Attackers Infect Ads with Old Adobe Vulnerability Exploit

Attackers inserted malware into ads in an apparent attempt to get users to download rogue anti-virus software, eWEEK finds. The malware authors attempted to exploit a patched vulnerability affecting Adobe Acrobat and Reader that is unrelated to recent security reports of a zero-day bug. and other Ziff Davis Enterprise sites were affected, though the ads were taken down shortly after the situation was discovered and the site is now clean.

Attackers infected some advertisements on the Web site Feb. 23 in an apparent attempt to get readers to download a rogue anti-virus application. eWEEK has found the exploit and removed the infected code from its Web site.

Although the exploit involved a bug affecting Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat, it is not related to the zero-day Adobe bug publicized Feb. 20, and is detected by Symantec as 'bloodhound.exploit.213.'

The infected code was found early Feb. 24 and the infected ads were removed from the eWEEK site within a short time. The eWEEK Web site is now working without any problems.

"The exploit in question did not compromise or any Ziff Davis Enterprise Web sites," said Stephen Wellman, director of community and content for Ziff Davis Enterprise. "The attack was served through an advertisement and took advantage of certain advertising-serving codes and was not our fault. This vulnerability has been removed from all of our Web sites and we are taking steps to ensure that this does not happen again."

The eWEEK site itself was not hacked; however, code was hosted on certain advertisements that performed a redirect to a malicious Web site through a series of IFrames. The new URL led to an adult Web site, which attempted to load a PDF that exploits a known Adobe vulnerability. The vulnerability affects versions 8.12 and earlier and has been patched.

According to Websense, if the exploit is successful, a file named "winratit.exe" is installed in the user's temporary files folder with no interaction from the user and two additional files are dropped onto the user's machine.

"The host file is also modified so that if the user tries to browse to popular software download sites to remedy the infected machine, s/he is instead directed to a malicious Web site offering further rogue AV downloads," Websense said.

The Websense advisory also noted, "The name of the rogue AV application is Anti-Virus-1. If the user chooses to register the rogue AV, a connection is made to hxxp://[removed], which has been set up to collect payment details."

eWEEK uploaded a copy of the exploit code to VirusTotal, which reported that only six vendors were detecting the exploit-Symantec, BitDefender, GData, nProtect, Secure-Web Gateway and AntiVir.

It is unknown if other sites were affected Feb. 24 with a similar attack via infected ads.