Hackers spread illegal child content through web message boards

June 12, 2007 Sophos Press Release

IWF
Sophos works closely with the IWF to combat internet child abuse.

IT security and control firm Sophos is warning web hosts of the dangers of not screening content posted on message boards, following the discovery that legitimate web pages have been taken over by cybercriminals using the forums to promote child pornography.

According to experts at Sophos, the affected websites contain many posts that attempt to entice readers to various child abuse sites. The majority of the pages are on legitimate websites and one is even on a website designed for children. The posts are all found on message boards within these websites. All contain offensive words and hidden links to the pornography sites.

"What's most worrying about these posts is that they're happening on legitimate sites - any website can fall victim to an attack, no matter what the content," said Fraser Howard, Principal Virus Researcher at SophosLabs™. "This means that innocent web surfers, including children, may stumble across this kind of offensive content. Every web host must ensure that all areas of their site are fully protected and that all user input is carefully screened before it is posted on the site."

Sophos experts have noted a recent upsurge in attacks involving malicious code injection onto legitimate web pages. Ordinarily such attacks are for the purpose of installing malware on victim machines.

"Some of the same techniques that malware authors use in order to infect victims with malware are being used to distribute links and drive traffic to all sorts of web content," continued Howard. "The fact is that any unprotected website can be targetted by cybercriminals trying to spread their malicious content. It is essential that web hosts remain vigilant for hackers' attacks, and deploy security solutions to defend against new and emerging threats."

Sophos has reported the sites hosting these posts to the Internet Watch Foundation, the self-regulatory body that combats illegal content online.

Sophos recommends that all web hosts ensure up to date security solutions are in place across their sites and that all user content is screened prior to posting. For businesses, Sophos recommends they deploy a web filtering solution that not only filters based on website categorisation, but that properly inspects the code of every website before granting access.

More information can be found on the SophosLabs blog