Sucuri: Malware Disables Security Plugins to Avoid Detection

An alarm or monitoring system is a great tool that can be used to improve the security of a home or website, but what if an attacker can easily disable it?

Sucuri recently described an exploit in which hackers gain access to the site and then immediately disable any of a list of well known security plugins which are installed. If you security plugins are turned off, they’re not going to scan your site for malware and they’re not going to email you a warning.

“If a user tries to reactivate one of the disabled security plugins, it will momentarily appear to activate only for the malware to immediately disable it again. This behavior will prevail until the malware is fully removed from the compromised environment, making it more difficult to detect malicious behavior on the website.”

Ideally your sites are locked down well enough that the hackers can’t gain access in the first place. But keep an eye on your site and if you see any behavior similar to what’s described, contact us and we’ll clean it up.

https://blog.sucuri.net/2020/09/wordpress-malware-disables-security-to-avoid-detection.html

Redirection Hack: a case study

Several hacked sites we recently repaired had the same exploit, which can be tricky to detect by most site owners. We’ve seen this one enough that we feel it is important to let you know what to look for.

A good friend of ours mentioned as an aside that his site kept getting hacked and though his more technically adept relative had cleaned up the immediate problem, whenever someone attempted to look up his site on a search engine they were met with a list of spam sites (viagra ads and the like) all listing HIS site as the web address. He had no idea how that happened, much less how to fix it.

Here’s what was going on: There’s a file at the root of most websites named “.htaccess”. This file has a bunch of specific directives on how to handle various traffic to your website – for instance, if you redesign your site and change some of the page names (for instance, from “mysite.com/contact.html” to “mysite.com/contact/”) it can be used to redirect visitors to the new page. Without redirecting the visitor would end up on your Not Found page, which is frustrating for them and not a good customer service practice.

If hackers gain access to this file they can redirect your visitors anywhere they want, and that’s exactly what happened in these cases.

The hackers had written a set of directives which said in essence “If the visitor is coming from Google, Bing, etc (listing all the big search engines), then please redirect them to one of a list of spam sites”. So when the search engines crawled the site they were also redirected, and the web address was associated with the spam sites on the search engine.

So it might be a good idea to search your own site from time to time. If you happen to run into a similar problem on your site – or someone else’s – we can help.

All of the sites managed by ProtectYourWp.com are protected against this kind of hack, of course. The sites alluded to above were running vulnerable versions of WordPress and plugins which were the likely entry for the hackers. The sites are now new clients, being kept up to date by us.

New Virus from the domain “ js.donatelloflowfirstly[.]ga “ is infecting many WordPress sites

This is an advertising injection/redirection javascript which sends your visitors off to malicious domains. The javascript in question is injected into EVERY post on affected sites.

Our clients should be automatically protected against most javascript injections such as this (but let us know if you see something like this on your site!).

A quick search for “donatelloflowfirstly” will bring up a bunch of sites which are affected – and a few with instructions on how to clean up the mess.

Large Scale Attack Campaign Targets Database Credentials

Between May 29 and May 31, 2020, the Wordfence Firewall blocked over 130 million attacks intended to harvest database credentials from 1.3 million sites by downloading their configuration files.

The peak of this attack campaign occurred on May 30, 2020. At this point, attacks from this campaign accounted for 75% of all attempted exploits of plugin and theme vulnerabilities across the WordPress ecosystem.

Sites running Wordfence (all sites managed by ProtectYourWP.com) are protected against this campaign. If your site is not running Wordfence, and you believe you have been compromised, change your database password and authentication unique keys and salts immediately.

Full article at WordFence

One Attacker Outpaces All Others

Starting April 28th, the WordFence team saw a 30 times increase in cross site scripting attack volume, originating from a single attacker, and targeting over a million WordPress sites. WordFence published research detailing the threat actor and attack volume increase on May 5th. By the time they published, the attack volume had dropped back down to baseline levels.

As of May 11, 2020, attacks by this same threat actor have once again ramped up, and are ongoing. This attacker has now attacked over 1.3 million sites in the past month. As of May 12, 2020, attacks by this threat actor have outpaced all other attacks targeting vulnerabilities across the WordPress ecosystem.

What should I do?

As with the previous attacks, the majority of vulnerabilities being targeted are Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) flaws. The Wordfence Firewall’s built-in XSS protection provides protection from these attacks. But you should still insure that all plugins, themes, and WordPress core are up to date.

