June 18, 2019 By Shane Schick 2 min read

A malware campaign dubbed InterPlanetary Storm is hiding its network activity among legitimate traffic by using a peer-to-peer (P2P) network for its command-and-control (C&C) communications.

Security researchers from Anomali described the malware, which is also known as simply IPStorm, in a blog post shortly after it was discovered in the wild last month. It’s an unusual security threat in that it takes advantage of the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), an open-source P2P network that is used to decentralize the hosting, storing and sharing of files.

The authors behind the IPStorm campaign have not yet been identified, although researchers said they seem to be aiming primarily at Windows-based machines.

IPStorm’s Infection Routine and Functionality

Once an infection takes place, IPStorm is able to execute almost any arbitrary PowerShell code using what researchers described as “reverse shell” functionality. This means whoever is behind the campaign could then conduct a range of activities, from running a bot campaign to powering distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

IPStorm’s authors are also likely well-versed in software development, given the campaign is written in the Go programming language and can be split into multiple parts. This means it is easier to update the malware with new functionality, researchers said, or switch certain features as needed for a specific kind of cyberattack.

Besides disguising its activities within P2P network traffic, IPStorm also tries to hide within an infected system by finding a folder and installing itself with a randomly selected name. This means its memory allocations might go unnoticed by unsuspecting computer users, researchers added.

Though the ultimate goal behind the malware campaign has yet to be revealed, researchers also noted that metadata within the code suggests other operating systems may soon be targeted in addition to Windows.

Taking Shelter From InterPlanetary Storm

IPStorm may be unusual for its use of P2P networks, but its focus on PowerShell as an attack vector comes as less of a surprise. IBM X-Force IRIS researchers have been noting an uptick in PowerShell-releated threats since late last year.

Besides ensuring that they’re using PowerShell v5, IBM experts advise security teams to keep a close eye on transcription logs and commands that are typical of malicious actors. Deploying proper endpoint protection and a security information and event management (SIEM) system are among other ways to stay protected.

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