Spike botnet runs DDoS attacks from IoT devices

Pierluigi Paganini September 26, 2014

Experts at Akamai spotted a new malware kit named Spike which is used by bad actors to run DDoS attacks through desktops and Internet of Things devices.

According to Akamai’s Prolexic Security Engineering & Response Team (PLXsert) a new malware kit dubbed Spike was used by bad actors to run DDoS attacks through routers, smart thermostats, smart dryers and other devices to the Internet of Things category. The toolkit gets its name from the word “spike” discovered by the experts in the source code of the malware, other strings found inside the code possibly identified the author as ‘Mr Black’ while one payload was dubbed ‘DealwithDDoS’.

The experts noticed that Spike botnets have carried out several DDoS attacks not only from Windows and Linux machines, but also from IoT devices, including freezers and Raspberry Pi. The new variant of malware used by Spike botnets  is based on an updated version of the Chinese language Spike malware that is targeting poorly configured Internet-of-Things devices.

According to the experts at Akamai theDDoS attacks carried out by attackers are not are not negligible, one of them clocked 215 gigabits per second (Gbps) and 150 million packets per second (Mpps).
One attack peaked at 215 gigabits per second (Gbps) and 150 million packets per second (Mpps).
Even if majority of the DDoS attacks launched from low-powered devices could be insignificant, the Akamai firm warned that IoT devices could anyway represent a powerful weapon in the hand of the attackers.

“Several Akamai customers have been targeted by DDoS attack campaigns launched from this botnet. One attack peaked at 215 gigabits per second and 150 million packets per second,” the company wrote in an advisory.

Akamai IoT DDoS spike botnet

“These binaries have been targeting Linux operating systems principally, but now PLXsert has identified a new malware kit that can also infect Windows systems and embedded devices. Several iterations of the Spike DDoS toolkit can communicate and execute commands to infected Windows, desktop Linux and ARM-based devices running the Linux operating system (OS). Binary payloads from this toolkit are dropped and executed after the successful compromise of targeted devices, which may include PCs, servers, routers, Internet-of-Things devices (i.e., smart thermostat systems and washer/dryers) and home-based customer premises equipment routing devices.” states the advisory on the “Spike DDoS Toolkit”.

The Spike DDoS Toolkit was used to run various kinds of DDoS attacks, including SYN, UDP, Domain Name System query, and GET floods against Linux based machines, Windows, ARM-based Linux hosts.

The experts have discovered a number of devices for the Spike botnet ranging from 12,000 to 15,000, the Akamai team is working on a proof of concept attack to infect IoT devices, but hasn’t done so successfully yet.

“The ability of the Spike toolkit to generate an ARM-based payload suggests that the authors of such tools are targeting devices such as routers and IoT devices to expand their botnets for a post-PC era of botnet propagation,” says the Akamai advisory.

The analysis of the binaries reveals that they were written about six months ago. The principal indicator for the presence of the Spike bot is the existence of a series of binaries that infect targeted operating systems, while PLXsert team detected binary payloads associated with the Spike DDoS toolkit that targeted desktop Linux OSs and ARM-based Linux hosts, the Russian anti-virus company Doctor Web also reported evidence of the payloads being ported to Windows machines.

“The binaries associated with the Spike DDoS toolkit consists of one binary, while the iterations found by DrWeb may include several different binaries and other scripts associated with an infection.” states the advisory.
DDoS attacks which exploit IoT devices are considered a rising trend by the security community, unfortunately this family of devices in many cases lack of security by design and software they run is hard to update.
Just at this time we are debating the Bash Bug vulnerability, which could impact billion of devices worldwide, security experts are emphasizing the critical because of the attacks against the IoT devices which could exploit the critical flaw.

Akamai confirmed that the DDoS attacks launched with the Spike botnet can be mitigated using access control lists, the company has issued a SNORT signature that can help system administrator to mitigate application-layer GET flood attacks generated through the toolkit.

Give a look to the Akamai advisory to have more detailed info for hardening the various operating systems hit by the Spike attacks.

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – Spike botnet, malware)

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