Crooks manipulate GitHub’s search results to distribute malware

Pierluigi Paganini April 13, 2024

Researchers warn threat actors are manipulating GitHub search results to target developers with persistent malware.

Checkmarx researchers reported that threat actors are manipulating GitHub search results to deliver persistent malware to developers systems.

Attackers behind this campaign create malicious repositories with popular names and topics, they were observed using techniques like automated updates and fake stars to boost search rankings.

“By leveraging GitHub Actions, the attackers automatically update the repositories at a very high frequency by modifying a file, usually called “log”, with the current date and time or just some random small change. This continuous activity artificially boosts the repositories’ visibility, especially for instances where users filter their results by “most recently updated,” increasing the likelihood of unsuspecting users finding and accessing them.” reads the report published by Checkmarx. “While automatic updates help, the attackers combine another technique to amplify the effectiveness of their repo making it to the top results. The attackers employed multiple fake accounts to add bogus stars, creating an illusion of popularity and trustworthiness.”

To evade detection, threat actors concealed the malicious code in Visual Studio project files (.csproj or .vcxproj), it is automatically executed when the project is built.

GitHub malware

The researchers noticed that the payload is delivered based on the victim’s origin, and is not distributed to users in Russia.

In the recent campaign, the threat actors used a sizable, padded executable file that shares similarities with the “Keyzetsu clipper” malware.

The recent malware campaign involves a large, padded executable file that shares similarities with the “Keyzetsu clipper” malware, targeting cryptocurrency wallets.

On April 3rd, the attacker updated the code in one of their repositories, linking to a new URL that downloads a different encrypted .7z file. The archive contained an executable named feedbackAPI.exe.

Threat actors padded the executable with numerous zeros to artificially increase the file size surpassing the limit of various security solutions, notably VirusTotal, making it unscannable.

The malware maintains persistence by creating a scheduled task that runs the executable every day at 4AM without user confirmation.

“The use of malicious GitHub repositories to distribute malware is an ongoing trend that poses a significant threat to the open-source ecosystem. By exploiting GitHub’s search functionality and manipulating repository properties, attackers can lure unsuspecting users into downloading and executing malicious code.” concludes the report. “These incidents highlight the necessity for manual code reviews or the use of specialized tools that perform thorough code inspections for malware. Merely checking for known vulnerabilities is insufficient.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, malware)

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