Friday, July 19, 2024

Major Web Attack May Steal Financial Data

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IT administrators are being warned to double check their servers, and

Web surfers are being cautioned after a widespread hacker attack has

compromised major corporate Web sites and infected thousands of users’


”This is a complicated, sophisticated attack,” says Ken Dunham,

director of malicious code at iDefense, Inc., a security intelligence

company based in Reston, Va. ”This appears to be designed to ultimately

steal credit card and identity theft information, which can then be

sold… There could be hundreds of thousands of victims at this point.”

According to security researchers, an organized crime group out of

Russia has launched the attack, compromising Microsoft’s IIS Web

Servers. When a Web surfer goes to that infected Web site, javascript is

appended to the html page that is called up. That script then exploits

two vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer to install a backdoor into the

user’s computer.

Once this is done, the javascript instructs the user’s browser to

download and install an executable from a Russian Web site. Different

executables have been noted, but they include keystroke loggers, proxy

servers and other backdoors providing full access to the compromised


Dunham says the attack was coordinated by the HangUp Team, a hacker

group in Russia — the same group supposedly responsible for the Korgo

worm family. ”They’re making a lot of money of this,” says Dunham.

”And they have a serious backend market for peddling information.”

Johannes Ullrich of the Internet Storm Center, which monitors Internet

threats, reports that his organization has been contacted directly by

about 20 companies, so he estimates that 100 or more Web sites have been

infected with the hostile script.

While less than Dunham’s estimate, Ullrich suspects that thousands,

possibly 10 thousand, user machines have been infected.

Ullrich says the threat is waning as most of the infected Web sites

already have been cleaned up.

But it’s been an attack that had security researchers and some IT

administrators up all night beating back the flames and trying to figure

out exactly how the attack worked.

”This was very dangerous,” says Steve Sundermeier, a vice president at

Medina, Ohio-based Central Command, Inc. ”It’s alarming in that you

have large, legitimate corporations being used as a tool. As a user,

especially if you’re entering credit card information, you expect secure

Web sites. Their financial security could be breached. And for the

credibility of the corporation, this is a huge problem.”

Researchers would not release the names of the companies and Web sites

that were compromised for fear of compounding their problems. Ullrich,

however, says the compromised sites included industry associations,

banks, brokerages and travel-related sites.

The question now is how were the corporate servers infected?

Researchers are still investigating the attack and have been slightly

thrown by reports from corporate administrators who said their machines

had been fully patched.

Dunham reports that there is some speculation, even coming from the

Microsoft camp, that the breakins and server infections are related to

the MS04-11 vulnerability.

”With fully patched boxes being infected, it appears there may be

another component of the MS04-11 vulnerability,” says Dunham. ”There’s

a whole bunch of stuff in there and some of it is related to the IIS

servers… We don’t know how they are getting exploited. We’re talking

about highly secure environments.”

Ullrich, however, says it’s possible that the sites were compromised

some time ago before the servers were patched.

Microsoft recommends that users run a search for kk32.dll and

surf.dat. If either of the two files is present, the computer may

be infected. Computers can be cleaned by using up-to-date anti-virus


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