Cyber Attacks

27,000+ MongoDB Databases Held For Ransom Within A Week


The ransomware attacks on poorly secured MongoDB installations have doubled in just a day.

A hacker going by the handle Harak1r1 is accessing, copying and deleting unpatched or badly-configured MongoDB databases and then threatening administrators to ransom in exchange of the lost data.

It all started on Monday when security researcher Victor Gevers identified nearly 200 instances of a MongoDB installation that have been erased and held for ransom, asking victims to pay hefty ransoms for the data to be restored.

By Tuesday, this number reached approximately 2,000 databases as reported by Shodan Founder John Matherly, and by Friday, Gevers and fellow security researcher Niall Merrigan updated this count to 10,500.

However, according to recent statistics compiled by Merrigan, the number of compromised systems have reached more than double to 27,000, over the course of about 12 hours.

What’s worse?

Initial attacks saw ransoms of 0.2 Bitcoins (nearly US$184) to the attacker, of which 22 victims appeared to have paid. But now the attacker is demanding up to 1BTC (around 906 USD).

The researchers have logged some 15 distinct attackers, of which an attacker using email handle kraken0 has compromised 15,482 MongoDB instances and is demanding 1 Bitcoin to return the lost data, though no one appears to have paid.

This means that after the initial story was made public, more hackers and the group of hackers are also doing same — accessing, copying and deleting badly-configured MongoDB databases — for ransom.

Who is responsible for the MongoDB Ransomware?

You! Yes, all those administrators who are using misconfigured MongoDB databases are the reason for this sudden spurt in these attacks.

In every case, the target MongoDB server had an administrator account that was configured without a password.

Many poorly secured MongoDB databases can be identified using Shodan search engine, which currently shows more than 99,000 vulnerable MongoDB instances.

This is the case when the company provides an easy way to set up authentication in MongoDB.

16 Victims Already Paid the Ransom

It appears that around 16 organizations so far have paid the ransom to the attacker.

Matherly has been warning of the dangers of exposed MongoDB installations since 2015, allowing an attacker to remotely access the databases over the Internet without the need of any form of authentication.

Matherly said the majority of publicly exposed 30,000 MongoDB instances run on cloud servers such as Amazon, Digital Ocean, Linode, and Internet service and hosting provider OVH and do so without authentication, making cloud services buggier than datacenter hosting.

How to Know if You’ve Been Hacked?

  • Check the MongoDB accounts to see if no one added a secret (admin) user.
  • Check the GridFS to look if someone stored any files there.
  • Check the log files to see who accessed the MongoDB.

How to Protect Yourself?

Since there’s no evidence the hackers had copied the data before deleting it, promises to restore the already-deleted databases in return for a hefty ransom are dubious.

Gevers advises affected MongoDB database owners not to pay and to get help from security professionals. He and Merrigan have helped some 112 victims secure their exposed MongoDB databases.

People who administer websites that use MongoDB are advised to follow these steps:

  • Enable authentication that provides you ‘Defense in depth’ if your network is compromised. Edit your MongoDB configuration file — auth = true.
  • Use firewalls — Disable remote access to the MongoDB, if possible. Avoid common pitfalls by blocking access to port 27017 or binding local IP addresses to limit access to servers.
  • Administrators are strongly recommended to update MongoDB software to the latest release.

Meanwhile, MongoDB developers have released an updated guide to MongoDB security, explaining these ransomware-inspired attacks and how you can detect and prevent them, along with the steps to check the integrity of your data.

Credit : HKN, Hacker Read, Twitter

Priyanka R
Cyber Security Enthusiast, Security Blogger, Technical Editor, Author at Cyber Safe News

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