New WordPress Backdoor Style Discovered – Hackers Think They Are Sneaky

I was cleaning a client’s site today that had been hacked, when I discovered a new backdoor implementation that I had never seen before. This one is a perfect example of why automated scans are often not sufficient when cleaning up a hacked WordPress installation. You can see the full file here: 99bde887d.php.

The file was dropped into the theme that the client is using, and is coded to mimic a core WordPress file, using some of the same function names and coding conventions that WordPress itself uses. It is designed so that most people opening it and actually looking at the code would still not notice that it was anything malicious. I have seen enough back doors though that even creative ones will often stand out to me. It is definitely not something that would be picked up with any of the existing scripted scans out there. While of course someone can update their plugins or scripts to include specific strings to look for that this file contains,

Read moreNew WordPress Backdoor Style Discovered – Hackers Think They Are Sneaky

Warning: WordPress.org Does Not Tell You If You Download An Infected Plugin From Them

Have you ever logged in to your WordPress dashboard, noticed that there were some updates pending, but simply couldn’t be bothered pushing the button to run them? Sure you have. Who hasn’t? A good majority of my work comes from dehacking websites that have been compromised, and even I slack on that from time to time. I mean, if there are no security bulletins about the updates, and I am only using plugins I have downloaded directly from WordPress.org I should be fine, right?

Wrong.

The day before yesterday I rebuilt a client’s site that had ben hacked, grabbing fresh versions of all of the plugins he was using. I noticed that one of the plugins, Social Media Widget, didn’t download though, and when I went to investigate why

Read moreWarning: WordPress.org Does Not Tell You If You Download An Infected Plugin From Them

What’s A Faster Way To Get A Virus Than Browsing Porn? That’s Right: The New Facebook

Quit staring, it is just a thumb.
Quit staring, it’s just a thumb.

Facebook has never been known for it’s safety. It is a site designed so that the least Internet savvy people out there can sign up and network with millions of other people, both those they know and those they don’t, with only a minimal amount of technical know-how required (ie. how to sign up, and how to browse). It is a giant playground filled with games and people to talk to from all over the world, luring in droves of people who, when they come, know nothing about “scareware”, or “phishing scams”, or even how to clean a virus from their machine if they get one. Sure, they’ve been told that if they visit porn sites they could very well get a virus, but hey, this is Facebook, everyone is on Facebook… it must be safe. The result is a gigantic community of

Read moreWhat’s A Faster Way To Get A Virus Than Browsing Porn? That’s Right: The New Facebook

As It Turns Out, WordPress Itself Is Not 100% GPL Compliant After All (And They Violate The MIT License As Well)

Yesterday I stumbled upon a rather interesting tidbit of information. I opened Twitter in the middle of a conversation between between Chip Bennett and Ben Cook, and I saw this tweet:

 

@chip_bennett @mattonomics that thread is everything wrong with the WordPress project wrapped up nicely in one ignorant package. - @Skitzzo

 

Curiosity piqued, I dug back through the tweets until I found a link to the thread Ben was referring to. It turns out that it is

Read moreAs It Turns Out, WordPress Itself Is Not 100% GPL Compliant After All (And They Violate The MIT License As Well)

Hacked on GoDaddy? I’ll Migrate You To Hostgator For Free

Yet again, I am seeing a rising number of sites that are reporting getting hacked at GoDaddy. It is also no surprise to me that people are getting limited responses from them when they try and find out what is going on. The GoDaddy blog mentions nothing recently aside from when they were hacked 2 weeks ago on Halloween (an attack that looks like it stemmed from GoDaddy not acting on a security advisory for 11 days). The thing is, I know from personal experience that they are aware of it, because I have seen cases where they are cleaning clients sites now automatically as a form of damage control, before the clients even know they were hacked, in an attempt to keep the buzz down about it. So they obviously know it is happening yet they are still keeping tight lipped about it, and being reactive instead of proactive, which is of course par for the course when it comes to getting hacked on GoDaddy.

Since this is an established pattern with them as a web host, and even though I still highly recommend them as registrars for domain names,

Read moreHacked on GoDaddy? I’ll Migrate You To Hostgator For Free

*Proof* That The New SEOmoz Tool Is At Least Half Accurate

There has been quite of bit of controversy over the past few days arising from the new LDA based tool recently released by SEOmoz. While there may have been some very well thought out, compelling arguments against giving this tool any credit whatsoever, I have to tell you that in my opinion no argument, no matter how well worded, is going to win over a good old fashioned demonstration.

I am a big one for testing, and test this tool I did. Now, I know, I may have voiced some opinions in the past as to my doubt of the sincerity of Rand Fishkin and the folks who run things over at SEOmoz, but regardless of what I said before, for me seeing is definitely believing. I plugged both the url for the post introducing the tool itself, along with the phrase

Read more*Proof* That The New SEOmoz Tool Is At Least Half Accurate

Breaking News: Google Borks the Earth

Want to explore the entire planet from your computer? Normally all anyone wanting to do so would have to do would be to trot on over to Google Earth, download and install their application, and off globe trotting they could go. Today, unfortunately, those who do not already have the program installed are apparently out of luck. It looks like today one of the brighter Google engineers working for one of the world’s leading tech companies has somehow broken not just one of the download links for the application, but all of them.

