Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – January 13, 2016 – Akamai Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: AKAM), the global leader in content delivery network (CDN) services, issued today a new Web security threat advisory from the company’s Threat Research Division. Threat Research has identified a sophisticated search engine optimization (SEO) campaign that uses SQL injections to attack targeted websites. Affected websites will distribute hidden Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) links that confuse search engine bots and erroneously impact page rankings. A full report detailing the attack is available for download here http://www.stateoftheinternet.com/seo-attacks
Over the course of a two week period in Q3 2015, Threat Research analyzed data gathered from the Akamai Intelligent Platform™ and observed attacks on more than 3,800 websites and 348 unique IP addresses participating in the various campaigns, revealing the following key findings:
- Evidence of mass defacement – when searching the Internet for the HTML links that were used as part of this campaign, Threat Research identified hundreds of web applications containing these malicious links.
- Attacks manipulated search engine results – when searching for a combination of common words such as “cheat” and “story”, it was apparent that the “cheating stories” application appeared on the first page of the leading search engines.
- Analytics showcased impact of attacks– Threat Research looked at Alexa analytics and the ranking of the “cheating stories” application dramatically increased during the three month span.
Search engines use specific algorithms to determine page rankings and indexing for sites on the web, and the number and reputation of links that redirect to the web application influence these rankings. The SEO attackers created a chain of external links that direct to stories of cheating and infidelity on the web to mimic normal web content and impact search engine algorithms.
“The ability to manipulate page rankings is an enticing proposition and business for attackers,” said Stuart Scholly, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Security Business Unit, Akamai. “If successful, attacks can impact revenue and, most importantly, the reputation of many organizations and companies using the Internet.”
Attacks in the campaign have demonstrated a unique understanding of search engine operations, and accordingly, Threat Research recommends the following defense techniques:
For Web Application Developers
- Ensure that you have implemented proper input validation checks for all user-supplied data that will be used within a back-end database query. Reference: https://www.owasp.org/index.php/Input_Validation_Cheat_Sheet
- Only use prepared statements with parameterized queries when constructing SQL queries based on user-supplied data. Reference: https://www.owasp.org/index.php/SQL_Injection_Prevention_Cheat_Sheet
For Web Application Defenders
- Deploy a Web Application Firewall (WAF) that is configured in a blocking mode for SQL Injection attacks.
- Consider profiling and monitoring the HTML response body format to help identify if there are significant changes such as an increase in the the number of web links.
Akamai continues to monitor ongoing SEO attack campaigns leveraging SQL injection techniques. To learn more please download a complimentary copy of the threat advisory at http://www.stateoftheinternet.com/seo-attacks
Akamai Releases Findings of Increased Attacks and More Aggressive Tactics from DD4BC Extortionist Group
Kula Lumpur – September 10, 2015 – Akamai Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: AKAM), the global leader in content delivery network (CDN) services, published today, through the company’s Prolexic Security Engineering & Research Team (PLXsert), a new cybersecurity case study. Akamai shared details of an increase in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks from the Bitcoin extortionist group DD4BC, based on PLXsert’s observation of attack traffic targeted at customers from September 2014 through August 2015. Since April 2015, the team identified 114 DD4BC attacks, including more aggressive measures that target brand reputation through social media. The full report is available for download here: www.stateoftheinternet.com/dd4bc-case.
“DD4BC has been using the threat of DDoS attacks to secure Bitcoin payments from its victims for protection against future attacks,” said Stuart Scholly, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Security Division at Akamai. “The latest attacks – focused primarily on the financial service industry – involved new strategies and tactics intended to harass, extort and ultimately embarrass the victim publically.”
What is the DD4BC Group, and How Does it Operate?
The DD4BC group has been responsible for a large number of Bitcoin extortion campaigns dating back to 2014. In the past year, the group expanded its extortion and DDoS campaigns to target a wider array of business sectors – including financial services, media and entertainment, online gaming and retailers. The group has used e-mail to inform its target that a low-level DDoS attack will be launched against the victim’s website. From June through July 2015, the attacks increased from low-level to more than 20
Gbps in some cases. The group would then demand a Bitcoin ransom to protect the company from a larger DDoS attack designed to make its website inaccessible.
PLXsert released a history of the group’s activities that can be found in Akamai’s Security Bulletin: DD4BC Operation Profile, published in April 2015.
DD4BC Using Social Media to Exploit Organizations
According to research from PLXsert, DD4BC recently threatened to expose targeted organizations via social media, adding to the damage caused by the DDoS attack itself. The goal apparently is to garner more attention for the group’s ability to create service disruptions by publicly embarrassing the target and tarnishing the company’s reputation through these wide-reaching channels.
The group’s methodology typically includes use of multi-vector DDoS attack campaigns, revisiting former targets and also incorporating Layer 7 DDoS in multi-vector attacks, specifically concentrating on the WordPress pingback vulnerability. This vulnerability is exploited to repeatedly send reflected GET requests to the target to overload the website. Akamai researchers have seen this attack method incorporated into DDoS booter suite frameworks.
Since September 2014, the Akamai PLXsert has observed a total of 141 confirmed DD4BC attacks against Akamai customers. Of those attacks, the average bandwidth was 13.34 Gbps, with the largest DDoS attack reported at 56.2 Gbps.
To help protect against extortionist group DD4BC, and subsequent DDoS attacks, Akamai recommends the following defensive measures:
- Deploy anomaly- and signature-based DDoS detection methods to identify attacks before a website becomes unavailable to users.
- Distribute resources to increase resiliency and avoid single points of failure due to an attack.
- Implement Layer 7 DDoS mitigation appliances on the network in strategic locations to reduce the threat for critical application servers.
Akamai and PLXsert will continue to monitor ongoing threats, campaigns and methodologies used by DD4BC. To learn more about the group and its specific threats and mitigation techniques, please download a complimentary copy of the threat advisory at www.stateoftheinternet.com.