Imperva observed a spambot targeting WordPress sites aimed at tricking victims into clicking on links to sites offering betting services on FIFA World Cup
Security experts from Imperva recently observed a spike in spam activity directed at WordPress websites, attackers aimed at tricking victims into clicking on links to sites offering betting services on the 2018 FIFA World Cup games.
Imperva monitored the activity of a botnet used to spread meaningless text messages generated from a template to comments sections in blogs, news articles, and other web sites that allow people to comment.
“Turns out the attack was launched by a botnet and implemented in the form of comment SPAM – meaningless, generic text generated from a template and posted in the comment sections of blogs, news articles etc; linking to pay-per-click commercial or suspicious sites looking to scam you or phish for your passwords.” reads the report published Imperva.
The spambot was used to post comments to the same Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) across different WordPress sites indiscriminately and without regard for whether the site is has a comments section or is affected by exploitable known issues.
The comments are generated starting from this template that is known since at least 2013. The template allows to automatically create slightly different versions of the same message to use in spam campaigns.
“Our analysis found that the top 10 links advertised by the botnet lead to World Cup betting sites. Interestingly, eight of the top advertised sites contained links to the same betting site, hinting that they might be connected in a way.” continues Imperva.
“We found that the botnet advertised over 1000 unique URLs, most of them appear multiple times. In many cases, the botnet used different techniques such as URL redirection and URL-shortening services to mask the true destination of the advertised link.”
According to the experts, the spambot is still small, it is composed of just 1,200 unique IPs with up to 700 daily unique IPs. The experts discovered that botnet has also been using URL-shortening, URL redirection, and other techniques to masquerade the landing sites of advertised links in its spam messages.
In the weeks before the World Cup, the spambot was being used in remote code execution attacks and other non-SPAM attacks on WordPress sites
Just after the beginning of the 2018 World Cup, the botnet activity was focused on comment spam, a circumstance that suggests the malicious infrastructure is available for hire.
“A possible explanation is that the botnet is for hire. The malicious activity we’ve seen at first was either paid for or simply the botnet’s attempt to grow itself. Then, it was hired by these betting sites to advertise them and increase their SEO.” continues the analysis.
Comment spam is a well-known activity in the threat landscape, the most common countermeasure it to blacklist IPs originating spams messages and also the URLs that they advertise.
WordPress also has several Plug-ins that could defeat this boring activity.
“Although comment SPAM has been with us for more than a decade — and doesn’t seem like it’s going away anytime soon — there are numerous solutions ranging from dedicated plugins that block comments that look SPAMmy, to WAF services.” concluded Imperva.