HeadCrab Botnet Ensnares 1,200 Redis Servers for Cryptomining

A sophisticated piece of malware named HeadCrab has ensnared at least 1,200 Redis servers worldwide, Aqua Security reports.

Designed to run on secure networks, Redis servers do not have authentication enabled and are prone to unauthorized access if exposed to the internet.

Redis servers can be set up in clusters, which allows for data to be divided and stored on multiple servers. The structure uses a master server and slave servers for data replication and synchronization, where the Slaveof command is used to designate slave servers.

In an observed HeadCrab infection, this command was used to set victim servers as slaves to a Redis instance controlled by the attackers. Next, malicious modules from the master server were synchronized, to deploy the malware.

The malware provides attackers with full control over the infected servers and supports a series of commands that allow them to perform various actions on the victim machines.

The purpose of the campaign was to ensnare internet-exposed Redis servers into a botnet for cryptocurrency mining. Aqua identified roughly 1,200 infected servers and estimates that the attackers made an annual profit of almost $4,500 per worker, based on the identified Monero wallet.

Created as a Redis module framework, the HeadCrab malware goes undetected by some security products, according to Aqua. Upon malware execution, a module is loaded and information about the action is stored for future checks, ensuring that only one instance of HeadCrab runs.

If the module is loaded with two arguments (magic numbers), eight default Redis commands are overridden to avoid detection. The malware also deletes the Redis log file or empties it if it was recreated.

The threat also locates the dynamic loader to execute processes under its name, another way to evade detection. It also checks for several service management programs, which are later used for persistence.

Next, new Redis commands are created, allowing the attackers to control the malware. These are meant to ensure further persistence, execute commands, replace default commands with malicious ones, update magic numbers, establish encrypted communication with the command-and-control (C&C) server, reenable debugging, and restore the overridden commands.

“Our investigation has revealed that HeadCrab’s botnet has already taken control of over 1,200 servers, all infected with this malware. It is our conviction that HeadCrab will persist in using cutting-edge techniques to penetrate servers, either through exploiting misconfigurations or vulnerabilities,” Aqua Security concludes.

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