Botnet cannibalizes other shells more than a year

A botnet has been attacking and gaining access to other web shells (backdoors on web servers) for more than a year, security researchers at Positive Technologies have revealed today.

The researchers linked the botnet to an old trojan called Neutrino (also known as Kasidet), whose operators appear to have shifted targeting from user desktops to web servers, where they install malicious encryption software.


Researchers at Positive Technologies report that this new phase of the Neutrino gang began early in 2018, when the team was able to develop a multifunctional botnet that detected random IP addresses on the Internet by searching for specific applications and servers that could be infected.

To hack other servers, the Neutrino botnet uses various techniques, such as exploits for old and new vulnerabilities, vulnerabilities in phpMyAdmin servers that do not have a password, and brute-force attacks on root accounts on phpMyAdmin, Tomcat and MS-SQL.

Researchers also report that Neutrino does strange things that aren't seen in many other botnets. For example, this particular Neutrino searches for Ethereum nodes that work with default passwords, connects to these systems, and steals locally stored files.

Neutrino as mentioned in the title also focuses on hacking web shells.

Web shells are backdoors used by hackers to perform operations on a compromised machine. They have a web-based interface from which hackers can log in and issue commands through their browser, or a custom programmed environment in which they send automated commands.

According to Positive Technologies researchers, Neutrino searches the web for 159 different types of PHP web shells and two JSPs (Java Server Pages).

The botnet creates a list of web shells and then launches brute-force attacks to guess login credentials and gain access.

As for Neutrino's success, Positive Technologies reports that the botnet was one of the three largest queries senders to their honeypots.

Based on the company's research, the botnet has proven to be quite successful in infecting Windows servers with phpStudy, an integrated learning environment popular among Chinese developers.

However, it also attacks phpMyAdmin servers.

"To protect servers from Neutrino infection, we recommend that administrators check the password on the phpMyAdmin root account," said Kirill Shipulin, a security researcher at Positive Technologies.

“Make sure your services are up to date and install the latest updates. Remember that Neutrino is regularly updated with new exploits. ”

Technical details on the Neutrino modus operandi can be found at Publication by Positive Technologies.



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