In April, Akamai reported that threat actors compromised 65,000 home routers by exploiting vulnerabilities in Universal Plug’N’Play (UPnP), experts tracked the botnet as UPnProxy. Now the company provided an update to its initial analysis revealing a disconcerting scenario, UPnProxy is still up and running.
The UPnP communication protocol is widely adopted even if it is known to be vulnerable. In early 2013, researchers at Rapid7 published an interesting whitepaper entitled “Security Flaws in Universal Plug and Play” that evaluated the global exposure of UPnP-enabled network devices.
The report highlighted that over 23 million IPs related to Portable UPnP SDK were vulnerable to remote code execution just through a single UDP packet, over 6,900 product versions from over 1,500 vendors were vulnerable through UPnP due to the exposure of UPnP SOAP service to the internet.
Abusing the protocol attackers can control the traffic in and out the networks, UPnP allows the automated negotiation and configuration of port opening/forwarding within a NATed networking environment.
The malicious botnet uncovered by Akamai is composed of vulnerable devices including malicious NAT injections, it turns routers into proxies, for this reason, the experts called the injected devices UPnProxy.
Experts recommend users to install routers update and patched firmware to mitigate the threat. According to Akamai, many UPnP vulnerabilities are still unpatched, the experts found that out of a pool of 3.5 million potentially vulnerable routers, 277,000 were still open to UPnProxy, and 45,000 have been compromised.
“In Akamai’s previous research, we highlighted the possibility that attackers could leverage UPnProxy to exploit systems living behind the compromised router. Unfortunately, data from this recent batch of injections suggests this is exactly what’s happening.” Akamai notes.
“For home users, these attacks can lead to a number of complications, such as degraded service, malware infections, ransomware, and fraud. But for business users, these recent developments could mean systems that were never supposed to exist on the internet in the first place, could now be living there unknowingly, greatly increasing their chances of being compromised. Even more concerning, the services being exposed by this particular campaign have a history of exploitation related to crippling worms and ransomware campaigns targeting both Windows and Linux platforms.”
The latest campaign observed by Akamai tracked as EternalSilence, is targeting millions of machines living behind the vulnerable routers by leveraging the EternalBlue and EternalRed (CVE-2017-7494) exploits.
“Taking current disclosures and events into account, Akamai researchers believe that someone is attempting to compromise millions of machines living behind the vulnerable routers by leveraging the EternalBlue and EternalRed exploits.” continues Akamai.
“Unfortunately, Akamai researchers are not able to see what happens after the injections are have occurred , they can only see the injections themselves and not the final payloads that would be directed at the machines exposed. However, a successful attack could yield a target rich environment, opening up the chance for such things as ransomware attacks, or a persistent foothold on the network.”
Experts observed millions of successful injections attempting to compromise millions of systems running SMB services, Akamai researchers speculate attackers are leveraging the Eternal family of exploits belonging to the NSA arsenal.
Hackers hijacked some 45,113 routers that expose a total of 1.7 million unique machines to the attackers.
“Additionally, there is no way to tell if EternalBlue or EternalRed was used to successfully compromise the exposed machine. However, if only a fraction of the potentially exposed systems were successfully compromised and fell into the hands of the attackers, the situation would quickly turn from bad to worse,” states Akamai.
According to the experts, that attackers are being opportunistic, they are scanning the Internet for SSDP and pivoting to the TCP UPnP daemons or is targeting a set of devices that use static ports (TCP/2048) and paths (/etc/linuxigd/gatedesc.xml) for their UPnP daemons.
“Criminals are clever, and will take any advantage they can get when it comes to exploiting systems and services. So, while it is unfortunate to see UPnProxy being actively leveraged to attack systems previously shielded behind the NAT, it was bound to happen eventually.” concludes Akamai. “That these attacks likely leverage two well-known vulnerabilities, which have been patched for some time, should come as no surprise.”