PHP developer site spits out virus

Technology // Web Services

During the past few days, visitors to the official website of the programming language might have had their computers hacked. Intruders performed a “watering hole” attack that inserted malicious software through a flaw in the site’s software.

It’s unclear if the attackers struck because of its massive audience or because most of those visitors are developers. Amazon-owned analytics company Alexa ranks as the 228th-most-visited site in the world.

“PHP developers can be valuable targets for attackers because their computers usually contain intellectual property like source code and other sensitive information, including log-in credentials for websites they maintain,” PCWorld reports.  “Many developers are also likely to visit from company-issued computers, and compromising those computers could allow attackers to access corporate networks.”

It also is not clear what exactly the malware does. The only thing researchers at Barracuda Networks could decipher is that it tries to connect to around three dozen different command-and-control servers around the world and successfully establishes communication with four of them.

“Hackers managed to inject malicious JavaScript code into a file on the site called userprefs.js. The code made requests to a third-party website that scanned visitors’ browsers for vulnerable plug-ins and executed exploits that, if successful, installed a piece of malware,” Barracuda scientist Daniel Peck told PCWorld.

The malware might have wriggled into the site through glitches in Adobe Flash Player.  

Barracuda first detected problems the evening of 10/22. was blacklisted early 10/24 by Google Safe Browsing, a service that prevents Web surfers from visiting malicious websites.

The number of users affected likely was limited by the fact that the rogue code was periodically removed by an existing process that restores files to their original state.

ThreatWatch is a regularly updated catalog of data breaches successfully striking every sector of the globe, as reported by journalists, researchers and the victims themselves.