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Am I chasing Shadows

Posted on 2011-02-23
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Last Modified: 2012-05-11
Hi Guys,

I've got a problem with a process making regular https calls to a range of IP addresses that I don't recognise.

I am an IT guy but I do know my limitations and I seem to have reached them now so I'm asking for help - please.

Using TCPView I noticed a svchost.exe process with a continually open http connection to an IP address of 77.67.10.143
As I didn't recognise the destination, I closed the connection, it sprang back open again, this time to 77.67.10.149 - rinse and repeat as many times as you like and the connection rotates around 8 or 10 addresses in the 77.67.10.1xx range.

Being the paranoid type; I then blocked incoming and outgoing traffic on my firewall for the 77.67.10.00/24 subnet

Now; going over to Process Explorer revealed that the process with matching PID was attempting to establish a connection every few seconds - on a fresh IP in the above range each time.

The thread stack after a connection attempt looks like this:


mswsock.dll+0x6a32
mswsock.dll+0x542d
WS2_32.dll!connect+0x53
netsession_win_dbc0250.dll+0xe7113
netsession_win_dbc0250.dll+0xb909e
netsession_win_dbc0250.dll+0xb9193
netsession_win_dbc0250.dll+0xcaf01
netsession_win_dbc0250.dll+0xcae2e
netsession_win_dbc0250.dll+0xa853d
netsession_win_dbc0250.dll+0xabffd
netsession_win_dbc0250.dll+0x10cdf2
netsession_win_dbc0250.dll+0x103397
netsession_win_dbc0250.dll+0x103492
That's me at the end of my know-how now.

The machine in question runs XP Pro and is a member of a Win SBS 2008 domain - The internet connection is via a Netgear firewall.
 
Does anyone recognise this IP range?
The usual searches just confirm that it's part of a block registered to Tiscali in The Netherlands.
 
Am I chasing shadows? If not and this is evidence of something nasty; where do I go next?

A Huge thank you in advance to anyone who takes the trouble to help with this.

Pete
 
 
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Question by:ogpete
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by:it_saige
ID: 34965310
Check here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akamai_Technologies

This is the company that has that block of addresses.  I would ensure you are not using any of their software (possibly remote agent/monitoring software).

-saige-
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Author Comment

by:ogpete
ID: 34965483
Thanks -saige-

Already done that - no Akamai applications on this system at all.

What I realy need to find out is; how do I chase down the process / application / virus or whatever is attempting these connections?

What is the next step after the stack trace in sysinternals Process Explorer?

Any suggestions anyone?

Pete
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by:it_saige
ID: 34965674
Well by searching for the dll in question.  I have verified that it is Akamai.

If you are concerned that it is malware or a virus (which is does seem to represent).  You could run a combofix on the system to remove it.  The following does discuss removal attempts and instructions.

http://forum.avast.com/index.php?topic=71328.0

HTH,

-saige-
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by:szichen
ID: 34965806
Hi Pete, Can you list all processes running on the system?
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by:sergiobg57
ID: 34966376
First of all,
If you wanna trace it, you can use tcpvcon from sysinternals for that purpose.
But, finding the process is just the first step to take.
As you probably know, a process can inject a thread into another one.
Thus, making an innocent process look like the culprit one.

You could also install comodo's firewall wich will tell you wich process is trying up to connect through some port.

Another thing you must do in order to find out whether it is a malicious or not traffic, is analyzing it with wireshark.(http://www.wireshark.org/)

Use the "tcp.dest eq ip" filter and read the content of the packets.
If it's a keylogger, you'll see what is being sent.
If there isn't ANY personal information, so post it here please in order to make the analysis faster.


Sergio C. (sergioengineer.com)
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Author Comment

by:ogpete
ID: 34966782
Hello,

Thank you all for your interest and responses; all your contributions make this a much less daunting experience for me.

-saige-
1. How can you confirm that Akamai is related to the DLL?
2. I have used Combofix in the past with good success - however my priority here is initially to discover exactly what we're dealing with (before blasting it!)

szichen
I will post a full process list in the morning - I am away from the machine now...

Sergio
I will run tcpvcon and install comodo tommorow morning - I have no experience with Comodo but will see how it goes...

I have used wireshark in the past and as you say, it will reveal what is being sent - however as we're dealing with a https stream, doesn't this mean the data will be unintelligible?

Cheers,

Pete
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it_saige earned 125 total points
ID: 34967076
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by:szichen
szichen earned 125 total points
ID: 34967430
I also suggest finding out any recently installed appplications on the system. Also find out what is running at startup - start>>run>>msconfig

I did some digging and agree with Saige that it is Akamai Technologies. From what I understand, Akamai provides a mirroring service to their customers by providing faster searches for web content.  For e.g., say you own a site called www.pete.com and you sell movies. You engage Akamai to mirror your site so that when potential customers want to download a DVD and go to www.pete.com, Akamai is mirroring your site so they would be directed to the Akamai network but the web address remains the same. On a large scale, this allows customers of Akamai to deal with the large number of requests to their sites and also allows web surfers to pull down web content faster from cached servers closest to them. In your case, I can only assume this:

1. The machine is being used to cache web content and is hosting a service, hence the continuous connections to the Akamai network. Although this may require further analysis since Akamai has their own caching servers (http://www.upenn.edu/computing/web/central-host/caching/caching-description.html).
2. A recently installed program or recently accessed web site is trying to connect to a website which is being mirrored by Akamai. I don't think that Akamai would intentionally host a bad website but one of the hosted websites could have got infected by malware (not uncommon these days). I wouldn't know how Akamai would deal with infected sites.

