Hackers Using Google Analytics to Bypass Web Security and Steal Credit Cards
According to several independent reports from PerimeterX, Kaspersky, and Sansec, threat actors are now injecting data-stealing code on the compromised websites in combination with tracking code generated by Google Analytics for their own account, letting them exfiltrate payment information entered by users even in conditions where content security policies are enforced for maximum web security.
"Attackers injected malicious code into sites, which collected
all the data entered by users and then sent it via Analytics,"
Kaspersky said in a report published yesterday. "As a result, the
attackers could access the stolen data in their Google Analytics
The cybersecurity firm said it found about two dozen infected websites across Europe and North and South America that specialized in selling digital equipment, cosmetics, food products, and spare parts.
Bypassing Content Security Policy
The attack hinges on the premise that e-commerce websites using Google's web analytics service for tracking visitors have whitelisted the associated domains in their content security policy (CSP).
CSP is an added security measure that helps detect and mitigate threats stemming from cross-site scripting vulnerabilities and other forms of code injection attacks, including those embraced by various Magecart groups.
The security feature allows webmasters to define a set of domains the web browser should be allowed to interact with for a specific URL, thereby preventing the execution of untrusted code.
"Administrators write *.google-analytics.com into the
Content-Security-Policy header (used for listing resources from
which third-party code can be downloaded), allowing the service to
collect data. What's more, the attack can be implemented without
downloading code from external sources," Kaspersky noted.
To make the attacks more covert, the attackers also ascertain if developer mode — a feature that's often used to spot network requests and security errors, among other things — is enabled in the visitor's browser, and proceed only if the result of that check is negative.
A "Novel" Campaign Since March
For obfuscation, the actor behind the operation created a temporary iFrame to load an attacker-controlled Google Analytics account. The credit card data entered on payment forms is then encrypted and sent to the analytics console from where it's recovered using the encryption key earlier used.
Given the widespread use of Google Analytics in these attacks, countermeasures like CSP will not work if attackers take advantage of an already allowed domain to hijack sensitive information.
"A possible solution would come from adaptive URLs, adding the ID as part of the URL or subdomain to allow admins to set CSP rules that restrict data exfiltration to other accounts," Shaked concluded.
"A more granular future direction for strengthening CSP direction to consider as part of the CSP standard is XHR proxy enforcement. This will essentially create a client-side WAF that can enforce a policy on where specific data field[s] are allowed to be transmitted."
As a customer, unfortunately, there isn't much you can do to safeguard yourself from formjacking attacks. Turning on developer mode in browsers can help when making online purchases.
But it's essential that you watch out for any instances of unauthorized purchases or identity theft.