Gh0stCringe RAT Targeting Database Servers in Recent Attacks


Security researchers have identified a series of recent Gh0stCringe RAT attacks that target MS-SQL and MySQL database servers for credential harvesting and data exfiltration.

First spotted in 2018, the threat is based on publicly released Gh0st RAT source code and targets poorly secured servers, researchers with the AhnLab Security Emergency Response Center (ASEC) say.

Analysis of the malware shows that parts of Gh0st RAT’s source code were used without modifications, yet the majority of Gh0stCringe’s code is unique, which sets it apart from normal variants.

Also referred to as CirenegRAT, Gh0stCringe was found on machines previously infected with Vollgar CoinMiner and other malware being distributed through brute force attacks.

The threat was designed to connect to a command and control (C&C) server and perform various actions based on instructions received from its operators.

The malware can copy itself to specific locations on the machine, packs various analysis disruption functions, drops a keylogger, can kill specific processes, and features several execution modes (to achieve persistence or not).

On the infected system, the threat collects and exfiltrates a variety of system information, including IP address, host name, and installed security solutions, along with signs of activity over the previous three minutes.

[ READ: Crypto-Hijacking Campaign Leverages New Golang RAT ]

Based on commands received from the C&C, the malware can download additional payloads, connect to a specific website, steal user credentials and data from clipboard, and collect Tencent-related file information. What’s more, Gh0stCringe can destroy the MBR, rendering the machine unusable.

The threat can also update and uninstall itself, can register Run Key, terminate or reboot the machine, scan the system for specific processes, display pop-up messages, and install additional modules.

Database servers are typically targeted in brute force and dictionary attacks, and only rarely fall victim to the exploitation of known, unpatched vulnerabilities, the ASEC researchers note.

Thus, administrators are advised to always secure their servers using difficult-to-guess passwords, and make sure that the latest patches are installed, to prevent compromise. Furthermore, admins are advised to install and maintain security solutions such as firewalls for all databases accessible externally.

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Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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