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cPanel Exploit Used to Circulate IE Exploit 95

miller60 writes "In a dangerous combination of unpatched exploits, hackers have used a previously undiscovered security hole in cPanel to hack the servers of a hosting company and use hundreds of hijacked sites to infect Internet Explorer users with malware using the unpatched VML exploit. cPanel, whose hosting automation software is used by many large hosting companies, has issued a fix. It's a local exploit, meaning the attacker must control a cPanel account on the target hosting provider."
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cPanel Exploit Used to Circulate IE Exploit

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  • firefox (Score:1, Insightful)

    by ronanbear ( 924575 )
    I feel so much safer. I know that only part of this is due to IE and the larger lesson is that you can't even trust websites you know and trust because they could be compromised.

    Sure there are places where you'll get attacked often and there are others which are unlikely to be compromised but it's not enough in itself to just avoid places that look suspicious.

    • Re:firefox (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Marcion ( 876801 ) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @08:50PM (#16171453) Homepage Journal
      I use webmin/usermin (BSD licence) instead of Cpanel (proprietary).

      It seems a bit odd to stick a proprietary web control panel to control a load of open-source software on an open-source web-server running on an open-source operating system.

      But thats just me....
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Jimmy King ( 828214 )

        I use webmin/usermin (BSD licence) instead of Cpanel (proprietary).

        Cpanel is so common because it's provided by the hosting places on a lot of dedicated servers and used for almost all web hosting packages that I have seen. While the choice of licensing may seem silly, this is businesses using it, they aren't going with it for any idealistic reasons. They are choosing it because it is more user friendly for the non-technical types who still insist on having a website and running phpbb. It's been quite a

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Kangburra ( 911213 )
          Also cPanel has an Admin module for the server owner and that installs user cPanels as they create the user accounts. It IS simple, that's why it's so widely used.
        • by wfberg ( 24378 )
          Cpanel is so common because it's provided by the hosting places on a lot of dedicated servers and used for almost all web hosting packages that I have seen.

          Also, Cpanel is popular because it is popular. Customers are accustomed to it and expect panels to be Cpanel, but there's more to it than that; many hosting providers will offer to restore your cpanel hosted site from your old hosting provider when you switch to them. That way you'll retain niceties like your userdatabase etc. This commonality is very us
      • Re:firefox (Score:4, Informative)

        by oneski ( 812190 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @01:30AM (#16172607)
        I use webmin/usermin (BSD licence) instead of Cpanel (proprietary).

        I hope your'e patched up. Script kids have been doing the rounds with a file disclosure exploit in Webmin/Usermin for a while now. Thousands of machines have been compromised by it.

        Check the miniserv.log for "..%01/..%01/..%01" or similar strings.

        • Yes some of hosting prefer to used Usermin because it consists of a simple web server, and a number of CGI programs which directly update user config files like ~/.cshrc and ~/.forward.But the posibilities of the exploit to discover vulnerability in Webmin/Usermine slightly higher and you have to upgrade the patch frequently. Some of the latest vulnerability updates: http://www.securiteam.com/exploits/5GP0F00J5S.html [securiteam.com] and yet cPanel have some input that isn't properly sanitised before being returned to th
  • Temporary Fix (Score:5, Informative)

    by gooman ( 709147 ) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @07:52PM (#16171077) Journal
    This Windows exploit is similar to the WMF exploit, and just like it, Microsoft is going to take their time fixing it. If you must use Windows avoid IE and Outlook but that's not always possible.

    And to be completely safe you can unregister the .dll as follows...

    Copy the following command to clipboard and Paste into Run:

    regsvr32 -u "%CommonProgramFiles%\Microsoft Shared\VGX\vgx.dll"

    Then when Microsoft gets around to fixing this (Probably on the next patch Tuesday) you can restore it:

    regsvr32 "%CommonProgramFiles%\Microsoft Shared\VGX\vgx.dll"

    Want to bet this code is in Vista somewhere?

    • Re:Temporary Fix (Score:4, Informative)

