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Sophos MyKings report – The growth of a relentless botnet

SophosLabs’ report MyKings: The Slow but Steady Growth of a Relentless Botnet, details the morphing attack components of the globally-reaching MyKings cryptominer.

“MyKings contains the perfect storm of attack methods highlighted in SophosLabs’ 2020 Threat Report – access through open remote services, botnets to orchestrate parts of the attack, and Living off the Land (LotL) to evade detection – that are used to drop cryptominers,” said Ross Anderson, Sophos Product Development Manager at Duxbury Networking.

“The report covers the interaction between all of these components and their chain reaction to impact computers. The report also analyses cybercriminal behaviours to further explain the characteristics of MyKings.”

“High-end or nation-state sponsored cyberattackers have the resources to purchase or develop zero-day exploits themselves. On the flip side, low-end cybercriminals use cheap or free builder kits available in underground, dark web forums, but lack the skills to do anything except execute the builders,” said Anderson.

“The MyKings group is in between these two categories; they are the ‘SMB of cybercrime’. These criminals don’t invest money into expensive tools, but they have the skills and development power to modify and enhance open source components.”

“Their modus operandi is to invest significant amounts of development time into customising the public domain tools they are using. This is a reminder that cybercriminals are enhancing their capabilities all the time and defenders should adopt this mindset for best security practices,” Anderson pointed out.

MyKings has evolved over time, with cybercriminals adding support for the EternalBlue exploit into newer versions of MyKings.

This functionality is not integrated into the spreader program, but rather exists as a separate executable, converted from Python scripts, that is downloaded and executed by the main spreader program.

Figure 1

As indicated in the MyKings report, the worldwide activity map (see Figure 1) includes approximately 45,000 impacted hosts.

Top countries include China, Taiwan, Russia, Brazil, United States, India, and Japan.

Other key findings of the report include:

  • The botnet can spread by attacking weak username/password combinations via MySQL, MSSQL, telnet, ssh, IPC, WMI, RDP, CCTV connections.
  • The main payloads are the Forshare trojan and various Monero cryptominers. The botnet still mines about 5 XMR (R4,480), per day.

Anderson offers the following advice:

  • Keep computers up-to-date with security patches. MyKings uses EternalBlue, which was patched two years ago.
  • Change default passwords and apply strong, unique passwords. MyKings uses known weak passwords to attack web services.
  • Don’t expose Server Message Block (SMB), Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) and similar remote access services to the Internet.
  • Use up-to-date security software. Sophos Intercept X provides protection at several points.

“We urge users to contact our team to discuss the benefits of deploying Sophos Intercept X in their organisations,” said Anderson.

For more information contact Duxbury Networking, +27 (0) 11 351 9800, [email protected],

This article was published in partnership with Duxbury Networking.

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Sophos MyKings report – The growth of a relentless botnet