A newly identified piece of malware that targets Windows Server containers can execute code on the underlying node and then spread in the Kubernetes cluster, according to a warning from security researchers at Palo Alto Networks.
Dubbed Siloscape, the heavily obfuscated malware was designed to install a backdoor into Kubernetes clusters, which can then be used to run malicious containers and perform various other nefarious activities.
As part of the observed attacks, which have been ongoing for more than a year, initial access is achieved through web servers and other cloud applications, container escape techniques are used to execute code on the underlying node, after which the node’s credentials are abused to spread in the cluster.
According to Palo Alto Networks researcher Daniel Prizmant, Siloscape has snagged at least 23 victims to date, but the malware is believed to be part of a larger campaign. After gaining access to the malware’s command and control server, the researcher discovered that it was hosting a total of 313 users.
“This malware can leverage the computing resources in a Kubernetes cluster for cryptojacking and potentially exfiltrate sensitive data from hundreds of applications running in the compromised clusters,” Prizmant said.
Typically, an attack starts with the malware operators abusing a known vulnerability to gain remote code execution inside a Windows container, which is then used to run Siloscape. Next, the malware escapes the container to compromise the host, checks if the host has privileges to create new Kubernetes deployments, and connects to the C&C server using Tor.
To escape the container, the malware impersonates CExecSvc.exe and then creates a symbolic link to its local containerized X drive to the host’s C drive. Next, it searches for specific Kubernetes files and makes sure it can execute kubectl commands.
The main focus of the malware is to remain undetected on the compromised environment. Unlike other container-targeting malware that were designed for resource hijacking and denial of service (DoS), it opens a backdoor into the cluster, which allows its operators to perform all kinds of malicious activities.
Given that Siloscape targets Windows Server containers, administrators should make sure their cloud environments are properly secured and configured. Thus, Hyper-V containers should be employed for operations that rely on containerization as a security boundary, and Kubernetes clusters should be securely configured.