I wouldn't rule out the machine being infected (less than 50% chance - a scan would confirm this) though. If a scan proves that the machine is clean then you need to find out all programs installed, recently accessed websites from the machine, etc, and the services it is trying to pull down.

Other reading:
Read here: http://www.fool.com/portfolios/rulebreaker/2000/rulebreaker000803.htm

someone also had the same thing here: http://forums.fedoraforum.org/showthread.php?t=157722
so you can choose to block all connections to Akamai.

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Assisted Solution

by:sergiobg57
sergiobg57 earned 125 total points
ID: 34969081
Oh, i didn't see it was HTTPS.
Still, using wireshark can give you some hints.

Since it is https, i tried to acquire some knowledge about this IP.

First of all, the owner of the public key:
Certificate (id-at-commonName=redswoosh.akadns.net,id-at-stateOrProvinceName=California,id-at-organizationName=Akamai Technologies, Inc.,id-at-localityName=San Mateo,id-at-countryName=US)

It's Akamai.

I've used a whois service as well on this IP:
http://networktools.nl/whois/77.67.10.149

Also tells it's akamai's server.

For the sake of curiosity, i also ran a port scan on the server.

22/tcp   open     ssh           syn-ack
443/tcp  open     https         syn-ack
500/tcp  open     isakmp        syn-ack
3001/tcp open     nessus        syn-ack
5001/tcp open     commplex-link syn-ack
9050/tcp open     tor-socks     syn-ack.

Looks like a real server.
I do believe that it's "almost" legitimate.
You might have agreed with some term about helping akamai to improve their products ou anything like that.
Anyway, find the process and tell us the name.
It's almost clear that it is no malware but instead a "feature" of some sort.

Sergio C. (sergioengineer.com)
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by:Hapexamendios
Hapexamendios earned 125 total points
ID: 34969296
(Hope this is an addition, as opposed to a duplication of excellent efforts by my peers above!)

Without thinking too hard, I know that our Sophos anti-virus, all Adobe products, and Windows Update use Akamai Technologies' cloud computing environments to host updates. (I believe Google Updater is also a possible candidate, but cannot confirm as I do not use Google's products, only their search engine:) )

The Automatic Updates service is an example of svchost.exe being used to create one or more  threads, and it goes to Akamai as per above. The regularity and frequency of connection attempts suggests this is not MS Updates, but should give you an example of how this can occur.

In a nutshell, and repeating both saige's advice and the others, it's a low likelihood this is malware, and rather more likely that it is a routine product update from a less-than-cleverly designed program.
Check your scheduled tasks for any scheduled product updates listed there, then go through each installed program in turn and check its updating settings.

Very best of luck to you...
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Author Comment

by:ogpete
ID: 34972895
OK, I'm back at the machine again so it's time for some more digging.

-saige-
My naivete made me focus my attention on the WS2_32.dll!connect+0x53 Dll, (kind of suspicious looking name maybe) I never thought to look at netsession_win_dbc0250.dll - sorry, my stupidity lead to an unneccessary question, however I thank you for the clarification.

Szichen
Thanks for the explanation of Akamai's activities - it looks like they are everwhere!

Sysinternals Autoruns reveals that the following service exists on the machine: "Akamai NetSession Interface"

This turns out to be the big clue!

Hapexamendios
Thank you for your insights. They along with allthose other contributions received by this thread aided me in getting to the root of the problem

A further search of the machine revealed an installed Akamai application that I had no knowlege of called "AdminTool.exe" and in the same directory rswinui.exe and a bunch of support files and logs.

here is a good description from http://www.freefixer.com/library/file/58519/

Amakamai Netsession Interface, probably gets installed with Netflix, ABC-go, NBC, FOX or other video streaming software or plugins.
Akamai is a huge behind-the-scenes content network. This file runs at start up and attempts to increase streamability of media that is hosted on Akamai partners sites, it can even find alternate servers when one is clogged. Personally I'd rather it did not start till the program or browser plugin that uses it was initiated. Probably best to leave on if you watch a lot of streaming media, disable in startup and see if it hampers video, if it does then re-enable.

So, to summarise: Malware or not? In my opinion probably "JustAboutBenignware"

I know that it's the way of the world - interconnectedness of all things etc.etc. but Bloody Hell! I've just spent more hours than I care to think of and wasted the valuable time of you good people on EE scratching around looking for something that behaves like a criminal but is actually just a bad-mannered presumptuous, snotty-nosed, pimply upstart! It's a cyberteenager in a Hoodie for heavens sake. Why on earth don't the writers / distributors of these pieces of supposedly "helpfull software" ever think that the unannounced activity of their code might just cause alarm? Is it realy so difficult for them to clearly and unambiguously proclaim exactly what the code is designed to do instead of going ahead with no, or questionable, authority and burying their poorly crafted and mysterious code in our systems?

-----------------------------END OF RANT-------------------------------

Needless to say, this particular piece of JustAboutBenignware is getting removed forthwith and if I could give it an ASBO, I would!


I'm sharing the point Guys - Thanks to one and all for your interest                                    
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by:Hapexamendios
ID: 34978027
Glad I was of some help, ogpete - and I'd concur on the action on what is a company computer; get rid :)
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