ColdFusion Muse

Cryptocurrency Miners Hacking Servers

Are your free CPU cycles making others rich? There's a chance they are and it's at your expense. A recent article at states that "At Least 1.65 Million Computers Are Mining Cryptocurrency for Hackers So Far This Year". If this is to be believed then it's possible a server you are running has been compromised and is actually mining cyrptocurrency for the hackers.

Cyrptocurrency is an anonymous, digital currency that is supposed to be untraceable. It's used on the internet to purchase more and more products and services. One of the most common forms of cryptocurrency is Bitcoin. This is from the Wikipedia entry on Bitcoin.

Bitcoin is a worldwide cryptocurrency and digital payment system called the first decentralized digital currency, since the system works without a central repository or single administrator. It was invented by an unknown programmer, or a group of programmers, under the name Satoshi Nakamoto and released as open-source software in 2009. The system is peer-to-peer, and transactions take place between users directly, without an intermediary. These transactions are verified by network nodes and recorded in a public distributed ledger called a blockchain. Besides being created as a reward for mining, bitcoin can be exchanged for other currencies, products, and services. As of February 2015, over 100,000 merchants and vendors accepted bitcoin as payment. Bitcoin can also be held as an investment. According to research produced by Cambridge University in 2017, there are 2.9 to 5.8 million unique users using a cryptocurrency wallet, most of them using bitcoin. ...

Bitcoin Mining is a record-keeping service that runs on peoples computers, servers, or specialized Mining Devices, that are setup by individuals to help process Bitcoin transactions. As a reward for doing this you are given newly created bitcoins and transaction fees. ie. You can make money by mining for Bitcoin.

This reward is enough that hackers have taken it to the next level and started hacking servers around the world so they can install mining software and use YOUR computers and servers to make money for themselves. Just this week it was discovered that some of Showtime's web servers were mining cryptocurrency. This isn't a new thing either. Back in 2014 Iowa State University servers were also hacked for the purpose on mining Bitcoins. These are not isolated occurrences. They are happening regularly. This practice is free to the hackers an costly to the owners of the servers. Here's why.

Case Study

CF Webtools has seen this type of hack in the real world. We recently had a company come to us seeking our services for both Server Administration and ColdFusion programming. Part of taking this new company on as a client we performed a security review on all of their servers. They also had existing issues that we needed to look at in particular. One of their web servers was rebooting multiple times per day at what seemed like "random" intervals.

Upon review we found the web server was always running at 100% CPU usage with no services claiming to be using that much CPU power. Certainly not ColdFusion or IIS. After completing additional research we decided to install a malware removal tool and scanned for malware. It didn't take long to find that indeed there was malware running on the server. What we found surprised us only because we had not seen this in action before. It was a cryptocurrency miner and it was so intensive that it would crash the server. All attempts to remove the malware failed. It would end up back on the server in a short period of time. The fact is this server was compromised. To resolve the issue we sent one of our decommissioned, but powerful servers, preinstalled with a clean OS to their data center. Then our Operations Manager went on the road to install the new server as well as a physical firewall. We essentially rearchitected their entire server setup. Meanwhile the malware removal tool did it's best to keep the malware at bay while I recreated their web server on the new server. It was a busy week (or more), but we were able to clean the code on the clients server and put that on the new server. We also had to research and rebuild all the dependancies from scratch. When it was all said and done we replaced the compromised server with the new one and put all their servers behind a Cisco ASA.

This case of Hacking for Bitcoins proved costly in the end to the company who's systems were compromised all while providing a free profit to the hacker(s).

This is one more friendly reminder to make sure your ColdFusion servers are patched! Either patch them yourself, have your hosting provider patch them. If you need help upgrading your VM or patching your server (or anything else) our operations group is standing by 24/7 - give us a call at 402-408-3733, or send a note to operations at

ColdFusion Security Patches ColdFusion 11 Update 13 and ColdFusion 2016 Update 5

Adobe just released security updates for ColdFusion 11 and ColdFusion 2016. This is a critical security update and you should be updating your ColdFusion servers. The information below is from the CF Webtools operations group. If you need help upgrading your VM or patching your server (or anything else) our operations group is standing by 24/7 - give us a call at 402-408-3733, or send a note to operations at Meanwhile, this info below will help IT staff and DIY types get started.

With ColdFusion 11 Update 13 and ColdFusion 2016 Update 5 there are additional manual updates that are required to complete the security patch. The additional requirements are the same for both ColdFusion 11 and ColdFusion 2016 and the remaining information pertains to both versions. Both updates require that ColdFusion be running on Java version 1.8.0_121 or higher. For reference, ColdFusion 11 comes with Java version 1.8.0_25 and ColdFusion 2016 comes with Java version 1.8.0_72. The Java that needs to be installed is different from the "Windows User" Java client that may already be installed. The installer is available from Oracle. Once the new Java version installed, the jvm.config file for each ColdFusion instance needs to be updated to point to the new Java version installation path. If you're running the Enterprise version of ColdFusion, there's a likely chance there is more than one ColdFusion instance running.

Part of the instructions from Adobe says that if your ColdFusion server is installed as J2EE server then there is an addiction manual configuration that you ned to do. However, every installation of ColdFusion since the release of ColdFusion 10 is a J2EE or JEE installation. What Adobe really meant was that if you are using a third party JEE server and not the built-in Tomcat JEE server.

If your ColdFusion server is running on a third party JEE server such as WebLogic, Wildly, custom Apache Tomcat, etc (Not the built in Tomcat that comes with ColdFusion), then the following step needs to be completed.

Set the following JVM flag, "-Djdk.serialFilter=!org.mozilla.** ", in the respective startup file depending on the type of Application Server being used.

For example,

  • On Apache Tomcat Application Server, edit JAVA_OPTS in the 'Catalina.bat/sh' file
  • On WebLogic Application Server, edit JAVA_OPTIONS in the 'startWeblogic.cmd' file
  • On a WildFly/EAP Application Server, edit JAVA_OPTS in the 'standalone.conf' file

This is one more friendly reminder to make sure your ColdFusion servers are patched! Either patch them yourself, have your hosting provider patch them or if they are not familiar or knowledgeable with ColdFusion contact us at CF Webtools to patch your servers.

As always, if you need help migrating to the next version, scanning your ColdFusion server for security vectors or installing this patch and new Java version, contact your project or account manager directly, or send an email to You can also simply respond to this email (or call 403-408-3733).

*Note: ColdFusion11 when it was first released came with a version of Java 1.7.0_nn. Adobe later re-released ColdFusion 11 with Java 1.8.0_25. If you have ColdFusion 11 still running on Java 1.7 I highly recommend that Java be upgraded to Java 1.8. Oracle is no longer supporting Java 1.7 and 1.7 is long past it's end of life. Even though the Adobe instructions for this current security update states that you can run Java 1.7.0_131, I highly recommend upgrading to Java 1.8.

ColdFusion and JVM Versions and SSLv3-TLS Security Magic

This is the second entry by Wil Genovese ( in our effort to provide a complete picture of how CF, Various versions of JVMs and various versions of SSL all work together. Wil's previous article on Surviving Poodle detailed a blow by blow description of how to troubleshoot a system broken due to the upgrading of SSL. This article includes some detailed technical information as well as the results of some painstaking tests. It is our hope that it will serve as a guide. It represents yet another reason to insure that you are upgrading to the latest JVM and CF version. Take it away Wil:


Surviving Poodle - ColdFusion and SSL 3

There's been a great deal of buzz about poodle. Poodle is an SSL exploit capable of highjacking a session using a browser's ability to "negotiate downward" the level of SSL it uses. It's recent prolifieration has put some urgency into the efforts to force existing applications and platforms to deny the use of any standard of SSL less than version 3.0. Super guru Wil Genovese ( recently did some troubleshooting on a ColdFusion server with an issue related to this necessary configuration step. Wil writes:

We ran into an issue when a company contacted us at CF Webtools because ColdFusion was suddenly no longer able to connect to their email providers mail servers. One day ColdFusion was sending emails to their clients just fine and the next day it was failing. As you know these issues are usually best resolved by asking "What changed?" As far as the client knew, nothing had changed - but we knew enough not to stop digging.


