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Hackers Find Home In Amazon EC2 Cloud 89

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the don't-mind-us dept.
snydeq writes "Security researchers have spotted the Zeus botnet running an unauthorized command and control center on Amazon's EC2 cloud computing infrastructure. This marks the first time Amazon Web Services' cloud infrastructure has been used for this type of illegal activity, according to threat researcher Don DeBolt. The hackers got onto Amazon's infrastructure by hacking into a Web site hosted on Amazon's servers and then secretly installing their command and control infrastructure."
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Hackers Find Home In Amazon EC2 Cloud

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  • by iamapizza (1312801) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:28PM (#30390610)
    This is going to Kindle a debate about the merits and demerits of the cloud.
    • by CRiMSON (3495)

      *groan*

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      And the security of Linux... You see , Amazon uses Apache + Linux in their cloud computing system, so the zealots have told me that such an attack is in fact impossible ;--)
    • Well, it looks like I've been doing it wrong all this time. I've been trying to hack the cloud with an axe.

      I just keep whiffing.

    • Re:If anything... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by hesaigo999ca (786966) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:45PM (#30390914) Homepage Journal

      Not really, as everyone knows you have hotmail and gmail accounts that have commands updated each week for certain other types of botnet, so is that to spark a debate about whether or not we should allow hotmail or gmail, certainly not, however, it could go to show there should be a better security implementation on the servers hosting the clouds to quickly locate any compromised machines or code on the servers.

  • And? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kenja (541830) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:34PM (#30390694)
    There is nothing intrinsic to a cloud of computers that makes them any different then the internet in general. Anything that makes use of unprotected computers on the internet will make use of a cloud as well. In fact, from a logical perspective, the internet is a cloud. Its just that access is generally curtailed in some way.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      In fact the internet has been represented as a cloud long before cloud became a buzzword.

    • Re:And? (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @02:02PM (#30391252)

      Wait a minute. I'm a manager, and I've been reading a lot of case studies and watching a lot of webcasts about The Cloud. Based on all of this glorious marketing literature, I, as a manager, have absolutely no reason to doubt the safety of any data put in The Cloud.

      The case studies all use words like "secure", "MD5", "RSS feeds" and "encryption" to describe the security of The Cloud. I don't know about you, but that sounds damn secure to me! Some Clouds even use SSL and HTTP. That's rock solid in my book.

      And don't forget that you have to use Web Services to access The Cloud. Nothing is more secure than SOA and Web Services, with the exception of perhaps SaaS. But I think that Cloud Services 2.0 will combine the tiers into an MVC-compliant stack that uses SaaS to increase the security and partitioning of the data.

      My main concern isn't with the security of The Cloud, but rather with getting my Indian team to learn all about it so we can deploy some first-generation The Cloud applications and Web Services to provide the ultimate platform upon which we can layer our business intelligence and reporting, because there are still a few verticals that we need to leverage before we can move to The Cloud 2.0.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Rycross (836649)
        We need to extend Poe's Law to managerial speak.
      • by cHiphead (17854)

        I will use this verbatim at my next Technology Strategy meeting.

      • The Cloud applications and Web Services to provide the ultimate platform upon which we can layer our business intelligence and reporting, because there are still a few verticals that we need to leverage before we can move to The Cloud 2.0.

        Bingo!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by sjames (1099)
        • Buzzword compliant: check
        • So far into the latest trend we can't even tell if it's real: check
        • Thinking so foggy that "the cloud" is spewing from your ears and covering your office floor like a bad horror film: check!

        There we have it. Metrics never lie! Looks like you're on a one way trip to the executive suite!

      • Jeez, boss, get off Slashdot! News for NERDS. CIO Magazine has its own site.

        I know you sign my performance reviews every year, but that doesn't mean you can invade my home like this.

      • Damn, you didn't miss a meeting did you?
    • I'd like to second this. I'd also like to point out that this applies to security as it relates to anything (cloud computing, Linux, apache, etc). Security is not a product. Security is a process. It is incumbent on administrators and engineers to ensure that they are aware of what they are doing with their technology, and what sort of implications it may have.

      It does little good to build an impenetrable vault and leave the door open all the time.
  • by Yetihehe (971185) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:35PM (#30390718)
    Hackers break into website, but it happens to be hosted on EC2. Hosting in cloud doesn't automagically make your sites more secure.
    • It does make it more scalable though =)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I think the "special" part of the news is that since its being hosted on the cloud its harder to remove - since it'll be running on multiple computers capable of replicating itself across multiple machines. In order to purge it, you'd probably have to take down the entire infected cloud and clean it all seperately or at least all in synch.

      • by MushMouth (5650)

        No, you just change your launch keys and kill the infected nodes, which can all be done in seconds.

