Security Experts:

Metro News Website Compromised to Serve Malware

The United States website of the Metro newspaper (metro.us), which serves an estimated 1 million visitors every month, has been compromised and abused to distribute a piece of malware, Websense reported on Tuesday.

According to the security firm, cybercriminals have injected a malicious iFrame into several pages on the website. When users visit one of these pages, they are silently redirected through a traffic distribution system (TDS) to a website that hosts the RIG exploit kit. The exploit kit attempts to find vulnerable software on the victim's computer, which it leverages in order to push a piece of malware.

Most of the victims of this campaign are located in the United States and Canada, which isn't surprising. However, researchers have pointed out that these are also the countries most impacted by cybercriminal operations leveraging the RIG exploit kit over the past two months.

As of July 23, 23 of the 53 antivirus engines on VirusTotal detect the malware, which is apparently a version of Win32/Simda, a multi-component Trojan that's designed to download and execute arbitrary files. The variant analyzed by Websense is capable of stealing private information from Web browsers. In order to avoid detection, it checks infected systems for the presence of debuggers and forensic tools. 

"We can see that the cyber criminals use various methods to increase the chance of infection while trying to maintain anonymity through use of a TDS (in some cases more than one). While RIG Exploit Kit is popular now, we see other exploit kits such as Angler, Goon/Infinity, Nuclear Pack, and Magnitude used for similar purposes. In many cases, the TDS rotates between different exploit kits," Websense Security Analyst Ran Mosessco wrote in a blog post.

Last month, Websense reported that the popular online magazine AskMen was compromised in a similar manner. At the time, the attackers used the Nuclear Pack exploit kit to serve malware. It appears AskMen still hasn't addressed the problem as over the past month several security companies, including Symantec, Malwarebytes and Barracuda Networks, independently reported that the website had been serving malware.

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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.