Geographical spread of computers infected with DOUBLEPULSAR
Geographical spread of computers infected with DOUBLEPULSAR

DOUBLEPULSAR, one of the NSA hacking tools leaked last Friday by the Shadow Brokers, has been used in the wild by ordinary hackers, who infected over 36,000 computers across the world.

The Shadow Brokers leak from last Friday contained a trove of Windows hacking tools. Among these, there was FUZZBUNCH, a platform for delivering exploits against a selected target, similar to the Metasploit framework used by security researchers and pen-testers around the world.

The Shadow Brokers also leaked over 20 exploit packages that could be used together with FUZZBUNCH. These exploits attack a Windows computer through vulnerable services and open a connection that the NSA/hackers could exploit to plant malware on targeted computers.

A large number of the leaked NSA Windows exploits are designed to take advantage of vulnerabilities in the SMB (Server Message Block) protocol, which provides file sharing capabilities between Windows computers.

Meet DOUBLEPULSAR, the NSA's homegrown malware downloader

Included in the Shadow Brokers dump from last week were also "implants," the technical term used for malware planted on targeted computers.

One of those implants is DOUBLEPULSAR, which is "RING-0 multi-version kernel mode payload," according to security expert Matthew Hickey, or in simpler terms a "malware downloader" used as an intermediary for downloading more potent malware executables on infected hosts.

Earlier this week, trying to assess the number of users vulnerable to the malware leaked last Friday, cyber-security firm Below0Day has performed an Internet-wide scan for Windows computers with open SMB ports (port 445).

Their scan returned a number of 5,561,708 Windows computers with port 445 exposed to external connections.

Scan results for computers with exposed SMB ports
Scan results for computers with exposed SMB ports

If the owners of these 5.5 million computers haven't installed patches Microsoft made available for the SMB flaws exploited by the NSA tools, they are vulnerable to exploits such as ETERNALBLUE, ETERNALCHAMPION, ETERNALSYNERGY, ETERNALROMANCE, EMERALDTHREAD, or EDUCATEDSCHOLAR.

Over 36K computers already infected

The next step for Below0Day researchers was to take the 5.5 million IP addresses they previously identified and scan them with a tool released on Monday, capable of identifying computers infected with DOUBLEPULSAR based on SMB connection responses.

List of PCs infected with DOUBLEPULSAR
List of PCs infected with DOUBLEPULSAR

When the results came in, researchers discovered 30,625 computers that provided an SMB reply consistent with a DOUBLEPULSAR infection.

According to threat intelligence company SenseCy, this shouldn't be a surprise, as hackers started discussing how to deploy the leaked NSA Windows hacking tools as soon as they appeared.

What was a surprise was the large number of computers already infected with the NSA's former malware.

Because it takes a malware developer roughly a few hours to download the Shadow Brokers dump, scan the Internet, and run FUZZBUNCH to deliver some exploits, this is only the beginning and experts expect more unpatched computers to fall victims to DOUBLEPULSAR.

Below is a map with the countries most affected by DOUBLEPULSAR infections.

Countries most affected by DOUBLEPULSAR infections
Countries most affected by DOUBLEPULSAR infections

Images source: Below0Day