A cryptojacking malware campaign called Lemon_Duck is repeatedly upgrading its attack scripts using open-source repositories, security researchers warn.
Based on the popular EternalBlue exploit best known for its association with the WannaCry attacks, a blog post on Sophos said Lemon_Duck is also spreading rapidly through enterprise networks via fileless script execution — and controlling CPU resources to mine cryptocurrencies.
Scheduled tasks are used to maintain persistence on targeted Windows-based machines as the PowerShell attack scans for listening ports and randomly generates IP addresses. While researchers believed the campaign originated in Asia, telemetry data suggested it is now infecting enterprises around the world.
Inside Lemon_Duck’s Approach
Once Lemon_Duck finds a remote machine with a responsive script, it attempts brute-force attacks to take control of it. At the same time, it checks for the EternalBlue exploit while running through possible login credentials using a password and hash dictionary.
Researchers noted that whoever is behind Lemon_Duck is actively learning from their peers in the cybercrime community. Some of the passwords it attempts to use, for instance, have been identical to those spreading internet of things (IoT) botnets such as Mirai. A pass the hash technique, meanwhile, uses the NTLM Microsoft protocol to break into a targeted computer.
If the PowerShell malware campaign is successful and a download occurs, Lemon_Duck replicates and validates itself on a compromised machine every hour via Windows Scheduled Tasks. This is also the point at which an exploitation module and miner module begins looking for ways to use the machine to get cryptocurrencies.
The attack doesn’t end there, however. Lemon_Duck will work quickly to use the first machine it compromises on a network as a sort of beachhead to propagate itself onto other devices. Beyond using EternalBlue and brute-force techniques, the attackers take advantage of startup files and USB and network drives, researchers added.
Turn Lemon_Duck Into a Lame Duck Attack
One simple way to reduce the risk of a PowerShell attack like Lemon_Duck is ensuring passwords are regularly updated and aren’t among the list of those being tested by the scripts it is using.
In general, IBM experts recommend fending off cryptojacking by blocking the latest scripts using updated intrusion detection and prevention signatures.
Writer & Editor
Shane Schick is a contributor for SecurityIntelligence.