What used to be a harmless web site defacements back in the old school days, is today's ongoing monetization of defaced web sites, a logical development given the consolidation between different underground parties, evidence of which can be seen in the majority of incidents I've been analyzing recently.
The Africa Middle Market Fund' site is the latest example of a web site defacer is abusing the access to the web server to generate and locally host blackhat SEO pages, which when once access only by searching for the keywords and consequently returning 404 if traffic isn't coming from a search engine, redirect to known rogue security software, in this case, the XP antivirus protection (securityscannersite.com) which you must be familiar with if you were following the assessments of the massive IFRAME SEO poisoning attacks that took place during March this year. More about the found :
"The Africa Middle Market Fund is a private capital fund that invests in small and medium sized African businesses who need from $500,000 up to $2 million to grow and succeed to their full potential. We are a "double bottom-line" or "impact investment" fund, meaning that we care equally about financial performance and social benefit. We are for-profit and insist on our investees employing world standards of financial and business management to maximize their chances of success"
Most of the outgoing links from a sample of over 50 blackhat SEO pages at the site point to 23search.org, which is an invitation-only affiliate based network for traffic exchange, connecting different malicious parties together :
"What is this site? This site helps webmasters to earn money with their sites. How it works? Our program generate traffic from search engines and display advertising. What shell I do to start with you? Signup, get php file from member area, put file into your website directory, modify or create .htaccess in the same directory, and receive money!"
The session is then redirected to drivemedirect.com/soft.php?aid=0195&d=3&product=XPA, as well as to drivemedirect.com/soft.php?aid=0263&d=2&product=XPC to ultimately redirect the user to online-xpcleaner.com/2/freescan.php?aid=880263
Moreover, the majority of blackhat SEO campaigns are also starting to apply evasive techniques to make it harder to analyze them. In this particular campaign for instance, only traffic comming from search engines would get the chance to see the SEO page due to the use of document.referrer tags. Here are some sample monitization practices from what I've seen between the lines of recently defaced sites :
- installing web backdoors and reselling the access to phishers, spammers and malware authors who would have full control over the content, and can therefore do whatever they to with the web server
- installing web based spamming tools that later on will be either used directly by the defacers, or access to the tools sold to those interested in using them
- participating in an affiliate based blackhat SEO networks, where revenue coming of the victims who installed the rogue software is shared among the defacer and the affiliate based network, which doesn't really care how and where is all the traffic coming from
- forwarding the responsibility of hosting phishing pages to the legitimate site by hosting them locally in between sending the phishing emails again using the same host
- selling the access by promoting it based on its page rank
Web site defacements in times when traffic suppliers are efficiently coordinating campaigns with traffic seekers, will mature into a tool for providing malicious infrastructure on demand, just like botnets did. Then again, the endless possibilities provided by insecure web applications are already blurring the lines between web site defacements and SQL injections.
Pro-Serbian Hacktivists Attacking Albanian Web Sites
The Rise of Kosovo Defacement Groups
A Commercial Web Site Defacement Tool
Phishing Tactics Evolving
Web Site Defacement Groups Going Phishing
Blackhat SEO Campaign at The Millennium Challenge Corporation
Massive IFRAME SEO Poisoning Attack Continuing
Massive Blackhat SEO Targeting Blogspot
The Invisible Blackhat SEO Campaign
Attack of the SEO Bots on the .EDU Domain
p0rn.gov - The Ongoing Blackhat SEO Operation
The Continuing .Gov Blackat SEO Campaign
The Continuing .Gov Blackhat SEO Campaign - Part Two
Compromised Sites Serving Malware and Spam