A cryptomining malware campaign originally discovered in January is now using the EternalBlue exploit to target users in Asia, according to security researchers.

The investigation by Trend Micro showed the campaign involves several different approaches to infect machines and avoid detection while it mines Monero, most of which involve taking advantage of older applications and obfuscated PowerShell scripts.

In addition to EternalBlue — an exploit developed by the National Security Agency (NSA) that was linked to the widespread WannaCry and NotPetya ransomware attacks three years ago — the cryptomining malware also uses open-source tools, such as PowerDump, Invoke-SMBClient and Server Message Block (SMB) v1 protocol.

The campaign currently targets users based in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India and Vietnam, the researchers said.

How Miner Malware Uses Pass the Hash

Threat actors behind the attacks start by trying a list of commonly used passwords, such as “123456” and “welcome,” to break into a machine and gain network access. The campaign also makes use of a technique known as pass the hash in which attackers steal credentials stored in memory to connect to a remote server. Other options have included attacking targets with weak passwords using the Invoke-WMIMethod PowerShell script or EternalBlue for those with stronger passwords.

Once a machine has been infected and the media access control (MAC) address has been captured, the cybercriminals behind the cryptomining malware campaign try to get ahead of detection attempts by scanning for any antivirus products that may be in use.

Researchers also discovered five different components that have been used as part of the campaign, including a larger copy of the malware — essentially a dropped Trojan — that can get past sandboxes, as well as a binary executable compiled using Python and other PowerShell scripts. An open-source tool known as Invoke-ReflectivePEIInjection is used to drop the XMRig cryptominer onto the compromised machines using its own PowerShell process, rather than storing it as a file.

Keep Cryptomining Malware Off Servers, Too

While targeting individual machines with cryptomining malware is commonplace, the researchers noted that those behind this campaign were also trying to break into database servers by searching for those using weak SQL passwords.

This is similar to a recent investigation from IBM X-Force Incident Response and Intelligence Services (IRIS), which showed cryptojacking infections that took advantage of misconfigured servers in multinational corporations. Besides patching vulnerable systems and closing ports on external servers, IBM experts also recommend disabling legacy protocols such as SMB v1 and keeping a close eye on any data that leaks out through SMB ports.

More from

How Do You Plan to Celebrate National Computer Security Day?

In October 2022, the world marked the 19th Cybersecurity Awareness Month. October might be over, but employers can still talk about awareness of digital threats. We all have another chance before then: National Computer Security Day. The History of National Computer Security Day The origins of National Computer Security Day trace back to 1988 and the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Security, Audit and Control. As noted by National Today, those in…

Deploying Security Automation to Your Endpoints

Globally, data is growing at an exponential rate. Due to factors like information explosion and the rising interconnectivity of endpoints, data growth will only become a more pressing issue. This enormous influx of data will invariably affect security teams. Faced with an enormous amount of data to sift through, analysts are feeling the crunch. Subsequently, alert fatigue is already a problem for analysts overwhelmed with security tasks. With the continued shortage of qualified staff, organizations are looking for automation to…

Worms of Wisdom: How WannaCry Shapes Cybersecurity Today

WannaCry wasn't a particularly complex or innovative ransomware attack. What made it unique, however, was its rapid spread. Using the EternalBlue exploit, malware could quickly move from device to device, leveraging a flaw in the Microsoft Windows Server Message Block (SMB) protocol. As a result, when the WannaCry "ransomworm" hit networks in 2017, it expanded to wreak havoc on high-profile systems worldwide. While the discovery of a "kill switch" in the code blunted the spread of the attack and newly…

Emotional Blowback: Dealing With Post-Incident Stress

Cyberattacks are on the rise as adversaries find new ways of creating chaos and increasing profits. Attacks evolve constantly and often involve real-world consequences. The growing criminal Software-as-a-Service enterprise puts ready-made tools in the hands of threat actors who can use them against the software supply chain and other critical systems. And then there's the threat of nation-state attacks, with major incidents reported every month and no sign of them slowing. Amidst these growing concerns, cybersecurity professionals continue to report…