Still more vulnerabilities in bash? Shellshock becomes whack-a-mole

It's now bash-a-mole.

Remember when we said that a new patch had fixed the problems with the last patch to fix the rated-highly-dangerous “Shellshock” bug in the GNU Bourne Again Shell (bash)? You know, that bug that could allow an attacker to remotely execute code on a Linux or Unix system running some configurations of Apache, or perhaps the Git software version control system, DHCP network configuration or any number of other pieces of software that use bash to interact with the underlying operating system? Well, the new patch may not be a complete fix—and there may be vulnerabilities all the way down in the bash code.

Here's how the Shellshock vulnerability works, in a nutshell: an attacker sends a request to a Web server (or Git, a DHCP client, or anything else affected) that uses bash internally to interact with the operating system. This request includes data stored in an environmental variable. Environmental variables are like a clipboard for operating systems, storing information used to help it and software running on it know where to look for certain files or what configuration to start with. But in this case, the data is malformed so as to trick bash into treating it as a command, and that command is executed as part of what would normally be a benign set of script. This ability to trick bash is the shellshock bug. As a result, the attacker can run programs with the same level of access as the part of the system launching a bash shell. And in the case of a web server, that's practically the same level of access as an administrator, giving the attacker a way to gain full control of the targeted system.

David A. Wheeler, a computer scientist who is an acknowledged expert in developing secure open-source code, posted a message to the Open Source Software Security (oss-sec) list this evening urging more changes to the bash code. And other developers have found that the current patch still has vulnerabilities similar to the original one, where an attacker could store malicious data in a variable named the same thing as frequently run commands.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Your Website Probably Wasn’t Hacked by a Competitor or Former Employee

When first discussing with a potential client about dealing with a hacking issue on their website what often comes up are questions about who hacked them and why. On a fairly regular basis they suspect it was a competitor or someone previously involved with the website. In reality the person hacking the website is almost always going to be someone who has no knowledge of the specific website, much less has any connection to it. These hackers are not targeting specific websites, instead they are just trying to gain access to as many websites as possible to use for their own purposes. To get a better idea of what is going on lets take a look at a hacking on a fairly high profile company’s website.

A recent hack we looked at involved a website having a set links added to the website’s page when Google crawled them (this is referred to as cloaking). Several of the links stood out, as they were to pages on You might not recognize the company the website belongs to, Just Born, but you probably are familiar with their products, which include Peeps, Mike and Ike, and Hot Tamales. When visiting one of the linked pages,, the website looks normal at the top but then as you look farther down the page it has repeating text about soccer jerseys:


In fact all of the main content of the page is like that (click to enlarge):

just-born-spam-hack-2By comparison the page it looks like the hacker based the spam page on,, has normal content:


Creating a page on their website with a bunch of text about soccer jerseys wouldn’t make much sense for a competitor or a former employee to do, so what is the purpose of this? Well if you come to the page through a search engine you are redirected to, which as the address suggests is selling jerseys. If you do a search on their address on Google the second result is a page on ScamGuard that describes the website as a “Fake merchandise web-store operating from China. Consumers are advised to avoid making purchases from this site.“. Due to how Google ranks pages this type of hacking can lead to getting pages on websites otherwise unrelated to the product to rank highly. For example, earlier this year we found that a hacking campaign was able to get a website to rank in the top ten for UGG boots, the problem as shown in one of the screenshots in that post is that Google will usually catch up with this eventually and label the website as being hacked. That is part of why the hackers try to get access to as many websites as possible so they can switch to new websites when the old websites get labeled or the webmaster catches on and cleans up the hack.

Interestingly, while someone involved with the webiste is hacking other websites to direct to traffic to, they don’t appear to be interested in getting traffic directly to their website as the listing for their own website in Google says “A description for this result is not available because of this site’s robots.txt – learn more.”.



New “Shellshock” patch rushed out to resolve gaps in first fix [Updated]

Update, 9/26 11:00 PM ET: The most recent patches issued for the "Shellshock" bug have apparently still left avenues of attack, based on the analysis of several open source developers. See the latest report for further information.

After the discovery that a patch designed to repair the “Shellshock” vulnerability in the GNU Bourne Again Shell (bash) still allowed for an attacker to execute commands on a remote system, Red Hat, Ubuntu, and other Linux distribution providers have pushed out a second fix to the vulnerability. At the same time, security researchers and service providers have detected a surge in scans for systems with the vulnerability, as would-be attackers seek to take advantage of the bug.

“Shellshock” has been compared to the Heartbleed bug discovered in the OpenSSL cryptography library in April because of its potential severity and its widespread nature. Like Heartbleed, the Shellshock vulnerabilities were introduced by errors in coding years ago—errors made by an unpaid volunteer writing code that would end up in millions of computer systems.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments