Linux botnet spreads using Log4Shell flaw

Visual representation of an active botnet, with several black nodes connected with white strands
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The B1txor botnet, which is spreading via the Log4Shell flaw, enables attackers to get shell access to Linux systems and install a rootkit.

Chinese security company 360Netlab discovered and named the bot in February and publicly disclosed it this week. It takes the form of a backdoor for Linux that uses DNS tunnelling for its command and control (C2) communications.

The researchers observed the software propagating via the Log4Shell flaw in the Logj logging system that was first discovered in December.

The domain information that it uses to communicate with its C2 server is encrypted. Once the botnet client has decrypted it, it uses a DNS query to send its communications to the C2 domain, including stolen information and command execution results. The C2 server sends the next payload in the body of a DNS response.

The payload supports 14 instructions, which include simple beaconing to the C2 server, uploading system information, reading and writing files, forwarding traffic, opening a shell, and executing arbitrary system commands. The backdoor can also start a proxy service.

The botnet is buggy, according to the Netlab360 team, with one socket binding function rendered entirely inoperable thanks to code mistakes. Nevertheless, enough of the code works to make it a threat.


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"We presume that the author of B1txor20 will continue to improve and open different features according to different scenarios, so maybe we will meet B1txor20's siblings in the future," they said in an analysis of the malware.

Linux backdoors are popular for attacking the servers that run large portions of the internet. In November, criminals were found using one to compromise e-commerce sites with a software skimmer. In August, Trend Micro reported that hackers were targeting outdated versions of the operating system to gain control of resources in the cloud.

Last month, VMware researchers identified increased ransomware attacks against Linux servers in multi-cloud operating environments and called for more countermeasures.

Danny Bradbury

Danny Bradbury has been a print journalist specialising in technology since 1989 and a freelance writer since 1994. He has written for national publications on both sides of the Atlantic and has won awards for his investigative cybersecurity journalism work and his arts and culture writing. 

Danny writes about many different technology issues for audiences ranging from consumers through to software developers and CIOs. He also ghostwrites articles for many C-suite business executives in the technology sector and has worked as a presenter for multiple webinars and podcasts.