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.

Threat Intelligence

5/2/2017
08:00 AM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

New Free Shodan Tool Roots Out RATs

Shodan teams up with Recorded Future to crawl the Net for computers serving as command-and-control (C2) for remote access Trojans (RATs).

Famed Internet search engine Shodan now offers a free scanning tool that hunts down systems on the Internet that are controlling malware-infected computers.

The new Malware Hunter crawler, unveiled today, is the result of a project that began in 2015 by Recorded Future and Shodan that roots out remote access Trojan (RAT) operations by detecting computers on the Internet that are serving as RAT command-and-controllers (C2s) in botnets. It's an alternative to the traditional, more passive collection approach of honeypots, VirusTotal, and some malware analysis, to extrapolate cybercrime and cyber espionage malware attacks.

RATs are the backdoor malware used by attackers to remotely control infected machines. They log keystrokes and can record audio and video of the machine.

Shodan Malware Hunter scans ports on the Internet for servers, routers, webcams, and other connected devices in search of RAT controller IP addresses with the goal of catching them before they infect their victims. The tool employs RAT controller probes that then are matched against known RAT signatures. To date, Malware hunter has identified one large global network of thousands of GhostRAT controllers as well as the C2s of other infamous RATs such as Dark Comet, njRAT, and Poison Ivy.

"It's sending specific requests to hosts on the Internet and looking for a specific response back" that detects a RAT controller, explains Levi Gundert, vice president of intelligence and strategy at threat intelligence firm Recorded Future.

Shodan itself basically crawls the Internet for publicly accessible computers and devices, and is a popular tool among security researchers. John Matherly, founder of Shodan, launched the search engine in 2009 as an open-source project for searching devices on the Internet. 

Matherly explains that Malware Hunter poses as a newly infected client machine while searching the Internet for command-and-control servers, and makes rooting out C2s much faster than passive methods.

"We've already seen that this technique can help identify malicious operations before they're widely deployed," Matherly said via an email interview. "However, there's still a lot of work that has to be done after a C2 has been identified, which is what I assume a lot of law enforcement time is spent on."

Renowned researcher HD Moore says Shodan's new Malware Hunter could streamline the detection of Internet-connected command-and-control systems. "It has the potential to find all of the Internet-connected C2s in one shot as opposed to waiting for the installations to download new lists," Moore says.

But more sophisticated attackers are adopting obfuscation techniques to evade detection by these types of scans, he says. "I would expect this [Malware Hunter] to work pretty well in the short-term and less so as the malware operators get more sophisticated."

Moore worked on a similar scanning project with an antivirus company while he was with Rapid7, and the scans were lucrative for spotting C2s. But attackers started to hide their tracks once they got caught up in Rapid7's scans, he says. "This kind of scanning is decent for the status quo, but we are seeing C2s move towards more complicated and obfuscated backends to avoid scans," says Moore, who pioneered much of the Internet-scanning research looking for exposed devices and systems. His research led to Project Sonar, a community project founded in 2013 for sharing Internet-scanning data, tools, and analysis. 

Recorded Future's Gundert notes that some of the RAT families listed in Shodan employ obfuscation, so the tool can spot even the stealthy C2s. "The project started with the low hanging fruit - Black Shades, Dark Comet, njRAT - and more recently. families like Gh0st RAT were added, which involved longer analysis," Gundert says. 'Ultimately, every family is possible to emulate to elicit a controller response; it's just a matter of time and persistence."

Shodan finds between 400- and 600 RAT controllers per day, according to data compiled by Recorded Future.

"Not all RAT operators are super-sophisticated," however, Gundert notes. "Some run command-and-control from their home computers; we see ... IP addresses sitting on residential networks worldwide."

Meanwhile, the new tool is yet another example of how Shodan is evolving its search engine to provide more intelligence and insight into Internet-connected devices. "We've done similar things in other areas - Tor, ICS, BitTorrent - and this is another part of the ongoing mission at Shodan to provide greater insights about the Internet," Matherly says.

Related Content:

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. 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

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
Where Businesses Waste Endpoint Security Budgets
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  7/15/2019
US Mayors Commit to Just Saying No to Ransomware
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  7/16/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Now this is the worst micromanagment I've seen.
Current Issue
Building and Managing an IT Security Operations Program
As cyber threats grow, many organizations are building security operations centers (SOCs) to improve their defenses. In this Tech Digest you will learn tips on how to get the most out of a SOC in your organization - and what to do if you can't afford to build one.
Flash Poll
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
Your enterprise's cyber risk may depend upon the relationship between the IT team and the security team. Heres some insight on what's working and what isn't in the data center.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2018-17210
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-20
An issue was discovered in PrinterOn Central Print Services (CPS) through 4.1.4. The core components that create and launch a print job do not perform complete verification of the session cookie that is supplied to them. As a result, an attacker with guest/pseudo-guest level permissions can bypass t...
CVE-2019-12934
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-20
An issue was discovered in the wp-code-highlightjs plugin through 0.6.2 for WordPress. wp-admin/options-general.php?page=wp-code-highlight-js allows CSRF, as demonstrated by an XSS payload in the hljs_additional_css parameter.
CVE-2019-9229
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-20
An issue was discovered on AudioCodes Mediant 500L-MSBR, 500-MBSR, M800B-MSBR and 800C-MSBR devices with firmware versions F7.20A to F7.20A.251. An internal interface exposed to the link-local address 169.254.254.253 allows attackers in the local network to access multiple quagga VTYs. Attackers can...
CVE-2019-12815
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-19
An arbitrary file copy vulnerability in mod_copy in ProFTPD up to 1.3.5b allows for remote code execution and information disclosure without authentication, a related issue to CVE-2015-3306.
CVE-2019-13569
PUBLISHED: 2019-07-19
A SQL injection vulnerability exists in the Icegram Email Subscribers & Newsletters plugin through 4.1.7 for WordPress. Successful exploitation of this vulnerability would allow a remote attacker to execute arbitrary SQL commands on the affected system.