November 28, 2018

Compromised npm Package: event-stream

Ownership of a popular npm package, event-stream, was transferred by the original author to a malicious user, right9ctrl. This package receives over 1.5mm weekly downloads and is depended on by nearly 1,600 other packages. The malicious user was able to gain the trust of the original author by making a series of meaningful contributions to the package. The first publish of this package by the malicious user occurred on September 4th, 2018.

The malicious user modified event-stream to then depend on a malicious package, flatmap-stream. This package was specifically crafted for the purposes of this attack. That package contains a fairly simple index.js file, as well as a minified index.min.js file. The two files on GitHub appear innocent enough. However, in the published npm package, the minified version of the file has additional code injected into it. There is no requirement that code being uploaded in an npm module is equivalent to the code stored publicly in a git repository.

The addition of the malicious package to the list of event-streamdependencies came to light on November 20th and is documented heavily in dominictarr/event-stream#116. This issue was made over two months after the compromised package was published. One of the many benefits of open source software is that code can be audited by many different developers. However, this isn’t a silver bullet. An example of this is OpenSSL, which is an open source project receiving some of the highest scrutiny but is still affected by serious vulnerabilities such as Heartbleed.

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