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Home Routers Being Targeted in DNS Hijacking Attack, Trend Micro Says

Attackers attempting to steal sensitive data by diverting home router traffic to malicious domains, security firm says.

Researchers at Trend Micro have discovered a malicious browser script being used to change DNS settings on home routers in some parts of the world in a bid to steal login credentials and other sensitive data from users of the devices.

The campaign is another sign that DNS hijacking is becoming an increasingly popular attack method for criminal hackers.

Earlier this week, security researchers at ESET reported a new malware threat dubbed Linux/Moose targeted at Linux routers that they said could be used for DNS hijacking purposes. In April, attackers hijacked domain name servers at the St. Louis Federal Reserve and redirected traffic meant for its domain to a malicious web page set up the attackers.

In the latest instance, discovered by Trend Micro, nearly 88 percent of the victims of the latest campaign are based in Brazil, but infections have also been observed in the U.S. and Japan, according to Trend Micro.

To compromise routers the threat actors behind the campaign first lure victims to websites containing the malicious script. When someone lands on such sites, the browser script performs a brute-force attack on the underlying home router to try and gain access to its administrative interface.

If it gains access, the script sends a single HTTP request to the router with a malicious DNS server IP address, Trend Micro senior threat researcher Fernando Merces said in a blog post Thursday. “Once the malicious version replaces the current IP address, the infection is done,” he wrote.

“Except for the navigation temporary files, no files are created in the victim machine, no persistent technique is needed and nothing changes.”

After that, all traffic that passes through the compromised router is redirected to the malicious DNS server IP address where the attackers can intercept any data they wish.

For example, if a user tries to access a legitimate banking site they could be redirected to a spoofed version of the site from where the attackers would be able to steal their user credentials, PINs, passwords and other data, Merces wrote.

“Modified DNS settings mean users do not know they are navigating to clones of trusted sites. Users that don’t change the default credentials are highly vulnerable to this kind of attack,” he said.

Christoper Budd, global threat communication manager at Trend Micro says the latest malware is another sign of the growing interest in DNS hijacking among criminal hackers.

In the past, attackers have typically tended to do this by tampering with the DNS settings on a victim’s computer.  But attacks against home routers are more effective because it gives criminals a way to intercept data from all devices connected to the router.

By just tampering with the DNS settings on the home router once, an attacker can literally own all traffic from all devices connected to the router, including smartphones, tablets, PCs and notebooks, he said. Having a compromised router eliminates the need for an attacker to compromise multiple other devices on the same network, he said.

“We are definitely seeing DNS as the new soft spot in a variety of attacks,” Budd says. “As end points have become more and more secure, the bad guys have tried finding something that is new and soft,” to attack. “DNS is proving to be softer than the end points,” for the moment at least he says.


Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Apprentice
10/12/2017 | 8:25:52 AM
What is DNS Hijacking really? And how do we protect?
How do we protect ourselves from the attacks that happened at ISP servers? There are different attacks that happens including spoofing and poisoning. How do someone knows which type of attack has occured?
User Rank: Apprentice
5/30/2015 | 1:32:51 AM
Re: Is there a defense for installed routers?
There are several things you can do. The first is do a DNS leak test: www (dot) to see if your DNS has been changed or leaking.

I would recommend using an alternate DNS than your ISP's such as OpenDNS so you have built in phishing, botnet, and rogue website protection. You can sign up for a free account to get even more content filtering by category. You change this in your router so everything connected to it gets this protection.

Change your router default password

Check for firmware updates in your router

Use WPA2 encryption on your WIFI and use a random character password. Don't use words as this can be cracked

Go to www (dot) and download the free app for android devices that automatically check for some well known router vulnerabilities on your router.

Charlie Babcock
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Ninja
5/29/2015 | 7:50:55 PM
Is there a defense for installed routers?
This is an especially nefarious hazard. People sitting in the security of their own homes and doing health care communications or banking transactions aren't thinking about how their router might have been targeted. Is there an effective defense that can be added to home routers with an existing and perhaps outdated copy of DNS? How can you tell if your router has been infected?
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