Domain Hosting Hijacking

I’ve heard of Domain Hijacking where hackers will attempt and sometimes succeed in stealing ownership of a domain name. However, I can’t find much posted about Domain Hosting Hijacking. That’s precisely what happened to me.

I have an old domain that I don’t use anymore and I had cancelled my hosting plan for that domain. Unfortunately, I forgot to update the nameservers in the registrar and just left it pointed to the hosting company.

A couple of years later, I was curious about the domain and decided to check up on it. I saw the nameservers were pointed to a specific hosting company and thinking I still might host it, I typed in my domain name. Sure enough, my old website came up! But, something was off. Some of the links were dead and hovering over other links, it looked like they might be malicious.

It quickly became clear that someone had figured out I was no longer hosting the site, but saw the nameservers pointed to a specific host and registered their own hosting for my domain. It appears they used the WayBack Machine to scrape an old snapshot of the site and updated it with their malicious links. They also had full DNS control over email as well so they had hijacked all of the email that went to that account. I have no idea if any of my internet accounts I used for that email were compromised. There’s no way to tell since it’s been years since that email was active.

I quickly changed the nameservers to the parking lot of my registrar and cut off their capabilities to use that domain name. I also contacted the hosting company and asked them to remove that user account. They have their process of domain ownership verification that I have gone through, but it was still a bit of a pain and ate up some of my free time.

So, how did these guys figure this out? This happened because people are scraping public WHOIS data, storing it in local data stores, querying that data internally, and running reconnoissance on millions of domains. They can see the IP of the host, send a GET request to see if they get a 200 OK. If not, they can then check if the nameservers are pointed somewhere. If so, they have free access to register that website on the specific host. This is a perfect plan to slip under the radar and take over hosting, email, and do all sorts of mischief while you hold the bag of domain ownership.

What I’ve learned from this:

  1. Never outsource your DNS to your hosting provider. Use a long-term, trusted DNS provider.
  2. Instead of farming out your entire DNS zone to the host, point your A records to the box IP your host gives you, or better yet, use a CDN.
  3. Take inventory of your domains every few months to make sure no one is using a mistake you made to bring harm to the internet
  4. Always point unused domains to a secure parking nameserver from your registrar or remove appropriate records in your DNS.

In this situation, I opened the door, and some malicious actor from Lithuania walked through it. Hopefully this helps save someone some grief.

Someone is always, always watching your WHOIS data.

AWS-CLI – IAM Role Fails – “Unable to locate credentials”

If you run a bootstrap script that uses AWS CLI, you’ve probably run into an intermittent fatal error that says, “Unable to locate credentials”. IAM Roles should just work on the instance, but the credentials are not reliable in my experience on Linux systems. Before I attempt to run any bootstrap script, I use the following code to ensure the IAM credentials are where they should be.

config_exists=$(aws configure list | grep access_key | grep iam-role);
until [ ! -z "$config_exists" ]; do echo 'Amazon is playing games here. Trying to get IAM creds that should already be here ...'; sleep 2; config_exists=$(aws configure list | grep access_key | grep iam-role); done;

Get Latest Project Build from CodeBuild on Single EC2 Instance

If you are bootstrapping a new instance into your cluster, you probably don’t want to kick off an entire deployment pipeline to get the latest build onto just that one instance. I grab the latest build from CodeBuild S3 artifact storage and untar it right into the pertinent path. It’s a much quicker bootstrap and doesn’t take any other instance out of commission for a deployment. Note: This requires the jq package for parsing the response JSON.

LOCATION=$(aws codebuild batch-get-builds --ids $(aws codebuild list-builds-for-project --project-name $PROJECT | jq -r '.ids[0]') | jq -r '.builds[].artifacts.location' | sed 's/arn\:aws\:s3\:\:\:/s3:\/\//g')
tar -xvf $LOCATION

Why does RDS MySQL use so much storage?

We recently migrated 23GB of data from an EC2 MySQL database server to RDS. During the migration, we noticed that the free storage on the 100GB instance was being eaten up quickly. It took some digging to find out that AWS does some configuration trickery here to make more money from unsuspecting customers, in my opinion. They set innodb_file_per_table to true by default.This creates a file per table in the database instead of one global tablespace. There’s really no benefit that I’ve found for performance by doing this. It’s a clever way for users who have file access to migrate tables individually instead of entire databases. The key here is that there is no SSH access for RDS, so, why do we need a file per table? It doesn’t make sense if we can’t even use the feature for its original purpose.

Redirect www to non-www via DNS

Apps rise and fall on single characters. One misplaced character can tank ten thousand lines of code. The same is true with URL redirection. Most DNS providers have a GUI for redirecting URLs. I’ve learned the hard way that the forward slash character is of utmost importance when using these features. For example, if I want to forward all www traffic to (sans slash), all of my traffic for www will end up only on my homepage which is no good for SEO, analytics, user experience, etc…. If I want the DNS provider to forward the entire request, I have to have a trailing slash (

Find all sites on server by IP address

I don’t advocate using the following to hack other sites. I found it interesting that my host was serving pornography from the same box I was using, so I switched to my own cloud server. There are two ways to go about finding other sites on your server. If you don’t know your server IP, you can search


and there are plenty of sites that will expose the server domain.

Bing IP Search

This seems to be pretty reliable and up-to-date. Bing has an IP operator that allows you to specify an IP address when searching.

Example Search:


Hackers will use this operator to find sites running WordPress using the images tab. Once they identify several domains, they can easily ascertain your WP version with the generator meta tag. A hacker can know all of the WordPress installations and versions of those sites without leaving a probing footprint. If there is a known vulnerability with one of your versions, it’s a cinch to attack it. Keep your software up-to-date and your back-doors closed friends. Bing is not your friend with this horrid search operator.

Example Search:

ip: wp-content


Recursive FTP get for command line

If you’re like me, you hate using a FTP GUI for doing simple gets. Sometimes, GUIs get in the way and bog the transfer down. I prefer to take out the middle man and use command line. Here’s a nifty snippet I picked up along the way that lets you recursively download entire directories. The files are stored in their identical structure in your working directory.

wget -r --user %user% --password %password% ftp://%server%/full/path

If you want to stick with pure FTP commands, you can use the following:

#Turn off confirmation for getting each file
ftp>mget *

Arrrrrrr, clean up your whitespace matey

I get thoroughly annoyed at code files littered with EOL and BOL tabs and spaces. Here’s a simple regex I use to garbage collect rogue whitespace. Just use find/replace and set your search to regex within your IDE. Replace with null.

[ \t]+$