Hackers exploit router flaws in unusual pharming attack

The attack changes the DNS settings of a router using default login credentials, Proofpoint said

An email-based attack spotted in Brazil recently employed an unusual but potent technique to spy on a victim's Web traffic.

The technique exploited security flaws in home routers to gain access to the administrator console. Once there, the hackers changed the routers' DNS (Domain Name System) settings, a type of attack known as pharming.

Pharming is tricky to pull off because it requires access to an ISP's or an organization's DNS servers, which translate domain names into the IP addresses of websites. Those DNS systems are typically well-protected, but home routers often are not.

Security firm Proofpoint wrote in a blog post Thursday that launching the attack via email was a novel approach since pharming is normally a network-based attack.

"This case is striking for several reasons, not the least of which is the introduction of phishing as the attack vector to carry out a compromise traditionally considered purely network-based," the company wrote, adding that it showed "the continued pre-eminence of email as the go-to attack vector for cybercriminals."

A successful pharming attack means users can be diverted to a fraudulent website even when they enter a correct domain name. It also means an attacker can perform a man-in-the-middle attack, such as intercepting email, logins and passwords for websites, and hijacking search results, among other things.

Proofpoint said it detected about 100 phishing emails sent mostly to Brazilians who used either UTStarcom or TR-Link home routers. The emails purported to be from Brazil's largest telecommunications company.

They contained malicious links, and clicking one directed the victim to a server that attacked their router. The server was set up to exploit cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerabilities in routers,

If the attack was successful, the hackers gained access to the administrator control panel of the router. They then entered default login credentials for the device, hoping that the user hadn't changed them

If that worked, they changed the router's setting to their own DNS server. Any computer connected to that router "would potentially have their computer query a malicious DNS server to look up any hostname on the Internet."

Although users are dependent on their router manufacturer to issue patches for CSRF flaws, there is another defense, which is old security advice: change the default password on your router.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags securityproofpoint

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?