When it comes to securing website there is lots of bad advice out there, much of it coming from people that claim to have security expertise. A prime example of this bad advice is the claim that hiding version of software in use on the website will somehow protect you being hacked. While there a number of reason it won’t protect you, the central issue is that most hackers won’t bother checking if you are using software, much less what version of the software is in use. Instead they will simply try to exploit the vulnerability without checking anything first. That means that no matter how hard you try to hide the version information it won’t protect you if you are running a vulnerable version. Seeing as people continue to believe and tell others that hiding versions information is a security measures we thought it would be a good time show a real world example of this in action.
Recently a highly critical vulnerability was found in Drupal 7 versions below 7.32 and shortly afterward attempts to exploit it were happening. Below is the series of requests from one of those attempts that occurred the day after the vulnerability was fixed:
220.127.116.11 – – [16/Oct/2014:21:03:25 -0400] “POST /?q=node&destination=node HTTP/1.1″ 200 4929 “-” “Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; rv:12.0) Gecko/20130101 Firefox/10.0″
18.104.22.168 – – [16/Oct/2014:21:03:26 -0400] “POST /user HTTP/1.1″ 500 3566 “-” “Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; rv:12.0) Gecko/20130101 Firefox/10.0″
22.214.171.124 – – [16/Oct/2014:21:03:27 -0400] “GET /?q=ocyuys HTTP/1.1″ 404 6035 “-” “Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; rv:12.0) Gecko/20130101 Firefox/10.0″
126.96.36.199 – – [16/Oct/2014:21:03:27 -0400] “GET /ocyuys HTTP/1.1″ 404 6035 “-” “Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; rv:12.0) Gecko/20130101 Firefox/10.0″
188.8.131.52 – – [16/Oct/2014:21:03:28 -0400] “GET /modules/profile/mhtd.php HTTP/1.1″ 404 6035 “-” “Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; rv:12.0) Gecko/20130101 Firefox/10.0″
The IP address the requests came from, 184.108.40.206, appears to have been used for a widespread attempt to exploit the vulnerability.
Looking at the requests the first thing that sticks out is what isn’t requested. If you were going to check what version of Drupal is in use the first thing to request would be the file CHANGELOG.txt, which on Drupal websites will contain the Drupal version in use, if the file hasn’t been deleted. Since our website is running Drupal and we haven’t deleted the file the hacker have seen that we were running version 7.32 and therefore were not vulnerable. If the CHANGELOG.txt file doesn’t exist then you could check other files to get some idea of what version is in use. In this case the vulnerability only exists in Drupal 7, so a hacker might check for a file that exists in that version and not in Drupal 6.
Instead of doing any checks first, the hacker first request appears to be an attempt to exploit the vulnerability. The log of requests doesn’t include the POST data, so we don’t exactly what was done, but it was likely something similar to the POC #1 listed here. The rest of the requests seem to be checking if the first request was successful.
Beyond this being a reminder that hiding software is not a security measure, it is an important reminder that you need to keep the software running up to date. Something people running Drupal 7 websites have not been good at doing. It also highlight the fact that many people dealing with security have little understanding of it and in many cases are not doing the work they should do. Determining how a website has been hacked is one of the key things to properly cleaning up a hacked website, yet we see over and over we are hired to re-clean hacked websites that person hired before hadn’t done that. If people were doing that then they would know that hackers are not checking for the versions of software in use and therefore wouldn’t be telling people that hiding software versions is security measure.