      by The MAZZTer ( 911996 ) <<megazzt> <at> <gmail.com>> on Saturday September 23, 2006 @08:41PM (#16171403) Homepage
      Best part is, regsvr32 only deals with Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer extensions, so this won't affect any Office functionality.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by MioTheGreat ( 926975 )
        What would give you that idea? I'm sure I could fire up regsvr32 and break Office quite easily. regsvr32 is just for registering and unregistering any COM stuff.
        • And I'm pretty Office does have publically registered COM components (.NET at least, those I have used). Whether or not unregistering them would break Office itself I don't know, but it would certainly break anything that tried to use it.
          • Well, .NET stuff doesn't need to be registered with regsvr32 unless you're using COM to get to it. You'd use gacutil to put it into the global assembly cache.....but I'm sure you could break Office by randomly unregistering it's stuff....I'm not brave enough to try it, though.
    • by Firehed ( 942385 )
      Just be aware that this workaround may not work depending on your security level on the system. On my school-provided laptop, where I have admin rights, I'm unable to patch this, probably due to the Symantec installation on the system. Mind you I use neither IE nor Outlook, but I never know when a fool will borrow my laptop. So actually make sure the confirmation box that pops up actually says it worked, or you might end up surfing unsafely when you'd assume otherwise.
    • by walstib ( 620771 ) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @10:38PM (#16171921)
      This Windows exploit is similar to the WMF exploit
      which is similar to the WTF exploit...
  • As always.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by madsheep ( 984404 )
    As always it should be pretty well known that a number of large shared hosting providers have little or no security to prevent this kind of stuff. Using a cPanel local exploit to start putting the IE exploit code in other users' www folders is an interesting use for the 0-day find. A number of larger hosting providers house dozens, hundreds, and sometimes more websites on a boxes that allow FTP and in some cases telnet. These boxes generally aren't patched very well either and can easily be rooted to all
    • Re:As always.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23, 2006 @08:07PM (#16171187)
      In hostgator's defense, they do have a good security team and this had nothing to do with ftp. It's interesting to read through the following thread to see how they were handling the problem:
      http://forums.hostgator.com/showthread.php?t=10928 [hostgator.com]

      I'm a customer whose site didn't have problems, but I am satisfied with how they got on this problem. Not perfect, but definetly good. Of course when I read this headline I was shitting bricks for a moment or two.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by madsheep ( 984404 )
        First I am not sure how my post got classified as flamebait exactly, considering I am not flamming anyone or anything. Other than that -- I wasn't specifically calling out HostGator in anyway. However, they have a number of problems as I have seen alerts from various CERT reports that show HostGator shared hosting boxes as being used in a number of various attacks. My comment regarding FTP and others was more aimed at shared hosting providers that do use it. DreamHost for example, has boxes with 100's o
  • cPanel fix (Score:5, Informative)

    by maggeth ( 793549 ) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @08:05PM (#16171159)
    If you admin a server with cPanel, run /scripts/upcp to apply the patch. Otherwise, so long as you have not turned off the nightly UPCP update, then your server will be patched overnight tonight automatically.
  • by hostgator ( 1004865 ) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @08:17PM (#16171261)
    We know they discovered the cpanel root exploit about a month earlier before launching this. They were waiting for the perfect timing before having sites load an iframe distributing the viruses. The perfect timing became the new vml exploit. It wasn't easy to figure out how they were doing it but we did. Shortly after we discovered how which was the 0 day cpanel root exploit. Upon investigating it further we found any hosting company in the world running cpanel could be exploited. In fact we spoke with some other very large hosting companies that were. One that's even much larger then us, and has been around much longer. I'd like to thank everyone that was helping us track down the root cause. Special thanks to David Collins, Tim Greer, Brad, Idefense.com, and the other hosting companies who cooperated with us once we alerted them.
  • by jofny ( 540291 ) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @08:20PM (#16171285) Homepage
    People have been exploiting CPanel bugs to compromise shared hosting for the purposes of hosting clientside (IE) exploit code for ages - this isn't new. The first time I know of for a fact was 2 or more years ago. For as many large providers as use CPanel, the code really needs to be more closely audited...
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      > For as many large providers as use CPanel, the code really needs to be more closely audited...

      Unfortunately cPanel consists of several million lines of uncommented perl code. Integral parts of almost every operation go through a large closed-source binary generated from perl code which makes it impossible to audit.

      You may be also interested in knowing that cPanel was started by someone when they were around 12 years old, and much of that code still is still in use. None of the cPanel developers have
      • by jofny ( 540291 )
        I wasn't at all criticizing the work of anyone working on cPanel - merely suggesting that considering its wide use, someone should figure out how to better audit the code or offer the team resources to help out in some way.
      • God, I wish I had mod points. Finally, I get cPanel's gestalt.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23, 2006 @08:39PM (#16171395)
    Discussion on the hosting company's (HostGator) support forum: http://forums.hostgator.com/showthread.php?t=10928 [hostgator.com]
  • Web hosting companies should use everything custom-coded and not rely on third-party scripts anyway. I host at Yellowpipe Hosting [yellowpipe.com].
    It does not really minimize the risk for errors, but at least it prevents exploits from spreading on the Internet.
    • What makes you think that every hosting company is more competent at developing such interfaces than cPanel? And what makes you think that every hosting company would be equally competent in actually discovering exploits?

