Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

Scareware Using Bing Results To Expand Attack

Mass rogue antivirus campaign tricking search engines to return malicious links using results from Microsoft's search engine.




Slideshow: Cloud Security Pros And Cons
(click for larger image and for full photo gallery)
A new scareware attack serving rogue antivirus advertisements has been targeting Swiss and Dutch websites. Interestingly, the attack uses a novel technique to lure search engine users: it relies on Bing search results to stay relevant.

On Friday, Dancho Danchev, an independent security consultant based in the Netherlands, blogged that he'd been tracking "a blackhat SEO campaign that's persistently compromising legitimate sites within small ISPs in the Netherlands and Switzerland, for scareware-serving purposes."

He said, "Although this beneath-the-radar-targeting approach is nothing new, it once again emphasizes a well-proven mentality within the cybercrime ecosystem." Namely, target "hundreds of thousands of low-profile sites," using them to poison search engine results with fake links, and attackers can generate more traffic to those links than if they'd targeted more high-profile and better-secured websites.

Typically, these rogue antivirus -- or as Google calls it, fake AV -- campaigns infect numerous websites as fast possible, before the search engine operators catch on, and this attack was no exception. "In many cases we were looking at mass compromises where a server hosting hundreds of websites was compromised," blogged Bojan Zdrnja, at the SANS Internet Storm Center, on Tuesday.

He said the new attack resembles rogue AV campaigns seen this past June and July, in which attackers infected all PHP files on a targeted website. This attack, however, only places a single, master PHP script -- often dubbed "page.php" or "wp-page.php" -- which then "phones home" for further instructions and downloads additional PHP scripts as required.

Whenever a search engine crawler indexes an infected website, the master script takes the keyword sought by the crawler and requests the top 50 results for that keyword from Bing. The master script massages the Bing results, strips out any JavaScript, again phones home -- receiving 100 links to other compromised websites -- and uses the Bing results and links to create an index.html page, which it returns to the web crawler.

Interestingly, the master script also hides itself, refusing to display if accessed directly. Instead, it only responds to web crawler requests, or to referrers, meaning someone clicked on a rogue AV link in search engine results. At that point, "the browser is redirected to a third site -- and possibly fourth -- that displays the infamous RogueAV warnings," said Zdrnja.

He said this attack is an obvious improvement on prior versions. "Yesterday I checked Google and I was able to find thousands of poisoned results pointing to such compromised websites," he wrote on Tuesday. "While the search engine operators do a lot of work to prevent poisoning like this, it is clear that the bad guys are not resting either and that they are developing new poisoning techniques constantly."

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Zero-Factor Authentication: Owning Our Data
Nick Selby, Chief Security Officer at Paxos Trust Company,  2/19/2020
44% of Security Threats Start in the Cloud
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  2/19/2020
Ransomware Damage Hit $11.5B in 2019
Dark Reading Staff 2/20/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
6 Emerging Cyber Threats That Enterprises Face in 2020
This Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at six emerging cyber threats that enterprises could face in 2020. Download your copy today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises Are Developing and Maintaining Secure Applications
How Enterprises Are Developing and Maintaining Secure Applications
The concept of application security is well known, but application security testing and remediation processes remain unbalanced. Most organizations are confident in their approach to AppSec, although others seem to have no approach at all. Read this report to find out more.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-5243
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-21
uap-core before 0.7.3 is vulnerable to a denial of service attack when processing crafted User-Agent strings. Some regexes are vulnerable to regular expression denial of service (REDoS) due to overlapping capture groups. This allows remote attackers to overload a server by setting the User-Agent hea...
CVE-2019-14688
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-20
Trend Micro has repackaged installers for several Trend Micro products that were found to utilize a version of an install package that had a DLL hijack vulnerability that could be exploited during a new product installation. The vulnerability was found to ONLY be exploitable during an initial produc...
CVE-2019-19694
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-20
The Trend Micro Security 2019 (15.0.0.1163 and below) consumer family of products is vulnerable to a denial of service (DoS) attack in which a malicious actor could manipulate a key file at a certain time during the system startup process to disable the product's malware protection functions or the ...
CVE-2020-5242
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-20
openHAB before 2.5.2 allow a remote attacker to use REST calls to install the EXEC binding or EXEC transformation service and execute arbitrary commands on the system with the privileges of the user running openHAB. Starting with version 2.5.2 all commands need to be whitelisted in a local file whic...
CVE-2020-8601
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-20
Trend Micro Vulnerability Protection 2.0 is affected by a vulnerability that could allow an attack to use the product installer to load other DLL files located in the same directory.