Home Security Cryptocurrency miner attack used NSA exploits before WannaCry

Cryptocurrency miner attack used NSA exploits before WannaCry

Attackers used the NSA exploits utilised by the WannaCry creators to create a tool for mining for the Monero cryptocurrency well before last weekend's ransomware crisis, according to researchers from the Proofpoint cyber security company.

The NSA exploits in question were EternalBlue and DoublePulsar, with the former used to create the WannaCry malware and the latter used to actually generate the ransomware.

The WannaCry attacks appear to have tapered off after a British security researcher registered a domain listed in the malware code, inadvertently stopping its spread.

A Proofpoint researcher, who goes by the moniker Kafeine, says that well in advance of the WannaCry attack, another large-scale attack took place to install the cryptocurrency miner Adylkuzz.

News of this attack remained under the radar because Adylkuzz does its work quietly, acting to generate the Monero cryptocurrency.

Kafeine wrote that the spread of Adylkuzz may have, in fact, reduced the number of WannaCry infections because it shut off SMB services once it had infected a vulnerable Windows machine.

"However, it should be noted that the Adylkuzz campaign significantly predates the WannaCry attack, beginning at least on 2 May and possibly as early as 24 April," Kafeine wrote.

"This attack is ongoing and, while less flashy than WannaCry, is nonetheless quite large and potentially quite disruptive."

He said the was launched from several virtual private servers which were conducting large-scale scan of the Internet looking for potential targets that had TCP port 445 open.

"Upon successful exploitation via EternalBlue, machines are infected with DoublePulsar. The DoublePulsar backdoor then downloads and runs Adylkuzz from another host," Kafeine wrote.

"Once running, Adylkuzz will first stop any potential instances of itself already running and block SMB communication to avoid further infection. It then determines the public IP address of the victim and downloads the mining instructions, cryptominer, and clean-up tools."

He said it appeared that at any given time there were multiple Adylkuzz command and control servers hosting the binaries of the cryptominer along with the mining instructions.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.