Increased Number of Configuration File Scans

Published: 2023-05-03
Last Updated: 2023-05-03 06:37:52 UTC
by Xavier Mertens (Version: 1)
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Today, automation is a crucial point for many organizations. In cloud environments, in containers, many apps are deployed automatically, for example, to face a sudden peak of activity or to reduce costs. Automation means that everything must be pre-configured: specifications of the applications but also critical information to interact with the hosting platform (credentials, API keys, secret keys, …)

Such information is often stored in environment files. The best example is probably the “.env’ file used by Docker. Such files contain credentials in key-value format for services. They should be stored locally and not be uploaded to code repositories. The verb “should” is the problem. Many developers include .env files in online repositories and, when the application is deployed, they become publicly available!

Of course, bots are looking for such files. I detected a recent peak of activity in my logs:

How to protect against this? First, education is key, and developers must be aware of the danger of publishing details about their environment in the wild. In parallel to awareness, access to dangerous files can be denied using simple rules, for example, with Apache:

<Files ~ "\.(env|json|config.js|md|gitignore|gitattributes|lock)$">
    Order allow,deny
    Deny from all

Which .env files are searched by bots? Here are the top 10 URIs from my logs:

/.env 22004
/laravel/.env 2371
/web/.env 1610
/demo/.env 1532
/admin/.env 998
/app/.env 989
/api/.env 826
/core/.env 808
/backend/.env 665
/public/.env 495

Xavier Mertens (@xme)
Senior ISC Handler - Freelance Cyber Security Consultant

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