Crypto Me0wing attacks: Kitty cashes in on Monero

It’s been a month since the first Drupalgeddon 2.0 RCE (SA-CORE-2018-002/CVE-2018-7600) exploit was first published, unleashing its destruction into the wild… and through our cloud monitoring systems.

As expected, since then we’ve been picking up various attack variants piggybacking on the Drupalgeddon 2.0 exploit, including remote scanners and backdoor attempts. In accordance with the latest dark web app hype, it wasn’t long until we started picking up cryptojacking exploit attempts directed at remote servers as well.

In our recent cryptojacking blog posts we covered a wide range of cryptojacking attack techniques, ranging from infecting a single target to a worm-like infection of the connected networks operating as miners farms. The above-mentioned attacks, part of the recent cryptojacking attack trend, are quickly becoming fashionable among web attackers – harnessing vulnerable machines as miners in their digital cave.

In this post, we touch on yet another cryptojacking technique; distributing the mining effort beyond the targeted web application servers and internal network and reaching future visitors of the attacked web applications.

Hello Kitty

The latest critical RCE (remote code execution) vulnerability in Drupal — one of the most popular CMSs today — piqued the attackers’ interest who, in turn, harnessed recent exploits of this vulnerability to carry out various web application attacks. In a nutshell, the Drupalgeddon 2.0 vulnerability is caused by insufficient sanitation of arrays objects at Drupal’s core modules, which can be used as an entry point to remote execution of malicious code. During the inspection of the attacks blocked by our systems, we came across the Kitty malware, an advanced Monero cryptocurrency miner, utilizing a webminerpool, an open source mining software for browsers (see Figure 1).

Crypto Me0wing attacks

Figure 1: Infection attempt

Saving some for later

Once the Kitty bash script is executed, a PHP file named kdrupal.php (Figure 2) is written to the infected server disc. In doing so, the attacker reinforces their foothold in the infected server and guarantees dominance using a backdoor independent of the Drupal vulnerability.

Crypto Me0wing attacks

Figure 2: kdrupal.php encoded backdoor

Below is the Base64 decoded source code of the Kitty’s PHP backdoor which, although fairly light and simple, must be given some credit for using the sha512 hash function for protecting the attacker remote authentication.

Crypto Me0wing attacks

Figure 3: kdrupal.php decoded backdoor

Next, the script registers a time-based job scheduler (cronjob) which periodically re-downloads and executes a bash script from a remote host, every minute, giving the attacker the ability to re-infect the server or quickly change or push updates to the infected servers under their control.

Crypto Me0wing attacks

Figure 4: Scheduled task

Server infection

Once the attacker gets a persistent hold of the server, a mining program kkworker, which is the well-known xmrig Monero miner, is installed and starts the mining process (Figure 5).

Crypto Me0wing attacks

Figure 5: Server infection with xmrig

Browser infection

Gaining a single, strong mining server is great. The attacker, however, has much bigger plans – distributing the mining effort to the web app visitors. To do so, the attacker infects different web resources with a mining script – me0w.js (see details below).

The attacker initially tries to alter the commonly used index.php file and add to it the malicious JavaScript me0w.js (Figure 6).

Crypto Me0wing attacks

Figure 6: Injection of me0w.js to index.php

They then scan for all JavaScript files on the server and, once found, inject the same malicious me0w.js file (Figure 7).

Crypto Me0wing attacks

Figure 7: Injection of me0w.js to all JavaScript files

In doing so, the attacker infects any future visitor on the infected web server sites to mine cryptocurrency for his disposal.

Lastly, to win over kitty lovers’ hearts, the attacker cheekily asks to leave his malware alone by printing ‘me0w, don’t delete pls i am a harmless cute little kitty, me0w’ (Figure 8).

Crypto Me0wing attacks


…good thing we’re dog people.

As explained above, the attackers use an open source webminer. The JavaScript they currently inject is mostly the same as the one on Github. One of the differences (Figure 9), is a simple load balancing capability that the attackers added to the open source library, juggling between three websocket hosts at random. This is presumably to handle the amount of traffic generated from all the infected websites.

Crypto Me0wing attacks

Figure 9: Attackers addition to the open source webminer

What we know about the author

The Monero address used in Kitty was also spotted at the start of April 2018, in attacks targeting web servers that run the vBulletin 4.2.X CMS. The attacker uploaded the malware to the infected vBulletin web servers, turning them into distribution centers and making it much harder to track the attacker. Additionally, the attacker was kind enough to update the malware version after every change in its code.

The first generation of the Kitty malware we discovered was version 1.5, and the latest version is 1.6. This type of behavior can be an indication of an organized attacker, developing their malware like a software product, fixing bugs and releasing new features in cycles.

Imperva customers protected

Imperva SecureSphere and Incapsula WAF customers are protected from this attack due to our zero-day and RCE detection rules. We also published a new dedicated security rule to provide maximum protection against possible mutations of this attack.

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