NewsSeptember 6, 2017 @ 6:25 AM

Resurgent Malware Attack Targets MongoDB

Security researchers uncovered a new wave of concentrated attacks against MongoDB installations. The campaign is reminiscent of a malware attack from late 2016 and early 2017 in which unsecured databases were cleared and replaced with a fraudulent ransom note. Those who paid the ransom found that their data was permanently lost.

New Malware Attack Hits MongoDB

Bleeping Computer attributed the discovery to security researchers Dylan Katz and Victor Gevers. Gevers is the chairman of the GDI Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization that aims to secure devices exposed online.

Katz unearthed the MongoDB attacks as part of this work, which also involved cryptocurrency miners, Arris modems and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Gevers said he would consult with additional security experts to examine the attacks more closely.

According to a Google Docs spreadsheet compiled by several security researchers to track the issue, including the previous MongoDB ransomware strikes, three email addresses were associated with these new attacks. These infected over 26,000 servers. That is an extremely high number of compromises for a short period of time.

Gevers also told Bleeping Computer that he had observed cases in which a threat actor breached a user’s database before the user restored the data from backups. At that point, the malware operators hijacked the database once more because the victim failed to properly secure it.

Possible Causes and Remediation Steps

Gevers could not paint a clear picture as to how the hijacking was even possible. He said he was confused by missing pieces of the overall puzzle, and he wondered whether a lack of knowledge on the victims’ part came into play. He also suggested that the victims may have been running on older versions of the database without safe defaults.

For its part, MongoDB posted a detailed list of steps to avoid attacks like this. Security professionals responsible for securing MongoDB databases would be wise to review these mitigation steps.

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Larry Loeb

Principal, PBC Enterprises

Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek. He wrote for IBM's DeveloperWorks site for seven years and has written a book on the Secure Electronic Transaction Internet protocol. His latest book has the commercially obligatory title of Hack Proofing XML. He's been online since uucp "bang" addressing (where the world existed relative to !decvax), serving as editor of the Macintosh Exchange on BIX and the VARBusiness Exchange.