A common metaphor for the Internet is that it’s divided into neighborhoods. If your website is hosted on an IP address and using nameservers that allow or encourage criminal activity, then you’re in a “bad neighborhood“. Bad neighborhoods can exist because some hosting providers offer a space for criminals to set up domains to serve malicious content to visitors.  Under these circumstances, the hosting providers turn a blind eye as long as they are making money.  Another contributing factor that creates bad neighborhoods are compromised hosts used maliciously without the owners knowledge.

We’re going to take a walk through one of these bad neighborhoods in this blog post.

Enter at the Gate

Our introduction to this neighborhood began when we were alerted to network communications with a URL ending in ‘gate.php’. URLs ending in ‘gate.php’ are indicative of default C2 URL configurations for multiple botnet families; ZeuS, Andromeda, and Pony downloader.

Network communications:


Login panel


This particular one looks to be AZORult. AZORult steals credential and credit card/payment information. Researchers have seen it involved in attack campaigns with Chthonic and Ramnit.

Once we started to look at the infrastructure behind this, the nameservers stood out as suspicious. The nameservers are: ns1[.]steeldns[.]com and ns2[.]steeldns[.]com. A suspicious feature here is that the parent domain points to: localhost and


Cisco Umbrella Investigate showing IP Address information

Furthermore, the TTL (Time To Live) change frequently on both nameservers; rotating between low-high values. DNS responses with low TTL values are indicative of Fast Flux botnets. In conjunction with compromised hosts acting as proxies, it creates a resilient command and control infrastructure. The multiple nodes or hosts within the network register and de-register their addresses as part of the DNS A record, changing the IP addresses. Each record has a very short TTL. This creates a constantly changing list of IP addresses for a domain name.

This particular host is consistently changing to a low TTL, but not changing the IP address. It doesn’t appear they’re successfully utilizing a Fast Flux technique, but it’s enough to appear suspicious.

Cisco Umbrella Investigate showing changing TTL

A co-occurrence for ns1[.]steeldns[.]com is another nameserver ns2[.]metaldns[.]com. A co-occurrence is when two or more domains are being accessed by the same users within a small window of time.  This top domain, metaldns[.]com is also pointed to localhost

Thanks to our passive DNS data, we have domain names that we’ve seen resolving to the IP addresses of these suspicious nameservers. The following are a few interesting sights seen in this neighborhood while crawling through the domains found.

Lots of Open Space

There are plenty of open directories that lead to various phishing pages and kits.

Open directory for phishing pages

Open directory of phishing pages and kits

Open directory with phishing pages

Phishing Pond

If you continue down the walking path from the open space, you’ll make your way to the local phishing pond.

Credential harvesting

Impersonating https://www[.]alliancebank[.]com[.]my

Multiple phishes

Microsoft login phishing


Information harvesting – showing email that receives data


Have Some Crypto

By now, you’re probably getting tired and ready to take a break with some crypto. Here’s some of what the neighborhood has to offer for cryptocurrency.

OSINT gathered indicates this is a scam

Just a Coinhive miner

Site claims to exploit Bitcoin wallets and deliver the payouts to other people



Need a Boost?

There appears to be a large area devoted to Pharmaceutical fraud. Here are just a few.

Pharma Fraud


Steroid sales


The Local Hangout 

End your day by meeting some of the locals.



It looks like you’re being invited to check out the local’s Bullet Proof Hosting (BPH) located at ns1[.]666webhost[.]com and ns2[.]666webhost[.]com.

At Cisco Umbrella, we see these neighborhoods of the Internet as hosting nothing but potential threats to our customers. We categorize them as Bulletproof Hosting, and have blocked all of the infrastructure highlighted above.


BPH Nameservers:


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