Vulnerabilities / Threats

1/22/2018
04:15 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

File Inclusion Vulns, SQL Injection Top Web Defacement Tactics

Hacktivists driven by political, religious, and other causes commonly exploit basic vulnerabilities to spread their messages, researchers say.

File inclusion vulnerabilities, SQL injections, and known vulnerabilities are the most common flaws leveraged by hacktivists who launch Web defacement campaigns.

Trend Micro researchers dug into 18 years' worth of data to produce "A Deep Dive into Defacement: How Geopolitical Events Trigger Web Attacks." This report is the analysis of more than 13 million Web defacement reports against websites on multiple continents.

Traditional cybercriminals use Web attacks for profit. Hacktivists use Web attacks to spread political, religious, or other ideological messages. Web defacement hacktivism is the process of taking over a website with the goal of spreading a particular agenda or political ideology. Attackers compromise an organization's site and replace the original page with their own.

"Their biggest consideration is being seen and making an impact," says Rik Ferguson, Trend Micro's vice president of security research. "It's very appealing, if you're in a politically motivated campaign, to compromise the sites of ideological opponents -- but the overriding concern is to deface the website. The higher-profile [site], the better."

Researchers found a total of 104,135 unique defacers and nearly 10 million unique compromised domains. One domain can have multiple incidents recorded. Linux is the most frequently compromised OS with 9 million incidents, followed by Windows 2003 (1.5 million).

The top seven campaigns connected to, and motivated by, real-world conflict stretched across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. These included #OpIsrael, an anti-Israel defacement campaign, which had the most attackers; "Free Kashmir" had the greatest number of defacements. Other large campaigns were savesyria, #antiserbs, #opindia, #opfrance, and South China Sea.

In terms of the specific web vulnerabilities exploited, Ferguson points out there is significant overlap with the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) Top 10 list for 2017. Researchers found file inclusion vulns were most frequently exploited, with 2.4 million instances, followed by SQL injection (1.3 million) and known vulnerabilities like unpatched systems (1.2 million).

Other notable tactics include social engineering, server intrusion attacks, URL poisoning, and leveraging man-in-the-middle attacks to grab credentials. Defacers often leave their email or twitter handle on a defaced site as a type of promotion, or "cyber-tagging," as Ferguson says.

Ferguson says many security pros are more interested in the newest, most exciting attack techniques but admits these aren't worth worrying about. "It's the absolute minority of people who are affected by overly complex intrusions," he explains, adding that most people are affected by simple security oversights like poor authentication and weak password policies, not zero-days.

"As you could say with online crime in general, attackers don't evolve their techniques until they have to," says Ferguson. "And right now, the good guys are making it too easy."

When hacktivism takes a malicious turn

While most hacktivists are not involved in malicious file propagation, defacement pages can unknowingly carry malicious code. Researchers discovered Ramnit malware, designed to steal banking credentials, distributed on malicious sites or packaged as fake software installers. Ramnit has evolved to have worm propagation techniques and the ability to infect files.

Researchers found 9,726 defacements included Ramnit, which infected Web defacement templates to include the malicious VBscript. This made defaced pages distribute the malware.

While this doesn’t mean hacktivists are using their powers for malicious purposes, says Ferguson, it is plausible for defacers to transition into hacking and cybercrime.

"If you're in defacement, the only thing you're concerned about is getting a toehold on the Internet-facing infrastructure so you can make the content changes you want to make," he continues. "If your interest is … maintaining your presence and exfiltrating data, you're going to not only need an initial point of entry, but the tools, techniques, and expertise for data exfiltration."

That said, it wouldn't take much for defacers to cause damage, he notes. With their initial point of entry, they would only need to invest in an exploit kit and use simple JavaScript to make their operation more malicious. The Internet of Things will be a growing area of concern as hacktivists expand their tactics from standard websites to include IoT-connected devices.

How to protect your business

"First and most important is about configuration and implementation," says Ferguson. Walking through a wizard and using standard configuration for your Web server isn't good enough. You need to make sure you lock down access with strong authentication, preferably multifactor, and strong passwords.

He also emphasizes the importance of using Web application firewalls to monitor traffic and block exploit attempts, which he calls an "absolute basic step," as well as applying patches to Web infrastructure as they are available. When this isn't possible, as is the case for many organizations, you should have host-based server protection technology for vulnerabilities so they can't be exploited before the patch can be applied.

Related Content:

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
White House Cybersecurity Strategy at a Crossroads
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  7/17/2018
The Fundamental Flaw in Security Awareness Programs
Ira Winkler, CISSP, President, Secure Mentem,  7/19/2018
Number of Retailers Impacted by Breaches Doubles
Ericka Chickowski, Contributing Writer, Dark Reading,  7/19/2018
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2018-14492
PUBLISHED: 2018-07-21
Tenda AC7 through V15.03.06.44_CN, AC9 through V15.03.05.19(6318)_CN, and AC10 through V15.03.06.23_CN devices have a Stack-based Buffer Overflow via a long limitSpeed or limitSpeedup parameter to an unspecified /goform URI.
CVE-2018-3770
PUBLISHED: 2018-07-20
A path traversal exists in markdown-pdf version <9.0.0 that allows a user to insert a malicious html code that can result in reading the local files.
CVE-2018-3771
PUBLISHED: 2018-07-20
An XSS in statics-server <= 0.0.9 can be used via injected iframe in the filename when statics-server displays directory index in the browser.
CVE-2018-5065
PUBLISHED: 2018-07-20
Adobe Acrobat and Reader 2018.011.20040 and earlier, 2017.011.30080 and earlier, and 2015.006.30418 and earlier versions have a Use-after-free vulnerability. Successful exploitation could lead to arbitrary code execution in the context of the current user.
CVE-2018-5066
PUBLISHED: 2018-07-20
Adobe Acrobat and Reader 2018.011.20040 and earlier, 2017.011.30080 and earlier, and 2015.006.30418 and earlier versions have an Out-of-bounds read vulnerability. Successful exploitation could lead to information disclosure.