Facilitating the Spread of Knowledge and Innovation in Professional Software Development

Write for InfoQ


Choose your language

InfoQ Homepage News Malicious PyPI Package Removes netstat, Tampers with SSH Config

Malicious PyPI Package Removes netstat, Tampers with SSH Config


A recent report by Sonatype security researcher Ax Sharma highlights newly discovered malicious packages on the PyPI registry, including aptx, which can install the Meterpreter trojan disguised as pip, delete the netstat system utility, and tamper with SSH authorized_keys file.

Named after the popular audio codec developed by Qualcomm and used in many Bluetooth devices, aptx is not the only new threat identified on PyPI. Other malicious packages are httops and tkint3rs. What they all have in common is a strategy aiming to confuse people using purposely-crafted names. As Sharma observes, indeed, httops and tkint3rs are misspellings of https and the tkinter Python interface, respectively.

On close inspection, Sonatype engineers found out that aptx has a manifest that is able to create an ELF binary named ./pip/pip. The binary contains a Meterpreter trojan generated using Metasploit, a penetration testing tool, and allows an attacker to gain shell access to the infected machine. To make it harder for a sysadmin to track active connections, also deletes netstat.

In their January 2023 Malware Monthly, Sonatype researchers unveil details about dozen of others malicious packages found in PyPI and hundreds of new malicious packages in the npm registry.

A few of them show novel attack strategies, such as detecting whether the host where the malware is running is a virtual machine or sandbox environment. In those cases, the malware exits immediately as a way to prevent a security researchers, who will likely install the package in a VM or sandbox, from discovering it.

Another new tactic employed by recent malware is exemplified by "RAT (remote access trojan) mutants", which use multiple-stage polymorphic payloads that change every time you run the binary to evade detection. In a number of cases, those RAT mutants combined the capabilities of remote access trojans and information stealers to access clipboard data or wallet information.

In npm case, Sonatype identified packages that while not being an immediate threat should be considered malicious. Specifically, more than 33k packages were published under the scope of “infinitebrahmanuniverse” and using the “nolb-” prefix, with the only apparent aim of creating a dependency on any other npm package. According to Sonatype, this brings the "dependency hell" problem entirely to another level. Indeed, an attacker could create a malicious package depending on some of those nolb- packages to execute a denial of service attack against a company's download channel and consume excessive resources.

As a final note from the Malware Monthly, another trend that has been gaining force recently is that of cryptominers, that is, trojans that have no other intent than using your computational power to mine cryptocurrency and earn money.

About the Author

Rate this Article


Hello stranger!

You need to Register an InfoQ account or or login to post comments. But there's so much more behind being registered.

Get the most out of the InfoQ experience.

Allowed html: a,b,br,blockquote,i,li,pre,u,ul,p

Community comments

Allowed html: a,b,br,blockquote,i,li,pre,u,ul,p

Allowed html: a,b,br,blockquote,i,li,pre,u,ul,p