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ShellShock exploited in the wild: kernel exploit with CnC component (github.com)
160 points by SchizoDuckie 1007 days ago | hide | past | web | 71 comments | favorite


I ran the "nginx" binary thru strace in a vagrant vm and got some connection attempts to a clouldflare IP

connect(3, {sa_family=AF_INET, sin_port=htons(80), sin_addr=inet_addr("")}, 16) = 0

but didn't see anything interesting being sent there... My tcpdump output showed it connects to a http server at and exchanges some data there

sent >>> BUILD X86

recv >>> !* HTTP

recv >>>,,,, pastebin.com /4HQ2w4AZ 80 2

recv >>> PING

sent >>> PONG

then it just goes to do ping/pong with the same server. At one point the process forks a separate process of itself and dies...

The pastebin link leads to an uploadcash.org file named hermoine_granger_jpg.jpg which I can assume is a payload of somekind...

Interesting that they're presumably hiding behind Cloudflare, does it send a HTTP Host header?

FWIW, it doesn't appear to be a new bit of malware - the same strings match this pastebin from March - http://pastebin.com/xa87Gh7q

Yes the syntax looks familiar, I got few more responses that match the commands from that pastebin. Seems like a general C&C setup where they just add new exploits as they get published.

Anyhow, doesn't seem like it sends anything to Cloudflare. I think it just checks if the IP is alive (perhaps this is how it tests connectivity to the internet). It also checks my routing table and extracts the MAC address.

P.S as of now, the CC server at is not accessible.

Could someone explain to me if what I think this gist shows is correct?

A get request is sent to the server with additional commands added to the content, which creates the file ./tmp/besh whose content comes from the ngix file from The executable flag is set and then the file gets executed.

The next three commands show information about the downloaded nginx file (check sums, file command info). For what reason? Is the file really an nginx server or is it just named like this to show that nginx is exploitable? I know that this is basically about the bash exploit, right?


The file is only named nginx. The file has been downloaded from an untrested server,, so it could be anything really.

The title/description of the gist claims it is a kernel exploit with CnC (Command and Control) capabilities. So yeah, the file is only named nginx; it doesn't have anything to do with the popular web server software of the same name. Probably named that way to avoid suspicion

> Probably named that way to avoid suspicion

Correct, it is usually done to conceal the process in process listings (top / ps aux).

Thank you for the clarification!

I see. Thank you!

You know what would be super clever?

Discovering a case where wget shells out to bash while setting some env vars based on received headers. And then anonymously posting a supposed shellshock payload just begging to be downloaded with wget.

I just grep'ed the latest version of wget and didn't find any reference to system()

> wget shells out to bash

Why oh why would this ever happen?

This hole bug is way overblown. Not every small program on the planet "shells out to bash", and if they do, thats one seriously messed up program.

I don't think it's overblown.

If you run a web server that generates its own CAPTCHA using something like ImageMagick, or call system() to gzip something, you could possibly be vulnerable.

Never underestimate vulnerabilities and the way people can use them, or even combine them, to exploit systems.

> or call system() to gzip something

Are you serious, who the hell does that!?

Any half-assed language has a zip implementation, use that. Any non-boring language has image-magick binding to that library.

This bug affects complete idiots.

>This bug affects complete idiots

Consider how many people touch an enterprise system, or even a system at a smaller shop. Consider how many people touch shared hosting servers or even dedicated boxes.

Do /you/ trust all of them, along with all the authors of all the software exposed to the web (or touched by something exposed to the web) on that system?

On shared hosting systems, you have to design the system with the assumption that someone is always compromised. So, additional accounts getting compromised should just be business as usual.

Seriously, if you're on shared hosting, it's almost certain that at least one person on the server is compromised/malicious

Why would it be messed up if it's true? The Unix philosophy is to compose complex functionality using lots of small tools. Shelling out to existing tools instead of reinventing your own makes total sense.

Generally, that is true for small feats of system automation, but secure applications need to be isolated from the system layer.

But wget is not specialized security software.

I have seen implementations that shell out to bash scripts throughout my career in web and back-end development. It's a serious antipattern in the wild.

Which kernel exploit are they using? One of the old ones or is it a zero day?

This information is, frankly, more interesting than the fact that ShellShock is being exploited in the wild. Really, it was only a matter of time.

There is actually no kernel exploit in this. It appears to be a generic DDoS/Bruteforce bot.


>is it a zero day?

The most obvious answer is no.

I imagine that there would be little need for a 0day. Also, if your setup allows you to be exploited via HTTP, chances are high that you're running old stuff anyway.

