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Researchers Connect Lizard Squad to Mirai Botnet

Lizard Squad and Mirai, which are responsible for a series of notorious distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, are connected to one another, a recent ZingBox report reveals.

Lizard Squad and Mirai, which are responsible for a series of notorious distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, are connected to one another, a recent ZingBox report reveals.

Lizard Squad is a hacking group known for some of the most highly publicized DDoS attacks in history, including the disruption of Sony PlayStation and Xbox Live networks. Over the past several years, multiple individuals suspected to have used Lizard Squad’s LizardStresser DDoS service have been arrested.

While the hacking group has been operating for several years, Mirai has been around for only one year and a half, making headlines in late 2016 following massive DDoS attacks against Brian Krebs’ blog and Dyn’s DNS infrastructure. The malware’s source code was made public within weeks of these attacks and numerous variants have emerged since.

Now, ZingBox researchers claim to have discovered evidence that links the Lizard Squad hackers and Mirai, including the common use of the same Ukraine hosting provider Blazingfast.

The Mirai source code, the researchers point out, was released nine days after Lizard Squad founder Zachary Buchta was arrested. According to them, the DDoS attack on Brian Krebs’ blog in late 2016 appears the result of the journalist’s criticism against Lizard Squad, and there are also references to Mirai on a Lizard Squad website.

Analysis of a domain associated with a Mirai-based malware campaign in late 2017 led the researchers to bigbotPein, a group linked to Lizard Squad. The analyzed domain was registered by an individual associated with Lizard Squad, a ZingBox report (PDF ) claims.

bigbotPein, a group that emerged in support to Buchta following his arrest, adopted Mirai as part of their Internet of Things arsenal and is currently targeting multiple architectures, including x86, x64, ARM, MIPS, SuperH, SPARC and ARC.

What’s more, the group has also added Ethereum and Monero miners to their malware portfolio, while also adopting increased sophistication, the security researchers say.

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A Mirai-based campaign observed in October 2017 was pointing to the domain bigbotpein[.]com. The website’s Start of Authority (SOA) points to blazingfast[.]io, the Ukraine hosting provider that is also used by Mirai authors for the botnet control server, ZingBox says.

The security researchers claim they were also able to link the group to multiple Mirai variants out there, including Satori and Masuta. According to them, the Satori campaign was initially called Okiru and was using the control[.]almahosting[.]ru and network[.]bigbotpein[.]com domains.

Starting with mid-January 2018, all the domains related to Lizard Squad and bigbotPein switched to US-base ISPs (Rackspace and Search Guide), which suggests a clear connection between the two groups.

Two other Mirai variants observed last year include Masuta and Memes. The former, detailed only this month, targeted x86, ARM and MIPS architectures. The latter appears to be the work of the same author and might be an evolution of Masuta.

The malware code, ZingBox claims, includes a “structure previously identified in July 2017 related to Lizard Squad.” This code allows the malware to hide and decode second stage payload in memory. Both an Ethereum dropper variant linked to Lizard Squad and Masuta/Memes use this same code structure.

Other evidence linking Lizard Squad and Mirai include the dropping of a file from bigbotPein domain control[.]almahosting[.]ru as part of a Satori campaign in November 2017, leading to the Monero Stratum miner.

A Satori variant observed in early January 2018 was employing an extra level of obfuscation, along with the s[.]sunnyjuly[.]gq domain, and pointing to the use of an Etherum miner for Windows, although the initial attack vector, however, targeted the MIPS architecture.

“During this research, we witnessed firsthand the evolving complexity of the different variants of Lizard Squad and bigbotPein group’s malware within a span of one year […]. The Lizard Squad and bigbotPein groups used to be very active creating most of the well-known variants of Mirai,” ZingBox’ report reads.

“Despite the courageous efforts of our law enforcement agencies to identify and tear down various hacking groups, the collaboration between groups makes it extremely difficult to completely shut down their efforts for good. Arrests of high-profile members and founders of such groups certainly slows down their momentum, but organizations can’t take their foot off the gas when it comes to being vigilant about the security of their network,” Xu Zou, CEO and co-founder, ZingBox, said.

Related: Mirai-Based Masuta Botnet Weaponizes Old Router Vulnerability

Related: Suspected Lizard Squad Hackers Arrested in US, Netherlands

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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