Akamai Identifies SEO Web Application Attack Campaign

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

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.

Threat Mitigation

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.

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