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Apache CouchDB flaws open door to cryptocurrency miners

Vulnerabilities in the open source database software Apache CouchDB are being exploited to plant cryptocurrency miners on vulnerable systems, the security firm Trend Micro claims.

Researcher Hubert Lin said in a blog post that a remote privilege escalation flaw and a command execution vulnerability were both being exploited for this purpose.

"Due to differences in CouchDB’s parsers, exploitation of these vulnerabilities can provide attackers with duplicate keys that allow them access control — including administrator rights — within the system," Lin said. "The attackers can then use these functions to execute arbitrary code."

Patches for these flaws were issued back in November 2017.

CouchDB listens on port 5984/TCP by default. Lin said attackers were first using the command execution flaw to set up an account that had administrative privileges.

Then the newly set up account was used to exploit the remote command execution vulnerability.

A script was then downloaded and it first made sure that any competing cryptocurrency mining activity on the compromised host was killed. Then the cryptocurrency mining executable was downloaded and run.

The persistence of the downloaded cryptocurrency miner was ensured by putting cron jobs in place, Lin said.

The popularity of cryptocurrencies and the fact that such attacks do not call attention to themselves in the manner that malware like ransomware does are behind the growing popularity of using mining scripts.

Lin pointed out that CouchDB was relatively popular. "It ranked 28th out of 300 according to DB-engines rankings of database management systems – and is used by some larger organisations, notably the BBC for their content platforms," he said.

"This means that attackers have access to a fairly large active source of resources for their mining operations."

But he said the the system being targeted was not as important as the existence of vulnerabilities that could be exploited.

"It does not really matter whether it is CouchDB or other database systems such as MongoDB. As long as there’s a chance to exploit an RCE (remote code execution), the threat actors will take advantage of it."


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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.


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