U.S. Consulate Web Site in Russia Breached

By Lisa Vaas  |  Posted 2007-09-14 Print this article Print

The victim of two malicious attacks, the compromised site was serving up malicious iFrames.

The Web site for the U.S. Consulate General in St. Petersburg, Russia, was broken into and was serving up malicious iFrames earlier the week of Sept. 10, according to security researchers. After trying to load a malicious iFrame onto victims systems from a remote server, the iFrame then attempted to silently load even more malware, according to Sophos. The site, which has since been cleaned up, was actually only one of hundreds of compromised Web pages linking to two distinct malicious attack sites. The U.S. Consulate site was actually linked to both of those attack sites and was thus compromised with two malicious iFrames. One of the attack sites is hosted in the United States, while many of the compromised pages are in Russia. Malicious script being loaded from the U.S. site tried to exploit several browser vulnerabilities in order to install a Trojan on victims systems.
Out of more than 400 compromised sites, most were small and covered a wide range of topics, from pizza delivery to motor sports, Sophos said in a blog posting Sept. 12.
Not that its easy to parse the exploit, Sophos said, but the U.S. Consulate site doesnt appear to have been targeted. Instead, the site appears to have been a "big fish caught in the net," as Sophos called its posting. Sophos says that the increasing use of automation to re-encrypt and obfuscate Trojans points to a need for a system to continuously monitor files in order to keep up with detection. "Automation is clearly being used—many script families are updated several times daily, and some of the notorious malware families are being rebuilt every 1-4 days," SophosLabs Fraser Howard wrote in an August paper (PDF) titled "Modern Web attacks." The exploit also points to the fact that government sites are lying open to attack. Exploiting them is trivial, as is fixing them, yet still they sit naked, as was demonstrated recently by Sunbelts discovery of a military site belonging to a European country that was passing SQL commands in its URLs directly to its back-end database. Finding vulnerabilities on .gov sites is easy: Simply Google "sex porn site:.gov." Redirects to porn sites might not seem as serious as a defense agency whose database is a few keystrokes away from being nakedly displayed in public, or a U.S. Consulate serving up malware. But these porn sites arent necessarily benign—many serve up Trojans. And the fact that government servers can be used with impudence to plant redirects for spyware and porn sites reflects the fact that the U.S. government has spotty network security. Check out eWEEK.coms Security Center for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at eWEEKs Security Watch blog.
Lisa Vaas is News Editor/Operations for eWEEK.com and also serves as editor of the Database topic center. Since 1995, she has also been a Webcast news show anchorperson and a reporter covering the IT industry. She has focused on customer relationship management technology, IT salaries and careers, effects of the H1-B visa on the technology workforce, wireless technology, security, and, most recently, databases and the technologies that touch upon them. Her articles have appeared in eWEEK's print edition, on eWEEK.com, and in the startup IT magazine PC Connection. Prior to becoming a journalist, Vaas experienced an array of eye-opening careers, including driving a cab in Boston, photographing cranky babies in shopping malls, selling cameras, typography and computer training. She stopped a hair short of finishing an M.A. in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She earned a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College. She runs two open-mic reading series in Boston and currently keeps bees in her home in Mashpee, Mass.

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