The report said the hosting providers were hacked by using a legacy variant of the Gh0st remote access tool (RAT).
“The access was exclusively used to conduct criminal activity on the network and customer websites, using the reputation of these legitimate sites to add validity to their activities,” said Alastair MacGibbon, head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ASCS).
“Australia is the first country to identify and engage with victims about this activity. While the methods used are not new or sophisticated, the use of them in the manner described in this report, and the victims they target, make this a significant achievement.”
The ASCS said there is evidence that the hacker used two of the hosts to mine cryptocurrency, as well as using other hosts to redirect web traffic.
“The actor favoured techniques such as web shells to gain initial access, exploiting vulnerable web applications to upload the web shells,” the report states.
“The actor rarely required privilege escalation but demonstrated the capability and persistence to escalate privilege when necessary.”
The ASCS said it worked with a “diverse range” of sources, including industry, government departments, law enforcement and information security bodies to detect the cyber-criminal activity.
MacGibbon said they will not be identifying the compromised providers, but “it is important to note that all affected web hosting providers were advised to take remediation actions, and we commend them for working collaboratively with us to achieve such success.”
The ASCS report also includes recommendations for hosting providers and customers, including a high recommendation for regular application and OS patches.