Hackers target sites victims visit

Hackers are using knowledge about their intended targets to predict the websites they visit and seize private information


ISS SourceTargeted attack means just that: Targeted attack. That means the attacker knows what the victim is all about, meaning it knows where and when it is traveling about the Internet.

That is why researchers are finding attackers are planting malware in places where they think their targeted victim will visit.

These tactics are seeing use as a way to conduct espionage against a host of targets across a variety of industries, including utilities, defense, government, financial services healthcare and academia, said researches at RSA FirstWatch.

Researchers first noticed this new approach in July. They saw an attack technique involving the compromise of legitimate websites specific to a geographic area the attacker believed end users (and potential victims) will visit.

In a report, RSA talks about the victimized sites, but does not give their urls or names.

According to RSA, one of the key watering hole sites was “a website of enthusiasts of a lesser known sport,” hxxp://xxxxxxxcurling.com, according to a report on Krebs on Security. Later in the paper, RSA lists some of the individual pages at this mystery sporting domain that were involved in the attack (e.g, www.xxxxxxxcurling.com/Results/cx/magma/iframe.js). As it happens, running a search on any of these pages turns up a number recent visitor logs for this site — torontocurling.com. Google cached several of the access logs from this site during the time of the compromise cited in RSA’s paper, and those logs help to fill in the blanks intentionally left by RSA’s research team, or more likely, the lawyers at RSA parent EMC Corp. (those access logs also contain interesting clues about potential victims of this attack as well), according to the Krebs on Security report.

From cached copies of dozens of torontocurling.com access logs, the full URLs of some of the watering hole sites used in this campaign: 

According to RSA, the sites in question ended up hacked between this June and July and were silently redirecting visitors to exploit pages on torontocurling.com. Among the exploits served by the latter include a then-unpatched zero-day vulnerability in Microsoft Windows. In that attack, the hacked sites positioned a Trojan named “VPTray.exe” (made to disguise itself as an update from Symantec, which uses the same name for one of its program components).

RSA said the second phase of the attack, from July 16-18, used the same infrastructure but a different exploit – a Java vulnerability Oracle had patched a month earlier.

The compromise of these sites likely led to Trojan attack on high-profile targets, nearly 4,000 in all, RSA said.

“Based on our analysis, a total of 32,160 unique hosts, representing 731 unique global organizations, were redirected from compromised web servers injected with the redirect iframe to the exploit server,” the company said. “Of these redirects, 3,934 hosts were seen to download the exploit CAB and JAR files. This gives a ‘success’ statistic of 12%, which based on our previous understanding of exploit campaigns, indicates a very successful campaign,” RSA said.

What does all this mean for manufacturers? “Any manufacturers who are in the defense supply chain need to be wary of attacks emanating from subsidiaries, business partners, and associated companies, as they may have been compromised and used as a stepping-stone to the true intended target,” Symantec said in a report. “Companies and individuals should prepare themselves for a new round of attacks in 2013. This is particularly the case for companies who have been compromised in the past and managed to evict the attackers. The knowledge that the attackers gained in their previous compromise will assist them in any future attacks.”

No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Choosing controllers: PLCs, PACs, IPCs, DCS? What's best for your application?; Wireless trends; Design, integration; Manufacturing Day; Product Exclusive
Variable speed drives: Smooth, efficient, electrically quite motion control; Process control upgrades; Mobile intelligence; Product finalists: Vote now; Product Exclusives
Machine design tips: Pneumatic or electric; Software upgrades; Ethernet advantages; Additive manufacturing; Engineering Leaders; Product exclusives: PLC, HMI, IO
This article collection contains the 5 most referenced articles on improving the use of PID.
Learn how Industry 4.0 adds supply chain efficiency, optimizes pricing, improves quality, and more.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security