Somone is going to make a fortune mining bitcoin in the coming weeks.

You could bot up every server at AmaGooBookSoft and still not make an appreciable amount of money mining Bitcoin, though I suppose that is not true if you go to one of the scrypt altcoins. CPU mining is very uncompetitive. A CPU miner is upper bounded at about 100 mega-hash per second (100 * 10^6 hashes) and more typically closer to 5 * 10^6. 100 megahash per second is worth approximately two cents per month. My off-the-cuff estimate for AmaGooBookSoft is 300k servers, which gets you about $6k a month or $200 a day if you rooted all of them and they were the most effective CPUs ever reported for mining Bitcoin.

The far more likely way for this bug resulting in someone exfiltrating lots of bitcoins is them hitting every Bitcoin exchange looking for e.g. cPanel on a development box, Wordpress hosted on Nginx with fastcgi, etc etc. If they find one, they've got the hot wallet inside of five minutes later if it is on the same box, a bit more if it is somewhere else on the local network.

(I've got to admit, the first thing I did after patching my boxes, to relax about the stress, was grepping Bitcoin Core for system calls. No obvious ones that I could see, for what it is worth.)

If I can emphasize again, though: just because you don't engage in risky behaviors like e.g. transacting in bitcoins, doesn't mean your boxes are safe. Every. Server. On. The. Internet. Will be probed for a variety of exploits enabled by this vulnerability. There will be dozens of independently administered for loops probing for it within 24 hours.

How did you patch your boxes? From my understanding there are still no patches.

I believe you are mistaken (unless you aren't talking about 'shellshock'). A patch was available almost immediately from most major distros.


> -- Marc Deslauriers <email address hidden> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 15:31:07 -0400

Also, very amusing: > bash (4.2-2ubuntu2.2) precise-security; urgency=medium

urgency=medium? Shouldn't it be: urgency="don't even finish your lunch; run"

The fix for CVE-2014-6271 (shellshock) was incomplete, resulting in CVE-2014-7169 to track a better fix.

CVE-2014-7169 has not been yet been patched.

You are correct, just spotted that myself. Excellent news all around.

That patch doesnt fix the whole issue.

The fix right now is to mv bash ohhellnobarsh && ln -s dash sh

Or such.

FWIW your off the cuff estimate for AmaGooBookSoft servers is off by an order of magnitude (possibly 2 orders if you're talking about all 4 companies combined).

This affects current systems which were up-to-date before yesterday, so I question your assertion that this only affects older systems.

If ShellShock is currently un-patched, it is in fact a 0 day right? Just a very public one. Should we like not be connected to the internet until this is fixed? Are personal routers vulnerable?

A 0 day means we don't know of it's existence, if it's been previous mentioned and people have failed to patch it then it isn't a 0-day anymore. The term comes from the "zero days to fix". Since we've had time to fix this problem, and failed to, it is no longer a 0-day. Hypothetically, third parties might have been safe from this if they fixed it independently.

I guess most personal routers do not ship with bash. This is what mine says:

# ls -l /bin/*sh

lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 12 Feb 9 2014 /bin/ash -> /bin/busybox

lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 12 Feb 9 2014 /bin/sh -> /bin/busybox

The bash exploit may not be a zero-day, but it only executes a payload allegedly containing a kernel exploit. The question seems to be, is that brand new?

Most likely they're packaging some already published local root exploit and combining it with ShellShock.

What does CnC mean here? (Google doesn't tell me.)

Command and control. One frequent thing that black hats do is have all the boxes they root subscribe to e.g. an IRC channel, so that they can receive further commands. The ratware ("software written with nefarious purposes in mind") often comes pre-configured with options for blasting spam, hosting content on HTTP (for SEO or exploitative purposes), doing DOSes, and executing arbitrary commands against the local system.

One can, of course, envision numerous ways to get data in and out without it being an IRC channel, but that is easy to implement, works across a wide variety of target environments, and plays well with the existing ratware ecosystem.

"Command and control", I guess? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Botnet#Organization

Command and Control

I had this stupid idea long ago of using "security by obscurity" and rename some commands that are typically used manually and are favorite ones of exploits like this, for ex: curl, wget, gcc -> rename to le_curl, le_wget, le_gcc etc, just for my use. Maybe it wasn't such a stupid idea.

On a hardened system you remove all unnecessary binaries completely. See, for example, PCI DSS section 2.2.5.


yes, but those commands (wget, curl, gcc and a few others) are unnecessary usually but sometimes needed once in a while, ideally you could uninstall them and then install on demand.

Your idea won't work and also would prevent most scripts in your system to work correctly.

