Threat Research

New Stealth Worker Campaign Creates a Multi-platform Army of Brute Forcers

By Rommel Joven | March 06, 2019

A Threat Analysis Report from FortiGuard Labs

FortiGuard Labs recently discovered a new campaign of StealthWorker malware, also called GoBrut, that was first reported by Malwarebytes just a few days ago. This malware is written in Golang. Although uncommonly seen being used by malware, it is the same programming language used to develop the module that controlled the bots of Mirai.

StealthWorker is a brute-force malware that has been linked to a compromised e-commerce website with an embedded skimmer that steals personal information and payment details. Before hackers can embed a skimmer, however, the first requirement is for hackers to gain access to their target’s backend. Hacker’s commonly take advantage of vulnerabilities in the Content Management System (CMS) or its plugins to gain entry into the target’s system. Another, simpler option is to use brute force attacks. Though quite slow, this method is still effective against administrators using weak or commonly used passwords.

In this report, we will take an in depth look at this latest updated version of StealthWorker, which not only has wider capabilities, but is also now multi-platform.

C2 Open Directory

Our research began with the C2 mentioned in the Malwarebytes report, which is 5.45.69[.]149. While looking for possible open directories, we found the /storage directory hosting 5 samples. The purpose of this malware, based on what we determined from the filenames, is to brute force PhPMyAdmin, an open source administrator tool.

Previous versions of this malware only targeted the Windows platform. But a deeper investigation into the open directory of this version revealed that it now also serves payload binaries for the Linux platform.

 

As we investigated further, and encountered more open directories related to the campaign, we were led to more interesting samples.

For example, while analysing the sample PhpMyAdminBrut_Windows_x86.exe, in addition to its previous C2 we found another IP (185.205.209[.]131) in its binary. Accessing the second IP led to the same web panel login and open directory, but this link hosts a bunch of new samples. Analysing the new samples found in 185.205.209[.]131, we found another previously unknown IP, 5.101.0[.]13.

As seen in the open directories below, the filenames are changed to 1.8_Stub_<architecture>, which means that they are also targeting IoT devices with ARM and Mips architectures. This greatly increases the scope of infection of this malware as well.

 

With the help of VT-graph, we can see the direct relationship between the last two IP addresses; they hosts similar and even identical samples. This implies that they are being used in the same campaign.

 

StealthWorker

The malware begins by creating a scheduled execution to make sure that the malware persists in the system even after reboot. Depending on the architecture, it will drop the following:
 

When analysing Golang malware, it is best to use the IDA python script IDAGolangHelper, which helps rename functions for easier readability and analysis. After the script is executed, we can now identify the functions and analyse main_*.
 

Inside the main_init function, we can see the malicious functions names called StealthWorker. We can then filter and focus our analysis on these functions. 
 

After taking a look at only those files with StealthWorker in the function names, even with the many functions listed, we were able to basically categorize them into two main functions.

        *_check_* – functions used to identify and verify the service that the target is running on
        *_brut_* – functions used to do the brute force attack on the target

C2 Communication

Once the malware has been executed in the system, it connects to its C2 (5.101.0[.]13:7000) to inform it that it is ready to function as a worker and accept tasks. The operating system (OS) and the malware version, v1.8, is included in the request sent.
 

To make sure it has the latest version of the malware, it also sends a bots/chkVersion?  to the C2. A response of “no“ means it’s already running the latest version and there is no need to download an update.

 

The infected machine then sends a request to retrieve active projects, and if there are any, the C2 then assigns the infected machine to be a specific worker. As seen below, it has assigned the computer to perform ssh_b (secure shell brute force) and backup functions.
 

Based on our analysis of the code, these are other possible responses that can be received from the C2:                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                 *we only received ssh_b and backup during our analysis
 

As mentioned previously, the two main functions of the malware are check and brute force of different services.

Others include:

            Backup – find specific files in a target host’s open directory
            kill – functions to remove auto run and exit the malware
            block – execute sleep

worker=ssh_b

After being assigned as a worker, the next thing to do is retrieve the tasks to be performed from the C2. A list of hosts and credentials is received from the C2, and the worker’s task is to login to the targeted host.
 

We can see that every time a request is made to the URL it receives a new set of hosts and credentials.
 

If a login is successful, the worker will report the used host and credentials to the C2 as “saveGood”.
 

worker=backup

Aside from it role as worker=ssh_b, our test machine was also assigned as worker=backup. As shown below, when connecting to the C2 with the parameter worker=backup, the response was empty—unlike ssh_b, where we got a list of host and credentials. This could either mean that the attacker doesn’t have any targets yet for backup workers, or other backup workers (i.e. infected machines) have already finished the task provided by the C2.
 

Based on a close look at the code, the backup worker’s job can also be to search for a specific subfolder, filename, file size, and for the following file types.

zip, zipx, tar, bz2, gz, lz, lzma, lzo, rz, sfark, sz, 7z, s7z, b6z, bak, sql, sfx, tar.gz, tgz, tar.Z, tar.bz2, tbz2, tar.lzma, tlz, tar.xz, txz, rar

We tried to alter the GET /gw?worker=<name_worker> request to retrieve other possible tasks from the C2 for each worker, but we just got empty responses. However, based only on static analysis, we can see other possible fields that the C2 can utilize from the response:

                                                                                                                *for worker=ssh_b, the C2 only sends the Host, Login, Password, and Worker
 

Conclusion

A brute force attack is very resource intensive, but using the collective processing power of a bot army, like the one used by this campaign, the task can be efficiently distributed for a much higher rate of success. As we have seen in this new StealthWorker campaign, the malware developers have also taken further steps to increase their rate of success by also being able to infect a wider range of platforms.

Additionally, a distributed brute force attack coming from different source IP addresses can effectively bypass anti-brute force solutions, which are usually based on a threshold (e.g., if x failed requests coming from the source, then block the connection for xx minutes).

The attackers behind this campaign not only target e-commerce websites, but they also attempt to collect all possible vulnerable systems that use weak credentials. Once a vulnerable target host has been confirmed accessible, depending on the system, it can then become another target for embedded skimmers or general data breaches.

Solution

Fortinet detects the samples as Linux/StealthWorker.GO!tr and W32/StealthWorker.GO!tr.

Related malicious C2 and download servers are blocked by FortiGuard Web Filtering Service.

-= FortiGuard Lion Team =-

IOCs

d488a660e43cd1630e322dfa4f07557b9687b12cb11648a10509a3cdd903a2c4

f6aee9551c4bf5d02dee8350fd61a4f1be5ec01de77a457dd3f6d2a5ada70108

fec7930ecd6e84971d5d66ffb16bd353f28a2ba02d2fb213eecacce7c271bbff

06ac28e2a1a82135b6d33d9b4ee2a62e340b2ee0a254b08927c7f94e1cf184d8

268de438bdbe7d2d7b38ab150032b41de1c91cb781ff3f6f723bf4422453b9b5

C2

hxxp://5.45.69.149:7000

hxxp://5.101.0.13:7000

hxxp://185.205.209.131:7000

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NOTE: The FortiGuard Labs team has shared our findings, in this report with our fellow Cyber Threat Alliance members. CTA members use this intelligence to rapidly deploy protections to their customers and to systematically disrupt malicious cyber actors.  For more information on the Cyber Threat Alliance, visit cyberthreatalliance.org.