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9/28/2018
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'Torii' Breaks New Ground For IoT Malware

Stealth, persistence mechanism and ability to infect a wide swath of devices make malware dangerous and very different from the usual Mirai knockoffs, Avast says.

A dangerous and potentially destructive new IoT malware sample has recently surfaced that for the first time this year is not just another cheap Mirai knockoff.

Researchers from security vendor Avast recently analyzed the malware and have named it Torii because the telnet attacks through which it is being propagated have been coming from Tor exit nodes.

Besides bearing little resemblance to Mirai in code, Torii is also stealthier and more persistent on compromised devices. It is designed to infect what Avast says is one of the largest sets of devices and architectures for an IoT malware strain. Devices on which Torii works include those based on x86, x64, PowerPC, MIPS, ARM, and several other architectures.

Interestingly, so far at least Torii is not being used to assemble DDoS botnets like Mirai was, or to drop cryptomining tools like some more recent variants have been doing. Instead it appears optimized for stealing data from IoT devices. And, like a slew of other recent malware, Torii has a modular design, meaning it is capable of relatively easily fetching and executing other commands.

Martin Hron, a security researcher at Avast says, if anything, Torii is more like the destructive VPNFilter malware that infected some 500,000 network attached storage devices and home-office routers this May. VPNFilter attacked network products from at least 12 major vendors and was capable of attacking not just routers and network attached storage devices but the systems behind them as well.

Torii is different from other IoT malware on several other fronts. For one thing, "it uses six or more ways to achieve persistence ensuring it doesn’t get kicked out of the device easily on a reboot or by another piece of malware," Hron notes.

Torii's modular, multistage architecture is different too. "It drops a payload to connect with [command-and-control (CnC)] and then lays in wait to receive commands or files from the CnC," the security researcher says. The command-and-control server with which the observed samples of Torii have been communicating is located in Arizona.

Torii's support for a large number of common architectures gives it the ability to infect anything with open telnet, which includes millions of IoT devices. Worryingly, it is likely the malware authors have other attack vectors as well, but telnet is the only vector that has been used so far, Hron notes.

While Torii hasn't been used for DDoS attacks yet, it has been sending a lot of information back to its command-and-control server about the devices it has infected. The data being exfiltrated includes Hostname, Process ID, and other machine-specific information that would let the malware operator fingerprint and catalog devices more easily. Hron says Avast researchers aren't really sure why Torii is collecting all the data.

Significantly, Avast researchers discovered a hitherto unused binary on the server that is distributing the malware, which could let the attackers execute any command on an infected device. The app is written in GO, which means it can be easily recompiled to run on virtually any machine.

Hron says Avast is unsure what the malware authors plan to do with the functionality. But based on its versatility and presence on the malware distribution server, he thinks it could be a backdoor or a service that would let the attacker orchestrate multiple devices at once.

The log data that Avast was able to analyze showed that slightly less than 600 unique client devices had downloaded Torii. But it is likely that the number is just a snapshot of new machines that were recruited into the botnet for the period for which Avast has the log files, the security vendor said.

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Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio

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