Full story at https://www.wordfence.com/blog/2020/05/one-attacker-rules-them-all

Nearly a Million WP Sites Targeted in Large-Scale Attacks

The WordFence Threat Intelligence Team has been tracking a sudden uptick in attacks targeting Cross-Site Scripting(XSS) vulnerabilities that began on April 28, 2020 and increased over the next few days to approximately 30 times the normal volume we see in our attack data.

The majority of these attacks appear to be caused by a single threat actor, based on the payload they are attempting to inject – a malicious JavaScript that redirects visitors and takes advantage of an administrator’s session to insert a backdoor into the theme’s header.

After further investigation, we found that this threat actor was also attacking other vulnerabilities, primarily older vulnerabilities allowing them to change a site’s home URL to the same domain used in the XSS payload in order to redirect visitors to malvertising sites.

Full details at https://www.wordfence.com/blog/2020/05/nearly-a-million-wp-sites-targeted-in-large-scale-attacks/

As Zoom Booms, Incidents of ‘ZoomBombing’ Become a Growing Nuisance

With the recent Stay At Home orders resulting from Covid19, many more people are using Zoom and other video chat ware to keep in touch with their colleagues.  Unfortunately, that means many people who are unfamiliar with the platforms and their protocols, and lots of opportunities for bad actors to take advantage.

From Threatpost:

Numerous instances of online conferences being disrupted by pornographic images, hate speech or even threats can be mitigated using some platform tools.

Officials at Zoom have released tips for users of their video-conferencing platform to help avoid getting “Zoom-bombed” by trolls and even more serious threat actors during online meetings.

The developers of the online video-conferencing service cautioned users to avoid sharing Zoom meeting links publicly and widely on social media and to use some simple management tools within the system to help avoid scenarios in which uninvited participants disrupt meetings in unpleasant and threatening ways.

Read more at the original article: https://threatpost.com/as-zoom-booms-incidents-of-zoombombing-become-a-growing-nuisance/154187/

Iranian hackers have been “password spraying” the US grid

“…Industrial control system security firm Dragos detailed newly revealed hacking activity that it has tracked and attributed to a group of state-sponsored hackers it calls Magnallium. …Dragos says it has observed Magnallium carrying out a broad campaign of so-called password-spraying attacks, which guess a set of common passwords for hundreds or even thousands of different accounts, targeting US electric utilities as well as oil and gas firms.

A related group that Dragos calls Parisite has worked in apparent cooperation with Magnallium, the security firm says, attempting to gain access to US electric utilities and oil and gas firms by exploiting vulnerabilities in virtual private networking software. The two groups’ combined intrusion campaign ran through all of 2019 and continues today.

Full article: https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2020/01/iranian-hackers-have-been-password-spraying-the-us-grid/

Definition: Supply Chain Hack

Most people think of hacks as someone gaining access to their computer or their website directly and then adding malicious code or stealing personal information.  Many hacks do occur that way.

A scarier hack occurs when the attacker gains access to the source of a program you regularly use.  Say for instance they hacked into Microsoft and inserted their malicious code into MS Word.  You then download Word to your computer, trusting Microsoft. And when you start up the program the malicious code starts doing its damage.

This scenario is similar to what was discovered in late 2020 to a company named SolarWinds.  SolarWinds supplies software to a bunch of important governmental entities in the US.  Among the departments affected were U.S. Treasury, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Commerce Department.  It’s possible that as many as 18,000 SolarWinds customers have been affected. The extent of the damage is still unfolding at the time of this writing.

Another example of a supply chain hack occurred with several WordPress plugins in 2017.  The trusted longtime developer of the popular FastSecure Contact Form plugin was approached by another developer with a reasonably lucrative offer to buy the plugin, and the deal was made.  Several other plugins by other developers with a smaller installation base were also purchased by the same developer. That’s perfectly reasonable behavior on the part of the seller, and if the buyer was reputable that end would have been fine too. But he wasn’t. What happened next is that the malicious purchaser then released modified versions of those plugins containing spam backdoors, allowing him to use his victim’s sites to send boatloads of spam.

Supply chain hacks are very difficult to control by the end user of the software.  We place a lot of trust in our software sources, and though it doesn’t happen often it is always a possibility that what we download has been secretly compromised. The WordPress plugin repository team does an excellent job but with over 58,000 plugins, many being updated on a regular basis, there’s no way that they can check every new release.