Nov 23 2010

Clearing Up Recent Information about Gumblar (Kroxxu) Malware

Avast has released a new analysis of the latest variant of the Gumblar ( which Avast refers to as Kroxxu) malware. This analysis and the media coverage of it contains some misleading information about the malware.

Some of the media coverage has claimed this new or newly detected, but this variant has been around since October of 2009 and was detected at the time.

Avast emphasizes that the malware makes use of redirection to making the malware sound more nefarious and advanced than it actually is. The malware is not the only malware to use redirection. Other malware makes use of redirection as part of it basic setup, whereas Gumblar’s is a by-product of how it operates. It is not an attempt to hide the malware as Avast believes is possibly the case or a glitch as they also believe is possible. Instead of hosting the code that infects user’s computers on server controlled by the person(s) behind the malware, as is the standard practice, the code is placed on some of the websites that they have compromised. The websites they use for this purpose are frequently changed and when they switch they set the old ones to redirect to the new ones. Gumblar updates the other infected websites to call these new infected websites, but leaves calls to the old website in JavaScript files leading to the redirects.

Avast refers to infected servers, but the malware does not affect the servers at all instead affecting individual websites hosted on a server. This is an important distinction because on shared servers Gumblar would not infect other websites which it does not have FTP credentials for. Avast claims that there is “difficulty in removing” it, which is not true. If a clean backup is available the website can simply be reverted to that. If that is not available the malware code needs to be removed from the files, which is no more difficult than any of malware added to websites. More sophisticated malware does infect the server itself, making it more difficult to clean.

Avast also emphasizes that the infections have remained on websites for long periods of time, which is true, but this is not out of the ordinary for website malware.

While it is difficult to measure the size of website malware infections, Avast currently claimed and historical size is not above the level of many of the larger malware infections.

Nov 19 2010

osCommerce 2.3 Includes Fixes for Security Vulnerabilities and Security Enhancements

More that two and half years after the last version of osCommerce was released and more than a year after a serious security vulnerability was discovered a new version of osCommerce has been released. The new version 2.3 was released last Friday and version 2.3.1, a minor maintenance release, was released two days later.

osCommerce has been a frequent target for hackers lately, mainly being used to spread malware, due to a number of security vulnerabilities. Version 2.3 of osCommerce removed a vulnerable file, file_manager.php, another vulnerable file has been changed to remove the vulnerability, and a vulnerability that allowed bypassing the login system has been fixed.

Unfortunately, it does not appear that osCommerce has decided that admin directory should be secure by default. They are still recommending that the admin directory be renamed and password protection be enabled on the directory. If the admin directory was secure, as it should be, neither of these should be necessary. The only other major web software that recommends renaming the admin directory as standard practice is Zen Cart and none recommend password protecting the directory as standard practice. Zen Cart display a prominent warning if the admin directory has not been renamed, osCommerce provides no warning if the admin has not been renamed or password protection of the admin directory has not been enabled. osCommerce does support renaming the admin directory during the installation process (on the Online Store Settings page) and makes it possible to enable password protection of the directory by just changing a configuration setting (located at configuration>administrators).

The new version also includes a number of security enhancements. The Portable PHP hashing framework has been added to more securely hash passwords, this software is also used in WordPress. A customer session token has been added  “to forms to protect against Cross-Site Request Forgeries (CSRF)”. A new section of the admin, Security Directory Permissions, displays the current write permission of the various osCommerce directories and what are the recommend permissions are. A built-in version checker allows for checking if a new version of osCommerce has been released.

If you are running an older version of osCommerce and are not upgrading immediately you should secure your website by renaming and password protecting the admin directory if you have not already done so.

Nov 16 2010

Hetzner Online Hosts Critical Component of SEO Poisoning Campaign

Hetzner Online, a large German hosting provider, provides hosting for three  websites that are critical for a major SEO poisoning campaign. SEO poisoning involves getting web pages listed in search engines that when accessed attempt to infect the computer with malware.

This particular campaign involves two sets of hacked websites and the websites hosted by Hetzner Online. The first set of websites has been hacked to display the content from a file requested from,, or when a page from the hacked website is requested by a search engine. The files from,, and, hosted by Hetzner Online at the IP address, include links to pages on the second set of hacked websites. The content of those files can be seen at,, or and Search engines crawl those pages on the second set of hacked websites and they get included in search engines results.  When people access the pages through search engines they are redirected to fake anti-virus scanner that attempts to infect their computers with malware. Without the three domains hosted by Hetzner Online the pages on the second set of websites are never crawled and never get included in the search results where the could be accessed by users.

We contacted Hetzner Online about the issue a month ago. We receive a message acknowledging our message, but they have taken no action beyond that. Hetzner Online is not the first prominent host to have provided service for this SEO poisoning campaign. The Planet previously provided service for these domains and continued to host these domains for three months after we contacted them.

Nov 15 2010

Websense Threat Report Repeats False Claims of WordPress Hackings

In Websense’s 2010 Threat Report they listed WordPress Attacks as on of the significant events of the year. They also claimed that WordPress “was hacked numerous times in 2010″. While its true that some outdated WordPress installations were hacked during the year (as they and other web software have been for years), the hacks that they refer to in their report, which were much larger than any actual hacks of WordPress, were not hacks of WordPress at all. The hacks they refer to were actually hacks that targeted hosting providers that would allow malicious code to be added to websites hosted with the provider whether they were running WordPress, other software, or no software at all.

In most of the hacks the malicious code was placed in all files that had a .php extension. WordPress, by the nature of being the most popular web software, was the most of often affected, but all web software that have files with a .php extension were also affected. In other cases the hacks targeted database fields specific to WordPress, but they could have affected any other software that utilized a database if the hacker had chose to target them instead of WordPress.

Websense is not alone is making these false claims, other supposed security experts also made similar claims and some hosting provider have attempted to lame blame on WordPress. Network Solutions was the only one to later apologize for blaming WordPress.

Websense also claimed that “numerous vulnerabilities were known to exist during the height of the attacks”. Seeing as WordPress was not hacked as claimed, the claimed numerous vulnerabilities also don’t exist. In fact during the year the only security vulnerability that required the release of a new version of WordPress was one that allowed “logged in users can peek at trashed posts belonging to other authors”. This vulnerability would not have allowed the WordPress installation to have been hacked.

Making false claims about WordPress’s security damages WordPress reputation without improving security. In fact it may have the effect of decreasing security, as it may lead to people to use software that does not focus on security as well as WordPress does. WordPress responds quickly to security issues, automatically informs users of upgrade within their software, and makes it relatively easy to upgrade the software as well. By comparison two web software apps that have actually had major hackings in 2010 have not responded properly, osCommerce has chosen not release a patch for their security vulnerabilities and OpenX has recommend a fix for a vulnerablility that actually causes future upgrades to fail.