Security Experts:

Majority of Malicious Job Attacks on Microsoft SQL Server Target Asia

Vietnam emerges as the country affected the most by Microsoft SQL Server attacks that leverage malicious jobs, a new report from Kaspersky reveals.

Microsoft SQL Server is being used worldwide by companies of all sizes for database management, and its popularity, along with the fact that it is not sufficiently protected, make it the target of choice for many threat actors looking to compromise business environments for all kinds of gains.

One of the most common attacks on Microsoft SQL Server is a remote assault based on malicious jobs. It has been around for a while, but attackers continue to abuse it to gain access to workstations through less-than-strong administrator passwords.

According to Kaspersky’s statistics, Vietnam is at the receiving end of the largest number of such attacks, accounting for 16% of them. Next in line is Russia, with 12%, followed by India at 7%, China at 6%, and Turkey and Brazil at 5% each.

“Microsoft SQL Server attacks are normally massive in nature and have no particular target: the attackers scan sub-networks in search of a server with a weak password,” Kaspersky notes.

Following a remote check for the SQL Server installation, the attackers attempt to brute-force the account password to access the system. Authorization via a user account token (authorized on a previously infected machine) might also be used for intrusion.

The next step involves modifying the server configuration to access the command line, which allows attackers to covertly make the malware secure in the target system using jobs for the SQL Server.

A job represents a sequence of commands executed by the SQL Server agent and could include a variety of actions, some of which the attackers can abuse for code execution or other malicious operations.

For example, the attackers could install a malware download job using the standard ftp.exe utility, could download malware from a remote resource using JavaScript, or write malware to the system and then execute it.

An analysis of the payloads delivered as part of attacks on MS SQL Server via malicious jobs has revealed that most of them are cryptocurrency miners and remote access backdoors. Some other payloads could be password capturing and privilege escalation utilities.

“It should be mentioned, however, that the choice of payload depends on the attackers’ goals and capabilities and is by no means limited to the mentioned options,” Kaspersky points out.

To stay protected from such attacks, Kaspersky notes, admins should consider using robust, brute-force-proof passwords for their SQL Server accounts. Checking Agent SQL Server for third-party jobs could also help detect possible intrusions.

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