5 min read

Last week, Git repositories were hit by a suspicious activity where attackers targeted GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket users, wiping code and commits from multiple repositories. The surprising fact is that attackers used valid credentials, i.e. a password or personal access token to break into these repositories. Not only did they sweep the entire repository, but they also left a ransom note demanding 0.1 Bitcoin (BTC).

On May 3, GitLab’s Director of Security, Kathy Wang, said, “We identified the source based on a support ticket filed by Stefan Gabos yesterday, and immediately began investigating the issue. We have identified affected user accounts and all of those users have been notified. As a result of our investigation, we have strong evidence that the compromised accounts have account passwords being stored in plaintext on deployment of a related repository.”

According to GitLab’s official post, “All total, 131 users and 163 repositories were, at a minimum, accessed by the attacker. Affected accounts were temporarily disabled, and the owners were notified.”
This incident first took place on May 2, 2019 at around 10 pm GMT when GitLab received the first report of a repository being wiped off with one commit named ‘WARNING’, which contained a single file containing the ransom note asking the targets to transfer 0.1 BTC (approx. $568) to the attacker’s Bitcoin address, if they want to get their data back. If they failed to transfer the amount, the targets were threatened that their code would be hosted as public.

Here’s the ransom note that was left behind:

“To recover your lost data and avoid leaking it: Send us 0.1 Bitcoin (BTC) to our Bitcoin address 1ES14c7qLb5CYhLMUekctxLgc1FV2Ti9DA and contact us by Email at [email protected] with your Git login and a Proof of Payment. If you are unsure if we have your data, contact us and we will send you a proof. Your code is downloaded and backed up on our servers. If we dont receive your payment in the next 10 Days, we will make your code public or use them otherwise.”

“The targets who had their repos compromised use multiple Git-repository management platforms, with the only other connection between the reports besides Git being that the victims were using the cross-platform SourceTree free Git client”, The Bleeping Computer reports. GitLab, however, commented that they have notified the affected GitLab users and are working to resolve the issue soon.

According to BitcoinAbuse.com, a website that tracks Bitcoin addresses used for suspicious activity, there have been 27 abuse reports with the first report filed on May 2. “When searching for it on GitHub we found 392 impacted repositories which got all their commits and code wiped using the ‘gitbackup‘ account which joined the platform seven years ago, on January 25, 2012. Despite that, none of the victims have paid the ransom the hackers have asked for, seeing that the Bitcoin address received only 0.00052525 BTC on May 3 via a single transaction, which is the equivalent of roughly $2.99”, Bleeping Computer mentions.

A GitHub spokesperson told the Bleeping Computers, “GitHub has been thoroughly investigating these reports, together with the security teams of other affected companies, and has found no evidence GitHub.com or its authentication systems have been compromised. At this time, it appears that account credentials of some of our users have been compromised as a result of unknown third-party exposures.”

Team GitLab has further recommended all GitLab users to enable two-factor authentication and use SSH keys to strengthen their GitLab account.

Read Also: Liz Fong-Jones on how to secure SSH with Two Factor Authentication (2FA)

One of the StackExchange users said, “I also have 2FA enabled, and never got a text message indicating they had a successful brute login.”

One StackExchange user received a response from Atlassian, the company behind Bitbucket and the cross-platform free Git client SourceTree, “Within the past few hours, we detected and blocked an attempt — from a suspicious IP address — to log in with your Atlassian account. We believe that someone used a list of login details stolen from third-party services in an attempt to access multiple accounts.”

Bitbucket users impacted by this breach, received an email stating, “We are in the process of restoring your repository and expect it to be restored within the next 24 hours. We believe that this was part of a broader attack against several git hosting services, where repository contents were deleted and replaced with a note demanding the payment of ransom. We have not detected any other compromise of Bitbucket. We have proactively reset passwords for those compromised accounts to prevent further malicious activity. We will also work with law enforcement in any investigation that they pursue. We encourage you and your team members to reset all other passwords associated with your Bitbucket account. In addition, we recommend enabling 2FA on your Bitbucket account.”

According to Stefen Gabos’ thread on StackExchange Security forum, he mentions that the hacker does not actually delete, but merely alters Git commit headers. So there are chances that code commits can be recovered, in some cases.

“All evidence suggests that the hacker has scanned the entire internet for Git config files, extracted credentials, and then used these logins to access and ransom accounts at Git hosting services”, ZDNet reports.

To know more about this news and further updates visit GitLab’s official website.

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