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RansomWeb Attacks on the Rise

RansomWeb attacks are on the rise and there are plenty of vulnerabilities malicious actors can exploit to conduct such operations, according to web security firm High-Tech Bridge.

RansomWeb attacks are on the rise and there are plenty of vulnerabilities malicious actors can exploit to conduct such operations, according to web security firm High-Tech Bridge.

RansomWeb attacks, in which cybercriminals encrypt website databases and hold them for ransom, were first detailed by High-Tech Bridge in January 2015.

In some of the attacks observed by the security firm, hackers encrypted data on-the-fly before it was inserted into the database. By encrypting data over long periods of time, attackers can remain undetected and ensure that website backups are overwritten with encrypted content to prevent victims from recovering their files without paying the ransom.

Web security trends compiled by the company for the first half of 2016 show that high risk vulnerabilities, such as SQL injections, are currently leveraged for RansomWeb attacks five times more frequently compared to 2015.

Ilia Kolochenko, CEO and founder of High-Tech Bridge, said RansomWeb attacks have mainly been targeted at large organizations with business-critical web applications.

“If a web application is being updated frequently – a fact of compromise can be easily detected. Therefore, cybercriminals target production systems that are rarely updated,” Kolochenko told SecurityWeek. “Actually this is a pretty frequent case, as many IT teams in large companies hesitate to update/change (and even install security patches) not to ‘break a working system’. Such negligence is perfect for RansomWeb attacks.”

According to Kolochenko, small and medium-size enterprises are also targeted, but mainly ones whose databases store valuable information, such as auction and e-commerce websites.

In addition to SQL injection vulnerabilities, cybercriminals have also leveraged remote code execution, arbitrary file upload and any other type of flaw that allows them to compromise a web application.

High-Tech Bridge has found that more than 60 percent of web services and APIs designed for mobile applications are plagued by at least one high-risk flaw that allows attackers to compromise databases. Furthermore, experts determined that, in 35 percent of cases, websites affected by XSS vulnerabilities also contain more serious weaknesses, such as SQL injections, XXE or improper access control.

Even XSS vulnerabilities, which many consider less serious, can be highly valuable for malicious actors, especially when chained with other flaws. The security firm has observed attacks where hackers exploited a blind XSS to serve ransomware to privileged users via drive-by downloads.

Researchers found that only less than one-third of web servers are fully updated and have all security and stability patches installed. And worryingly, less than one percent of servers have a properly configured Content-Security-Policy (CSP) HTTP response header to prevent XSS and other injection attacks.

“In the near future, we can expect a significant and continuous growth of RansomWeb attacks against website owners,” Kolochenko said.

Related: New Service Hunts Malicious Domain Names

Written By

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.

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