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    Click for larger viewThe increasing number of website defacements by hackers in the Mediterranean region highlights persistent Web server security issues. A few weeks ago, Turkish hackers defaced several New Zealand websites, among them some high-profile and high-traffic sites, by modifying the pages to display messages like “Stop the war Israel (sic),” or a picture of Bill Gates like in Figure 1.

    The malware underground in the Mediterranean region has always kept a low profile, save for a few newsworthy incidents like the defacing of around 700 Israeli websites by Moroccan hackers in 2006, the Israeli hackers’ retaliatory vandalizing of around 400 Moroccan websites, and the most recent being the trashing of several New Zealand sites by Turkish hackers. Though the attacks may strike one as well-organized, researchers find it difficult to pin down whether the people behind them are working under one umbrella group in the same way that there has been no strong evidence linking them to cybercriminals in the Russian, Ukrainian, and Eastern European regions (of the Russian Business Network infamy).

    The motives behind these attacks seems now to be a little more transparent. Aside from the questionable patriotism suggested by these hackers’ occasional calls for war, they may simply enjoy the notoriety of their very own 15 minutes of fame. Ten years ago, virus authors coded mainly for fun rather than profit. This contrasts starkly with the current-day cybercriminal industry where virus writers are capable of earning several million dollars per year.

    The spread of broadband Internet facilities in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia allow more people to use the Internet on a daily basis. Script kiddies may be hacking websites as a means of reaching out to the growing number of Internet users in these countries. This juvenile behavior is actually very similar to how cybercriminals started out and took root in the United States and Europe some years back.

    ADSL Connection

    Morocco:
    2MB at 26 euros (34 dollars)
    4 Mega at 50 euros (66 dollars)

    Algeria:
    512 Kb at 15 euros (20 dollars)
    1 Mega at 19 euros (25 dollars)

    Tunisia:
    2 Mega at 16 euros (21 dollars)

    ADSL continues to get cheaper. In Europe, the cost for these services has decreased while connection speeds have gone up (at present, it’s at 30 euros for a 20MB connection, with TV and free local phone calls).

    Hackers from the Mediterranean region have defaced company websites using exploits, SQL injections and/or poisoning the DNS resolving the sites’ domain names. As long as this trend persists, website administrators, especially those with websites actually hosted in the Mediterranean region, should reassess their security situations and employ the necessary policies and best practices both at their end and to the extent that they can impose these conditions to their Web hosting providers.

    Related reading:

    Image from the Countermeasures blog.





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