Read moreBreaking News: Google Borks the Earth

Rackspace Hacked Clients, Check Your Databases: WordPress “wp_optimize” Backdoor In wp_options Table

Just finished cleaning up a hacked client whose website is hosted on Rackspace Cloud hosting. It is the second one within the past few weeks, although the first one was actually hosting on Laughing Squid, which happens to use Rackspace Cloud. I had discovered that there were a large number of people all on the same IP as my client a couple of weeks ago who all got hacked, but I was having trouble determining if it was an issue with Laughing Squid or an issue with Rackspace Cloud itself, so I didn’t blog about it until I could research it more. I wish now that I had, because maybe then it would not have spread so widely. As it is, it is the same WordPress attack that Unmask Parasites blogged about earlier today.

It looks like the culprit might have been a security hole in phpmyadmin. Hopefully this will turn out to be what was wrong,

Read moreRackspace Hacked Clients, Check Your Databases: WordPress “wp_optimize” Backdoor In wp_options Table

GoDaddy’s Suggestion For The Cause Of Their Hacks And Their Community Blog – Can You Smell The Irony?

Yesterday I blogged about the hacking situation with GoDaddy hosting and a customer service call I had with them concerning some evidence I had found. While it is true that as this has progressed GoDaddy has widened their scope in investigating what the underlying cause of these hacks are, initially they claimed that the issue was with their customers running outdated versions of WordPress. While being wrong about something like that is usually not that big of a deal, in this particular instance it proved to be beyond irksome, since a large portion of their customer base were told that it was their own fault that their sites got hacked (even in cases where the customer was up to date), and that GoDaddy was in no way to blame:

WordPress is a-ok. Go Daddy is rock solid. Neither were ‘hacked,’ as some have speculated.

After an extensive investigation, we can report there was a small group of customers negatively impacted. What happened? Those users had outdated versions of the popular blogging software, set up in a particular way. – Alicia from GoDaddy

From what I have read around the web customers were being told that it was not GoDaddy’s responsibility to fix the sites, that they only offered “limited support” in situations like this, leaving people with only the option of restoring from a backup (which would often not help even in outdated WordPress hack situations, since hacks can go undetected for months) or hiring outside help to clean things up.

You can see on the support page they have set up, What’s Up with Go Daddy, WordPress, PHP Exploits and Malware? that they still claim that outdated scripts are part of the problem. Going to that page and viewing the source reveals something almost unbelievable:

GoDaddy outdated software...?
(click to enlarge)

That’s right, in a classic “do as I say, not as I do” twist it seems that GoDaddy is in fact running an older version of WordPress (WordPress MU, based on the version number, which has the same security holes as regular WordPress) for their community blog that they are using to tell people to upgrade their WordPress versions.

To be fair, simply having an older version of WordPress does not mean that it is automatically insecure… the security fixes in the more recent versions may be minor and the known vulnerabilities might have been manually patched. I can’t know without actually digging deeper and looking if in fact the installation was vulnerable.

Then again… neither can GoDaddy in the case of their customers.

Hosting With GoDaddy? Might Want To Rethink That Decision.

One of the services I offer people is cleaning their WordPress installations of hacks and infections, mostly for those who might not have the time or technical expertise to follow my hacked WordPress cleaning guide. Therefore when something happens that increases the number of people getting hacked, such as when a new exploit is discovered, or a security hole in a large host starts getting exploited (like what happened with Network Solutions last month), I get an increase in the number of people requesting help cleaning things up. This month it started happening with a large number of GoDaddy customers.

When it first started to happen I did some searching around, and noticed that there was some discussion going on about the heightened GoDaddy hacking activity, but at that time everything I read that stated the problem was with GoDaddy customers all had roots pointing back to a single post on a company blog that didn’t offer enough details for me to really see why it was happening there and not other places. Not that WordPress on other hosts weren’t still getting hacked, but there has definitely been a higher concentration of instances on GoDaddy. GoDaddy was definitely aware of the issue, and even replied in some threads on the WordPress.org help forum:

GoDaddy.com did send out a notification to customers affected by this issue. Although I know you would prefer not to be linked, I want to avoid flooding the forum. For a step-by-step guide to update WordPress, please visit http://fwd4.me/NGNAlicia from GoDaddy.com

The link to their “step-by-step guide” to updating WordPress turns out to be nothing more than than a link back to WordPress’ own guide to upgrading, and links on how to back up your stuff on GoDaddy. Decidedly not step-by-step imo, and in this case not all that helpful. If the reason your site gets hacked is due to you running an older, insecure version of WordPress, once that happens simply upgrading will not fix the issue. This seems to me to be a bit of a lame response to a serious issue coming from a company that bills itself as the “World’s largest Hosting Provider”.

