The threat actors behind Gootloader compromise vulnerable WordPress websites and inject hundreds of pages of fake content, often totally unrelated to the theme of the website. A broad range of websites have been compromised across many industry sectors, including retail, education, healthcare, travel, music, and many more, with the common denominator that they all use the WordPress CMS.
It is not clear how the WordPress sites have been compromised. It is possible that the sites have not been updated to the latest WordPress version or had vulnerable plugins that were exploited. Legitimate admin accounts could be compromised using brute force tactics, or other methods used.
The content added to the compromised sites takes the format of forum posts and fake message boards, providing specific questions and answers. The questions are mostly related to specific types of legal agreements and other documents. An analysis of the campaign by eSentire researchers found most of the posts on the compromised websites contained the word “agreement”. The posts have a question, such as “Do I need a party wall agreement to sell my house?” with a post added below using the exact same search term that users can click to download a template agreement.
These pages have very specific questions for which there are few search engine listings, so when search engines crawl the websites, the content ranks highly in the SERPs for that specific search term. There may be relatively few individuals searching for these particular search terms on the likes of Google, but the majority of those that do are looking for a sample agreements to download.
The content added to the websites contains malicious code that displays the malicious forum posts only to visitors from specific locations, with an underlying blog post that at first appears legitimate, but mostly contains gibberish. The blog post will be displayed to all individuals who are not specifically being targeted.
The campaign is using black hat SEO techniques to get the content listed in the SERPs, which will eventually be removed by the likes of Google; however, that process may take some time.