70,000 Web Pages Hacked By Database Attack - InformationWeek
Software // Information Management
08:56 PM
Connect Directly
Building Security for the IoT
Nov 09, 2017
In this webcast, experts discuss the most effective approaches to securing Internet-enabled system ...Read More>>

70,000 Web Pages Hacked By Database Attack

The attacker penetrated the sites by discovering applications where the site builder expected a user name, address or other innocuous information to be typed in by the site visitor.

Web sites that naively call for user input, then fail to put strict checks on what that input may be, are susceptible to SQL injection attacks. That vulnerability appears to be the cause of up to 70,000 Web pages getting hacked by malicious code between Dec. 28 and Jan. 5.

The intrusions represent a whole new level of threat to users on the Internet. Instead of the attack seeking to launch a virus or worm at individual computers, it invaded Web databases and used them to host its malicious code and distribute it every time site visitors sought information beyond a home page or product page from the database. But for the fact it used an old and already guarded against Windows exploit, it might still be spreading across the Internet, security experts said.

"I don't think we've seen this scale of database intrusion before. SQL injection attacks are usually on a one-at-a-time basis," said Phil Neray, VP of marketing at Guardium, a Waltham, Mass., firm that makes database protection software.

The URL and server used to launch the attack was based in China and a Chinese site first posted information on the attack. The domain name now only shows the text, "OK" with the ^_^ emoticon.

"This was a pretty good mass-hack, and it wasn't just that they got into a server farm, as the victims were quite diverse, with presumably the only common point being whatever vulnerability they all shared," said Roger Thompson, chief research officer of Grisoft, producer of anti-virus software. Thompson is the founder of Exploit Prevention Labs, producer of LinkScan, which scans Web applications for malware. The firm was acquired by Grisoft in December.

The attacker penetrated the sites by discovering applications where the site builder expected a user name, address or other innocuous information to be typed in by the site visitor. The automated attack used such forms to inject a SQL statement instead of text, and thousands of Web applications apparently passed the statement on to the site database. The attack was launched Dec. 28. Security experts said the number of sites affected now appears to be declining, but it's not clear whether the attack has been completely stifled or might be relaunched from a new URL.

As of Jan. 5, it appeared to have peaked and was in reversal as sites closed SQL injection exposures in their databases. Neray estimated

Sites that show up in a Google search as containing the attack's original site URL include Rust-Oleum's Premiumgaragefloors.com; certain pages of CA, the system software vendor with a security product line; and the Haworth Press's seed catalogue, among many others. Thompson said in a Jan. 5 blog on the Grisoft Web site that it was Microsoft SQL Server databases that ended up as the target of the attack because the tables targeted are specific to SQL Server. But neither Neray nor Thompson could specify the purpose of the attack or what damage it might be doing beyond attaching JavaScript to text links inside the database. The intrusion of each database is massive, with a JavaScript string being attached to all text items in the database. A site user's request for an information item then leads to the attacker's JavaScript response attempting to plant code on the user's computer.

1 of 2
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
To learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
2017 State of IT Report
In today's technology-driven world, "innovation" has become a basic expectation. IT leaders are tasked with making technical magic, improving customer experience, and boosting the bottom line -- yet often without any increase to the IT budget. How are organizations striking the balance between new initiatives and cost control? Download our report to learn about the biggest challenges and how savvy IT executives are overcoming them.
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll