A nefarious use of Google Drive to load malicious redirects

November 11, 2013 | BY

A lesser known aspect of the popular cloud storage Google Drive is its built-in site publishing feature that allows you to upload an entire directory containing static web files (HTML, JavaScript, CSS, etc.) and to publish your own website.

Bad guys are uploading malicious scripts and using them as part of a well thought chain of attacks that infects legitimate websites and redirects their traffic to drive-by download landing pages.

Since Google Drive uses HTTPS, the traffic packets are encrypted, making it harder to detect anomalies with traditional Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS).


Figure 1: Malicious piece of code hosted on https://googledrive[dot]com/host/0B8xeWwe9pXL-OUw3eDExNDQtZkE/

Before analyzing the above code, let’s rewind and see how this attack is being spread in the wild.

Intriguing references to{uniqueID} are being injected in websites’ source code:


Figure 2: A Malicious code insertion pointing to Google Drive

Upon browsing such a compromised website, a silent call is made to retrieve the mysterious JavaScript from Google Drive.

Let’s copy the code (17/47 detections on VirusTotal) from Figure 1 into Revelo, a handy tool from Kahu Security for analyzing JavaScript.


Figure 3: Analyzing Google Drive uploaded script with Revelo

Now we know the motive: to redirect users to a  ‘.tk’ URL (.tk is the TLD for Tokelau which over than its sandy beach image is often associated with malware and phishing attacks.)


Some of you may recognize this URL as the “Simple TDS”, an old, but yet still active traffic distribution system that is redirecting traffic to an exploit kit landing page:


Figure 4: Infection process as shown in Fiddler capture

The compromised site (www.{removed}/forum.php) calls the external JavaScript on Google’s servers. From there, the code snippet loads the “.tk” TDS which in turn redirects the user to an exploit page.

(We call this exploit kit Popads but it should really be called Magnitude now. Read more about it from Kafeine in this stellar blog post he wrote).

However, this is not all. We discovered an update to the initial code injection pictured in Figure 2. This time, the call to the Google Drive URL is heavily obfuscated:


Figure 5: Hiding the call to the Google Drive URL by applying obfuscation.

And here is the decoded version:


Figure 6: Decode view of obfuscated code shows script pointing to Google

In addition to this additional step to hide the Google Drive URL, the bad guys have been playing a cat and mouse game with Google.

We observed the same Google account rotating the malicious script:


Digging into it a little deeper, it looks like Google is scanning files that are shared publicly and returning a 404 if the file is infected:


Figure 7: The virus file does exist but Google returns a 404 to block it

While it’s a great thing for Google to scan files, it is trivial for the bad guys to slightly alter the code, split it, etc. (especially if the said code is JavaScript) and keep evading detection.

This type of attack also leverages the trust webmasters have in Google. Since many people use Analytics, AdSense and other services from the search giant, it is less likely to raise a red flag when spotted within a page’s source code.

We have reported this issue to Google and will keep an eye on similar threats.

Jerome Segura (@jeromesegura) is a senior security researcher at Malwarebytes.

  • Theodis Butler

    Nice writeup. What will “they” think of next?

  • Joel Bradshaw

    The headline seems a bit misleading, as it could imply that this is due to some flaw in Google Drive, or that Google can do anything about it other than blocking these accounts as they’re created or trying to detect malicious Javascript, either of which are whack-a-mole games that will inevitably bleed over to affect normal users.

    So bad guys are using Google Drive to host their injected Javascript blobs? They could do that from literally any other webhost that would take them (before it’s removed, anyway), including a server in their garage. If I understand correctly, there’s nothing special about their use of Drive here.

    I suppose this makes it harder to block them on a domain level or some such, but the exact same thing could be done with any pastebin, or any service that lets you upload arbitrary files and link to them.

    The only real difference here is that the links include the Google name and could be less suspicious to a careless eye. This article should either elaborate more on any uniqueness I missed that Drive brings to the equation, or note that Drive is simply serving as a vessel, as probably every other webhost of any size has done and continues to do.

  • Jerome Segura

    Hey Joel,

    Thanks for your detailed comment. It is correct that Google Drive is used as a vehicle to distribute this, and that any other web host could do the same (except they might not be HTTPS).
    And yes, unfortunately it is one of these whack-a-mole type of situations.

  • Pingback: Google Drive used for spreading malicious code » Cyber Security()

  • Pingback: Zneužití Google Drive pro šíření malwaru » Kyber bezpečnost()

  • Pingback: Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – November 15, 2013 | Bill Mullins' Weblog - Tech Thoughts()

  • Pingback: Neutrino Delivers Fake Flash Malware Hosted on SkyDrive | Malwarebytes Unpacked()

  • pedro66

    so how do i fix this?

  • Pingback: Thousands of Hacked Sites Lead to Offer of Famous Spy Software | Malwarebytes Unpacked()