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IptabLes and IptabLex Bot: A DDoS Cybersecurity Threat

Selected excerpts
Akamais Prolexic Security Engineering and Research Team (PLXsert) published a Distributed Denial of
Service (DDoS) Threat Advisory about a high-risk up-and-coming cyber security threat: the IptabLes and
IptabLex DDoS Bot. The IptabLex and IptabLex DDoS Bot Threat Advisory outlines the requirements for
and indicators of infection, and shares a YARA rule, a bash command and other DDoS defense instructions
for attack mitigation by the target.
During Q2 2014, PLXsert detected and measured DDoS campaigns driven by the execution of a binary
that produces significant payloads by executing Domain Name System (DNS) and SYN flood attacks.
One campaign peaked at 119 Gbps bandwidth and 110 Mpps in volume. The mass infestation seems to
be driven by a large number of Linux-based web servers being compromised.
The principal indicator of this infection is the presence of a Linux ELF binary that creates a copy of
itself and names it .IptabLes or .IptabLex. This binary is crafted to infect popular Linux distributions
such as Debian, Ubuntu, CentOS and Red Hat.
The infections have occurred primarily in Linux servers with Apache Struts, Tomcat and Elasticsearch
vulnerabilities. The binary is distinct from the exploits used to control the server. After attackers break
into the server, they escalate privileges, drop the binary into the compromised server and execute it.

PLXsert has analyzed the binary associated with .IptabLes infections. The IptabLes binary will only
function properly under root privileges. In some cases, the bot will run two versions of itself: one with
advanced features and one with standard capabilities of the original payload. The bot will set up
persistence, propagate and make remote connections back to its assigned Command-and-Control
server (C2). The IptabLes bot includes toolkit components such as downloader agents.

When the IptabLes bot is run, it will first ensure that it isn't already running, and if it is, it will run a
cleanup script located in memory to clean the system of prior infection(s). The original payload will be
removed from the system and the only artifacts remaining will be the renamed .IptabLes bots and their
startup scripts.

The main initialization of the .IptabLes bot starts with an attempt to establish a connection with two
hardcoded IP addresses. The bot then sends information about the memory and CPU of the victims
machine using a function called sendLoginInfo. Once a connection is established, the bot awaits
commands from the C2. The commands range from basic system modifications to launching DDoS
Most observed bots that were dropped onto compromised systems were not named IptabLes at the
time of the drop, although post-infection indication is payloads named .IptabLes or. IptabLex located in
the /boot directory and drops of bash script files in the /etc directory. Figures 1 and 2 show files
typically associated with an infection of .IptabLes on a system.

Figure 1: Presence of binaries in an infected system indicates infection

Figure 2: Contents of a startup script in the /boot directory indicates malware persistence

Mitigating this DDoS threat involves patching and hardening the server, antivirus detection and rate
limiting. In addition, PLXsert has created a YARA rule and a bash command to detect and eliminate
this threat in Linux servers. To prevent further infestation and spread of this botnet it is necessary to
identify and apply corrective measures, such as those outlined in the threat advisory.

Malicious actors behind this botnet have produced significant DDoS attack campaigns, forcing target
companies to seek expert DDoS protection. This bot seems to be in an early development stage and
shows several signs of instability. More refined and stable versions could emerge in future attack
campaigns, and PLXsert anticipates further infestation and the expansion of this botnet.
Get the full IptabLes IptabLex DDoS Bot Threat Advisory at

The IptabLes IptabLex DDoS Bot Threat Advisory includes mitigation details for enterprises, such as:

Indicators of infection
Analysis of the binary (ELF)
Payload initialization and persistence
Network code analysis
Case study of a DDoS attack campaign
How to harden Linux servers against exploits
Antivirus detection rates
Bash commands to clean an infected system
YARA rule to identify an ELF IptabLes payload
DDoS mitigation techniques

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