Category Archives: Web

Warning: HostGator leaks your cPanel usernames, script path, and more


Once upon a time the HostGator was a great hosting company – great technical support, great prices, good performance, predictable policy, etc., and positive-thinking CEO who blogs about the company, about fortunes and failures… Fast forward to year 2012. CEO and founder Brent Oxley sells HostGator to EIG. They are famous of “acquiring a large number of smaller web hosting companies” which leads to Web hosting overselling.

From that point everything goes downhill, unfortunately. I am not going to list all the problems their users have. You can find this information using any Search engine. For example, search for: “HostGator and EIG”… and you will find plenty of information about their business practices.

Note and disclaimer. I am not affiliated with any hosting provider. I believe that there exists a way, that you can hide some of the leaked details, bet I am sure, that there is no way to make it work in the reliable way, because, HostGator are constantly changing everything, and constantly consolidating servers, and even moving your server between datacenters located in different physical locations, changing Apache HTTP server to nginx server (breaking changes?), and this all without any notice or warning to its users. And most of the users are uninformed, so you can not expect that they will be able to protect their websites, scripts, assets, etc.

Now about the security issue. When you send email from HostGator, using their Web Mail, or using your Desktop email client or .PHP script, you are always leaking your username. In the case of script, you are also leaking the script name, full path to the script, and also some random domain names and email addresses you have in the same account. Some information is encoded in Base64 format, that can easily be decoded. Below are some examples. YOUR_USERNAME is your leaked username. YOUR_OTHER_DOMAIN is leaked other domain name in the same account, but not related to email address in any way.

Example 1
Received: from localhost ([]:11546
by with esmtpsa (TLSv1:DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA:256)
(Exim 4.85)
(envelope-from )
for; Mon, 1 Dec 2015 11:22:44 -0200
Received: from ([]) by
(Horde Framework) with HTTP; Mon, 1 Dec 2015 11:22:43 +0000
Date: Mon, 1 Dec 2015 11:22:43 +0000
Subject: Testing leak
User-Agent: Internet Messaging Program (IMP) H5 (6.1.4)
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8; format=flowed; DelSp=Yes
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Disposition: inline
X-AntiAbuse: This header was added to track abuse, please include it with any abuse report
X-AntiAbuse: Primary Hostname -
X-AntiAbuse: Original Domain -
X-AntiAbuse: Originator/Caller UID/GID - [11 13] / [11 13]
X-AntiAbuse: Sender Address Domain -
X-BWhitelist: no
X-Source-Sender: localhost ( []:11343
X-Email-Count: 2
X-Source-Cap: WU9VUl9VU0VSTkFNRTtZT1VSX1VTRVJOQU1FO2dhdG9yMzIxMS5ob3N0Z2F0b3IuY29t

Note, that X-Source-Cap header decoded is:

Example 2
Received: from YOUR_USERNAME by with local (Exim 4.85)
id XXXXXX-XXXXX-XX; Fri, 1 Dec 2015 11:22:27 -0400
Subject: Some text here...
X-PHP-Script: for
X-Mailer: PHP/5.4.45
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=utf-8
Date: Fri, 1 Dec 2015 11:22:27 -0400
X-AntiAbuse: This header was added to track abuse, please include it with any abuse report
X-AntiAbuse: Primary Hostname -
X-AntiAbuse: Original Domain -
X-AntiAbuse: Originator/Caller UID/GID - [some random numbers here] / [and there]
X-AntiAbuse: Sender Address Domain -
X-BWhitelist: no
X-Source: /opt/php54/bin/php-cgi
X-Source-Args: /opt/php54/bin/php-cgi /home2/username/blah/folder/subfolder/your_script.php
X-Email-Count: 3
X-Source-Cap: WU9VUl9VU0VSTkFNRTtZT1VSX1VTRVJOQU1FO2dhdG9yMzIxMS5ob3N0Z2F0b3IuY29t

Note, that script name is not accessible from the web. It is not publicity known, and is revealed to potential attacker:

I understand, that security by obscurity is not the best security practice, but anyway, revealing internal script names without any real need in nonsense.

As you can see, the headers that was included to track the service abuse, is actually abusing you. And is yet another domain that is in the same account and is leaked too. It is different domain from OTHER domain… so at least two different domains (at random?) are leaked.

And in the second example, the full Linux path to the script is embedded into header:

This script may be your Cron job or other script, and path and script name should not be revealed to email recipient. If they really wanted to track abuse, they could store this all sensitive information in the local DB, and embed only unique ID/key to that information, in case it is later needed.

And to abuse your valuable time even more, they have placed SPAM filters for your outgoing emails with always changing filtering parameters. So you can wonder, why some of your emails are lost somewhere.

Note. This article was written at the time we still used HostGator intensively, both as Shared hosting and as Dedicated servers, but now we have switched away. And believe me, the overselling, security problems and poor support is only the tip of the iceberg, unfortunately.

Did we tried to some these issues with HostGator support. Of course. You can try too. Good luck! 🙂 Usually they reply with, we are sorry, but we can’t do anything because of very high support volume right now.

And almost forgot to mention, that they constantly hijack your 403, 404, 500, and other error pages. They inject their own ads and banners into your page. Maybe at the time, when GeoCities and Angelfire ruled the free web hosting world that was somewhat acceptable, but now in the era of web 2.0?!

Google Drive may be silently renaming your files

Just a friendly warning. If you try to store copy of standard Apache HTTP Server web root, git repository, some Linux directories, etc in the Google Drive, then do not be surprised when Google silently corrupts the filenames by renaming dot (.) to underscore (_). For me this is happening to nix hidden files (begins with a dot), but some of colleagues remember to happen to regular PDFs as well.

Solution. Upload only archived files to the Google Drive. And preferably encrypted (just in case).

WordPress still insecure by design

Some major WordPress design flaws have led to widespread attacks on our and your servers. The only hope is reasonably long and strong passwords or WordPress security plugins.

The first flaw. By default WordPress have enabled “feature”, when you visit your blog with author query string appended, it nicely reveals your usernames. For example, if you have:

just add

and default WordPress installation redirects you to the:

In you need next valid username, change 1 to 2:

The second flaw. WordPress have two separate login error messages:

ERROR: Invalid username


ERROR: The password you entered for the username admin is incorrect.

So basically, you can check if particular username is valid.

The third flaw. Many users use .htaccess to secure the wp-admin directory, but WordPress coders decided to include public accessible script in the admin folder. So securing admin folder breaks your site in many ways. Of course you can write more advanced .htaccess rules, but it is not excuse for including public script in the admin folder.

Both front-end and back-end Ajax requests use admin-ajax.php

Forth flaw. Allow hackers to iterate hundreds of usernames/passwords in the single web request (system.multicall), and do it via public accessible script, that is not hidden behind wp-admin folder. Just brilliant! By the way, flaw is still not fixed, and even if you have not so popular site, you will still see your log files full of password guessing requests from different IP addresses: - - [13/Oct/2015:17:26:55 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.0" 200 561 "-" "-"

Note, that IP is given as an example.

Read more about this system.multicall thing here: Brute Force Amplification Attacks Against WordPress XMLRPC

The fifth flow (and not the last). If you have some flaws / vulnerabilities, please share them in comments. Of course only publicly known ones. If you have newly discovered flaw, use proper disclosure channels.