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Cyberattacks Target DNA Sequencing software

A threat actor that appears to be based in Iran is targeting a vulnerability in a popular DNA sequencing LIMS software, a security researcher had discovered. 

A threat actor that appears to be based in Iran is targeting a vulnerability in a popular DNA sequencing LIMS software, a security researcher had discovered. 

The attack was initial observed on June 12, targeting CVE-2017-6526, a vulnerability in dnaTools dnaLIMS 4-2015s13, a web-based bioinformatics LIMS designed to provide software for processing and managing DNA sequencing requests. Some of the login portals, however, are exposed to the Internet. 

The assaults were launched from, an IP located in Iran, NewSky Security’s Ankit Anubhav points out, but the true location of the attacker may not be at this IP address.

The attack code is a POST request split into two parts. The first iterates through all the environment variables, which allows the attackers to find /bin/bash or any other shell that a Unix system would be using. 

The second part of the code takes the discovered variable, makes a new raw socket that listens on port 11831, and then passes all the commands sent through the socket to the variable (in this attack, the variable is /bin/bash). 

This allows the attackers to establish a bind shell. The purpose of the attack, however, remains unknown to date, especially since the targeted devices are not numerous and might not help a lot if ensnared in a botnet. These are, however, unique devices that are usually installed in scientific, academic and medical institutions. 

“Successful exploitation and DNA theft in specific cases can be fruitful. Either it can be sold in black market, or a high profile attacker can actually be looking for a specific persons’ data,” Anubhav points out

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The security researcher also notes that no patch has been released for the targeted vulnerability (although the bug has been disclosed to the vendor two years ago). 

“In fact, when we had a look at the original disclosure by ShoreBreak Security, we saw a funny disclosure response by the vendor, indicating they don’t take DNA theft seriously,” the security researcher notes. 

With the vendor apparently having no plan to address the security issue (and several others that were reported to it at the same time), dnaLIMS software tools connected to the Internet remain vulnerable to this and maybe other attacks. 

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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