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By Brian Krebs washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Friday, June 25, 2004; 4:37 PM
Computer security experts and the federal government are warning Internet users to take extra precautions when browsing the Web after an Internet attack seeded Web sites with programs that hackers can use to steal personal information.
The attack is more dangerous than most, according to the government's US-CERT cybersecurity center, because infection is possible just by visiting affected Web sites, according to US-CERT, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The attackers, whose identities are unknown, targeted a flaw in Web sites powered by Microsoft's Internet Information Services Web server (IIS). The sites hit by the attack were programmed to redirect the Explorer browser to another Web site that contains code that hackers use to record what people type on their keyboards -- including data such as passwords, credit card and Social Security numbers. The code then e-mails that information back to the attackers.
CERT recommends that Internet Explorer users consider different browsers such as Mozilla Firefox, Netscape Communicator or Opera. For people who continue to use Internet Explorer, CERT and Microsoft recommend setting the browser's security setting to "high."
Among the several Web sites hit were kbb.com, the Internet address of the Kelley Blue Book automobile pricing guide, and MinervaHealth, a health care financing company based in Jackson, Wyo.
Robyn Eckard, a spokeswoman for the Irvine, Calif.-based Kelley Blue Book, said the company learned about the problem late Wednesday after Web site visitors said their antivirus software tipped them off to the code. Eckard said Kelley Blue Book removed the malicious code from its site by late Thursday afternoon.
Jennifer Scharff, vice president of marketing for the company MinervaHealth, said some of the company's clients reported the problem on Thursday. The company has since fixed its site, she said. Scharff said no more than 50 visitors browsed the Web site during the time it was serving up the hostile code.
In addition, at least one auction page on the eBay online auction site contained a photograph that links to an infected Web site, said Johannes Ullrich, chief technology officer for the Bethesda, Md.-based SANS Institute's Internet Storm Center.
Security experts said that the attack reveals the evolution of "phishing" scams, a form of fraud designed to trick people into giving up their personal data to criminals who have designed Web sites to look like those of respectable companies.