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Lake County government shuts down servers after ransomware attack

After the massive cyberattack in Texas, officials from Lake County, Illinois revealed on Friday, August 23 that the county has been hit by a cyberattack that forced the shutdown of email service and several internal applications.

The officials also mentioned that the breach came in the form of ransomware, which is a type of malware that prevents users from accessing their system or personal files and demands a ransom payment in order to regain access.

Mark Pearman, director of county's information technology office said that on Thursday, August 22, the IT staff was installing cybersecurity software on 3,000 individual employee laptops and working on the process to remove the ransomware malware from 40 county servers.

The ransomware attack was first noticed by systems administrators on Thursday and to prevent it the IT staff started taking encrypted and unencrypted servers off the network.

However, the official clarified that there was no evidence of data theft from county servers and restoring the systems will take the entire week and more information about the attack will be known by Monday, August 26.

As reported, the IT department is working with the county's cybersecurity contractor, Crowdstrike to conduct a damage assessment. This process includes scanning of all the servers, almost 3,000 computers to determine those infected by the ransomware.

Almost a month ago, LaPorte County, Indiana also suffered a similar breach and the authorities paid a ransom of $132,000 worth of Bitcoins to the hackers to restore the access to affected systems.

Another ransomware hit 22 Texas town governments and recently Louisiana was also forced to declare a state of emergency after some of its school districts' networks were hacked. Now, Texas' 22 town government has become the victim of ransomware.

After all these events, National Guard Chief Gen Joseph Lengyel called the events a "cyber storm." He also mentioned that these multi-state cyber attack reiterates the need for more standardized policies and training for cyber units across the force.

Confluence servers hacked to install malware

Cybercriminals are now exploiting a vulnerability in Confluence servers to install cryptojacking malware. According to a report by Trend Micro, the vulnerability has been well documented in the past. However, at the time, it was being used to target victims with DDoS attacks.

Confluence is a widely popular planning and collaboration software developed by the Australian software giant, Atlassian. Trend Micro reported that it had noticed one of the vulnerabilities, CVE-2019-3396, in April, a month after Atlassian published an advisory covering the same. CVE-2019-3396 is a template injection in the Widget Connector that allows cybercriminals to execute code remotely on their victims’ machines.

The vulnerability was first used for a DDoS attack in Romania. However, the cybersecurity and analytics company revealed that hackers are now using it to install a Monero crypto miner that comes with a rootkit. The rootkit serves to hide the malware’s network activity. It also shows false CPU usage on the affected machine, misleading the user and further concealing the mining process. The report further revealed that the rootkit re-installs the malware should the victim manage to remove it.

The attack begins by sending a command to download a shell script hosted on Pastebin, an online content hosting service where users store plain text for a set period of time. The malware then kills off some of the processes running on the host machine before downloading other resources, also from Pastebin.

The vulnerability mainly targets older versions of Confluence, with Atlassian urging its users to download patched versions of Confluence Server and Data Center to protect themselves.

In recent times, cryptojacking has become increasingly popular with cybercriminals. The tactics are also advancing, with the criminals seeking to stay ahead of the security experts. As we reported recently, a new malware that targets Linux servers has been modified to shut down other crypto miners in the host’s system. Known as Shellbot, the malware uses the SSH brute force technique to infect servers that are connected to the internet and that have a weak password.

Operation Windigo: Thousands of Linux and Unix Servers hacked to deliver malware, spam

Hackers compromised thousands of Linux and Unix servers and used them for stealing SSH credentials, sending millions of spam messages and infecting visitors with malware.

The campaign has been dubbed as Operation Windigo, which was uncovered by researchers at security firm ESET.

According to the report, the operation has been ongoing since 2011 and more than 25,000 servers have been compromised in the last two years. 

Even some of high profile servers including Cpanel and Kernel.org had been affected by this campaign.

Millions of users to legitimate website hosted on affected servers are being served with malware via exploit kits and 35 Million spam messages are being sent each day from the compromised servers.

Three main components used in this operation are:

  • Linux/Ebury – an OpenSSH backdoor used to keep control of the servers and steal credentials
  • Linux/Cdorked – an HTTP backdoor used to redirect web traffic. We also detail the infrastructure deployed to redirect traffic, including a modified DNS server used to resolve arbitrary IP addresses labeled as Linux/Onimiki
  • Perl/Calfbot – a Perl script used to send spam

Detailed technical paper on "Operation Windigo" is here.