Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Cloud

2/27/2020
12:35 AM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

'Cloud Snooper' Attack Circumvents AWS Firewall Controls

Possible nation-state supply chain attack that cheated both cloud and on-premise firewalls acts like a "wolf in sheep's clothing," Sophos says.

[UPDATED 2/27 with new information from Sophos that the attack actually hit on-premise firewalls and servers in the victim organization. This article originally reported on the initial research by Sophos, which had concluded that the malware had the ability to breach on-site firewalls.]

RSA CONFERENCE 2020 - San Francisco - A recently spotted targeted attack employed a rootkit to sneak malicious traffic through the victim organization's AWS and on-premise firewalls and drop a remote access Trojan (RAT) onto its cloud-based servers.

Researchers at Sophos discovered the attack while inspecting infected Linux and Windows EC2-based cloud infrastructure servers running in Amazon Web Services (AWS). The attack, which Sophos says is likely the handiwork of a nation-state, uses a rootkit that not only gave the attackers remote control of the servers but also provided a conduit for the malware to communicate with their command-and-control servers. According to Sophos, the rootkit also allowed the C2 servers to remotely control servers physically located in the organization as well.

"The firewall policy was not negligent, but it could have been better," said Chet Wisniewski, principal research scientist at Sophos. The attackers masked their activity by hiding it in HTTP and HTTPS traffic. "The malware was sophisticated enough that it would be hard to detect even with a tight security policy" in the AWS firewall, he said. "It was a wolf in sheep's clothing ... blending in with existing traffic."

Sophos declined to reveal the victim organization, but said the attack appears to be a campaign to reach ultimate targets via the supply chain - with this as just one of the victims. Just who is behind the attack is unclear, but the RAT is based on source code of the Gh0st RAT, a tool associated with Chinese nation-state attackers. Sophos also found some debug messages in Chinese.

The attackers appear to reuse the same RAT for both the Linux and Windows servers. "We only observed the Linux RAT talking to one server and the Windows talking to a different control server, so we're not sure if it's even the same infrastructure," Wisniewski said. The C2 has been taken down, he noted.

Just how the attackers initially hacked into the victim's network is unclear, but Sophos suggests one possibility is the attackers infiltrated a server via SSH. They also don't have a lot of intel on the rootkit, such as which port it abused, nor do they know for sure what they were after. "It's likely a supply chain attack, targeting this organization to get all of their downstream" clients or customers, Wisniewski said. 

One of the rare aspects of the attack: It targeted Linux with a rootkit, which was called Snoopy. "They dropped the driver part of the rootkit, and called it Snoopy. Had it been called a legitimate file name on the Linux box, we probably wouldn't have noticed it," Wisniewski said. And malware for Linux to date has been relatively rare, too, with mainly cryptojackers, he added.

Cloud Snooper's techniques for now appear to be rare, but like many unique attacks like this, it's only a matter of time before they are imitated. "Every time we see something done in a targeted attack usually by a nation-state, a couple of years later cybercriminals [adopt similar tactics]," Wisniewski said.

"This case is extremely interesting as it demonstrates the true multi-platform nature of a modern attack," wrote Sophos researcher Sergei Shevchenko in the company's technical report on Cloud Snooper.

Sophos recommends deploying AWS's boundary firewall function, keeping Internet-facing servers fully patched, and hardening SSH servers to protect against Cloud Snooper.

Related Content:

Check out The Edge, Dark Reading's new section for features, threat data, and in-depth perspectives. Today's top story: "How to Prevent an AWS Cloud Bucket Data Leak."

 

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 8/14/2020
Lock-Pickers Face an Uncertain Future Online
Seth Rosenblatt, Contributing Writer,  8/10/2020
Hacking It as a CISO: Advice for Security Leadership
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  8/10/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
7 New Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities That Could Put Your Enterprise at Risk
In this Dark Reading Tech Digest, we look at the ways security researchers and ethical hackers find critical vulnerabilities and offer insights into how you can fix them before attackers can exploit them.
Flash Poll
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
This special report takes a look at how enterprises are using threat intelligence, as well as emerging best practices for integrating threat intel into security operations and incident response. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-17475
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
Lack of authentication in the network relays used in MEGVII Koala 2.9.1-c3s allows attackers to grant physical access to anyone by sending packet data to UDP port 5000.
CVE-2020-0255
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
** REJECT ** DO NOT USE THIS CANDIDATE NUMBER. ConsultIDs: CVE-2020-10751. Reason: This candidate is a duplicate of CVE-2020-10751. Notes: All CVE users should reference CVE-2020-10751 instead of this candidate. All references and descriptions in this candidate have been removed to prevent accidenta...
CVE-2020-14353
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
** REJECT ** DO NOT USE THIS CANDIDATE NUMBER. ConsultIDs: CVE-2017-18270. Reason: This candidate is a duplicate of CVE-2017-18270. Notes: All CVE users should reference CVE-2017-18270 instead of this candidate. All references and descriptions in this candidate have been removed to prevent accidenta...
CVE-2020-17464
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
** REJECT ** DO NOT USE THIS CANDIDATE NUMBER. ConsultIDs: none. Reason: This candidate was withdrawn by its CNA. Further investigation showed that it was not a security issue. Notes: none.
CVE-2020-17473
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-14
Lack of mutual authentication in ZKTeco FaceDepot 7B 1.0.213 and ZKBiosecurity Server 1.0.0_20190723 allows an attacker to obtain a long-lasting token by impersonating the server.