[sf-lug] Hacked RHEL4/PHP4 server

Kristian Erik Hermansen kristian.hermansen at gmail.com
Thu May 22 07:54:30 PDT 2008

Just realize that even if the system utilities don't appear to be
trojaned, an attacker could have loaded a malicious kernel module
which has patched the syscall table and is filtering all requests your
binaries make...

On 5/22/08, Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> wrote:
> Quoting Tom Haddon (tom at greenleaftech.net):
> [A non-profit you used to work for ran a custom PHP/PostgreSQL app.
> A second non-profit picked up that app, and has been running it on a
> Verio virthost.]
>> I was told that Verio would be responsible for the day to day management
>> of the server, but I'm not sure how true that is.
> Verio, eh?  It... um... could happen.  ;->  (I'd not rely on that.)
> [Spam pages are now being served from the virthost, via modified PHP
> header files.]
>> As I'm writing this I'm suspecting that this suggests they had shell
>> access to the server to be able to inspect files on the filesystem,
>> whereas when I was investigating it, I assumed they exploited some PHP
>> bug and got in that way.
> Seems a reasonable assumption -- although that might very well be just
> remote ability to run shell scripts on the system.  One important
> question thus is:  What UID was/is usable by the attacker for that
> purpose.  One very bad sign:
>> The link that was each of these items was linking to was on the same
>> host as the site itself, but I still can't find the pages that it's
>> linking to on the filesystem.
> So, the most natural inference is that your inability to find it is
> because the utilities you're attempting to use for that purpose have
> been replaced by trojaned substitutes that have been compiled to have a
> built-in inability to see certain processes, users, and files -- e.g.,
> ls, netstat, ps, w, who, find, login, du, pstree, killall, top,
> syslogd....
> What I'm saying is that, if the file is truly being served from the
> system's Web server, and yet you as the root user can't find it on the
> system, then one reasonable hypothesis would be that the system had its
> root account cracked, and then (to hide the intrusion) was rootkitted --
> i.e., the above sorts of standard system-monitoring utilities were
> replaced by trojaned versions.
> You _could_ try copying over, or compiling locally, some known-good
> copies of those utilities into /usr/local/bin.  Or maybe, just force
> reinstallation of the distro packages that furnish them.  Then (quickly)
> check again for those files, etc.
> If you have good reason to suspect that the system's been root
> compromised, then it should be taken offline summarily, fully backed up,
> studied to learn more about the intrusion, and then rebuilt.
> The rebuild should (given root compromise) avoid re-using any existing
> program code, any existing server configuration files, and any existing
> user dotfiles and dotfile directories -- because all of those need to be
> considered suspect.  The only files you can just roll forward are
> non-program datafiles -- after, of course, getting rid of the Web site
> defacement.
> What you'd _really_ like to know, other than "Was the system really
> root-compromised?" (which is a very important question) is:  "How
> exactly did the bad guys get in, and how did they escalate to root-user
> access?"  You can certainly look at the logfiles -- if those weren't
> erased -- and look around for other clues.  Most of these guys aren't
> particularly subtle or careful.
> You'll want to consider exactly how unmaintained _was_ this virthost that
> was [**cough**] managed by Verio [**cough**].  How badly exposed to
> unfixed security bugs _were_ the running network daemons?
>> Looking at the "last" command....
> That would be yet another utility that would be a natural inclusion for
> rootkitting.  So, you could be asking the burglar's own tools how he got
> in, and they're saying "Burglar?  I didn't see any burglar."  And a
> rootkitted utility sees no evil, hears no evil, speaks no evil, y'see.
> If you conclude that it's likely the unit has been root-compromised,
> here's your next stop:
> http://www.cert.org/tech_tips/win-UNIX-system_compromise.html
> --
> Cheers,                      Evolution:  Life's a niche, and then you die.
> Rick Moen
> rick at linuxmafia.com
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Kristian Erik Hermansen
"When you share your joys you double them; when you share your sorrows
you halve them."

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