Risk
7/11/2011
04:00 PM
50%
50%

Microsoft Security Center Delivered Adult Content Links

Attackers hacked search results generated by Microsoft's own search engine and served up some adult-oriented links.

10 Massive Security Breaches
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: 10 Massive Security Breaches
Last week, attackers hacked the Microsoft Safety and Security Center search engine to return adult-oriented results, studded with malware links.

"The Microsoft Safety and Security Center has become a hot bed of porn redirects, and sleazy porn sites invariably lead to malware," said Alex Eckelberry, the vice president and general manager of GFI's security division, in a blog post, after spotting the attack on Friday.

Blackhat search engine optimization (SEO), also known as search poisoning, involves filling search results at sites such as Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft Bing with fake results that link to advertisements or malware. Such attacks aren't anything new. In fact, while results vary by search term, according to one study, about 22% of current news searches, as well as searches for "objectionable content," return links to poisoned or infected websites.

But this attack was different, because it only returned poisoned search results for very specific terms. Furthermore, it managed to do this from within the Microsoft Safety and Security Center's own search engine results. "Pretty tricky and impressive," said Eckelberry.

As far as website exploits go, returning adult content via the Microsoft Safety and Security Center search results scores obvious points for irony. In another Microsoft-related twist, Eckelberry said that some search results were also pushing Zugo, "a Bing-branded search toolbar with a history of being installed through exploits and other misleading/deceptive means."

By Saturday, Microsoft had disabled searching on the affected site, which it restored on Monday, after fixing the issue.

Microsoft confirmed that its site had been hacked. "On July 8, 2011, Microsoft became aware of a search poisoning issue affecting Microsoft search users on the Safety & Security Center site. Microsoft quickly removed the search tool and resolved the issue," Bryan Nairn, senior manager for Trustworthy Computing at Microsoft, said via email. "The search tool has since been re-enabled. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused for visitors to the website."

Interestingly, the Microsoft search result poisoning exploit came just days after John Howie, senior director of online services security and compliance governance at Microsoft, told Britain's Computing magazine that unlike RSA or Sony, Microsoft was extremely unlikely to be hacked by an advanced threat. "Sony was brought down because it didn't patch its servers, it ran out of date software, and it coded badly. These are rookie mistakes," said Howie. He likewise labeled RSA being exploited by a social engineering attack as a "rookie mistake."

The Microsoft Safety and Security Center attack, of course, rates as little more than a nuisance and, according to Eckelberry, may have somehow involved the site's ability to share search results via Twitter, which hardly seems to qualify as a rookie mistake. Still, was the timing of the exploit coincidental?

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest, Dec. 19, 2014
Software-defined networking can be a net plus for security. The key: Work with the network team to implement gradually, test as you go, and take the opportunity to overhaul your security strategy.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-4440
Published: 2014-12-19
Password Generator (aka Pwgen) before 2.07 generates weak non-tty passwords, which makes it easier for context-dependent attackers to guess the password via a brute-force attack.

CVE-2013-4442
Published: 2014-12-19
Password Generator (aka Pwgen) before 2.07 uses weak pseudo generated numbers when /dev/urandom is unavailable, which makes it easier for context-dependent attackers to guess the numbers.

CVE-2013-7401
Published: 2014-12-19
The parse_request function in request.c in c-icap 0.2.x allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (crash) via a URI without a " " or "?" character in an ICAP request, as demonstrated by use of the OPTIONS method.

CVE-2014-2026
Published: 2014-12-19
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the search functionality in United Planet Intrexx Professional before 5.2 Online Update 0905 and 6.x before 6.0 Online Update 10 allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the request parameter.

CVE-2014-2716
Published: 2014-12-19
Ekahau B4 staff badge tag 5.7 with firmware 1.4.52, Real-Time Location System (RTLS) Controller 6.0.5-FINAL, and Activator 3 reuses the RC4 cipher stream, which makes it easier for remote attackers to obtain plaintext messages via an XOR operation on two ciphertexts.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join us Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to hear what employers are really looking for in a chief information security officer -- it may not be what you think.