        • If it were that easy - why hasn't it been fixed? They claim they've only discovered the botnet, not removed it.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by DaTroof (678806)

            According to the second article [ca.com], it has been fixed.

            Please Note:The legitimate hacked website was contacted and informed about its participation in the Zeus bot activity and accordingly has stopped serving the malicious variant.

      • I think the "special" part of the news is that since its being hosted on the cloud its harder to remove - since it'll be running on multiple computers capable of replicating itself across multiple machines. In order to purge it, you'd probably have to take down the entire infected cloud and clean it all seperately or at least all in synch.

        Or, more likely, just disable the affected virtual instances, and maybe all instances for the affected account (assuming that by violating the hosted instances security, t

      • You'd have to identify the vulnerable section of your webapp, fix the code, destroy all your EC2 instances, and then have them all start up and rebuild based on your new, secure codebase. Good times!
        • by nahdude812 (88157) *

          With EC2, you'd bring up a new node based on the clean AMI, but with a security policy which allows only your IP to talk to it (this is the default). You'd fix the vulnerability and save that instance as a new AMI.

          You'd launch new instances of the clean, fixed AMI. You'd shut down the old infected instances. Done. No downtime and a complete purge.

          Most of your time would be spent fixing the vulnerability, the rest of it are just standard EC2 maintenance tasks that if you're moderately savvy in the cloud

      • by Dan541 (1032000)

        Alternatively you can just terminate the instance. Far easier than disconnecting a physical machine.

    • by nametaken (610866) *

      But it does mean that Amazon can shut down the compromised instances. That's where the up's and down's come in. I'm happy if they shut someone else off. I get a big-brother feeling if they shut mine off. :)

    • WHAT???? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Colin Smith (2679)

      Hosting in cloud doesn't automagically make your sites more secure.

      You mean... I still have to have people who can "manage" my systems?

      NOOOO!!!!
       

  • by quangdog (1002624) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .godgnauq.> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:36PM (#30390736)
    "This marks the first time Amazon Web Services' cloud infrastructure has been used for this type of illegal activity"

    So, has it been used for other illegal things that have been reported on? Is it even possible for anyone to find out all the possible illegal uses of technolgies like cloud computing?
    • "This marks the first time Amazon Web Services' cloud infrastructure has been used for this type of illegal activity"

      So, has it been used for other illegal things that have been reported on? Is it even possible for anyone to find out all the possible illegal uses of technolgies like cloud computing?

      I'm willing to bet that folks like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are already hiring "security consultants" to act as deniable intermediaries to other consultants using semi-legal (or flat-out illegal) means to gather information. Not only are arrangements like this being used for industrial espionage, but to gather intelligence on illegal operators who might hack into or otherwise subvert corporate resources like AWS or Google's cloud. This would just be an extension of what companies already do with

      • I would, but Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Apple all pay more than what a good novel would bring.

        James Patterson
    • Is it even possible for anyone to find out all the possible illegal uses of technolgies like cloud computing?

      Yes. They're exactly the same as all the possible illegal uses of any other kind of computing.

    • Not within the cloud itself. Incompleteness and all that.

    • Is it even possible for anyone to find out all the possible illegal uses of technolgies like cloud computing?

      Yes, it is possible. However, it is the same as trying to win a war against jealousy or envy.
    • by Dan541 (1032000)

      Is it even possible for anyone to find out all the possible illegal uses of technolgies like cloud computing?

      Yes, because it's exactly the same as regular computing.

  • by HaeMaker (221642) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:38PM (#30390770) Homepage

    You know, if bot net operators are trusting the EC2 cloud for their mission critical operations, it has to be ready for prime time.

    This is a stunning endorsement. Amazon should send out a press release.

  • by Meshach (578918) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:39PM (#30390798)
    According to the article it was not Amazon itself that got hacked but an "unidentified website on Amazon's cloud" that got hacked. The hackers then used that website to get onto the cloud and execute code.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by nacturation (646836) *

      According to the summary too: "The hackers got onto Amazon's infrastructure by hacking into a Web site hosted on Amazon's servers..."

      No different than "a web site hosted on Rackspace's servers". I agree with the other posts that this is essentially a non-news item. So a server gets hacked. It doesn't matter that the server is in someone's basement or in a colo or a VM somewhere.

  • This is not new (Score:3, Informative)

    by ub3r n3u7r4l1st (1388939) * on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:48PM (#30390976)

    If you search "Xbox Host booting" on YouTube, there are hundreds of videos showing you how to utilize the mass computing power of the cloud to knock your opponent off from a Halo 3 session and get the win.

