SWITCH Security-Blog

SWITCH-CERT IT-Security Blog

Fixing hundreds of websites in one day

Remedying Angler infections in Switzerland

Author: Serge Droz

In recent weeks the Angler exploit kit has become the dominating tool for DriveBy attacks. Cleaning Angler compromised web servers is a challenge which has been well mastered in Switzerland, thanks to the close collaboration of Swiss hosters and SWITCH.

The culprit

On Sunday July 5 an the Italian ‘offensive security’ firm HACKING TEAM got hacked and all its files were made public. This included a couple of zero day exploits. Only two days later one of these was already used in the wild by the notorious Angler exploit kit. This is not surprising: Angler today is the most sophisticated exploit kit. Since its inception in 2013 it sported several new innovations which are today uses by others. According to a Sophos blog Angler’s “market share” rose from about 22% last fall to more than 80% this spring.

The payload

Angler used to distribute a variety of different malwares, from ransom-ware to banking trojans. However it seems with the rapid growth of the kit it also focused on distributing mostly Cryptowall 3.0. This malware encrypts all the files on an infected system and demands a hefty ransom of several hundreds of Euros to unlock them. Many people claim to not have “anything important” on their PCs to then discover that all their family pictures of the past ten years are gone. An it’s not looking better for businesses that lose all their data, including their backups on USB disks.

Cleaning Infections in Switzerland

SWITCH has been cleaning up misused domains since several years now through its Safer Internet campaign. We have processed thousands of domains and thus protected visitors of Swiss websites from the evil of exploit kits, such as Angler. Infection rates of Swiss websites have indeed gone down over the past month, or so we believed. On the 22. July 2015 however,  the good folks from the National Cyber Security Centre Finland (NCSC-FI) and abuse.ch have managed to make a small dent into Angles infrastructure. A total of over 200’000 compromised URLs worldwide were reported that are misused by Angular.

Angler Distribution

Distribution of web servers, which are misused by the Angler exploit-kit.

Of these 166 where in the .ch and .li top level domain and thus could be entered into our program. We reported these URLs to the respective domain owners as well as the hoster we have contacts to. Checking on the 23. July over 90% of these domains have been cleaned up and a handful have been added. As of the 24. July 2015 only a few sites remain infected.

This means that Swiss hosters are doing an excellent job. Cleaning a web page is not simple. It’s not enough to just remove the the offending code from that page itself. It’s known that the Angler crew installs several back doors, all of which have to be found and removed. These back doors often are webshells, which give full control over the entire web space of the server. The respective php files are obfuscated and not easily recognizable.

The Webshell used by the Angler crew. The white box shows the obfuscated php code. The shell gives full access to all resources the webserver has access to.

The Webshell used by the Angler crew. The white box shows the obfuscated php code. The shell gives full access to all resources the webserver has access to.

Some of the hoster report information back to us for which we are very grateful. This information can then be used to make the analysis better and discover new attack patterns quickly.


The close collaboration and exchange of information between all the stakeholders allows for a very rapid reaction to threats. Cleaning these web pages needs substantial resources by the hosters and also SWITCH. But it’s well invested: Taking down these pages quickly protects visitors from being infected by Cryptowall and saves their valuable data, be this treasured personal files or critical business information.

Safer Internet

Anna is the director of a small kindergarten in Zurich. To give the kindergarten a home on the Internet, she registered a domain name and put up a website where parents can get up-to-date information about the kindergarten. A friend helped her to install a popular open-source content management system (CMS) for the website, so that she can change the menu every week and perform other updates herself. The parents of the kids were delighted to have access to this information online.

Three months after the website went online, one of the parents called her, telling her that the website was no longer available, and a warning was displayed instead. He also told her that he had a virus on his home PC and had to reinstall his operating system and change all his Internet passwords. When she talked to other parents that day, they told her the same.

