Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

LizaMoon attack infects millions of websites

By Stacy Cowley, tech editor


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Have you heard the scary news about 'LizaMoon,' a malicious code attack that has already infected more than a million websites?

Don't panic. This particular bit of hacker mischief is setting off alarms among online security watchdogs for its speed and scope, but built-in software safeguards mean few actual users will end up suffering.

The exploit drew headlines because it's affecting a surprisingly large number of websites -- nearly 4 million so far -- and because some of those sites feed into Apple's iTunes platform. Websense, the security software vendor that first broke the news about LizaMoon in its blog, played up the iTunes connection in its first warning about the attack.

But Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) has iTunes designed to automatically neutralize this kind of threat. That means there's zero risk of an iTunes user's computer actually getting infected by this bit of malware. Websense acknowledged that in its latest LizaMoon update.

"Every time there's a mass-injection like this, and there really hasn't been anything this big before, we try to identify larger systems and sites that have been affected," the company wrote in its blog. "There are few systems out there bigger than iTunes, so when we saw that content on itunes.apple.com contained the injected link we wanted to make people aware of that, even if the script didn't work."

LizaMoon is what's called a SQL code injection attack, where a Web application vulnerability is exploited to inject malicious code into affected websites. If a Web surfer visits an affected site, they'll be redirected to a rogue website that tries to install a "scareware" file. The file generates messages warning the user that their computer is infected with viruses, and offers to sell them antivirus software in defense. Most actual, legitimate antivirus programs will detect and eliminate the malicious file.

And most websites have protections in place to prevent them from getting infected in the first place. While LizaMoon has infested million of websites, security experts say it's a run-of-the-mill threat that is mostly hitting obscure, low-traffic sites.

"Defense against your sites getting infected is the standard things we ought to be doing anyway," the SANS Internet Storm Center, a security monitoring site, wrote in its LizaMoon analysisTo top of page

Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,689.86 -56.12 -0.32%
Nasdaq 5,128.28 -0.50 -0.01%
S&P 500 2,103.84 -4.79 -0.23%
Treasuries 2.20 -0.06 -2.78%
Data as of 12:18pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 17.88 -0.25 -1.38%
Micron Technology In... 18.51 -1.39 -6.98%
Facebook Inc 94.01 -1.20 -1.26%
Apple Inc 121.30 -1.07 -0.87%
Frontier Communicati... 4.72 0.09 1.94%
Data as of Jul 31
Sponsors

Sections

Some families are outraged at the sums they've been offered by Lufthansa as compensation for the Germanwings plane crash in March which killed 150 people. More

Fast-food chains that operate in more than 30 locations nationwide are the sole target of a new rule in New York to hike their minimum wage to $15. But consumers and small business owners, as well as some employees, may be the ones to pay the price. More

You can't blame it on the economy anymore. More Millennials now have jobs, but are still living at home. More