Hackers Use Public Cloud Features to Breach, Persist In Business Networks

GlobalDots
2 Min read

Attackers are abusing the characteristics of cloud services to launch and hide their activity as they traverse target networks.

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A new body of evidence indicates threat actors are using increasingly advanced techniques to target unsecured cloud users and leveraging features common to public cloud platforms to conceal activity as they breach and persist in target networks.

Data comes from the Threat Stack security team, which spotted the pattern over multiple years of observing behavior on client networks. It was in 2016 when they noticed attacks leveraging Amazon Web Services (AWS) were becoming more sophisticated, says CSO Sam Bisbee. The trend picked up in 2017.

The problem, the team notes, is not with AWS but with the way attackers are maliciously using it.

In simpler attacks, actors typically steal AWS keys and seek direct paths to resources stored in open S3 buckets, or they launch a new Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) to mine cryptocurrency. Sometimes they don’t have to look far: Misconfigured S3 buckets made a number of headlines in the past couple of years. Amazon emphasizes S3 buckets are secured by default; it also launched Macie to protect AWS S3 data and provides free bucket checks via Trusted Advisor.

Advanced attacks start with credential theft, which Bisbee says is the most common initial entry point. An attacker can steal access keys or credentials via phishing attacks, deploying malware that picks up usernames and passwords, and snatching data from a Github repository where a developer may have accidentally uploaded his information.

Credentials secured, the next step is to figure out what level of permissions can be attained. If an actor realizes he doesn’t have what he needs, he may attempt to create additional roles or credentials in AWS and then launch a new EC2 instance inside the target environment. However, the stolen credentials must have access to IAM to create new roles, which AWS does not allow by default.

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