By Luke DuCharme and Paul Lee.

What Happened?

Cisco Incident Response (CSIRS) recently responded to an incident involving the Watchbog cryptomining botnet. The attackers were able to exploit CVE-2018-1000861 to gain a foothold and install the Watchbog malware on the affected systems.

This Linux-based malware relied heavily on Pastebin for command and control (C2) and operated openly. CSIRS gained an accurate understanding of the attacker’s intentions and abilities on a customer’s network by analyzing the various Pastebins. As the investigation progressed, CSIRS identified and de-obfuscated multiple pastes using artifacts left on compromised hosts.

There were some attempts at obfuscation, such as base64 encoding URLs and Pastebins, but the attack was still relatively simple to uncover – this attacker did not practice particularly strong operational security.

The attackers behind Watchbog claimed to be providing a service by identifying security vulnerabilities and aiding the organization by exploiting said weaknesses before any “real” hackers could do so. During the investigation, Cisco IR found signs of hosts becoming a part of a separate botnet around the time of the Watchbog activity. This raises serious doubts about the “positive” intentions of this adversary. Below is a message left on a compromised system by the adversary:

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