April 7, 2020 By Shane Schick 2 min read

A misconfigured API port has led to a months-long campaign in which cybercriminals have been launching daily Kinsing malware attacks that number in the thousands, according to security researchers.

Directed at enterprises operating container environments, the cryptocurrency miner exploits the API port on a host running Ubuntu and then tries to infect an ever-larger number of hosts, a report from Aqua Security noted.

Hackers rigged the Ubuntu container to clear logs, eliminate other malicious software and disable security protections. Once those tasks have been completed, the Kinsing malware download begins in order to mine for cryptocurrency on the compromised container.

An Ambitious Attack Scheme

Researchers said the exploit attempts to continue infecting other parts of the container network by using SSH credentials it collects along the way.

This allows cybercriminals to test an extensive number of key combinations and user account possibilities, researchers added. If successful, a shell script then places the cryptocurrency miner on the infected host.

The investigation traced the origins of the campaign to Eastern Europe, where command-and-control (C&C) servers split the various functions required to manage the attacks. While miners can be designed for many different kinds of cryptocurrencies, the target, in this case, is bitcoin, researchers said.

Although the campaign was described in the report as ambitious, researchers suggested that the rise of cloud-native environments and the increased use of containers will make more cybercriminals follow similarly sophisticated approaches.

Don’t Let Kinsing Lead to Crypto-Mining

The obvious step for anyone vulnerable to an attack is to conduct a thorough review of their container environments. This should include looking for suspicious user activity in log files and checking for any areas where least privilege settings should be, but haven’t been, enforced.

Beyond that, organizations need to recognize where container security responsibilities lie. Some areas may be dealt with by providers but others — including vulnerability management and continuous event monitoring — should be directly under the IT security team’s control.

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