Cloud security products uninstalled by mutating malware

Skull mixed within computer code

Unit 42, the global cyber threat intelligence arm of Palo Alto Networks, has discovered new forms of a Linux coin mining malware originally used by the Rocke group which attacks Linux servers, aka a large portion of all servers in the world.

The malware which is believed to be related to the Xbash malware detected in September 2018, will infect a server and then mutate, downloading new code which allows it to assume administrative control and delete cloud services installed on them.

The security products weren't compromised specifically, instead, the threat actor was able to simply remove them from the server altogether in the same way a legitimate system administrator would be able to.

The samples analysed by Unit 42 targeted cloud services provided by two of China's leading cloud providers: Tencent Cloud and Alibaba Cloud (Aliyun). It's also believed by the threat intelligence team that the analysed samples are the first form of malware that can target and delete cloud services from servers.

The threat isn't just presented to hosts of Linux servers, Cloud Workload Protection Platforms (CWPP), which are essentially built-in security services into cloud products tailored to stop malware intrusions, are also under threat.

The threat is worth taking seriously, considering Tencent Cloud and Alibaba Cloud (Aliyun) both have CWPPs included with their products which means they're not doing enough to mitigate attacks, evidently with the latest one which attempted to mine Monero using Linux hardware.

The Xbash family of malware which was first discovered in Septemeber 2018 is devastating, with analysed samples infecting servers in worm-like fashion and destroying data on the server while posing as ransomware. Researchers found no evidence in the attack code that a provision was in place whereby data could be restored following the ransom's payment.

Linux is more prevalent than one might think, Microsoft Azure is now predominantly run on Linux servers - it's not just the Chinese cloud environments being hosted via Linux, it's likely that your business is running at least one cloud service on a Linux server too.

Connor Jones

Connor Jones has been at the forefront of global cyber security news coverage for the past few years, breaking developments on major stories such as LockBit’s ransomware attack on Royal Mail International, and many others. He has also made sporadic appearances on the ITPro Podcast discussing topics from home desk setups all the way to hacking systems using prosthetic limbs. He has a master’s degree in Magazine Journalism from the University of Sheffield, and has previously written for the likes of Red Bull Esports and UNILAD tech during his career that started in 2015.