Over 45,000 Chinese websites have been under a barrage of attacks from miscreants looking to gain access to web servers, ZDNet has learned.
The attacks have targeted websites built with ThinkPHP, a Chinese-made PHP framework that is very popular among the local web development scene.
All attacks started after Chinese cyber-security firm VulnSpy posted a proof-of-concept exploit for ThinkPHP on ExploitDB, a website popular for hosting free exploit code.
The proof-of-concept code exploits a vulnerability in the framework’s invokeFunction method to execute malicious code on the underlying server. The vulnerability is remotely exploitable, as most vulnerabilities in web-based apps tend to be, and can allow an attacker to gain control over the server.
Attacks started within a day
“The PoC was published on December 11, and we saw internet-wide scans less than 24 hours later,” Troy Mursch, co-founder of Bad Packets LLC told ZDNet today.
The number of organized threat groups exploiting the new ThinkPHP vulnerability has also grown as well. There are now the original attackers, another group that security experts named “D3c3mb3r,” and a group that’s using the ThinkPHP vulnerability to infect servers with the Miori IoT malware.
This last group, detected by Trend Micro, also suggests that the ThinkPHP framework might have been used to build control panels of some home routers and IoT devices, as Miori wouldn’t be able to function properly on actual Linux servers.
Furthermore, NewSky Security has also detected a fourth group scanning for ThinkPHP-based sites and attempting to run Microsoft Powershell commands.
“The Powershell one is bizarre,” Ankit Anubhav, Principal Security Researcher for NewSky Security told ZDNet. “They actually have some code that checks for OS type and runs different exploit code for Linux, but they also run Powershell just to try their luck.”
But the biggest of all groups exploiting this ThinkPHP vulnerability is the group they call D3c3mb3r. This group isn’t particularly focused on ThinkPHP sites only. This group scans for everything PHP.
“They are very loud on PHP,” Anubhav told us. “Mostly looking for web servers and not IoT devices.”
But this group, for now, isn’t doing anything special. They don’t infect servers with cryptocurrency miners or any malware. They simply scan for vulnerable hosts, run a basic “echo hello d3c3mb3r” command, and that’s it.
“I am not sure about their motive,” Anubhav said.
Over 45,000 vulnerable hosts
According to a Shodan search, there are currently over 45,800 servers running a ThinkPHP-based web app that are reachable online. Over 40,000 of these are hosted on Chinese IP addresses, which makes sense since ThinkPHP’s documentation is only available in Chinese, and most likely not used outside the country.
This also explains why most of the attackers looking for ThinkPHP sites are also mostly Chinese.
“So far the only hosts we’ve seen scanning for ThinkPHP installations have come from China or Russia,” Mursch told ZDNet after consulting data in regards to the origin of most these scans.
But you don’t need to be Chinese to exploit a vulnerability in Chinese software. As more threat groups will learn about this new easy way to hack into web servers, attacks on Chinese sites will intensify.
F5 Labs has also published a technical analysis of the ThinkPHP vulnerability and how the exploit code works, here.
More cybersecurity coverage:
Phish Fight: Securing Enterprise Communications
Yes, much of the world may have moved on from email to social media and culturally dubious TikTok dances, yet traditional electronic mail remains a foundation of business communication. And sadly, it remains a prime vector for malware, data leakage, and phishing attacks that can undermine enterprise protections. It doesn’t have to be that way.
In a just released report titled “GigaOm Radar for Phishing Prevention and Detection,” GigaOm Analyst Simon Gibson surveyed more than a dozen enterprise-focused email security solutions. He found a range of approaches to securing communications that often can be fitted together to provide critical, defense-in-depth protection against even determined attackers.
Figure 1. GigaOm Radar for Email Phishing Prevention and Detection
“When evaluating these vendors and their solutions, it is important to consider your own business and workflow,” Gibson writes in the report, stressing the need to deploy solutions that best address your organization’s business workflow and email traffic. “For some it may be preferable to settle on one comprehensive solution, while for others building a best-of-breed architecture from multiple vendors may be preferable.”
In a field of competent solutions, Gibson found that Forcepoint, purchased recently by Raytheon, stood apart thanks to the layered protections provided by its Advanced Classification Engine. Area 1 and Zimperium, meanwhile, are both leaders that exhibit significant momentum, with Area 1 boosted by its recent solution partnership with Virtru, and Zimperium excelling in its deep commitment to mobile message security.
