Hackers are Stealing AWS Keys with PyPi Package

  • By Patrick Ryan
  • Jun 03, 2022

A PyPi package referred to as “CTX,” and another referred to as “phpass” PHP Library are being used to steal AWS keys. The PHP and Python packages function as trojans. The software supply chain offensive zeroes in on open-source-style digital systems.  

What is CTX all About?

One of the packages, “CTX,” is best described as a Python module. CTX is positioned within the PyPi repository. The attack creates the impression that the computer is performing an update. Readers might find it interesting to learn that CTX was previously published on PyPi way back in the winter of 2014 before being last released in the spring of 2022.

What is Phpass?

Phpass is the other prominent package involved in the digital attack noted above. Phpass is best described as a PHP package forked through GitHub for the transmission of an unauthorized update. Phpass was not updated after its original upload in the summer of 2012, meaning it was vulnerable to opportunistic hackers.

What is the Response to the Threat?

Each of the libraries noted above has been taken down from GitHub and PyPi, respectively. However, digital security specialists are still hard at work attempting to find a way to prevent digital miscreants from snagging environment variables, encoding them, using a web app, and exfiltrating the target’s AWS credentials for illegal use.  

Digital security professionals are also attempting to piece together the puzzle of how the hacker obtained unauthorized access to a maintainer account. This account was used for the purpose of publishing the new version of the CTX. The latest update from the investigation shows the attacker registered the domain in question that ultimately expired in May of 2022.  

Why are Maintainer Email Domains Important?

It is worth noting that it is now possible to buy maintainer email domains that have lapsed and use them for regenerating new maintainer emails with the overarching aim of obtaining control over packages. This fact might come as a surprise to some of the audience, as most are understandably unfamiliar with the nuances of maintainer email domains.

Metadata analysis of nearly two million NPM JavaScript packages performed by academicians with North Carolina State University and researchers with Microsoft shows nearly 3,000 maintainer email addresses are tied to expired domains. These connections empower web-based attackers to hijack in excess of 8,000 packages by seizing control over NPM accounts.

Domain names are available for purchase through domain registrars, setting the stage for the purchaser to link to an email hosting service to manipulate personal email addresses and domains. It is at this point that the hacker takes over the account. Furthermore, if the maintainer domain name has expired, the hacker can obtain the domain and change the DNS mail exchange.

If your business has not updated its digital defenses against such an account takeover, now is the time to do so. Seize the opportunity to fortify your internet security, and you will successfully shield your computers and network against online attacks, including email domain threats such as those described above.

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