LulzSec's Top 3 Hacking Tools Deconstructed
Analysis suggests LulzSec was most effective using a relatively unknown vulnerability to launch large-scale, botnet-driven attacks against everyone from Sony to the Senate.
All told, the group appears to have relied heavily on three attack techniques: using remote file include (RFI), SQL injections, and cross-site scripting. That's according to an analysis conducted by data security vendor Imperva, which studied the leaked LulzSec IRC chat logs recently published by the Guardian.
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Interestingly, according to the Open Web Application Security Project's list of the top 10 biggest application security risks, injection attacks and cross-site scripting, respectively, placed first and second. These vulnerabilities, furthermore, have been extensively analyzed and detailed by security experts.
But RFI--a "not widely discussed" type of attack, according to Imperva--is a different story. According to the leaked chat logs, LulzSec member Kayla said that he or she "used to load about 8,000 RFI with usp flooder crushed most server."
"Remember that [it's] Kayla who brought a bot army to Lulsec's toolbox," said Rob Rachwald, director of security strategy at Imperva, in a blog post. "In other words, Lulzsec used an often overlooked vulnerability to help ambush their targets."
What's an RFI attack? "An RFI attack inserts some nasty code into a Web application server," he said. "What does the code do? Usually, RFI is used to take over the Web application and steal data. In the case of Lulzsec, they used it to conduct DDoS attacks."
Based on the chat logs, Kayla had 8,000 infected servers at his or her disposal. "That's pretty sizable," said Rachwald. Furthermore, just one infected server, given its relatively large throughput, can equal about 3,000 bot-infected PCs, meaning that Kayla's botnet could have equaled the power of one with about 24 million PCs. Notably, this was the botnet used to launch the DDoS attack against the CIA's public website.
Regardless of the techniques used by LulzSec, the companies and organizations it hacked--ranging from Sony to the U.S. Senate--faced a similar end result. Namely, LulzSec gained access to their servers, then published sensitive information. But had those organizations taken better security precautions, LulzSec may have moved on to easier pickings.
Last month, a message on the official LulzSec Twitter feed announced that after a 50-day hacking spree, its members were moving on. But understanding how its attacks succeeded is useful information for avoiding similar attacks in the future.
Notably, the #AntiSec effort to publish sensitive business and government secrets, launched by the Anonymous hacking collective and LulzSec (which sprang from Anonymous), has carried on. In fact, #AntiSec recently claimed responsibility for publishing information it obtained in separate attacks against Viacom, Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group, as well as the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
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