What happened? Continue reading


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IT-Security-Links #61

  • McAfee Labs reports that a new ransomware called CryptoWall uses Tor for communication and demands Bitcoin from the user in exchange for the private key to decrypt the files. “The use of Tor and Bitcoin in this operation make tracing the attackers more difficult” writes McAfee.
  • Firefox version 31 is improving malware detection. Firefox has long been using Google’s Safe Browsing service to check for malicious web sites, now it also checks downloaded files.
  • Isreal’s Homeland Security writes that anonymous hackers have launched DDoS attacks against network infrastructure from Israel. The attacks also affected DNS name resolution on domain names ending in .co.il.
  • The Register writes that Security outlet VUPEN has revealed it held onto a critical Internet Explorer vulnerability for three years before disclosing it at the March Pwn2Own hacker competition. VUPEN makes money by selling exploits to its customers.
  • The Moscow Times writes that Russia’s Interior Ministry has put out a tender on its official government procurement website for anyone who can identify Tor users. On a related note, the Tor team issued a security advisory this week, warning operators of hidden services about attacks to deanonymizing users. And if that’s not enough Tor news for this week, according to the Tor project’s latest annual financial statements (PDF), the US government increased its funding to 1.8 million US dollars in 2013!



IT-Security-Links #60


1 Comment

The web is completely broken

The web is completely broken,

sagt sinngemäss Jeremiah Grossman [1], ein alter Hase im Bereich der Web Application Security. Zwar vertreibt seine Firma auch einen eigenen Webbrowser mit Fokus auf Security und vor allem Privacy, Recht hat er trotzdem: Täglich verwenden wir Technologien, welche das Etikett “Broken by Design” tragen (sollten). In diesem Artikel befassen wir uns mit zwei Themen: Cross Site Request (Forgery) CSR(F) und Certificate Authorities (CA). Die Probleme sind seit Jahren bekannt. Heute wurde gerade wieder ein CSRF-Exploit für WordPress 3.9.1 publiziert. Und ja, das ist die aktuelle WordPress-Version.

CSR(F) – Cross Site Request (Forgery)

Cross Site Request Forgery ist im Gegensatz zu seinem Bruder Cross Site Scripting nur marginal bekannt. Dennoch belegte CSRF 2010 in den OWASP Top Ten Platz 5, und im Jahr 2013 immerhin noch Platz 8. Es handelt sich folglich um eine häufige und durchaus kritische Sicherheitslücke in Webapplikationen. Doch was ist CSRF und was hat das mit “Broken by Design” zu tun?

Viele Webseiten binden externe Ressourcen, beispielsweise Bilder, Javascripts oder Werbung, ein. Das Adjektiv extern verweist hierbei auf eine andere Domäne. Ein Beispiel: Was geschieht, wenn man auf die Webseite einer typischen Schweizer Tageszeitung http://www.typischeschweizertageszeitung.ch/ geht?

  • Es werden Ressourcen von typischeschweizertageszeitung.ch geladen.
  • Es werden weitere Ressourcen von beispielsweise adtech.de, cxense.com, cxpublic.com, visualrevenue.com, wemfbox.ch etc. geladen.
  • Es werden von cxpublic.com wiederum weitere Ressourcen von 2mdn.net, serving-sys.com etc. geladen.

Diese Anfragen für externe Ressourcen nennt man Cross Site Requests. Und jetzt? Zunächst muss man sich fragen, wer denn diese Requests im Auftrag von typischeschweizertageszeitung.ch ausführt: der Browser. Anschliessend muss man verstehen, dass dieser Request unter Verwendung sämtlicher lokal gespeicherter Daten (insbesondere Cookies) für diese externe Domäne abgesetzt wird. Schauen wir uns ein relativ harmloses Beispiel an:

<script type="text/javascript">
   function csrf() {
      alert("Auf läuft ein Apache Server unter OpenBSD.");
   function nocsrf() {
      alert("Test fehlgeschlagen, aber vielleicht funktioniert etwas anderes? ...");
   <img src="" onload="csrf()" onerror="nocsrf()">

Continue reading


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  • Die Digitale Gesellschaft Schweiz hat ihren Swiss Lawful Intercept Report 2014 veröffentlicht. Dieser dokumentiert die Überwachungsaktivitäten der Kantone und des Dienstes Überwachung Post- und Fernmeldeverkehr (ÜPF).

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