The malicious packages serviced downstream mobile and desktop applications as well as websites. In one case, a malicious package has been downloaded more than 17,000 times. The attacker used a typosquatting technique to trick developers into using the malicious packages.
Typosquatting is a term you may have seen when reading about Internet scams. In essence it relies on users making typos when entering a site or domain name. Sometimes typosquatting includes techniques like URL hijacking and domain mimicry, but mostly it relies on intercepting typos, hence the name.
In this case, the attackers offer up packages via public repositories with names that are very similar to legitimate packages like umbrellajs and packages published by ionic.io.
Supply chain attack
A supply chain attack, also called a value-chain or third-party attack, occurs when someone attacks you or your system through an outside partner or provider. Attackers can deploy supply chain attacks to exploit trust relationships between a target and external parties.
This attack can be categorized as a supply chain attack because the developer falling for the typosquatting trick is not the victim. Ultimately, the user filling out a form on a website created by the developer that used a contaminated package is the actual victim of the attack.
Following the obfuscation trail, the developers found similarly named packages that could be connected to one of a handful of NPM accounts.
After deobfuscation, it became clear that the authors integrated a known login stealing script into the popular npm packages. The script designed to steal information from online forms, originates from a hacking tool called “Hacking PUBG i’d”. PUBG is an online multiplayer shooter with an estimated billion players. Some of these packages are still available for download at the time of writing.
Once again this attack shows us that the way in which developers rely on the work of others is not backed up by a way to detect malicious code within open source libraries and modules.
The researchers’ blog contains a list of packages and associated hashes of the malicious packages for developers that suspect they may have fallen victim to this attack.
Stay safe, everyone!
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