IIS Vulnerability Steals Payment Information (By Wil Genovese - CFG)

Super guru Wil Genovese ( is back to describe an IIS vulnerability that was inserted using a long-known (and patched) CF vulnerability. The Muse will make 2 points. First, if you are hit with this one call us! We will gladly put our shoulder to the wheel and help you dig out. Second, don't forget to patch your servers and keep up on the latest security news. No matter what your chosen platform you need to be vigilant and attentive. Take it away Wil.

First let me point out that the vulnerability that was found has a patch that has been available since January of 2013. So as the Muse said, patch your servers! I first read about this attack in a PC World article titled, PCWorld - Attackers exploited ColdFusion vulnerability to install Microsoft IIS malware. I spent hours reading all the linked websites and blog posts by the security researcher that discovered the IIS Malware (see this Trustwave post) trying in vain to learn the name of said DLL that gets installed, where it gets installed and how to detect the file(s). The few details I found were not completely useful. While I learned the behavior of the malware I never learned how to find the offending DLL or even the file name. I did discover that no existing anti-malware or anti-virus software would detect this rogue DLL. I repeated my futile search every few weeks to see if anything new was being reported.

Since knowing how to locate and expunge such things is part of my job I needed a way to find it, but how? I could search any of the servers at CF Webtools until the cows come home, but if none of them have been hit with this malware I will never find it. What I needed was a server that had been exploited to examine. Over the past year with the slightly larger than usual number of security holes discovered in ColdFusion we've had a few new clients come to us for help in patching and repairing servers. None of the IIS modules on those servers stood out to me as 'unusual', but I wasn't looking directly for this. Finally we had a company come to us for help with a breach.


ColdFusion Server Infection Using the Missing Template Handler

We were recently called to fix a hacked ColdFusion server. This was a file hack. Something was appending JS code to the end of variuos .cfm files on the server. The appended code redirected the user's browser to a different site (to sell them viagra or puppies or whatever). When analysing the server we found an interesting attack vector. I say interesting because it used a technique I had not seen before that leveraged a quirky feature of ColdFusion. The end result of the hack was a layered infection that was difficult to find and resulted in the infected files coming back regardless of our lockdown efforts. If that sounds like something you are experiencing or if you are interested in ColdFusion security, read on!


A Frank Discussion About Protection

I know it's an uncomfortable topic. I understand that you would like to keep your validation private. You would probably rather learn about this from your friends at the coffee shop, Jeremy who is two cubes down from you, or some guy on a forum (shudder). Still, the Muse has an assignment in life to point these things out and make sure you are well informed and prepared when temptation strikes. Oh I know what you say now. I know what I'm doing. The risk factor is slight. I'm too small... I mean... my application is too small to need it. But take it from me - you will need to understand how to use protection or bad things will happen. So let's talk about it.


Protecting the CFIDE directory in IIS

Yesterday I had a server with IIS and a few hundred sites on it. Some, though not all, of the sites had an unprotected CFIDE directory mapped. So my task was to protect these directories by denying all IPs from access except a specific IP range. Before I describe the task and my trick let me remind you that this is not time to tout Linux or Apache or bash Microsoft in the comments. The muse welcomes comments but enjoys variety. We all know about Apache and its manifest benefits. We don't need you to remind us in spite of your excellent credentials and biting wit. IIS is fine platform with many strong points too and there are folks who need this information. They should not feel like they are sneaking into the adult section of the video store to get it. Now back to the Muse' usual good humor. Here's the scoop....


