Security vendor admits mistake in website take down
Pro-Palestine hacking group takes down two Rapid7 websites
October 12, 2013 — CSO —
Rapid7 has acknowledged that it waited too long to take the security actions needed to prevent a pro-Palestine hacking group from taking down two of its websites by sending a fax to the sites' registrar.
The group, called KDMS, sent the phony fax Friday to Register.com, requesting a change to the IP addresses associated with the URLs of Rapid7 and Metasploit. As a result, visitors to the sites' homepages were redirected to a politically charged message.
Following the unsophisticated attack, Rapid7 asked the registrar to block all future changes to its domains, unless it gets authorization by phone, HD Moore, chief security officer for Rapid7 and developer of the Metasploit penetration testing suite, told CSOonline. The vendor also is considering similar top-level domain (TLD) locks.
"These locks introduce hurdles for normal changes to our infrastructure and so we were still in the planning stages," Moore said. "In hindsight, we should have taken action sooner."
The hackers did not compromise the servers running the websites, and the redirect was fixed within an hour. Nevertheless, the fact that they were able to cause such mischief with only a fax surprised Moore.
"Metasploit.com was hijacked through a spoofed change request FAXED to Register.com. Hacking like its 1964," he tweeted earlier Friday.
The oversight led to site visitors being sent to a page in which KDMS took credit for the hack and left a message in support of Palestine.
"You are one of our targets. Therefore we are here," the message said. "And there is another thing. Do you know Palestine?"
The page went on to say that the "Palestinian people has the right to live in peace."
While the latest hack ended only with a political statement, so-called DNS spoofing can be much more serious. For example, visitors can be redirected to malicious sites that ask for user names, passwords and even credit card numbers.
KDMS also took credit for the hijacking this week of the domains of Whatsapp.com and two anti-virus vendors AVG and Avira, Trustwave reported. The takeover occurred through the registrar Network Solutions.
Avira confirmed the hack in its blog, saying the registrar had received and executed a fake password-reset. As in the latest hacks, the actual servers running the websites were not compromised.
In August, a pro-Syrian government group known as the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) redirected visitors to The New York Times website to a site containing malware. The attackers had breached the Times' Australian domain name registrar Melbourne IT.
Moore said Rapid7 had started discussing whether to implement registry locks after the Times hack.
Twitter suffered only minor problems in the same SEA attack because it had a registry lock in place that prevented Melbourne IT from making changes on its own.
Registrars generally prefer to avoid such locks, because it makes automatic renewals more difficult. Nevertheless, many experts argue they are a necessary security measure.
Read more about data protection in CSOonline's Data Protection section.
Other stories by Antone Gonsalves