New computer virus scam targets Web site owners

There appears to be a new social engineering attack making the rounds of registered owners of Web sites that have SSL encryption certificates. I have a large number of Web sites, and so far I’ve only received emails to the technical address of sites which have SSL (security) certificates on them.

This attack is currently live. DO NOT attempt to visit the URLS in this email if you do not know what you are doing!

The emails come from a phony From: address that is system@[]. Each email takes the form:


On October 16, 2009 server upgrade will take place. Due to this the system may be offline for approximately half an hour.
The changes will concern security, reliability and performance of mail service and the system as a whole.
For compatibility of your browsers and mail clients with upgraded server software you should run SSl certificates update procedure.
This procedure is quite simple. All you have to do is just to click the link provided, to save the patch file and then to run it from your computer location. That’s all.

http://updates.[][email address of registered contact]-patch257675.aspx

Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter and sorry for possible inconveniences.

System Administrator

So for example if you have a Web site called “” and your email address is “” you may receive an email claiming to be from:, which tells you to click a link that looks like

Needless to say, the “patch” you download from this address is a computer virus.

This is one of the most sophisticated social engineering attempts I’ve seen to date. It seems to be going after a very specific group of people: people who own secure Web sites. The email itself is custom-tailored to look as much as possible like it comes from the system operators of the Web site in question, and the payload is delivered from a hostile server with a URL that has the address of the target site owner’s Web site embedded within it.

My suspicion, though I have not taken the time to analyze the payload, is that it is a key logger, and that the virus writers are attempting to get FTP credentials for the target Web site.

Being able to hack secure Web sites would offer the hacker a treasure trove of advantages. First, secure Web sites may contain customer information, transaction records, payment histories, and credit card numbers for the site’s customers.

Second, a phony bank or eBay site placed on a secure server is more convincing, because the phony site can be accessed using “https://” and will have the browser padlock indicating that the site is secure, which may help it to fool more people.

I’ve mentioned in this post how a Web address can be designed to fool people. It does not matter what’s in the address except for the part in front of the very first / character; so for example if you see a Web address that looks like

you are not on eBay. You can see where you are by looking at the part just before the first / which in this case is

a site called in Russia.

Similarly, in the URLs in these hacker emails, the key part of the URL is

The computer virus is being distributed from a site called “”. lives on servers belonging to an ISP called, which is now a subsidiary of another ISP called is an ISP I’m very familiar with. As near as I can tell, the “trouble” they are free of is meddling trouble such as legal issues, or those pesky problems you might have with having your spam or phish site shut down; they have, in my experience, a long and ignoble history of hosting viruses, spammers, pirate software sites (notorious credit card fraudster and pirate Art Schwartz has been hosted on for over five years), and other criminal content.

The whois for is, unsurprisingly, Russian:


Whois Server Version 2.0

Whois Server:
Referral URL:
Name Server: NS1.CEDNS.RU
Name Server: NS2.CEDNS.RU
Status: clientTransferProhibited
Updated Date: 05-oct-2009
Creation Date: 05-oct-2009
Expiration Date: 05-oct-2010

>>> Last update of whois database: Mon, 12 Oct 2009 21:44:52 UTC <<< Registrant ID: HEIGAAS-RU Registrant Name: Elena V Zhuravlyova Registrant Organization: Elena V Zhuravlyova Registrant Street1: Orekhovyi boulevard Registrant Street1: d.31 kv.72 Registrant City: Moscow Registrant State: Moscow Registrant Postal Code: 115573 Registrant Country: RU Administrative, Technical Contact Contact ID: HEIGAAS-RU Contact Name: Elena V Zhuravlyova Contact Organization: Elena V Zhuravlyova Contact Street1: Orekhovyi boulevard Contact Street1: d.31 kv.72 Contact City: Moscow Contact State: Moscow Contact Postal Code: 115573 Contact Country: RU Contact Phone: +7 499 2678638 Contact E-mail: Registrar: ANO Regional Network Information Center dba RU-CENTER

So in short what we have is a very sophisticated, highly directed attack targeted at Web site owners who are using SSL security certificates on their Web sites, being conducted through emails which create a custom From address and custom attack URL for each specific victim.

The same rules apply to this as to all emails:

– DO NOT believe the From: address of an email. Ever.

– DO NOT respond to ANY security alert, question, or prompt you receive in ANY email. Ever. No matter who it appears to be from.

– Learn to read Web site URLs. DO NOT trust any part of a URL except the part immediately in front of the first slash.