Exploring the Unchartered Space of Container Registry Typosquatting


Guannan Liu, Virginia Tech; Xing Gao, University of Delaware; Haining Wang, Virginia Tech; Kun Sun, George Mason University


With the increasing popularity of containerized applications, container registries have hosted millions of repositories that allow developers to store, manage, and share their software. Unfortunately, they have also become a hotbed for adversaries to spread malicious images to the public. In this paper, we present the first in-depth study on the vulnerability of container registries to typosquatting attacks, in which adversaries intentionally upload malicious images with an identification similar to that of a benign image so that users may accidentally download malicious images due to typos. We demonstrate that such typosquatting attacks could pose a serious security threat in both public and private registries as well as across multiple platforms. To shed light on the container registry typosquatting threat, we first conduct a measurement study and a 210-day proof-of-concept exploitation on public container registries, revealing that human users indeed make random typos and download unwanted container images. We also systematically investigate attack vectors on private registries and reveal that its naming space is open and could be easily exploited for launching a typosquatting attack. In addition, for a typosquatting attack across multiple platforms, we demonstrate that adversaries can easily self-host malicious registries or exploit existing container registries to manipulate repositories with similar identifications. Finally, we propose CRYSTAL, a lightweight extension to existing image management, which effectively defends against typosquatting attacks from both container users and registries.

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@inproceedings {277154,
title = {Exploring the Unchartered Space of Container Registry Typosquatting},
booktitle = {31st USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 22)},
year = {2022},
address = {Boston, MA},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/usenixsecurity22/presentation/liu-guannan},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug,