Update: Mass SQL injection attack targets Chinese Web sites

Attack has implanted malware in thousands of Web sites in China and Taiwan

Web sites across China and Taiwan are being hit by a mass SQL injection attack that has implanted malware in thousands of Web sites, according to a security company in Taiwan.

First detected on May 13, the attack is coming from a server farm inside China, which has made no effort to hide its IP addresses, said Wayne Huang, chief executive officer of Armorize Technologies, in Taipei.

"The attack is ongoing, ... even if they can't successfully insert malware, they're killing lots of Web sites right now, because they're just brute-forcing every attack surface with SQL injection, and hence causing lots of permanent changes to the victim Web sites," Huang said.

In a SQL injection attack, an attacker attempts to exploit vulnerabilities in custom Web applications by entering SQL code in an entry field, such as a login. If successful, such an attack can give the attacker access to data on the database used by the application and the ability to run malicious code on the Web site.

A screenshot of a Web site belonging to the Mackay Memorial Hospital in Hsinchu, Taiwan, showed the rendering of the site had been affected and displayed the SQL string injected by the attack, Huang said.

Thousands of Web sites have been hit by the attack, he said, noting that 10,000 servers alone were infected by malware last Friday. Most of the affected servers are located in China, while some are located in Taiwan, Huang said. The attackers appear to be using automated queries to Google's search engine to identify Web sites vulnerable to the attack, he said.

Among the sites hit by the attack on Friday were Soufun, a real estate Web site, and Mycar168, a site for automobile enthusiasts.

The attackers aren't targeting a specific vulnerability. Instead they are using an automated SQL injection attack engine that is tailored to attack Web sites using SQL Server, Huang said. The attack uses SQL injection to infect targeted Web sites with malware, which in turn exploits vulnerabilities in the browsers of those who visit the Web sites, he said, calling the attack "very well designed."

The malware injected by the attack comes from 1,000 different servers and targets 10 vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer and related plugins that are popular in Asia, Huang said.

The vulnerabilities are MS06-014 (CVE-2006-0003), MS07-017 (CVE-2007-1765), RealPlayer IERPCtl.IERPCtl.1 (CVE-2007-5601),GLCHAT.GLChatCtrl.1 (CVE-2007-5722), MPS.StormPlayer.1 (CVE-2007-4816), QvodInsert.QvodCtrl.1, DPClient.Vod (CVE-2007-6144), BaiduBar.Tool.1 (CVE-2007-4105), VML Exploit (CVE-2006-4868) and PPStream (CVE-2007-4748).

Mass SQL injection attacks have increasingly become a security threat. In January, tens of thousands of PCs were infected by an automated SQL injection attack. That attack was tailored to target Microsoft's SQL Server.

Correction: This story as originally posted  incorrectly stated the nature of a mass SQL injection attack in January. The article has been amended.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.