As many as five million Web sites hosted by Network Solutions have been serving up malware, probably for several months. “This is one of the biggest infections for drive-by download attacks that I’ve seen,” said Wayne Huang, co-founder and CTO of Santa Clara, Calif.-based Armorize Technologies, a Web application security company. Huang said his firm’s researchers initially tracked the infection to a widget installed by Network Solutions on its GrowSmartBusiness.com site, then later discovered that the same widget was installed by default on all “parked” domains hosted by the Herndon, Va. hosting giant.
Parked domains are those that have been registered, but lack any owner-provided content. Malware makers and scammers have used these under-construction sites in the past to spread attack code or artificially boost search site rankings to dupe consumers into visiting.
The widget turned every infected domain into a drive-by attack site that launched the multi-exploit “Nuke” toolkit against users running Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Opera. If the kit successfully hacked the browser, a Trojan downloader hit the Windows PC, searches were redirected and pop-up advertisements appeared.
Several of the antivirus programs that recognized the downloader identified it as a variant of “Koobface”, a malware-spreading worm best known for attacking users of social networks such as Facebook.
Huang said that the attackers were making money by serving up the ads to infected machines, and further spreading the malware by copying the attack code to any of several peer-to-peer networks already installed on the system.
Although Network Solutions has disabled the widget on all parked domains and has taken the GrowSmartBusiness.com site offline, the widget remains on approximately 5,700 active sites that manually installed it, “If you have downloaded the GrowSmartBusiness widget to your website, we recommend you delete that widget and scan your site for malware,” Network Solutions urged.