      Look at the plus points of the cPanel exploit: One hosting company reports a problem, cPanel fixes it quickly, all hosting companies can simply update and be immune from this point forwards.

      I for one do not want to have to manage my website through some random developers' CGI scripts or tru
  • by Aceheaton ( 986774 ) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @11:18PM (#16172079)
    This is Matt Heaton, President of Bluehost.com. We were working with Brent at Hostgator and had issued a fix before Cpanel finally got around to doing so. There are STILL multiple root exploits that we know FOR SURE work on Cpanel that have yet to be fixed. In one case it is a simple one liner that will pop root on any Cpanel install. This still works even after their "patch". Security is always an afterthought for the Cpanel guys and never designed in as it should be from the start. We were happy that Hostgator asked us for help as we were happy to help and would hope that they would do the same for us if need be. Don't blame the hosting companies in this case, blame Cpanel for knowing about their multitude of scripts that run with root priviledges without properly parsing all data passed to and from their suid c programs!! We have been complaining about this for at least 2 years with little or no help for the issue. We have at least 20 bandaids for Cpanels scripts to fix problems that they refuse to deal with in their "stable" and "current" versions. Hopefully this incident will help them to move in the right direction, but given past exploits and their "resolutions" I HIGHLY doubt ti!
    • So, why do you use cPanel and not something better?
    • by KmArT ( 1109 ) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @11:32PM (#16172159)
      Er, so you run a hosting company and cPanel is confirmed buggy, by you, and yet you continue to run it? And why should I ever consider hosting with you? Rather than moan and complain about the bugs, find another software package that is more secure. Or write your own... Tolerance of poor software is why it still exists..
      • by Aceheaton ( 986774 ) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @11:58PM (#16172259)
        We supply what the users want and from a users perspective Cpanel is pretty good, but from an administrative viewpoint it is a nightmare. We host more than 200,000 domains on our two brands. It would be virtually impossible for us to switch now. Believe me, I often wish I could :)
        • Is it possible to provide multiple admin interface (be it cpanel and plesk or anything you think is worthy) as a way to switch?
          • by demon ( 1039 )
            No. cPanel in particular gets its tentacles into many aspects of the system, and each major control panel (cPanel, Plesk, Ensim, Interworx, DirectAdmin, ...) has its own different way of running the show. They will *not* play nice together on the same system. cPanel is certainly one of the poorer ones from a perspective of security and administration; sadly, customers synonymize control panels with cPanel, so unfortunately any of them *expect* it, regardless of its (lack of) quality. (Oh, and it's more expe
            • Business solution to a business problem:

              For the extra cost it takes you to manage, deal with bugs, fix with wrappers, and pay for licensing for cPanel, pass that cost on to customers via monthly fee.

              For the customers who choose the more robust packages which have cheaper, or no licensing fees, which cost your admin staff less money to operate and keep patched, charge those customers a cheaper rate. It's not that you would lose revenue by discounting the service, you would keep the alternate controller at yo
      • by Mex ( 191941 )
        Yeah, another software package like... Like what? cPanel is pretty much the standard here. There's a couple other ones I've heard of, but I don't even remember their names.
    • Don't blame the hosting companies in this case, blame Cpanel for knowing about their multitude of scripts that run with root priviledges without properly parsing all data passed to and from their suid c programs!!
      What about Plesk and other options?
      • Plesk is an ok option, but is known primarily for their windows hosting though they do offer a linux option. They are far more common in the VPS market as their VPS offering (Virtuozzo) is often sold along with Plesk. It is good from the end users perspective, but not nearly as good as Cpanel. I just wish Cpanel would get it together for the admins then it would be the best of both worlds.... Ahhh... Wishful thinking!
        • Maybe a few of the big hosting company CEOs should get together and talk about contributing to jointly
          develop a CPanel replacement? Maybe see if there's anything even roughly equivelant out there in FLOSS
          land and if so, pay some developers to bring it up to CPanel level of functionality... If not, hell, start
          a project from scratch.
    • If what you say is true then about 90% of all shared host web sites are at risk. Presumably now that it is a public fact that cPanel is crawling with security holes the black hats will be actively looking for the exploits.
    • by mabu ( 178417 )
      Don't blame the hosting companies in this case, blame Cpanel

      So in other words, the people at Cpanel held a gun to your head and forced you to install their software for your customers?
      • What an asinine comment. Of course cPanel doesn't force us to use their software, but market demands force us to use the product if we want to appeal to the largest market segment that we can?!?! I really don't think I need business advise on the subject as we run one of the largest and most successful hosting companies in the world. Just because we buy cPanel because our customers demand it from us as a service provider doesn't mean we can't hold cPanel accountable for their software.

