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From chris derham <>
Subject Re: Tomcat access log reveals hack attempt: "HEAD /manager/html HTTP/1.0" 404
Date Wed, 17 Apr 2013 14:45:20 GMT
> Yes.  But someone *does* own the botted computers, and their own
> operations are slightly affected.  I have wondered if there is some
> way to make a bot so intrusive that many more owners will ask
> themselves, "why is my computer so slow/weird/whatever?  I'd better
> get it looked at.  Maybe I should install a virus scanner."

Somebody said earlier in the thread (sorry but I can't be bothered to
find the exact quote and attribute it) something along the lines of
"this is an arms race". The current bot software may not be there yet,
but it is easy to see how the bot-net developers would like to have
the job of probing IPs distributed over the botnet, so each target
only receives a single call from each distinct IP, but together the
10,000 members of the bot-net each send one probe creating a full
probe of known weak points in the server. The net result would be a)
very hard to detect/defend against b) the proposal would not have a
negative effect - you only add 1 second (or whatever value is agreed)
to the async call time for each botnet member.

I agree that currently if an attacker compromises a server, and then
runs probes against the whole internet from that one host, your idea
would slow the assault. However it will just encourage the next
evolutionary step described above. However the bad guys are quite
clever. The scanning software already has rate limiting switches to
stop network intrusion detection systems from detecting probes. They
would just use these to slow the attack and the computer user would
not notice. As long as you have many bots in the whole net, it isn't a

I used to work in agrochemical research. They tried 1,000,000
different pseudo-random chemicals a year against plants, watching for
a reaction. If something reacted in a "positive" manner, then they
investigated what was going on. This is the same as the bad-guys are
doing globally - probe every IP, and look for interesting responses.
Yes the approach to slowing down these responses should in theory
work, but if the clever guys distribute the load over a bot-net, and
the bot-net is large enough, then it is just a numbers game. Enough
bots sending probes, and then get a new target each day, that will be
enough for them to abuse that target to send out that days mailshot of

The key security recommendation is to not have anything running unless
required. The manager app has no users defined by default - perhaps
the default install for tomcat could be such that it is a bare bones
install? I do not know of any weaknesses in the manager app, but if it
isn't even there, their presence/absence doesn't really matter. Same
with the other default parts, e.g. help etc. As long as they can be
installed easily if required, shouldn't be a problem. The OWASP
recommendations for securing tomcat suggest removing all items under
catalina_home/webapps as a first step. Just a thought.

The first step an attacker performs when conducting a focused attack,
is to map out the server. The presence of a response to
http://server:8080/manager/html/ would seem to indicate a default
install of tomcat. Once that have this initial reconnaissance
performed, they will move onto using known exploits against it. By
removing manager app from the default install, this would be made one
step harder. You can't really prevent a dedicated attacker, but making
it one step harder to attack your server, might make the
not-bothered-which-server-I-attack guy move on to easier pickings

Also one thing worth mentioning. There is an attack called a blind sql
injection attack. The crux of it is that by timing the response from a
sql injection, you can detect if your query was a success or a
failure. Typically some processing occurs upon success, hence the
response takes longer. During testing (obviously not against a real db
:-)), I have used manged to download the whole contents of a db after
a little scripting of a sql injection and some perusal of the results.
If you deliberately delay 404 by a known amount of time, it will still
stick out, and they can use this just as much as a positive

HTH somebody


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