That Pesky CFIDE Directory

If you are CF community connected (and if not why not?) you know about the latest "sub-zero" exploit to ColdFusion that once again targets the Administrator or adminapi directory under the CFIDE directory. It leverages tags that work with files from within these directories to place code on your server which can then be leveraged to do other things. Basically it can function as a hostile takeover of your server. See this entry titled 0-Day Exploit for ColdFusion by the awesome folks at Edge web hosting for more information. It will point you to the Adobe Docs. The exploit targets CF 9 and 8 if I'm reading the source correctly.

The lockdown guide will give you a few dozen steps some of which will have you pulling out your hair unless you have carefully built your server. But the main "fix" for this exploit is fairly simple. Do not allow arbitrary access to the CFIDE/Administrator and CFIDE/adminapi folders from the web. This seems to be pretty head scratchingly obvious but you'd be surprised how many folks say "But don't you need a password to get into the administrator?". Yes, and you need a key to get into your house too, but an "exploit" is rather like a brick through the window. To really secure your house you need a security system, good locks, good lighting, and a Rottweiler the size of a pony.

Why is it there in the first place?

This is a question I get sometimes. "I don't remember adding that virtual directory. How did it get there?" No you did not fugue off while adding web sites - unless you see one for a Ukrainian tether ball team or something - then probably yes you did fugue off. The real story is that when you install ColdFusion using selecting the "configure all websites" option during the install the CFIDE is mapped on all the sites on your web server as a physical (for the default site) or virtual (for everything else) directory. That's how it seems to "show up" everywhere. In addition the "connector" scripts - the ones you run to "remove all" and "add all" will add it as well. If you are like me you configure each site separately outside of the CF ecosystem. Then you join it to the ColdFusion engine using wsconfig. My servers use the multi-server config and I use the built in web-server (at ports 830X) to admin them from inside the network. When a new site is needed I add it in IIS or apache, then I use wsconfig to connect it to the ColdFusion instance I want. Yes it's extra steps and yes it requires more knowledge, but it's the way I like it. And I'm worth it. Doing it this way does not add the CFIDE directory by default - which is why if I need the scripts directory I use an alias or virtual and alter the setting within the admin.

But what I notice from time to time is that there actually is a CFIDE directory that shows up on some of my sites. How can this be? I've been so careful. Here's what happens. A team member - a developer - is assigned to a site for the first time. Perhaps this is the first site they have set up on their local environment, or perhaps they are sys admin challenged and don't know how to create an alias or virtual directory. For whatever reason the CFIDE physical directory is installed and is living in the root directory of the site. Then at some point the developer remembers (through the prodding of his project manager) that he needs to do regular updates of our subversion repository as a part of his task list. Suddenly (with apologies to Emeril if he's still alive and has not exploded) BAM! the CFIDE directory itself is now part of the source code. Our Jenkins CI server ignores this directory and does not deploy it to either staging or production but usually the initial site setup is not done by Jenkins. So one thing leads to another and the directory is deployed to staging (small yikes) or production (big yikes and a shudder).

Of course this is bad in more than one way. For one thing this directory has the vulnerabilities in question in the form of CF Scripts. For another it is likely not being used to admin the server - which means that updates in the form of hot fixes and security patches will never make it into this code. It might also end up being the wrong version of admin as the site code is transitioned from version to version. I'm not sure if that last is bad or good - but it is another thing to worry about.

In conclusion get out there and secure those directories (and other things). Let's make sure we are on top of this before it get's out of hand. :)

Another SQLi Attack: Urchin.js

I spent yesterday cleaning and inoculating another server infected with SQL Injection. Unless you have been living in a cave you know that SQL injection (SQLi) is the most common vulnerability of web based application. This is due to 2 factors - 1) almost all databases use numeric fields and B) web applications by nature pass user input into queries. Of course I could throw in there that web developers are often lax about inoculating their code. There is also the problem of legacy code - code that has been around since the dark ages of the late 90's. Of course SQLi has been around that long as well, but it is surprising how much legacy code chugs along for a decade or more with no problem in spite of the vulnerability.

Anyway, here's the skinny on the latest attack I found. It uses our old friend "Cast" in conjunction with the char() function of MS SQL. Note, this is not a new attack on the web - it's only new to me in that I've never battled this particular attack before.


