Malware Exploiting Cloud Providers

Sara Peters, Editor in Chief | 1/16/2014 | 30 comments

Sara Peters
Criminals are not so different from you and me. They want easy, fast, scalable, affordable cloud services and web hosting, just like us.

Oh sure, sometimes they want to get their service entirely for free, so they'll compromise the domain of a legitimate, paying customer; but they'll also pay for the service themselves sometimes, just like us. So, according to a new report by Solutionary, criminals use enterprise-class services like Amazon EC2, just like us.

Solutionary's "Quarterly Threat Intelligence Report" states that Amazon hosted 16 percent of the malware distribution channels -- more than any other ISP or hosting provider. Also on the top 10 list were GoDaddy (14%), Akamai (9%), and Google (6%). It's not only the cost, simplicity, and scalability that attracts malware authors, criminal hackers, and bot-herders to these services; there are more sinister benefits. From the report:

    Use of major hosting providers, such as Amazon or Google, allows malware distributors to originate traffic from trusted address spaces that will not be blocked by geographic blacklists and would not likely draw suspicion based on IP address alone.

In fact, more than 40 of the anti-virus tools tested by Solutionary were unable to detect some of these malware samples.

None of this should come as a huge surprise. We've seen cloud services being used by crafty criminals before. In 2009, security researchers discovered that a Zeus botnet command-and-control station was running on an Amazon EC2 instance. Amazon located it and shut it down, and it has a system in place to collect and investigate vulnerability reports.

However, the scope of the problem may be a bit surprising. And it's never comforting to think about your own public cloud-based resources sharing server space with cybercriminals, for several reasons.

Theoretically, if a criminal can bust out of its own cloud instance (virtual machine) and into the back-end systems, it might be able to reach into other cloud instances residing on the same server, through the back-end. And theoretically, if law enforcement chooses to seize servers they suspect of being used for criminal purposes (even though that would be relatively pointless in the case of a cloud provider's servers), it might affect your ability to access your own cloud instances that happened to be hanging out on that server at the time. Cloud providers have taken steps to combat these troubles, but they're not inconceivable.

Obviously, we want cloud providers to responsibly monitor their systems in order to find malicious actors abusing their services. However we don't want them to be too sneaky and snoopy; we don't want them barging into our own cloud instances and rifling through all our stuff.

What do you think? Do these findings cause you any disquiet? Do they alter your decisions about your own company's use of the cloud? Are you at all surprised? Do you think your security staff is savvy enough to detect malware coming from familiar IP addresses that the anti-virus software might not even detect? Let us know in the comments below.

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MDMConsult   Malware Exploiting Cloud Providers   2/2/2014 11:11:29 AM
Re: Re : Malware Exploiting Cloud Providers
With the right mobility tools security and privacy advances can be accelerated in offering opportunities. Security solutions and tools should drive overall focus on the organizations outcome. Having more standardized tools that leverage both privacy and security advances best.
Sara Peters   Malware Exploiting Cloud Providers   1/31/2014 3:24:13 PM
Re: Re : Malware Exploiting Cloud Providers
@Anand   It's true. IT pros can't be responsible for ALL security, much as they might try. And once you use public cloud computing the internal IT pro's power is SEVERELY limited.
Anand   Malware Exploiting Cloud Providers   1/31/2014 3:16:21 PM
Re : Malware Exploiting Cloud Providers
I have to second myself with eethtworkz. IT pros can work out the system and even the security out making hackers and malware attackers have a brow of sweat, but with so much cost to consumer and cost to company, and so less resources (except for the R&D sectors), IT guys can only do so much.
Anand   Malware Exploiting Cloud Providers   1/31/2014 3:16:17 PM
Re : Malware Exploiting Cloud Providers
Amazon's data security terminals were at risk because they pay the inventory management system more attention than giving the administrative network the same. Coming to the question of whether the cloud space is safe with all these malware attackers about, then the answer is NO. With virtualisation on its way we can ensure that the cloud computing genre will cover most of the web based business models by the end of 2017. And this can trigger even bigger attacks on the system.
Sara Peters   Malware Exploiting Cloud Providers   1/31/2014 1:11:24 PM
Re: Secure the cloud
@eethtworkz  "I don't think you will find anyone who will Argue against the Need for more Security in IT. Problem is who will foot the Bill?"  Tough question. I suppose that security is one thing that should be charged to the CIO's budget... but while that might endear the CIO to line-of-business managers, it might not endear the CIO to the CFO/CEO.

Sara Peters   Malware Exploiting Cloud Providers   1/31/2014 1:07:24 PM
Re: Threat
@eethtworkz  "I blame IT Security also partially for this issue;we don't spend enough time Drilling Security issues into the heads of Business and especially Demonstrating ROI effectively and especially in Terms of Loss of Company Prestige and Brand Value."   I think that's a fair criticism. The security community has had a hard time demonstrating ROI, and people only think of it as a cost center. They equate it with insurance -- something that you have to buy, but you don't want it. 

eethtworkz   Malware Exploiting Cloud Providers   1/28/2014 9:42:46 AM
Re: Secure the cloud

I don't think you will find anyone who will Argue against the Need for more Security in IT.

Problem is who will foot the Bill?

Especially when you have such aggressive Price Wars Happening today in the Cloud Storage Space.

It becomes very-very difficult to add more Value to your Products when you decide to Slash Prices of it overnight by Such a HUGE Amount!

Don't you think so?


eethtworkz   Malware Exploiting Cloud Providers   1/28/2014 9:32:43 AM
Re: Threat

You sure know how to make a Great Point!

Brutal but Effective.

Yes,its true Post Offices all across the Western World are going the way of the Dodo.
eethtworkz   Malware Exploiting Cloud Providers   1/28/2014 8:58:19 AM
Re: Threat

Absolutely Right!

Most IT Folks don't get Security(forget about Guys outside IT and especially Finance which writes the Checks for now).

I blame IT Security also partially for this issue;we don't spend enough time Drilling Security issues into the heads of Business and especially Demonstrating ROI effectively and especially in Terms of Loss of Company Prestige and Brand Value.

singlemud   Malware Exploiting Cloud Providers   1/26/2014 3:00:23 PM
Re: Threat
Great post, It is little bit scary and risky to run the business on the cloud.
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