Linux administrators warned of SSH key attacks

Share this article:
Attackers are using compromised SSH keys to launch in-the-wild attacks against Linux-based computing environments, US-CERT warned Tuesday.

The attackers appear to be using stolen SSH keys to initially infiltrate a system, then leveraging an exploit to grant them root, or super-user, access, according to a US-CERT advisory. The goal is to drop a rootkit variant, known as phalanx2, on the compromised system that will steal additional SSH keys.

"These SSH keys are sent to the attackers, who then use them to try to compromise other sites and other systems of interest at the attacked site," the alert warned.

SSH keys offer secure and encrypted connections for clients wanting to access servers.

Linux administrators are encouraged to locate systems that use SSH keys and to ask users "to use the keys with passphrases or passwords to reduce the risk if a key is compromised."

If administrators detect a compromise, they should disable key-based SSH authentication on the affected systems and notify the key owners of the breach.

The current attacks may be related to a vulnerability in the OpenSSL library used to generate key pairs on Debian-based Linux distributions. The bug, reported in May, is caused by a weakness in the random number generator used to create SSL and SSH public and private cryptographic keys.
Share this article:

Sign up to our newsletters

More in News

Brazilian president signs internet 'Bill of Rights' into law

Brazilian president signs internet 'Bill of Rights' into ...

President Dilma Rousseff signed the legislation on Wednesday at the NetMundial conference in Sao Paulo.

Android trojan sends premium SMS messages, targets U.S. users for first time

Android trojan sends premium SMS messages, targets U.S. ...

An SMS trojan for Android, known as FakeInst, has been observed sending premium SMS messages to users all over the world, including, for the first time, the United States.

Report: DDoS up in Q4 2013, vulnerability scanners leveraged to exploit sites

Report: DDoS up in Q4 2013, vulnerability scanners ...

Researchers observed 346 DDoS attacks in the final quarter of 2013 and attackers used Vega and Skipfish vulnerability scanners to exploit web flaws at financial companies.