A mobile focus is timely, Gibson says in a video interview for GigaOm. He says companies are “tuning the spigot on” and enabling unprecedented access and reliance on mobile devices, which is creating an urgent need to get ahead of threats.
Gibson’s conclusion in the report? He singles out three things: Defense in depth, awareness of existing patterns and infrastructure, and a healthy respect for the “human factor” that can make security so hard to lock down.
When Is a DevSecOps Vendor Not a DevSecOps Vendor?
DevOps’ general aim is to enable a more efficient process for producing software and technology solutions and bringing stakeholders together to speed up delivery. But we know from experience that this inherently creative, outcome-driven approach often forgets about one thing until too late in the process—security. Too often, security is brought into the timeline just before deployment, risking last minute headaches and major delays. The security team is pushed into being the Greek chorus of the process, “ruining everyone’s fun” by demanding changes and slowing things down.
But as we know, in the complex, multi-cloud and containerized environment we find ourselves in, security is becoming more important and challenging than ever. And the costs of security failure are not only measured in slower deployment, but in compliance breaches and reputational damage.
The term “DevSecOps” has been coined to characterize how security needs to be at the heart of the DevOps process. This is in part principle and part tools. As a principle, DevSecOps fits with the concept of “shifting left,” that is, ensuring that security is treated as early as possible in the development process. So far, so simple.
From a tooling perspective, however, things get more complicated, not least because the market has seen a number of platforms marketing themselves as DevSecOps. As we have been writing our Key Criteria report on the subject, we have learned that not all DevSecOps vendors are necessarily DevSecOps vendors. Specifically, we have learned to distinguish capabilities that directly enable the goals of DevSecOps from a process perspective, from those designed to support DevSecOps practices. We could define them as: “Those that do, and those that help.”
This is how to tell the two types of vendor apart and how to use them.
Vendors Enabling DevSecOps: “Tools That Do”
A number of tools work to facilitate the DevSecOps process -– let’s bite the bullet and call them DevSecOps tools. They help teams set out each stage of software development, bringing siloed teams together behind a unified vision that allows fast, high-quality development, with security considerations at its core. DevSecOps tools work across the development process, for example:
- Create: Help to set and implement policy
- Develop: Apply guidance to the process and aid its implementation
- Test: Facilitate and guide security testing procedures
- Deploy: Provide reports to assure confidence to deploy the application
The key element that sets these tool sets apart is the ability to automate and reduce friction within the development process. They will prompt action, stop a team from moving from one stage to another if the process has not adequately addressed security concerns, and guide the roadmap for the development from start to finish.
Supporting DevSecOps: “Tools That Help”
In this category we place those tools which aid the execution, and monitoring, of good DevSecOps principles. Security scanning and application/infrastructure hardening tools are a key element of these processes: Software composition analysis (SCA) forms a part of the development stage, static/dynamic application security testing (SAST/DAST) is integral to the test stage and runtime app protection (RASP) is a key to the Deploy stage.
Tools like this are a vital part of the security layer of security tooling, especially just before deployment – and they often come with APIs so they can be plugged into the CI/CD process. However, while these capabilities are very important to DevSecOps, they can be seen in more of a supporting role, rather than being DevSecOps tools per se.
DevSecOps-washing is not a good idea for the enterprise
While one might argue that security should never have been shifted right, DevSecOps exists to ensure that security best practices take place across the development lifecycle. A corollary exists to the idea of “tools that help,” namely that organizations implementing these tools are not “doing DevSecOps,” any more than vendors providing these tools are DevSecOps vendors.
The only way to “do” DevSecOps is to fully embrace security at a process management and governance level: This means assessing risk, defining policy, setting review gates, and disallowing progress for insecure deliverables. Organizations that embrace DevSecOps can get help from what we are calling DevSecOps tools, as well as from scanning and hardening tools that help support its goals.
At the end of the day, all security and governance boils down to risk: If you buy a scanning tool so you can check a box that says “DevSecOps,” you are potentially adding to your risk posture, rather than mitigating it. So, get your DevSecOps strategy fixed first, then consider how you can add automation, visibility, and control using “tools that do,” as well as benefit from “tools that help.”
High Performance Application Security Testing
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While performance is important, it is only one criterion for a Web Application Firewall selection. The results of the report are revealing about these platforms. The methodology will be shown with clarity and transparency on how you might replicate these tests to mimic your own workloads and requirements.
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