Script Injection: File Upload Using a Subdomain

If you read my post on the script injection attack that has been going around you will note that I suggest four solutions or remedies to protect your server (upload off the web root, use cfcontent, disable script and execute permissions on certain directories, and remove superfluous handlers). A fifth solution was pointed out to me that is somewhat related to uploading off of the web root.

The idea would be to create a subdomain just for user resources. So, for example, you could have "" and "". User uploads would go the share for the "pics" subdomain and be served from there. You would still vet the content to make sure it was ok, but the "pics" domain would not allow ColdFusion (or PHP or ASP or any scripts or executable at all). I can see some issues that you might run into - chiefly that you are not really "securing" the content from unauthorized access. I believe that still makes it suitable for public resources, but not able to be fully integrated into an application without a lot of run around. Still it seems an elegant solution.

Script Injection Attack: Smoking Gun?

Many of you may know there is a web server attack going on in the wild that involves appending a JS script to all the htm, php, cfm, js, jsp files found on a server. If you are unfamiliar with this attack see some of my previous posts like this one for more of an explanation. While I have found the script that actually does this dirty deed and I have combated this issue on numerous servers by now, I have never really been confident that I have discovered where the attack actually begins (i.e. how this file gets on the server to begin with). Yesterday I was made aware of a technique that might be the smoking gun. It has been tested by some folks I trust and I want to give a full explanation here to assist all those Muse readers who battle the bad guys at the server level.

If you are a technician or network operations professional who is trying to scan your way out of this attack, I'm afraid you are probably out of luck (but keep reading anyway). This attack specifically targets application code - not just CF but ASP, JSP, PHP and any others. All of them can be subject to this problem because it has to do with insecure coding, not specific platform vulnerabilities. I would add that if you find your code vulnerable don't feel too bad. This exploit is clever enough to get by code that seems secure as we shall see. If you are a web developer of any stripe you should definitely read this post. The examples are in ColdFusion, but you will be able to extrapolate for your own language or technology pretty easily.


My Funny Val()entine and SQLi

Regular readers know I'm always on the lookout for interesting issues regarding SQL Injection and ColdFusion. This year has been a banner year for injection on ColdFusion sites and if you are not on the Cfqueryparam bandwagon yet I have one more example of a code that might seem to be inoculated but is not. It has to do with the use of val( )....


Cfinclude for Good or Evil

Yesterday I was doing some searches on a sick server to troubleshoot the Iframe Injection issue. A user had posted some additional information regarding a file that appeared on his server that had this issue. The file was named "fection.cfm" so we now know the hacker casually removes his prefixes (or I should say 'emoves his 'efixes). I began my search by looking for the file specifically, then moved on to look for the string "cfexecute" in all of the *.cfm files. But that got me thinking. A clever hacker might know some things about ColdFusion. He could in fact, further obscure his code with some knowledge of cfinclude and IIS. Such a technique can be used to secure your code as well. You can create code that is only runnable by ColdFusion using cfinclude. Here's the skinny.


ISAPIRewrite or Mod_Rewrite Rules

For those of you interested in stopping the SQLi attack before it even hits your ColdFusion server, you might try these rewrite rules are from the CF-Linux email list (run by House of Fusion). They were provided by list member Mike Chytracek and forwarded to me by Linux CFG Ryan Stille. These rules are for for use with Helicon's ISAPI Rewrite filter, but with very little tweaking these rules aught to work for Apache Mod_rewrite as well.

# Helicon ISAPI_Rewrite configuration file
# Version
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCompatibility2 On
RepeatLimit 20
# unsupported directive: [ISAPI_Rewrite]
# CacheClockRate 300
RewriteRule ^.*DECLARE%20.*$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^.*NVARCHAR.*$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^.*sp_password.*$
[NC] RewriteRule ^.*%20xp_.*$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^.*EXEC\(@.*$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^.*%20@.*$ [NC]

Please note that these rules will actually redirect the request to the governments cybercrime website. That's going to freak a few folks out if you end up with any fals positives :)

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