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Latest SQL Injection Campaign Infects 1 Million Web Pages

SANS warns of uptick in 'Lilupophilupop' attack, but Cisco says total number of infected URLs might be 'inflated'
Another SQL injection campaign is literally going viral, with some 1 million URLs possibly infected.

The SANS Internet Storm Center over the weekend counted some 1,070,000 URLs injected with the so-called lilupophilupop.com malware. That's up from 80 pages it had found in early December, according to SANS ISC handler Mark Hofman.

The attackers compromise sites via SQL injection, and it appears to have hit sites worldwide, with the most infections in The Netherlands "NL" domain, with 123,000, and includes some .com and .org sites, as well.

"At the moment it looks like it is partially automated and partially manual. The manual component and the number of sites infected suggests a reasonable size work force or a long preparation period," Hofman said in his blog post on the attack.

But the 1 million URL number might be inflated, says Mary Landesmann, senior security researcher for ScanSafe, which is part of Cisco. That count could include pages also discussing the attacks, she says. "As a result, there is always a huge 'increase' after an initial public report is made. In other words, counting the number of results from a search engine isn’t a good or viable means of measuring the breadth of a compromise," Landesmann says.

Cisco has seen around 650 unique domains hit since lilupophilupop attack first showed up at the end of November. Around 43 percent of the infections transpired between Nov. 30 and Dec. 2, according to Landesmann. "The domains that are affected seem pretty random and small, so I suspect spam or some other social-engineering method is driving victims to the compromised sites, in addition to SEO poisoning," she says.

Mass SQL injection attacks are nothing new. The most recent one, Lizamoon, hit some 500,000 URLs with redirects that push rogue AV software, but was quickly shut down. Automated exploitation is generated via a toolkit built for a specific attack, as was the case with Lizamoon. These attacks typically target a specific application architecture.

[How to prevent SQL injection attacks. See As SQL Injection Attacks Surge, New Report Offers Insight On How To Prevent Them.]

SQL injection basically manipulates an existing SQL query for malicious purposes -- an attacker can take full control over the underlying operating system of the SQL server as well as the Web application.

Unfortunately, SQL injection flaws are consistently some of the most prevalent ones in Web servers.

The lilupophilupop attacks represent one of the biggest SQL injection attacks recently, but it's still much smaller than the size of previous campaigns a few years ago, Cisco's Landesmann says.

"SQL injection isn’t the result of any specific vulnerability, but rather a result of improper input/output handling by the site. It will never entirely go away, but it’s definitely a much, much smaller problem today," she says. "Major hosting providers, large companies, and commercial sites have taken great strides to mitigate their susceptibility and, as a result, the days of a million plus pages/sites impacted by SQLi are probably well behind us."

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