GoDaddy keeps insisting that the problem is due to outdated WordPress installations, and that staying up to date and site security is the responsibility of the customer, not of GoDaddy. In one sense I completely agree with them. If you run an older version of WordPress that has known security holes in it (ie. pretty much all versions aside from the most recent) then the odds are that you are going to get hacked. Most of the clients I cleaned from GoDaddy so far were up to date, running version 2.9.2, but this still didn’t mean that it was GoDaddy’s fault, since it is possible for a site to get hacked and no signs show up for months. This means that the sites I was cleaning could potentially have had the hack from an older version, and it only became apparent some time after they upgraded.

The problem is that after doing some very thorough clean up jobs (ie. wipe and reinstall), and making sure the clients were up to date, all passwords changed, all image files verified as actual images, clean WordPress, clean theme, clean plugins, and hand cleaning the database, I had clients still getting re-hacked.

One client I had was having issues with funky characters in his posts. He would make the post, everything would be fine, and then the next day they would be converted in a way that would make them display as unicode. This was well after I had done my cleaning, and no one should have made any changes to the database since then. My assumption was that GoDaddy themselves was making changes, possibly security upgrades related to the recent hacking waves, and I figured that calling them to see what they had done would be the best bet. In preparation for this I went ahead and logged into the client’s account, and ftp’d into the server just to make sure everything looked like it was in place still. As soon as I did I saw that about 30 minutes before a brand new, non-Wordpress, oddly named php file had been dropped into my client’s site.

I downloaded the file and looked at it. I suddenly realized that this was the source file for all of the hacks that were happening. It was named “plan_erich.php”, and had similar eval(base64_decode( instruction at the top of the file. I modified the code to be able to decrypt it safely, and looked through the output (which you can view here). The script was designed to delete itself as soon as it ran:


$z=$_SERVER["SCRIPT_FILENAME"];
@unlink($z);

Finding this script before it was triggered and deleted itself was raw luck. Catching this file gave a great opportunity to actually track down how these hacks are occurring, and possibly would leave clues that GoDaddy could use to keep it from happening again. Looking at the owner/creator of the file, and matching that timestamp up with the various logs (ftp, ssh, http, mysql, etc) could give GoDaddy the information needed to figure out how the file really got there, instead of just guessing that WordPress was the issue. I have never seen a file like this before, and searching Google for the name yielded no results, so there really was no other information out there available on this. Finding it there was a little like hitting the lottery in that respect, random and very, very good luck.

The problem, however, is that GoDaddy didn’t seem to care. I called and explained to the woman I spoke with exactly what it was that I found and how it could be useful. I told her that matching up that file to the logs could yield some potentially valuable information. She did listen carefully, and I am pretty sure she understood what I was saying, because she asked if she could put me on hold to go talk with someone who might know more. She came back and informed me that she didn’t have permission to look at those logs.

I explained again, in a little more detail, why looking at the section of those logs was very important, and if she didn’t have permission could she please escalate the ticket to someone who did. Again, she put me on hold. This time she came back and told me that they were uninterested in escalating it.

At this point I was a teensy bit amazed at GoDaddy’s lack of concern with the issue. She very kindly informed me that the issue was that the client was running an older version of WordPress, and that we needed to upgrade. Wtf? I went and looked, and made sure that he was indeed still running the 2.9.2 version that I had installed over a week ago (and remember, he was running that version before I ever did anything), and he was. I told her that. She told me that no, she was looking at what the hosting control panel said, and that he was running version 2.6.

That was when it struck me… GoDaddy was claiming that this wave of WordPress hacks was due to clients not upgrading without even bothering to really look at the clients sites. The hosting control panel can only report what was installed via the hosting control panel itself. If a client pushes the button to upgrade WordPress from within the WordPress admin section then the hosting control panel will never know.

As amazing as it seems, apparently the entire GoDaddy technical support team is ignorant of this fact. That’s right… the “World’s largest Hosting Provider” doesn’t understand the very basics of how the world’s largest blogging platform works.

Something, probably a hosting configuration, is allowing GoDaddy customers to have their sites hacked, and it isn’t file permissions, insecure passwords, or out of date software. Not being willing to even look when a developer calls to tell you that they found something is completely unacceptable. My suggestion to all GoDaddy hosting customers: bail now, before something happens to your site. This is not a WordPress issue only… although it seems to have targeted WordPress customers first, all sites that use php are at risk. Personally for shared hosting I recommend Hostgator, because I love their tech support (and their servers are very robust), but there are plenty of hosts out there to choose from (Disclosure: I changed the previous link to an affiliate link, although if you’d rather purchase hosting from them without giving me credit that’s fine too, here is a clean link for you: HostGator).

Bob Parsons, I am sorry. Hot chicks and a strong tits and ass marketing campaign do not make up for apathy in matters of client security and well being.