WordPress sites targeted in major attack

Botnet attack

WordPress and other popular blogging sites have been targeted in a botnet attack that could be the precursor to a much larger attack

WordPress sites are being targeted by a major botnet attack that is attempting to crack common usernames and passwords.

Multiple hosting companies have reported an uptick in attacks, with the unknown culprit thought to be using a botnet with 100,000 infected computers to attack vulnerable sites running WordPress as well as Joomla.

One security firm warned that the attackers could be in the process of building a more powerful botnet to prepare for a much larger future attack.

"One of the concerns of an attack like this is that the attacker is using a relatively weak botnet of home PCs in order to build a much larger botnet of beefy servers in preparation for a future attack," wrote CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince. "These larger machines can cause much more damage in DDoS attacks because the servers have large network connections and are capable of generating significant amounts of traffic."

Even when 'normal service' is resumed, we'll all still be firmly in the sights of the cybercriminals, so take this as a spur to action

Currently the unknown culprits are attempting to brute force access to WordPress and other sites by trying to guess common login credentials, known as a "dictionary attack".

Such automated attacks tend to target "low-hanging fruit" where login credentials are easy to guess, such as "admin" for usernames and "qwerty" for passwords, noted Sophos’ Naked Security blog.

Hosting firm Melbourne warned the attack could cause compromised sites to slow down or crash systems.

Others advised customers running WordPress to change their passwords as soon as possible to safeguard against a possible wider attack.

"The attack volume in this case has been sufficient to attract global attention, which is a good thing, but it's currently thought to be only about three times the usual level," wrote Sophos' head of technology Paul Ducklin. "In other words, even when 'normal service' is resumed, we'll all still be firmly in the sights of the cybercriminals, so take this as a spur to action."

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