Active attacks on home routers underway

January 23, 2008

Only last week I posted about the UPnP attack vector on home routers and now Symantec is reporting active attacks on Mexican internet users. The purpose of this attack is to manipulate the DNS settings of the router so the user is directed to the phishing site for a popular Mexican bank. As there is no change on the computer itself, security software will have a hard time to detect such attacks. Sure the SSL certificate the fake site will provide is most likely faked, but most users just click Ok anyway. But my guess would be anyway that the phishing site is just plain HTTP.

But this is not the only attack vector even if a password is set for the router (not counting the default password). If a router allows the user to authenticate himself via a cookie, than an attacker needs only to provide an URL which includes the commands for the router. Sure the attacker needs to know the router which is used by the user, but thats not that complicated as you might think. For example in Austria an attack would be best done against Alcatel SpeedTouch router (configured to multi user mode) which used by the Telekom Austria since the start of DSL in Austria. And to make it worse, there is no password defined by default, so we don’t need a cookie attack at all.
It is therefore important to change the default password and to make sure the router requires a password each time you start your browser. It is also a good idea to restart your browser after you authenticated yourself against the router and before you surf through the internet.

You ask yourself how to attacker knows the IP address of the router? Thats easy – following possibilities exist:

  • just try 192.168.0.1 (or what is default setting for the router, which should be attacked)
  • get the IP address of the computer, and replace the last number of it with an one. (java script?)
  • use a applet (flash, java, ….) to get the default gateway or DNS server IP address – you’ve your router

The first one is the easiest one, but also the easiest to defeat. Just change the network to a new C-Class network out for 192.168.0.0/16, 172.16.0.0/12 or 10.0.0.0/8. eg. 10.133.122.0/24. So lets change to following mantra a little bit. Recommended steps for setting up your home router:

  • Unbox
  • Throw the disk away
  • Plug in your machine, Turn on the router and navigate to the Web-GUI
  • Turn off UPNP
  • Change the subnet of your router
  • Change default name and password, set WPA-PSK
  • Check that remote management is disabled
  • ….

I’ve changed the subnets of my routers for years, just because the 192.168.0.0/24 stuff didn’t look cool – so be cool and change yours too.

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