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    Last week at the BlackHat and DEFCON security conferences, independent researcher Craig Heffner demonstrated a new attack against home routers that combined DNS rebinding and Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF). This attack used JavaScript to trick the user’s browser into establishing a communication channel between the attacker and the admin console of his/her home router. If the router password is easy to guess (e.g., router or password) or still set to the factory default, the attacker can quickly gain full control of the device and by doing so expose every device on the network to attack. (For example, the attacker might be able to change the DNS settings of the router, making everyone connected to it vulnerable to phishing attacks.)

    The Attack: Complex but Practical and Effective

    First, the attacker has to assume a position where he/she is capable of changing the DNS records of the domain that will be used for the attack. Next, the attacker will need to create various pages on the malicious domain that will host the Web side of the attack and link these with DNS. Finally, the attacker must have sufficient control of the Web server such that he/she can cause it to send a TCP reset (RST) command on demand.

    The attack begins when the user visits the malicious site. Heffner used DNS to collect the victim’s public IP address but there other ways to do this as well. Once the attacker has the victim’s public IP address, he/she needs to quickly create a new subdomain on the attack domain with 2 A records, which map a hostname to an IP address. The first A record points to the server while the second points to the public IP address of the victim’s router. The Web server now redirects the victim’s browser to a page with JavaScript code that will execute the CSRF portion of the attack.

    Now we get to the interesting part. The browser begins to execute the JavaScript code that tries to connect to the temporary subdomain. The attacking server will reply with an RST command and end the session. This user’s system will then try the other IP address that it knows about for the hostname, which happens to be the external IP address of the victim’s router. Any result is channeled to the attacking server via a portal. The attacker can try different user name and password combination until he/she successfully connects or the browser window/tab is closed.

    How Users Can Protect Themselves

    Normally, the admin console is not exposed to the Internet because many consumer routers include a default setting (or provide an option) that prevents any IP address outside of the local network from connecting to it. However, many services on these devices listen for connections on all interfaces. Packet filtering will prevent external users from accessing the admin console but internal users can often access the console using an external IP address.

    Here are some suggestions that will reduce risks brought about by this attack based on the list of suggestions provided by Craig Heffner:

    • Enable the HTTPS admin console on your device and don’t forget to disable the HTTP console (if possible).
    • Use a strong password for your router. Change the user name to something other than the factory default, if possible. If you worry about forgetting the new password, write it down and put it on the device itself.
    • Disable access to your router’s admin console from any external network. This option is often accessible from the admin console.
    • If you choose not to use the DNS servers automatically provided by your ISP, use another recursive resolver (with permission) or a resolver offered for public use such as OpenDNS. This will protect you from the published version of this attack code and the root servers will thank you.
    • If possible, add a firewall rule preventing devices on your local network from sending packets to the block that your public IP address is a member of. This will prevent any IP addresses on your LAN from contacting the external IP address of your router. If your ISP changes the block used in your neighborhood, however, you will need to edit this rule. As an added benefit, this rule will prevent your systems from inadvertently broadcasting to your neighbors.
    • Keep the firmware of your router and other network devices up-to-date.

    Updates as of August 5, 2010, 2:05 a.m. UTC

    Since this attack involves the usage of a malicious JavaScript, installing the NoScript plugin should be helpful in preventing being victimized by such attacks.

    OpenDNS also discussed this same issue, and stated that using OpenDNS may be a valid solution to prevent these attacks.

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