Monthly Archives: March 2010

Blackhat SEO and other nuisances

The horrific Russian suicide bombings have, inevitably, generated a load of blackhat SEO (search engine optimization) attacks, not to mention Twitter profile attacks, using topical keywords to lure victims into running malicious code. I’ve blogged on that elsewhere recently – e.g. “Here come (more of) the Ghouls”, at http://www.eset.com/blog/2010/03/30/here-come-more-of-the-ghouls – so I won’t repeat myself here.

However, I hear from that nice Mr. Cluley at Sophos that there’s an awfully good paper available about “Poisoned search results: How hackers have automated search engine poisoning attacks to distribute malware”, by Fraser Howard and Onur Komili.  

It is a good paper, and it will interest a lot of the people who read this blog. And it should interest quite a few people who probably won’t read it. 🙁

David Harley FBCS CITP CISSP
Security Author/Consultant at Small Blue-Green World
Chief Operations Officer, AVIEN
ESET Research Fellow & Director of Malware Intelligence

Also blogging at:
http://www.eset.com/blog
http://smallbluegreenblog.wordpress.com/
http://blogs.securiteam.com
http://blog.isc2.org/
http://dharley.wordpress.com
http://macvirus.com

About those alligators….

I don’t know what Peter Norton  is up to these days. In the anti-virus industry, he’s probably best remembered for (a) the security products marketed by Symantec that still bear his name (though not the famous pink shirt photograph), though he sold his company to Big Yellow about 20 years ago. In researcher circles, he’s also remembered for telling Insight magazine in 1988 or thereabouts that “We’re dealing with an urban myth. It’s like the story of alligators in the sewers of New York. Everyone knows about them, but no one’s ever seen them. Typically, these stories come up every three to five years.” Well, quite a few people put computer viruses in the same category as flying saucers around that time. Commodore, for instance, reacted to questions about Amiga malware by saying that it sounded like a hoax, and moved on (1) to ignoring it altogether.

Not long after that, he lent his name to Symantec’s antivirus product, which I suppose makes it the world’s first anti-hoax software.

I’ve no idea whether there really are or ever were alligators in the sewers of New York, but according to the BBC, Scotland ‘s sewage system has quite a few equally bizarre inhabitants. Notably:

  • A Mexican Kingsnake
  • A goldfish called Pooh
  • An anonymous frog
  • An equally anonymous badger (no, it wasn’t in the company of the frog: what a story that could be…)

 The above were all alive and well, if not as sanitary as one might hope. However, a sheep found in a manhole chamber and a cow found in a storm tank did not survive the experience. Other inanimate objects found included credit cards, a working iron, false teeth, jewelry, and some of the hundreds of thousands of mobile phones that Brits are alleged to flush down the loo. 

It’s not known whether the very smelly aggregation of money mules that is apparently operating out of Scotland and associated with the “London scam” described here is operating out of the same network

(1) Yes, I’m paraphrasing myself. “Viruses Revealed”, Chapter 2, published by Osborne in 2001.

David Harley FBCS CITP CISSP
Security Author/Consultant at Small Blue-Green World
Chief Operations Officer, AVIEN
ESET Research Fellow & Director of Malware Intelligence

Also blogging at:
http://avien.net/blog
http://www.eset.com/blog
http://smallbluegreenblog.wordpress.com/
http://blogs.securiteam.com
http://blog.isc2.org/
http://dharley.wordpress.com
http://macvirus.com

The great wall of Google

So, we hear the news that Google ‘really has’ ceased censorship in China. At least, that is the meme currently working its way around the internet. Actually, this is rather disingenuous, and shows a particularly unsavoury side of how the Google PR machine really works.

If you’ve been living on Mars or want some background, here are a couple of links on the story.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/8582233.stm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/mar/22/google-china-shut-down-censorships

Of course, a careful read of these articles shows that Google have done nothing more than redirect their front page to their existing Hong Kong search page, and that the censorship (which operates automatically between the mainland of China and…well…everywhere else) is still very much in place.

Users inside China have no greater freedom now, and this is a very different situation than if Google had really put its money where its (big) mouth is and uncensored its .cn site search results. Clearly they wouldn’t do that though, as not only would it be illegal in China, it very likely would have caused them to have to pull out of the lucrative market they so badly want a piece of – instead of getting a bit of bluster from the Chinese government and maybe a slap on the wrist.

Do a search for, say, ‘Tiananmen Square’ from inside China, and as the Guardian article points out, the internet connection will reset. Lest we forget, this is part of what Google is complicit in covering up. The Chinese government have been almost entirely successful in expunging this monstrous event from the consciousness of those living in their country, and Google (and others) have not only not done anything to stop this, they have actively aided them in their attempts at revisionist history.

This is a security blog, so I’ll get to the point that everyone seems to be missing. This whole story erupted because, allegedly, Google suffered attacks on its Gmail network from inside of China. Let’s leave aside for the moment, the whole “buzz” fiasco which probably did Google far more harm, but this is the rather grubby truth that Google is managing to cover up so well with its big talk about not “being evil” and opening up the freedom of the internet (which they so eagerly avoided doing for so long in order to get their hands on those lovely Chinese RMB).

The point is, that rather than look at what they were doing that was wrong and securing their network; or finding out what led to the compromises against their network, Google instead simply threw their toys out of the crib and made up a new story about solidarity and freedom and so on. Do you trust Gmail more now that they’ve engaged the NSA to help them secure it? I didn’t think so.

It’s a shame that so many tech bloggers have focused on the smokescreen political issues and ignored slamming Google for the real issues, that its approach to the privacy and security of its users is time and time again a huge disaster. The real problem is that they’ve got the money and the PR machine to cover it up with a different story, and swamp all those dissenting voices to avoid having to have that brief moment of introspection that might acutally change things for the better…rather like a certain government, don’t you think?

Andrew Lee
AVIEN CEO

Anti-Phishing Working Group: CeCOS IV

The Anti-Phishing Working Group has asked its members to publicize the forthcoming Counter eCrime Operations Summit in Brazil, which I’m pleased to do.

This year the APWG is hosting it’s fourth annual Counter eCrime Operations Summit (CeCOS IV) on May 11, 12 & 13 in São Paulo, Brazil.  The Discounted Early Bird Registration rate will end on April 9th.  Do not miss this opportunity to join our host CERT.br with APWG Members from around the globe at this one of a kind event. Counter-eCrime professionals will meet for sessions and discussion panels that look into case studies of organizations under attack and deliver narratives of successful trans-national forensic cooperation.

This is APWG’s first visit to South America and will help build our network of trusted friends worldwide.  The discounted registration rate of $250 USD covers all three days of content, lunch, breaks and the Wednesday night reception.  (NOTE: APWG Members will receive an additional discount during registration) This “Early Bird” rate will end on April 9th, after that through the beginning of the event on 11 May registration is $325 USD.

A partial agenda is posted at the link below.  Translation services for English, Spanish and Portuguese will be available for all session.

http://www.apwg.org/events/2010_opSummit.html#agenda

Register Here:

http://secure.lenos.com/lenos/antiphishing/cecos2010/

David Harley FBCS CITP CISSP
Security Author/Consultant at Small Blue-Green World
Chief Operations Officer, AVIEN
ESET Research Fellow & Director of Malware Intelligence

Also blogging at:
http://avien.net/blog
http://www.eset.com/threat-center/blog
http://smallbluegreenblog.wordpress.com/
http://blogs.securiteam.com
http://blog.isc2.org/
http://dharley.wordpress.com
http://macvirus.com