Security Experts:

Google Vietnam Targeted in DNS Hijacking Attack

Google’s Vietnam domain (google.com.vn) was hijacked on Monday by hackers apparently associated with the notorious Lizard Squad group.

Users who accessed the Google Vietnam website were presented with a picture of a man taking a selfie, along with a message that claimed the site was hacked by Lizard Squad. The hackers also took the opportunity to advertise their Lizard Stresser DDoS service, which is now called Shenron.

Google Vietnam wasn’t actually hacked. Instead, the attackers redirected the domain’s visitors to a defacement page through DNS hijacking.

According to OpenDNS, the attackers managed to redirect users by changing the Google nameservers (ns1.google.com, ns2.google.com) to CloudFlare IP addresses (173.245.59.108, 173.245.58.166). The defacement page had been stored on a DigitalOcean-hosted server located in the Netherlands.

The DigitalOcean IP was a version 6 IP address (IPv6). Experts believe this was either done to confuse network analysts and legacy tools, or the attackers simply didn’t care what type of IP address they were using as long as they achieved their goals.

“The hosting of the site in The Netherlands, when combined with the load balancing capabilities of employing CloudFlare’s infrastructure, does signal that at least some thought was put into managing the considerable amount of web traffic generated by Google-related requests,” OpenDNS’s Andrew Hay wrote in a blog post.

“We suspect that the use of IPv6 for malicious and fraudulent sites will become increasingly commonplace, especially as VPS providers stop giving customers the choice to select an IPv4 or IPv6 IP address for their server,” Hay added.

CloudFlare and the Vietnam Internet Network Information Center (VNNIC), the organization that manages Internet resources in the country, rushed to address the issue.

VNNIC representatives told SecurityWeek that their technical staff worked with the organization’s accredited registrar, WEBCC, to “completely stop the illegal action.”

The attack did not affect the national .vn DNS system, and access to google.com.vn through the ns3.google.com nameserver was not impacted. The nameserver records were restored roughly two hours after the attackers had changed them. Google and the targeted domain registrar have been working together to determine the cause of the breach, VNNIC said in an emailed statement.

The Lizard Squad became famous after they used DDoS attacks to disrupt Sony's PlayStation Network and Microsoft's Xbox Live over Christmas. Some alleged members of Lizard Squad have been identified by law enforcement, but the group still seems active.

DNS hijacking is not uncommon. One of the recent high-profile victims of such an attack was Craigslist, whose visitors were redirected in November to unrelated sites. DNS hijacking has often been the weapon of choice for the Syrian Electronic Army.

*Updated with additional information from VNNIC

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.