Exposing Apache Server status information leaves you open to hackers
09 March 2013

Exposing Apache Server status information leaves you open to hackers

Think like a hacker, do the same, and fix vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by unscrupulous geeks.

According to a study of 10 million websites released last week, more than 2,000 sites -- including big-name businesses such as Cisco, Ford and Staples -- have left the status pages for their Apache servers visible, which could give attackers information that would help them penetrate corporate networks.

Daniel Cid, CTO of Sucuri, who published a list of 2,072 websites that Sucuri Malware Labs identified as having exposed Apache status pages.

According to Apache documentation, the Apache mod_status module "allows a server administrator to find out how well their server is performing," via an HTML page that delivers up-to-date server statistics. "It is basically an HTML page that displays the number of [processes] working, status of each request, IP addresses that are visiting the site, pages that are being queried and things like that. All good," said Cid in a related blog post.

This feature can also have security implications if you leave it wide open to the world. Anyone can see who is visiting the site, the URLs and sometimes even find hidden -- obscure -- admin panels or files that should not be visible to the outside. This information arm attackers with information about the server environment which can then be used to plan more complex attacks

The simple fix is for server administrator to disable server-status or restrict the server-status page to a narrow set of IP addresses.

Security experts recommend that all Apache administrators verify that their installations aren't exposing server status information. Paranoia is a good mindset for security-conscious technology professionals.

Attackers use simple methods for finding flaws in websites and applications: They Google them. Using Google code search, hackers can identify crucial vulnerabilities in application code strings, providing the entry point they need to break through application security.

Think like a hacker, do the same, and fix vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by unscrupulous geeks.

Use Google To Find Vulnerabilities In Your IT Environment

Hackers use search engines to seek out weak spots. Here's how you can beat them by doing exactly what they do.

The vast volumes of information available on the Internet are of great value to businesses -- and to hackers. For years, hackers have been using Google and other search engines to identify vulnerable systems and sensitive data on publicly exposed networks. The practice, known as Google hacking, has seen a resurgence of late, providing new challenges for IT professionals striving to protect their companies from threats growing in number and sophistication.

Google Hacking

Google hacking is a term used for penetration testing using any search engine -- surged in popularity around 2004, when computer security expert Johnny Long first released his book Google Hacking for Penetration Testers and the Google Hacking Database (GHDB). The database was designed to serve as a repository for search terms, called Google-Dorks, that exposed sensitive information, vulnerabilities, passwords, and much more.

There recently has been an upswing in Google hacking, with a few factors playing a role in the practice’s growth. For one thing, the amount of data indexed and searchable by Google and other search engines has skyrocketed in the last few years. Simply put, this has given hackers much more to work with.

Using Search Engine Interfaces

There has also been a significant increase in new search engine interfaces to various types of data. Examples include Google Health and Google Code Search (recently shut down), which have allowed users to search through patient health records and open source code projects, respectively. We’ve also seen the emergence of security-specific search engines such as Shodan come into play. These search engines were created specifically for use by penetration testers to identify vulnerable Web applications on the Internet.

Last year Google hacking was used by the group LulzSec. The group used Google hacking to go on an epic spree that left in its wake a number of victims, including Sony, PBS, Arizona’s Department of Public Safety, FBI affiliate InfraGard, and the CIA.

Do Exactly What Hackers Do To Fix Vulnerabilities

What is good for hackers is also good for corporate security professionals, who can make use of Google hacking tools and other resources to identify -- and then eliminate -- vulnerabilities in their data systems.

The majority of these tools are free and easy to use, although experience and skills associated with Web application security are helpful in validating scan results and identifying which results are real security issues and which are not.

There is no one tool that will serve as a silver bullet in eliminating search engine exposures. We encourage security professionals to try out and regularly use as many as possible to stay one step ahead of hackers.