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German Firms Targeted by Malicious NPM Packages

 

JFrog researchers have uncovered multiple malicious packages in the NPM registry particularly targeting several popular media, logistics, and industrial companies based in Germany to carry out supply chain assaults. 

"Compared with most malware found in the NPM repository, this payload seems particularly dangerous: a highly-sophisticated, obfuscated piece of malware that acts as a backdoor and allows the attacker to take total control over the infected machine," researchers said in a new report. 

According to the DevOps company, the evidence discovered suggests it is either the work of a sophisticated hacker or a "very aggressive" penetration test. Four maintainers— bertelsmannnpm, boschnodemodules, stihlnodemodules, and dbschenkernpm— have been associated with all the rogue packages; most of the packages have been taken down from the repository.

The finding points out that the hackers are trying to copy legitimate firms like Bertelsmann, Bosch, Stihl, and DB Schenker. Some of the package names are distinct, which makes it likely that the adversary managed to trace the libraries hosted in the companies’ internal repositories to launch a dependency confusion attack. 

The findings are based on a report from Snyk late last month that detailed one of the malicious packages, "gxm-reference-web-auth-server," noting that the malware is targeting an unknown firm that has the same package in their private registry.

"The attacker(s) likely had information about the existence of such a package in the company's private registry," the Snyk security research team said. According to researchers at Reversing Labs, who independently examined the hacks, the rogue modules uploaded to NPM featured elevated version numbers than their private counterparts to force the modules onto target environments.

"The targeted private packages for the transportation and logistics firm had versions 0.5.69 and 4.0.48, while the malicious, public versions were identically named, but used versions 0.5.70 and 4.0.49," the cybersecurity firm explained. 

Calling the implant an "in-house development," JFrog pointed out that the malware contains two components, a dropper that sends information about the infected machine to a remote telemetry server before decrypting and executing a JavaScript backdoor. The backdoor, while lacking a persistence mechanism, is designed to receive and execute commands sent from a hard-coded command-and-control server, evaluate arbitrary JavaScript code, and upload files back to the server. 

Earlier this week, a German penetration testing company named Code White has owned up to uploading the malicious packages in question, adding it was an attempt to "mimic realistic threat actors for dedicated clients."