In recent years, Linux systems gained prominence among diverse threat actors, with more than 260,000 unique samples emerging in H1 2023.

In the case of Linux, threat actors can run multiple campaigns without being detected for years, and maintain long-term existence on the compromised systems.

Cybersecurity researchers at Kaspersky Lab recently detected that threat actors are weaponizing the Free Download manager for Linux to steal system data and passwords.

While investigating the suspicious domains, cybersecurity analysts uncovered a persistent and long-lasting attack. Here below, we have mentioned the set of domains analyzed by security experts-

  • 2c9bf1811ff428ef9ec999cc7544b43950947b0f.u.fdmpkg[.]org
  • c6d76b1748b67fbc21ab493281dd1c7a558e3047.u.fdmpkg[.]org
  • 0727bedf5c1f85f58337798a63812aa986448473.u.fdmpkg[.]org
  • c3a05f0dac05669765800471abc1fdaba15e3360.u.fdmpkg[.]org

Weaponized Free Download Manager

These domains raise alarm for security researchers, hinting at potential malware using the domain-generation algorithms for C2 communication, and that’s why analysts primarily focused on the following domain:-

  • fdmpkg[.]org

The domain under scrutiny features the “deb.fdmpkg[.]org” subdomain that leads to the following webpage:-

Weaponized Free Download Manager
Landing webpage (Source – Securelist)

The subdomain claims to host the ‘Free Download Manager’ Debian repository, but we found a malicious package at “https://deb.fdmpkg[.]org/freedownloadmanager.deb”. 

This package deploys infected scripts and creates persistence with a cron task running /var/tmp/crond every 10 minutes.

The infected package installed a January 24, 2020 version of Free Download Manager. The postinst script, in Russian and Ukrainian, references malware improvements and activist messages, with the following dates:- 

  • 20200126 (January 26, 2020)
  • 20200127 (January 27, 2020)

After installation, the package triggers /var/tmp/crond on startup via cron, serving as a self-contained backdoor using statically linked dietlibc for Linux API access. It contacts a secondary C2 server via DNS request to <hex-encoded 20-byte string>.u.fdmpkg[.]org.

Now after parsing the DNS response, the backdoor establishes a reverse shell via SSL or TCP with the secondary C2 server, using /var/tmp/bs for SSL or self-made for TCP.

Discovering the crond backdoor’s reverse shell, experts tested it in a malware analysis sandbox, finding it delivered a Bash stealer. This stealer gathers system info like:-

  • Browsing history
  • Saved passwords
  • Crypto wallet files
  • Cloud service credentials
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Here below we have mentioned the cloud services that are targeted primarily:-

  • AWS
  • Google Cloud
  • Oracle Cloud Infrastructure
  • Azure

The stealer retrieves an uploader binary from the C2 server, stores it in /var/tmp/atd, and employs it to send stolen data to the infrastructure that is under the control of attackers.

Weaponized Free Download Manager
Infection chain (Source – Securelist)


Moreover, security analysts found Linux installation tutorials for Free Download Manager on YouTube videos.

After tracing the Free Download Manager package’s infection source, researchers linked the discovered implants to Bew backdoor and Exim mail server vulnerability.

Despite the malware’s long history and noisy implants, the malicious Free Download Manager package went undetected for over three years, affecting victims worldwide.

However, besides this, it’s been confirmed by the security analysts that this campaign is inactive at the moment, but, recommended users to equip their Linux machines with robust security solutions.

Update from the Free Download Manager:

Our investigation has shown that the hackers exploited a vulnerability in a script on our site to introduce a malicious file they used to change the page.

“To investigate this problem, we accessed data from our project backups dating back to 2020 and found this modified page, which contained an algorithm that chose whether give users correct download link or the one leading to the fake domain containing a malicious .deb file. It had an «exception list» of IP addresses from various subnets, including those associated with Bing and Google. Visitors from these IP addresses were always given the correct download link.

We’re truly sorry about what happened, and we again ask our users who downloaded FDM for Linux within 2020-2022 to check their computers for malware. Also we want to reassure all our Windows and Mac users that for them our website has been safe.

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Tushar is a Cyber security content editor with a passion for creating captivating and informative content. With years of experience under his belt in Cyber Security, he is covering Cyber Security News, technology and other news.


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