BlackBerry discovers China has been freely hacking Linux servers for a decade unnoticed

Dakota Tebaldi

Well-known member
VVO Supporter 🍦🎈👾❤
Joined
Sep 19, 2018
Messages
5,382
Location
Gulf Coast, USA
Joined SLU
02-22-2008
SLU Posts
16791
BlackBerry - you remember them, right? A long time ago they made phones, but when Apple and Android finally secured a duopoly on that market BlackBerry transitioned into a software security company and is fairly respected on that front today.

Yesterday BlackBerry released a report detailing how Chinese hackers have been able to compromise Linux-based servers basically with impunity for the last ten years at least, because most IT security efforts are concentrated on end-user commercial operating systems like Windows and Android, while conversely pretty much nobody anywhere pays meaningful attention to Linux server security.

The cross-platform aspect of the attacks is also of particular concern in light of security challenges posed by the sudden increase in remote workers. The tools identified in these ongoing attack campaigns are already in place to take advantage of work-from-home mandates, and the diminished number of personnel onsite to maintain security of these critical systems compounds the risks. While the majority of the workforce has left the office as part of containment efforts in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, intellectual property remains in enterprise data centers, most of which run on Linux.

Linux runs nearly all of the top 1 million websites online, 75% of all web servers, 98% of the world’s supercomputers and 75% of major cloud service providers (Netcraft, 2019, Linux Foundation, 2020). Most large organizations rely on Linux to run websites, proxy network traffic and store valuable data. The BlackBerry report examines how APTs have leveraged the “always on, always available” nature of Linux servers to establish a “beachhead for operations” across a wide swath of targets.

“Linux is not typically user-facing, and most security companies focus their engineering and marketing attention on products designed for the front office instead of the server rack, so coverage for Linux is sparse” said Eric Cornelius, Chief Product Architect at BlackBerry. “These APT groups have zeroed in on that gap in security and leveraged it for their strategic advantage to steal intellectual property from targeted sectors for years without anyone noticing.”
 

Fionalein

an old grumpy cat
Joined
Jul 30, 2019
Messages
1,522
SL Rez
2017
[RANT]
1st off anyone who starts a report differentiating Linux from Android is not considered a valid source by me, Andoid is a Linux OS.

This is an add for Blackberry - which's system allegedly got not hacked - but guess why? Because they are no more important! Just because millions af non-professionals run Linux servers without a clue about security does not mean by any means that commercial big players do so as well. The fact they don't even pay attention to this detail would make me very reluctant to entrust my professional data to such snake oil salesmen as Blackberry (who I bet run Linux too on their closed servers...).

[/RANT]
 
Last edited:

GoblinCampFollower

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 20, 2018
Messages
730
SL Rez
2007
...pretty much nobody anywhere pays meaningful attention to Linux server security.
This sounds very fish to me. Linux is very intensely studied by many people and this includes a lot of security professionals. And as Fionalein pointed out, some personal computing systems like Android are linux based. I'd want to know more about what vulnerability they were exploiting and if it's specific to linux on servers and/or if this really is just because of bad server setup and the "linux" name was used for clicks.
 

Dakota Tebaldi

Well-known member
VVO Supporter 🍦🎈👾❤
Joined
Sep 19, 2018
Messages
5,382
Location
Gulf Coast, USA
Joined SLU
02-22-2008
SLU Posts
16791
1st off anyone who starts a report differentiating Linux from Android is not considered a valid source by me, Andoid is a Linux OS.
The differentiation isn't just between Linux and Android - of course Android is Linux-based; the differentiation is between Android the OS and Linux-based server systems.

This is an add for Blackberry - which's system allegedly got not hacked - but guess why? Because they are no more important! Just because millions af non-professionals run Linux servers without a clue about security does not mean by any means that commercial big players do so as well. The fact they don't even pay attention to this detail would make me very reluctant to entrust my professional data to such snake oil salesmen as Blackberry (who I bet run Linux too on their closed servers...).
This whole paragraph tells me you didn't even click on the link and read the release, because what you're saying here has no relationship with the report BlackBerry actually made.

BlackBerry is an IT security company, equivalent to say Symantec. It's not "selling" any product or service in this report, it's just a report. That's like saying Google's announcement of their finding of the Intel "Meltdown" CPU security flaw was an ad for Google. Here's a link to the BB report itself as a PDF, I suggest you read it yourself.

Some highlights:

Five APT groups acting in the interest of the Chinese government and assessed to be employing WINNTI-style tooling have taken strategic aim at Linux servers that serve a critical role in enterprise network environments and have done so while remaining relatively undetected for nearly a decade. These groups target Red Hat Enterprise, CentOS, and Ubuntu Linux environments systemically across a wide array of industry verticals for the purposes of espionage and intellectual property theft. The APT groups examined include the original WINNTI GROUP, PASSCV, BRONZE UNION, CASPER (LEAD), and a newly identified group BlackBerry researchers are tracking as WLNXSPLINTER.
A PASSCV Android implant examined in this report very closely resembles code marketed as the penetration testing tool NetWire for Android, yet the malware is shown to have been compiled nearly two years before the commercial NetWire tool was first made available for purchase.
The report doesn't just talk about Linux, btw. For instance, regarding Windows:

The APT groups examined in this report have shifted from signing malware certificates stolen from video game companies to signing malware with certificates stolen from adware vendors, resulting in very low detection rates. It is assessed that this was being done to bypass network defenders by hiding malware within the high volume of innocuous adware alerts large organizations typically receive in any given day.
But the Linux server malware is by far the bigger news because, as the report points out,

Linux runs the stock exchanges in New York, London and Tokyo, and nearly all the big tech and e-commerce giants are dependent on it, including the likes of Google, Yahoo, and Amazon. Most U.S. government agencies and the Department of Defense also rely heavily on the Linux operating system, and it runs virtually all of the top onemillion websites and 75% of all web servers (Netcraft, 2019). Linux powers 98% of the world’s most advanced supercomputers, and if you or your organization stores data in the cloud, you’ll find Linux running in the background more than 75% of the time (Linux Foundation, 2020).
 
  • 1Thanks
Reactions: Noodles

Govi

feral ballerina
VVO Supporter 🍦🎈👾❤
Joined
Sep 20, 2018
Messages
806
Location
North of Surf City
SL Rez
2004
Joined SLU
27.05.2009
SLU Posts
5294

Surprise, surprise! Security by obscurity fails again. Who'd a thunk it?