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Trojan.Milicenso: Infection through .htaccess Redirection 

Jul 04, 2012 08:15 AM

Due to additional research of the Trojan.Milicenso threat (a.k.a "Printer Bomb"), we have determined that the threat is downloaded by an .htaccess redirection Web attack and that at least 4,000 websites have been compromised by the gang responsible for the threat.

Redirection using the .htaccess file

The .htaccess file is a configuration file for Web servers that can be used by Web administrators to control network traffic, for example: restrict access to certain Web pages, redirect access from mobile devices to special sites, etc. In order to monitor network traffic to legitimate websites, attackers (and some exploit kits) break into vulnerable Web servers and modify the .htaccess file.

The following image illustrates the flow of .htaccess redirection.

Figure 1. Infection flow

  1. When a user clicks the link for the website, the Web browser accesses the compromised website.
  2. The Web server then redirects the access to a malicious website based on the .htaccess file.
  3. The malicious site may then download more threats onto the compromised computer by exploiting certain vulnerabilities.

The redirection that happens at #2 typically goes unnoticed and the user does not know what has happened behind the scenes in the browser.

The .htaccess file

Below is an image of a malicious .htaccess file. The attacker has inserted more than 800 blank lines at both the top and the end of the file in an attempt to avoid attracting attention from network administrators.

Figure 2. Overview of a modified .htaccess file

The configuration is also very carefully crafted in order to prevent exposure of infection by external users or researchers. Access to the compromised website will be redirected to a malicious website only if all of the following conditions are met:

  1. It is the first time that the website has been visited.
    Note: There is no redirection after the first visit.
  2. The website is visited by clicking on a link in search engine results, SNS, or email.
    Note: There is no redirection if the user visits the website from a bookmark or by pasting the URL into the browser address field.
  3. The threat is running on the Windows platform.
    Note: There is no redirection if the threat is running on any other platform.
  4. A popular web browser is being used.
    Note: There is no redirection for unconventional web browsers or search engines.

The attacker can track where the traffic comes from by inserting the original URL into the redirect request.

Figure 3. Configuration of a redirection to a malicious website in the .htaccess file.

Malicious websites

After examining the logs, we were able to determine that the gang has been using the .htaccess redirection technique since at least 2010. The following is a list of some of the latest malicious websites that we have observed:

  • [RANDOM DOMAIN NAME].tedzstonz.com
  • [RANDOM DOMAIN NAME].tgpottery.com
  • [RANDOM DOMAIN NAME].yourcollegebody.com
  • [RANDOM DOMAIN NAME].tgpottery.com
  • [RANDOM DOMAIN NAME].beeracratic.com
  • [RANDOM DOMAIN NAME].buymeaprostitute.com
  • [RANDOM DOMAIN NAME].zoologistes-sansfrontiere.com
  • [RANDOM DOMAIN NAME].zoologistes-sansfrontiere.com
  • [RANDOM DOMAIN NAME].buymeaprostitute.com
  • [RANDOM DOMAIN NAME].wheredoesshework.com
  • [RANDOM DOMAIN NAME].wheredidiwork.com
  • [RANDOM DOMAIN NAME].jordanmcbain.com
  • [RANDOM DOMAIN NAME].bankersbuyersguide.net
  • [RANDOM DOMAIN NAME].findmeaprostitute.com
  • [RANDOM DOMAIN NAME].watchmoviesnchat.com
  • [RANDOM DOMAIN NAME].joincts.info

The attacker changes the domain name often in order to prevent it from being blocked or blacklisted. In 2010 and 2011, the gang moved to a new domain every few months. But in 2012, they changed domains almost every day.

Compromised websites

Within the last three days, we have identified approximately 4,000 unique, compromised websites that redirect users to malicious websites. Most of the compromised websites are personal or SMB segment websites; but government, telecom, and financial service websites have also been compromised.

Figure 4. Compromised sites by TLD

The above image illustrates the TLD (top-level domain) of compromised websites. As usual, most of the infection occurs on the .com domain, followed by the .org and .net domains. Although there are over 90 countries from around the world in the list, countries in Europe and Latin America constitute the majority of the compromised sites. This is commensurate with the infection pattern for Trojan.Milicenso that was detailed in a previous post.


For Web administrators
Symantec antivirus products detect the malicious .htaccess file as Trojan.Malhtaccess. Delete the malicious .htaccess file, replace it with a known clean backup, and apply patches to all Operating Systems and Web applications, including CMS.

For Users
Further to antivirus signatures listed in the previous post, we have also created the new IPS signature 25799: Web Attack: Malicious Executable Download 6, which protects you from the malicious redirection.

As described in the latest ISTR, the Web-based attack is still a highly active infection vector, which attackers persist in exploiting. Symantec is monitoring these malicious activities and continues to provide protection to all of its customers.

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