        It is obvious I am
    • by heybo ( 667563 )
      Try ISPConfig. It is easy to use from a users stand point. Its secure and it is open source. The BIG plus is that it uses the OS's commands and scripts. It doesn't depend on its own properity scripts to preform operations. Is also fairly easy to convert over to.
      • Sorry, BULLSHIT. I like ISPConfig because it interfaces with PostFix, the MTA of choice around my shop. CPanel uses EXIM, Plesk uses QMail (hi, Dr. Ex-Lax!), with its many unaudited patches and workarounds to modern mail problems. (I have front-ended QMail with PostFix edge servers so that I don't have to deal with the many holes in QMail.) But it's an immature interface, and lacking some features that customers want.

        As you might guess, I work for a web house that uses Ensim, Plesk for Windows, Plesk
    • There are STILL multiple root exploits that we know FOR SURE work on Cpanel that have yet to be fixed. In one case it is a simple one liner that will pop root on any Cpanel install. This still works even after their "patch".

      If this is indeed true, and you have told the Cpanel folks, and they have not fixed it in a reasonable amount of time, and you have not told the world, then you are in my opinion part of the problem and not part of the solution.

      I wouldn't claim that we have any special relationship with

    • have you tried to speak with someone over the phone at Cpanel ?

      Have you notified cpanel about the root exploits you know of ?

      air your views, or threaten to make the root exploits public.

      http://www.forlinux.co.uk/ [forlinux.co.uk]
  • So well first we have a web browser with well established history of being crappy and insecure. Thousands of exploits, hundreds of successful global scale exploits attacking Microsoft Internet Explorer. Product well known to be one of least secure of probably all of software products. The king of insecurity - MSIE (with Windows underneath - but you can't have it otherwise, consider MSIE for Mac dead).

    Secondly we have some closed source software called cPanel. An ugly hack on system administration, you know
    • The king of insecurity - MSIE (with Windows underneath - but you can't have it otherwise, consider MSIE for Mac dead).

      It's not 100% true that you need to be running Windows to use IE. Whenever I find a site that needs IE (doesn't happen as often as it used to) I su to the user I created just for IE use, and then run IE under Wine. Works great, and it's far safer than running IE natively. :)

  • How do I check if my host's cPanel is fixed without logging in & handing them my password?

    I mean, I could contact my hosting provider, but I would prefer to check before harassing them.

    Also, as good as they've been, I haven't really tested their professionalism before. I'd like to check w/o logging in, whether or not they say they've installed the patch. Is this remotely feasible?
    • I mean, I could contact my hosting provider, but I would prefer to check before harassing them.

      Customer service is not harrassment.
  • Odd occurrence today (Score:3, Interesting)

    by robogun ( 466062 ) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @02:09AM (#16172723)
    I don't know if this is related, but I hit a webpage today that tried to access my router at

    My router's password dialog appears when hitting the page.

    I don't think I've seen that one before.
    • by Hymer ( 856453 )
      ...and could you pls. tell us why you didn't change your routers default adress ?
      ...and did you btw. keep the routers default password too ??


      I'm keeping mr. Gates responsible for my paranoia...
      • by robogun ( 466062 )
        No the router password is not the default

        Browsing with Windows / Mozilla 1.7 / NoScript

        Here's the page if you want to haev a look (NSFW): http://www.geocities.com/Colosseum/Gym/1661/ [geocities.com]
        • by Hymer ( 856453 )
          nice girl... but I can't see the router page anywhere... just a "Welcome to Anna Kournikowa"-popup...
          am I pwned now ?
          • by robogun ( 466062 )
            Probably not - I think it's being served up by their adserver

            When it happens I get blank ads

            Probably just bad code
            • by wfberg ( 24378 )
              Maybe it's loading an ad in an iframe, and the iframe is pointing to "myhostname.somewhere.com" which has as the IP address by mistake?
  • cPanel = cracker panel
  • Brent with hostgator.com here again. We have just discovered cpanels patch /scripts/upcp doesn't do anything. If you think you were autopatched last night or ran upcp your still very hackable. What you need to do is run /scripts/upcp --force A way to confirm our findings is to run http://layer2.cpanel.net/installer/sec092306.pl [cpanel.net] which is their patch checker. If your not safe it will say "not safe" if your safe it will say "safe" After all this even after running and being told "safe" I don't believe it
  • So basically any hosting company that allows people access to a demo of cPanel would be affected. Yikes. From what I've seen that's quite a few.
  • I think hostprince.com has been affected too - I keep a personal links page there and a fresh PC got infected last night, which is a very rare occurrence for me. They seem to have disabled cpanel access as well.

An elephant is a mouse with an operating system.