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Monday, 25 February 2013 11:51

Attack vector for SSHD rootkit not yet identified

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An SSHD rootkit that is in the wild is continuing to attack systems and there is as yet no indication as to the attack vector.

According to Orien Wu, social media co-ordinator of the WebHosting Talk forum, it appears that both Red Hat-based and Debian servers are affected. Servers with control panels such as cPanel, DirectAdmin and Plesk are also affected.

SSHD is the daemon that implements the secure shell (SSH) protocol; SSH is is a program used to log into another computer over a network, to execute commands in a remote machine, and to move files from one machine to another. It provides strong authentication and secure communications over insecure channels.

The most popular impementation of SSH, used by many Linux systems, is OpenSSH which is a project managed by the OpenBSD project.

OpenSSH developer Damien Miller told iTWire: "This one is interesting as it attacks the SSH server of the system without actually modifying it directly; instead it replaces one of the shared libraries that it depends upon to inject its malicious code without touching sshd itself, presumably to hide a little better (though it isn't a stealthy rootkit by any stretch of the imagination).

"As such, it isn't representative of any vulnerability in OpenSSH itself, it's just another demonstration of the devious things an attacker can do once they have full control of a system."

Miller said it wasn't clear how the attackers initially gained access to the affected systems.

"But any host with a rootkit installed must be treated as compromised and any data on it potentially in the hands of the attackers," he said.

"In addition to the information and databases the host may have been serving, it should be assumed that the attackers have copies of the private SSH and SSL/TLS host keys and any passwords on the system.

"Once any forensic investigation is complete and the initial exploit that gave the attackers access found and fixed, a rootkitted system should be freshly reinstalled. The system administrator shouldn't assume that this is the only rootkit present, far more stealthy ones exist."


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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