I wrote unix exploits for a living for years (All legit, in a pentest company) and for payloads I would normally use echo or printf to upload a binary and execute it. And those are built-in commands in the shell.

I know, still most of the script kiddy attacks I see (on a honeypot ssh for ex) are of the 'wget download bad script' type. I typically uninstall gcc and my scripts don't use wget/curl/scp, now rsync otoh... can't blacklist all possible tools, you may as well netfilter traffic to block non-root initiated traffic going out.

In case you want to test for ShellSheck https://suite.websecurify.com/market/shellshock

Or just run from terminal:

         env x='() { :;}; echo vulnerable' bash -c "echo this is a test"
This should be displayed:

      bash: warning: x: ignoring function definition attempt
      bash: error importing function definition for `x'
      this is a test

This test is for public sites. The vulnerability effects web apps too in a big way.

"Warning: This application requires Websecurify Browser Extension for Google Chrome."


As a best practice, you should use it in a separate profile but this is the only way to benefit from this technology.

Want more exploit POC? Search 'CVE-2014-6271' on pastebin, gist.github and twitter. There's a bunch of remote shells since yesterday.

I am a bit confused. Why would a webserver start bash?

Any CGI script which was written in bash, that's the worry. Since mod_cgi uses environment variables to pass along HTTP headers, those programs are sure to touch the environment.

Even if the CGI script is in some other language, think of how many .sh wrapper scripts there are out there.

EDIT: http://lcamtuf.blogspot.com/2014/09/quick-notes-about-bash-b... explains it better

One example: If a server script calls system(), it actually pops up a shell to execute the command.

Which has not been standard security practice for last 20 years - Do Not Use System or Execve or any other stuff from your php/web-scripts. Not. Ever.

This bug only affects people who dont care about security.

> This bug only affects people who dont care about security.

And those running code written by people who don't know any better...

If you are an admin for servers running third part code that you have not verified every line of, you need to be concerned about anything like this just in case said code does something that isn't considered best practise.

Also if the CGI code path uses affected functions, you are not going to be protected by avoiding using them in the code that is eventually called.

Serious question - how do you run utility programs to do things without system()?

Run the program without starting a shell?

This is exactly what system() does.

No, system() uses /bin/sh to run the program.

Which is symbolically linked to /bin/bash on many of my systems.

no, you need to use the exec* family function to start a process without invoking the shell. Take care, it does not really start a new program. It replaces the current executing program. So, you will need to fork beforehand.

Execve, but even that is stretching it, if I write something in Python and someone would tell me "hey use system() or subprocess" I tell them, no thanks, I would rather not do it - then go look for python-way of doing it, if its an image library or whatever it is that needs to be done.

Now you say, but you really really have to run this "utility" with subprocessing or whatever. Well, then its outside of python program and instead of relying on subprocessing Id consider exposing that utility as an interface and writing a small protocl through which the python and utility can exchange data. You most probably have to parse output of utility anyway, better do it right straight away. And if you dont have to parse output of utility - then you send a signal/request/messaging-bus to a listerner which will do what you want - but now with cleaned environment.

That "solution" won't protect you from this.

All you're doing is hiding the call to system/execve behind deeper layers of abstraction.

Plus if people actually went ahead and reproduced all of the GNU/busybox toolchain inside of Python then everyone would be queuing up to criticise them, particularly if they introduced more security issues (e.g. reproducing rsync fully within a Python library).

Realistically using execve instead of system is a step forward. It is more efficient for non-scripts and you aren't potentially picking up poisoned environmental variables. But if you NEED to run utilities then all you can really do is pre-parse all the parameters carefully and hope for the best.

Suggesting never using either execve or system is just highly unrealistic. There is just too much useful code available via it and aren't nearly enough libraries to reproduce all of that code within whatever language you're working.

> All you're doing is hiding the call to system/execve behind deeper layers of abstraction.

Thats the point, layers where environment variables do not pass - since they in that abstraction do not make sense.

> Plus if people actually went ahead and reproduced all of the GNU/busybox toolchain inside of Python

Basically all of gnu coreutils/busybox, is already inside python, its called import os.

For your rsync example, python-librsync exists. C library, with python binding/interface. No need to run a bash to use the algorithm. If you still want to exec it, then use pythons binding to exceve system call or similar, not to system.

I didnt suggest never to use execve and/or system, I said do not ever use system, sometimes highly questionably use execve.

The standard way of doing things in Python is to use subprocess __without__ Shell.


CGI scripts do

The scale of pwning going on is unbelievable.

Where is the kernel exploit in this? Whats so kernel about some script which probably just replaces nginx with a malwared one?

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