Linksys & Netgear Backdoor by the Numbers

If you’d like to just skip to the data, feel free to scroll on down. Research is not endorsed or attributable to $DayJob :)

After reading Rick Lawshae’s post on Hunting Botnets with ZMAP, I started wondering what types of cool things ZMAP can be used for. It wasn’t but a day or two later that something fell into my hands. On January first, Eloi Vanderbeken posted his findings on a backdoor that listens on TCP port 32764. The backdoor appears to affect older versions of Netgear and Linksys routers but some users are also reporting that other brands are also affected by the backdoor. Eloi was also able to write a python script that had the ability to check for the vulnerability among other functions. To get more info on the backdoor and how Eloi discovered it, you can check it out here: https://github.com/elvanderb/TCP-32764/blob/master/backdoor_description_for_those_who_don-t_like_pptx.pdf.

Once I had wrapped up my reading on his work, I got excited. I realized that I finally have a way of answering a question we usually go without knowing. Almost every couple months you hear someone say, “There’s another backdoor in XYZ product!” and that’s about when media blows up, PR statements are released, Snort sigs are written, and we all wait for the first exploits to start rolling out.

I know that I don’t speak for all but I feel like the general mindset is that when a major backdoor or ZeroDay starts to make headlines, we think that hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of users, are affected by the vulnerability. With this in mind I set out to answer the question, “How bad is it?”

Step one was to figure out how to use Zmap so I installed it on my kali VM and gave it a shot. I followed the extremely simple instructions on their webpage an in one line I had my scan configured “$ zmap –p 32764 –o OpenPorts.csv”.

I then went to my VPS provider of choice and purchased a VPS that had a gigabit connection to the intertubes . I loaded up a vanilla install of Ubuntu server 12.04 and installed Zmap. Before I launched the scan, I made sure to read the Scanning Best Practices section of the Zmap documentation which lists things such as “Conduct scans no longer than time need for research” and “Should someone ask you to cease scanning their environment, add their range to your blacklist”.

The scan took roughly 22 hours to complete. The Zmap documentation and advertising states that you can get it done in less than an hour but I think they used a cluster format plus 22 hours isn’t bad by any means. 22 hours and 13 abuse complaints later (all complaints were acknowledged and scanning was ceased), I had my list of roughly 1.5 million IP addresses that were currently had TCP port 32764 open.  1.5 million…I thought to my self “That’s a pretty big number.”

I knew that this probably wasn’t statistically accurate though because there had been no validation that the backdoor service was the service listening on those open ports. To help validate how many of our 1.5 million users were actually vulnerable, I pulled in my friend Farel (Jamin) Becker.

Using Eloi’s findings Jamin was able to write some scripts using bash and python that allowed for us to quickly check the 1.5 million hosts for the vulnerability. It did this by simply reaching out to the port and seeing if there were indicators that the service was running. No exploitation or malicious actions were taken against the vulnerable routers.  Our checking was comparable to when you try and connect to a web page.

To effectively check for the vulnerable service, Jamin’s scripts functioned by splitting the list of 1.5 million IPs into roughly 2000 different list. Then the system was able to spin up 2000 independent instances of python to perform the work. To do this, we needed a pretty beefy computer so we rented the top EC2 server we could find. Needless to say it worked beautifully and only cost about $2.40 for the hour it took to complete the validation.

This is where the real data comes in. My first thought was “Oh man, here comes the part where we get to tell the world 400,000 routers are vulnerable RIGHT NOW!” The results were actually quite surprising. It turns out that only 4,998 routers were exposed and vulnerable. Safe to say that I expected more and I feel most would too. Below is some statistical data around what Jamin and I found. Geo data was gathered by querying the Maxmind Database.

ByCountry

byISP

ByState

-Max Rogers & Jamin Becker

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