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Miscreants and the Principle of Least Effort

Back in the old days, when security was much more of an afterthought, it was obvious that miscreants were familiar with the principle of least effort. Information security was still in its Wild West days. Managed disclosure and patching did not really exist. Most companies were just coming to realize they would need to put some effort into securing their assets. I was tasked with most of the security deployments and forensic investigation at a startup hosting company. We had a lot of bandwidth (at the time) and a lot of poorly managed servers. You could watch our gateway and know when a new vulnerability was discovered in the underground. You could see miscreants scanning for a specific service in a specific network. Miscreants had done their homework, and knew where the vulnerable hosts resided. This targeting was efficient. Sure enough, hosts would start being compromised and a few days later some sort of official disclosure would happen detailing the vulnerability the miscreants had been scanning for. Read More »

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Botnets Riding Rails to your Data Center

May 29, 2013 at 10:57 am PST

Cisco Security Intelligence Operations is tracking reports of ongoing exploitation of a vulnerability in the popular web application framework Ruby on Rails that creates a Linux-based botnet. The vulnerability dates back to January 2013 and affects Ruby on Rails versions prior to 3.2.11, 3.1.10, 3.0.19, and 2.3.15.  Cisco Security Intelligence Operations’ has previously published an analysis of CVE-2013-0156. Cisco is receiving reports of attempted infection from Cisco IPS customers participating in Global Correlation.

Botnet C2 Code Read More »

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Department of Labor Watering Hole Attack Confirmed to be 0-Day with Possible Advanced Reconnaissance Capabilities

May 4, 2013 at 2:56 pm PST

Update 2 5/9/2013:

Microsoft has released a “Microsoft fix it” as a temporary mitigation for this issue on systems which require IE8. At this time, multiple sites have been observed hosting pages which exploit this vulnerability. Users of IE8 who cannot update to IE9+ are urged to apply the Fix It immediately.

Update 5/6/2013:

An exploit for this bug is now publicly available within the metasploit framework. Users of the affected browser should consider updating to IE9+ or using a different browser until a patch is released. Given the nature of this vulnerability additional exploitation is likely.

At the end of April a Watering Hole–style attack was launched from a United States Department of Labor website. Many are theorizing that this attack may have been an attempt to use one compromised organization to target another. Visitors to specific pages hosting nuclear-related content at the Department of Labor website were also receiving malicious content loaded from the domain Initially it appeared that this attack used CVE-2012-4792 to compromise vulnerable machines; however, Microsoft is now confirming that this is indeed a new issue. This issue is being designated CVE-2013-1347 and is reported to affect all versions of Internet Explorer 8.

Read More »

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Coordinated Attacks Against the U.S. Government and Banking Infrastructure


On April 10, 2013, a collective of politically motivated hacktivists announced a round of planned attacks called #OPUSA. These attacks, slated to begin May 7, 2013, are to be launched against U.S.-based targets. #OPUSA is a follow-up to #OPISRAEL, which were a series of attacks carried out on April 7 against Israeli-based targets. Our goal here is to summarize and inform readers of resources, recommendations, network mitigations, and best practices that are available to prevent, mitigate, respond to, or dilute the effectiveness of these attacks. This blog was a collaborative effort between myself, Kevin TimmJoseph KarpenkoPanos Kampanakis, and the Cisco TRAC team.


If the attackers follow the same patterns as previously witnessed during the #OPISRAEL attacks, then targets can expect a mixture of attacks. Major components of previous attacks consisted of denial of service attacks and web application exploits, ranging from advanced ad-hoc attempts to simple website defacements. In the past, attackers used such tools as LOICHOIC, and Slowloris.

Publicly announced attacks of this nature can have highly volatile credibility. In some cases, the announcements exist only for the purpose of gaining notoriety. In other cases, they are enhanced by increased publicity. Given the lack of specific details about participation or capabilities, the exact severity of the attack can’t be known until it (possibly) happens. Read More »

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Possible Exploit Vector for DarkLeech Compromises

April 24, 2013 at 5:34 am PST

Often it is quite surprising how long old, well-known vulnerabilities continue to be exploited. Recently, a friend sent me an example of a malicious script used in an attempted attack against their server:


The script attempted to exploit the Horde/IMP Plesk Webmail Exploit in vulnerable versions of the Plesk control panel. By injecting malicious PHP code in the username field, successful attackers are able to bypass authentication and upload files to the targeted server. These types of attacks could be one avenue used in the DarkLeech compromises. Although not as common as the Plesk remote access vulnerability (CVE-2012-1557) described in the report, it does appear that this vulnerability is being actively exploited.  Read More »

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