  • by meerling (1487879) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:54PM (#30391082)
    I love that " ...then secretly installing their command and control infrastructure." statement.
    When was the last time a criminal came up to your admin and said, "Hi, I'm going to install my unwanted rootkit on your server now so I can use it as a botnet."?
    Yeah, it's like saying a burglar secretly robbed your house... Like he's really going to send you a postcard saying, "Tonight when you go to the movies, I'm going to pillage your apt.".
    • No, no! They kept it a secret from the other criminal gangs in the neighborhood, silly.
    • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @02:14PM (#30391460) Journal

      When was the last time a criminal came up to your admin and said, "Hi, I'm going to install my unwanted rootkit on your server now so I can use it as a botnet."?

      Yesterday. But since he wasn't asking a question, I couldn't say no. I advised him that his course of action was not one that I wished to occur and he politely informed me that it was "duly noted" and proceeded anyways. All in all, it was a nice verbal transaction and his posture was excellent, and I'm sure outside of his work he's a really nice guy. I wanted to ask him if he wanted to go for a couple of cold ones - but I think that might have been pushing it and didn't want to offend him.

      To be honest, the thing that bugs me more than this backdoor to my machine is the regret that I never reached out to him more. A lost friendship, that will likely never have another chance at forming. Everytime that Antivirus XP pop-up comes on screen it reminds me of him. I've slowly come to realize that I am remembering him constantly, where he probably does not remember me at all. I shamefully admit that I cry myself to sleep, telling myself that one day he'll come back to me, and maybe out of remorse he'll remove the conficker and everything will be okay.

      • You can always reconnect through Facebook.
      • by sheph (955019)
        What is even more humorous is that this was modded interesting.
      • Dude stop it, you're killing me. I mean it. STOP IT, YOU'RE KILLING ME! Oyyyyy....
      • Thank you, and yes I do think of you, often..

      • by cecom (698048)

        I think yours may be the best Slashdot post ever!!!

  • by noric (1203882) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @02:12PM (#30391428)
    The interesting thing about this case, to me, is that Amazon's lawful customer will receive a bill in the mail for hacker usage charges.
    • by bangzilla (534214)
      Which is no different than any system that gets hacked/taken over. There is a cost associated with the intrusions *somewhere* along the way. It may be a 3rd party hosting charge, bandwidth or just your time (which may be considerable) in repairing graffiti, clearing your good name etc.
  • I bet someone was using it to buff their ratings!
  • by Luyseyal (3154)

    Thundercloud... subs [thundercloud.com]?

    -l

  • by peterthomas2009 (1599563) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @05:12PM (#30394214) Homepage
    "This marks the first time Amazon Web Services' cloud infrastructure has been used for this type of illegal activity"

    I posted to my blog back in June that Amazon cloud nodes were compromised and performing brute force SSH scans against some of my hosts.

    This story and my post merely highlight the obvious fact that most cloud services are just scalable hosting. Remember your instance / slice / vm can be compromised like any other web host.

    Amazon Cloud Service Brute Force Attacks [hackertarget.com]
  • Is this new? Various AWS based IP's have been trying to hookup with my server by fondling it's SSH port for a while now. Damn AWS perverts. Can't keep their sockets and packets to themselves.
  • I'm seeing attempts to access a bunch of non-existent but suspicious files on my server (most recent at 12:32 EST today)

    mydomain.com/
    install.txt , cart, zencart, zen-cart, zen, shop, bulk, zcart, shop2, catalog, mobile, iphone, mobi, m, boutique, cart, store

    None of these things exist on my server, and it -might be the case- that a legitimate web crawler would look for mobile web customizations in mobile, mobi, iphone or even m, the rest of these make absolutely no sense for anything ot

    • Have a look at OSSEC [ossec.net] with active response.
    • by Slashcrap (869349)

      (There are some significant advantages to running a "dumb" webserver without ASP, PHP, JSP, etc :-)

      I need to figure out a way to have a 'blacklist file', such that any attempt to access these files adds the requester to a blacklist.

      Get a less dumb webserver?

  • err wait...

  • VMs have been compromised through some exploit that has nothing to do with Amazon. The exploit allowed C&C component of a botnet to lodge itself into the hosting machine(s). And ... it's news because Amazon is hosting? The machines are only as secure as the images provided to Amazon, are they not?
  • Hello from Amazon.com.

    We're sorry to hear you've experienced issues with the malware/penetration attempts coming from Amazon cloud computing servers.

    The symptoms you've reported are consistent with malicious software (malware), such as a virus or spyware, installed on your computer. If your computer has been infected with this type of software, it can replace images in the Amazon.com advertisement slots or generate pop-up ads with images that are not intentionally inserted by Amazon or our advertising partn

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