AARP Hacked Via Blog Comments

By Matthew Hines  |  Posted 2008-09-19 Print this article Print

Most malware gangs probably don't have many members nearing retirement age, but that hasn't stopped them from targeting people who already have, or at least their Web site.

Security and e-mail filtering specialists MX Logic have discovered a section of the official AARP Web site that has come under the control of badware brokers.

According to the company's report, hackers likely found vulnerabilities in's user profile functionality, which allowed them to post JavaScript redirect code and HREF links to porn sites.

After doing so, the hackers have employed botnet-driven spam in a massive campaign to submit blog comments containing links to the hacked user profiles, to lure subsequent targets with the attack.

"There has been a considerable increase in the use of comment and profile spam to promote pornographic or phishing sites in search engines," MX Logic researchers said. "The AARP's website has been compromised by a two-pronged attack."

Based on the sheer number of similarly questionable and infected comments that are left on this blog alone (but not approved for publishing), it's clear that the security vendor is correct.

If the bad guys can hack a known commodity like AARP, or the National Guard earlier this week, and use those domains to distribute their work, it would certainly seem to make their attempts much more likely to succeed.

Among the other benefits of such schemes listed by MX Logic were that:

-Search engines rank sites based upon links from other sites. If a high-ranking site like the AARP (to which Google has assigned a Page Rank of 8/10) links to the hacker's site, it increases the recipient site's ranking and traffic.

-The bot-driven blog comment spam drives increased visibility of the hacked AARP profiles, driving higher traffic numbers and ranking to the AARP profile itself.

-Users who view the seemingly innocent AARP member profiles are automatically redirected to porn sites, and served up malware "anti-virus" applications to help them "fix" the problem.

Using a comment approval system like we have here at Security Watch helps in fighting such attacks, but many Web 2.0 sites still haven't caught on, the experts contend.

And the use of a familiar domain like AARP to distribute the threats likely helps aid in the continued success of the model.

"Typically, most blog platforms do a fair job of limiting comment spam. Even so, a cursory check for inbound links to some of the hacked profiles shows many blogs now have the bot-submitted links in their comment areas," the researchers said in their blog.

"As we've covered before, spam makes a lot of people a lot of money. Hackers have great incentive to find vulnerabilities in email systems as well as web-based content management platforms. They're also increasingly using SEO (search engine optimization) to help stack the odds in their favor," MX Logic said. "The possibility of being able to inexpensively market on such a massive scale means the threat will never completely go away."

So watch out next time you're cruising the RV forum for 60-something cougars.

Matt Hines has been following the IT industry for over a decade as a reporter and blogger, and has been specifically focused on the security space since 2003, including a previous stint writing for eWeek and contributing to the Security Watch blog. Hines is currently employed as marketing communications manager at Core Security Technologies, a Boston-based maker of security testing software. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Core Security, and neither the company, nor its products and services will be actively discussed in the blog. Please send news, research or tips to |

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