Brute force protection now available: http://cloudproxy.sucuri.net/brute-force-protection


A few months ago, we discussed and published details about a very large brute force attack targeting WordPress sites.

The attackers (bad guys) had thousands of servers at their disposal, and were attempting all types of passwords on wp-admin (WordPress admin panel) to try to get access to as many WordPress sites as possible. The attacks lasted for a few weeks and then it calmed down. I can’t attest to their successes, but knowing how bad people are at choosing passwords, I guess it worked well for them.

Lately, we started to see the same thing happen to Joomla sites. While most of the sites we monitor would get a few brute force attempts per day in the past, the last couple of days all of them are getting thousands of requests daily.

Against one website, we saw 11,349 requests during the course of a few hours coming from 1,737 different IP addresses. Each IP address was trying to log in once or twice. And after a few hours, it would try again, making this type of attack very hard to detect and block.

Joomla Brute force timeline

We have seen an average of 6,000 brute force attempts against Joomla sites daily across our honeypots and CloudProxy networks. Some days the attacks increased to almost 13k, and dipped as low as 3k attempts. However, for the last 3 days, you can see a big increase, reaching almost 269,976 scans yesterday, September 2nd, 2013. That’s a very big increase out of nowhere.

We also started to see customers complaining about excessive resources utilization, similar to what happened with the WordPress attacks.

Joomla Brute Force Chart

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Potential vBulletin Exploit (4.1+ and 5+)

The vBulletin team just posted a pre-disclosure warning on their announcements forum about a possible exploit in versions 4.1+ and 5+ of vBulletin.

They don’t provide many details, but did state that webmasters need to remove the /install and /core/install from their websites. This is the full message:

A potential exploit vector has been found in the vBulletin 4.1+ and 5+ installation directories. Our developers are investigating this issue at this time. If deemed necessary we will release the necessary patches. In order to prevent this issue on your vBulletin sites, it is recommended that you delete the install directory for your installation. The directories that should be deleted are:

4.X – /install/
5.X – /core/install

After deleting these directories your sites can not be affected by the issues that we’re currently investigating.

vBulletin 3.X and pre-4.1 would not be affected by these issues. However if you want the best security precautions, you can delete your install directory as well.

Going back to our logs, we don’t see any specific scans for /core/install, but we see constant discovery requests for /install. We don’t yet know if that is related to vBulletin or other CMS’s.

Our team will be watching it closely, and any client under our CloudProxy WAF is already protected by it since we only allow access to the “install” directories by white listed IP addresses.