October 30, 2020

Aqua Security Research Report Shows Increase in Organised Attacks on Cloud Native Infrastructure and Software Supply Chain

Aqua Security, the pure-play cloud native security leader, have released a new threat report by Team Nautilus, Aqua’s cybersecurity research team, that reveals a growing, organised and increasingly sophisticated pattern of attacks on cloud native infrastructure. While most attacks were aimed at abusing public cloud compute resources for cryptocurrency mining, the methods used open the door for higher-value targets that leverage security gaps in container software supply chains and runtime environments.

The full 70-page report provides a detailed account of attacks observed in the wild during a full year of detailed observation and tracing. This is the first such report to outline the precise, systematic methods used to attack container infrastructure, and to highlight supply chain attacks as an emerging threat.

The report provides trends and observed categories of attacks, but also explains in great detail the specific progression of several attack vectors, from the originating malicious images to the specific evasion techniques, malicious payloads, and propagation attempts. The detailed analysis of the attacks was made possible using Aqua’s Dynamic Threat Analysis (DTA) tool, which was announced by Aqua earlier this year. Aqua DTA runs suspicious images as sandboxed containers to safely observe and trace their behaviour, and is integrated into Aqua’s full-lifecycle solution to prevent such images from ever making it into production environments.

Highlights of the observed attacks include:

  • Container images in public registries being poisoned with Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUAs) that cannot be detected using static scanning. They spring into action only when the container is running.
  • Sophisticated evasion techniques are being used to hide attacks and make them more persistent. This includes the use of “vanilla” images that seem innocuous, disabling other malware, delaying before downloading payloads into the running container, using 64-bit encoding to obfuscate malware, and more.
  • Since the beginning of 2020, the volume of attacks has dramatically increased, suggesting that there is organised infrastructure and systematic targeting behind these attacks. More than 16,000 individual attacks were tracked back to multiple locations across the globe.
  • The main motivation of the malicious actors has been to hijack cloud compute resources to mine for cryptocurrency, but Team Nautilus has seen evidence that other objectives, such as establishing DDoS infrastructure, were also attempted.

“The attacks we observed are a significant step up in attacks targeting cloud native infrastructure. We expect a further increase in sophistication, the use of evasion techniques and diversity of the attack vectors and objectives, since the widespread the use of cloud native technologies makes them a more lucrative target for bad actors,” notes Idan Revivo, Head of Team Nautilus at Aqua. “Security teams are advised to take the appropriate measures both in their pipelines as well as runtime environments, to detect and intercept such attempts.”

In addition to the full report, a concise CISO executive brief document is available that provides an overview of the attacks and methods used, as well as actionable advice to security executives on how to protect against this new and growing breed of attacks.

To get the full report and CISO brief: