Running ConnectWise Automate on-prem? Fix this high-risk API vulnerability

ConnectWise has fixed a high-severity vulnerability affecting a ConnectWise Automate API and is urging users who run the solution on their premises to implement the provided hotfixes.

ConnectWise Automate API vulnerability

About ConnectWise Automate and the vulnerability

ConnectWise is a provider of business automation solutions for managed services providers (MSPs) and IT solution providers.

ConnectWise Automate is a software suite IT support technicians use to remotely monitor and manage customers’ assets (servers and workstations).

“A remote authenticated user could exploit a vulnerability in a specific Automate API and execute commands and/or modifications within an individual Automate instance,” the company shared in a security bulletin. Effectively, this could allow attackers to do things like run commands on endpoints, create new users, etc.

The vulnerability affects on-premise and cloud instances of ConnectWise Automate versions 2020.5 and earlier.

ConnectWise has applied the hotfixes and hardening measures required to plug the security holes and is urging on-premise partners to do the same based on their Automate instance version.

Those who still use ConnectWise Automate versions 2019.11 or older are urged to implement provided mitigation steps and to update to a supported version.

Protecting customers

ConnectWise has been working on the hotfixes since last week and has been releasing them up until Saturday. The first hotfixes were a temporary stopgap, so users are advised to peruse the security advisory and make sure to apply them all.

“To protect our customers, ConnectWise does not publicly disclose or confirm security vulnerabilities until ConnectWise has conducted an analysis of the product and has issued fixes and/or mitigations,” the company noted.

“Alternative tools and processes are used, where appropriate, when targeted or discrete communication with entitled customers is required.”

Earlier this year, BishopFox researchers flagged eight vulnerabilities in ConnectWise Control, the company’s remote control and access solution. Seven of the vulnerabilities were subsequently remediated and the successful remediation confirmed.

SaltStack Salt vulnerabilities actively exploited by attackers, patch ASAP!

Two vulnerabilities in SaltStack Salt, an open-source remote task and configuration management framework, are being actively exploited by attackers, CISA warns.

About SaltStack Salt

Salt is used for configuring, managing and monitoring servers in datacenters and cloud environments.

The Salt installation is the “master” and each server it monitors runs an API agent called a “minion”. The minions send state reports to the master and the master publishes update messages containing instructions/commands to the minions. The communication between the master and its minions is secured (encrypted).

SaltStack Salt vulnerabilities

About the vulnerabilities

Discovered by F-Secure researchers, CVE-2020-11651 (an authentication bypass flaw) and CVE-2020-11652 (a directory traversal flaw) can be exploited by remote, unauthenticated attackers.

According to the researchers, the vulnerabilities allow attackers to “connect to the ‘request server’ port to bypass all authentication and authorization controls and publish arbitrary control messages, read and write files anywhere on the ‘master’ server filesystem and steal the secret key used to authenticate to the master as root.”

The attackers can thusly achieve remote command execution as root on both the master and all minions that connect to it.

The vulnerabilities affect all Salt versions prior to 2019.2.4 and 3000.2, which were released last week.

“Adding network security controls that restrict access to the salt master (ports 4505 and 4506 being the defaults) to known minions, or at least block the wider Internet, would also be prudent as the authentication and authorization controls provided by Salt are not currently robust enough to be exposed to hostile networks,” the researchers added.

Active exploitation

F-Secure warned that there are over 6,000 Salt masters exposed to the public Internet, so they chose not to publish a PoC.

But, they said, “any competent hacker will be able to create 100% reliable exploits for these issues in under 24 hours,” and they were right: a few days later a researcher reported their honeypots already being targeted.

Even though SaltStack did send an advanced notice about the critical nature of the flaws and the need for a quick update and additional mitigation actions to their users, not everybody reacted promptly.

During the weekend, attackers successfully leveraged the flaws to gain access to the infrastructure of the LineageOS project, the Ghost blogging platform, and one of the Certificate Transparency logs (CT2) operated by DigiCert. In all three cases, the attackers’ goal was to install cryptominers.

UPDATE (May 4, 2020, 5:10 a.m. PT):

“Upon notification of the CVE, SaltStack took immediate action to remediate the vulnerability, develop and issue patches, and communicate to our customers about the affected versions so they can prepare their systems for update. Although there was no initial evidence that the CVE had been exploited, we have confirmed that some vulnerable, unpatched systems have been accessed by unauthorized users since the release of the patches,” Alex Peay, SVP, Product and Marketing, SaltStack, told Help Net Security.

“We must reinforce how critical it is that all Salt users patch their systems and follow the guidance we have provided outlining steps for remediation and best practices for Salt environment security. It is equally important to upgrade to latest versions of the platform and register with support for future awareness of any possible issues and remediations. As the primary maintainers of the Salt Open Project, trusted by the world’s largest businesses to automate digital infrastructure operations and security, we take this vulnerability and the security of our platform very seriously. More information about our response and handling of CVEs is available in our Knowledge Base.”

UPDATE (May 4, 2020, 9:45 a.m. PT):

“Yesterday, May 3, DigiCert announced that it is deactivating its Certificate Transparency (CT) 2 log server after determining that the key used to sign SCTs may have been exposed via critical SALT vulnerabilities. We do not believe the key was used to sign SCTs outside of the CT log’s normal operation, though as a precaution, CAs that received SCTs from the CT2 log after May 2 at 5 p.m. U.S. Mountain Daylight Time (MDT) should receive an SCT from another trusted log,” a DigiCert spokesperson told Help Net Security.

“Three other DigiCert CT logs: CT1, Yeti and Nessie, are not affected as they are run on completely different infrastructure. The impacts are limited to only the CT2 log and no other part of DigiCert’s CA or CT Log systems.”

The spokesperson added that DigiCert has been planning for some time to shut down CT2, in order to move the industry toward their newer and more robust CT logs, Yeti and Nessie.

“We notified the industry of our intention to terminate signing operations of CT2 on May 1 but pushed back the date based on industry feedback. This timeline has now been moved up, with the CT2 log in read-only mode effective May 3,” they explained.

“Because of Google’s implementation of CT that requires SCTs be posted in multiple logs in order for a certificate to be valid, active TLS certificates posted to the CT2 log should continue to work as expected if issued before May 2 at 5 p.m. MDT.”

Zoom in crisis: How to respond and manage product security incidents

Zoom is in crisis mode, facing grave and very public concerns regarding the trust in management’s commitment for secure products, the respect for user privacy, the honesty of its marketing, and the design decisions that preserve a positive user experience. Managing the crisis will be a major factor in determining Zoom’s future.

zoom crisis

The company has recently skyrocketed to new heights and plummeted to new lows. It is one of the few communications applications that is perfectly suited to a world beset by quarantine actions, yet has fallen from grace because of poor security, privacy, and transparency issues. Governments, major companies, and throngs of users have either publicly criticized or completely abandoned the product.

No company wants to be in this position: faced with dealing with mistakes publicly at a time when they are experiencing unimaginable growth. Zoom is sputtering to stay relevant, fend off competition, and emerge intact.

Knowing how to respond and manage product security incidents is becoming more important for digital companies. Zoom is an excellent test-case to explore the lessons in crisis management. These lessons are valuable to every product and service organization which could face a loss of customer confidence. It would be wise for business leadership in every industry to take an introspective look and understand how they can effectively respond during such a crisis. Preparation provides an advantage and gives insights that may help avoid catastrophe.

Crisis management

Cybersecurity is a discipline in managing the risks to security, privacy, and safety. It does not eliminate them, but rather seeks to find an optimal balance between the risks, costs, and usability. That means there will always be a chance for undesired impacts. If managed properly from the onset, the minimization of those residual risks can also be handled in ways that reduce the negative effects.

Crisis response is a specialty that benefits from forethought, experience, leadership, and skills.

I have lead crisis response teams over the years and been fortunate to be part of strong teams that handled events with speed, efficiency, and professionalism. I have also witnessed complete train-wrecks where the wrong people were attempting to lead, focus was misplaced, valuable time and resources were squandered, legal instruments were applied to hide the truth, communication was confusing, and feeble attempts leveraging marketing to “spin messages” were preferred over actually addressing issues head-on. Poor leadership is caustic, can result in more problems and a prolonged recovery.

Crisis response is a complex dance. It requires a clearly defined objective to pursue and an understanding of the opposition, obstacles, and resources. Executive support is required, but not necessarily welcome in all decisions. Time is a crucial resource as is the morale and commitment of employees. It is normally a thankless job, as the best-case scenario is the situation is resolved and quickly fades from memory.

But enough with the platitudes. Let’s dive into some specifics with an interesting use-case which is currently unfolding.

Zoom crisis: The test-case

Zoom has a number of technical, behavioral, and process issues to address, in order to dig themselves out of the hole in which they currently find themselves. The goal of their response should be to restore the confidence in the Zoom products and its organization. To do this, the company must evolve to better proactively manage the risks of product vulnerabilities, avoid design decisions that weaken privacy and allow for abuse, and foster trust by being accurate and transparent with users, regulators, and stockholders. Every crisis that is comprehensively managed is painful, as it requires accountability, commitment, and disruptive change.

Let’s go down the list of challenges and best-practices.

Executive support

First and foremost, it takes executive management support for an organization to rally together to address a significant crisis. Time, resources, and even goodwill must be applied from across the company. There are opportunities that must be sacrificed and trade-offs made. Fortunately, Zoom’s CEO has aggressively come forward to recognize the issues, personally took responsibility, and committed to restore trust.

Although falling on one’s sword is not necessary for a CEO, it does eliminate much of the wasted time normally allotted to the blame-game, finding a scapegoat, or being lured by the attractiveness of trying to use marketing tricks to spin or change the narrative. Quickly and openly taking responsibility for shortcomings is a shortcut to align focus toward resolution and shows seriousness in ensuring processes will be in place to protect from future issues.

Crisis leadership

A strong and capable leader is required to oversee a crisis. It is a specific discipline and not one recommended to be led by the inexperienced. Assigning the wrong person to lead a crisis is the single greatest mistake I have seen in the past.

Marketing and legal people should be part of the team but never lead the crisis response. They look at crisis events through the lens of what they know and the capabilities they can bring into play. They immediately move to conceal, deny, ignore, find blame elsewhere, or focus on spinning the media messages rather than addressing the root problems. This can work to distract for a time and delay some pain, but is not the best path to an expedited, comprehensive, and sustainable solution. In fact, their actions can cause considerable deterioration of the already weakened trust by consumers.

CEOs should initiate, support, define the goals, approve major changes, deliver sweeping announcements, and identify a crisis leader, but not take charge. Again, a specific set of skills are required. Can a CEO get the job done? Potentially, but as most executives are not savvy in this area it would be a major struggle; they need to leave it to professionals. A good crisis leader will work closely with the C-suite every step of the way and make sure the right path is enlightened and understood so management can confidently support progress forward.

Although it may seem counter intuitive, engineering should not lead either. Engineers are an integral part of the resolution for design and coding issues, but they should not be leading. They know the technical aspect of the product or service and will be the mighty tool to fix many of the vulnerabilities. However, what Zoom and most other companies face in situations like this includes a combination of technical, behavioral, and process issues. Looking solely through the goggles of an engineer, one only sees part of the problem set and mistakes it as the entire picture.

An experienced crisis manager that understands risks will develop more comprehensive plans that align with the long-term capabilities to prevent recurrence and support the short-term acts necessary to restore trust. They will engage engineers and developers with a prioritized list for them to resolve the technical issues in concert with other efforts necessary to achieve the overall objectives.

Root cause

Identifying and addressing the root cause is crucial. Analysis will provide insights to what problems have arisen and also highlight what may be next. If the origins are unknown then the chances for another crisis remains high. Proper crisis response is not just about putting out the immediate fire, but also making sure when things are rebuilt, they aren’t vulnerable to the same issues.

For Zoom the likely root cause was due to the over prioritization for rapid Go-to-Market efforts that fueled a de-prioritization of product security and overzealous marketing which didn’t put enough weight in being clear and truthful when it comes to privacy and security. This means there are probably many other vulnerabilities lurking in the product, possibly some sensitive customer data has been gathered as some point, inaccurate marketing materials may be floating about, and the developers are likely not savvy when it comes to security and privacy as part of the Development and Operations (DevOps) lifecycle. The good news is that all these issues can be addressed and if done correctly will result in the organization and products becoming stronger and more competitive.

Priority planning

Stop the bleeding. Aligning resources and resolving the most relevant immediate issues of the customers is the top priority. The first step is to freeze all work on new features and reallocate those technical folks to understand and address the known vulnerabilities. This requires time and engineering resources across development, testing, and validation domains. As part of this effort, the underlying configuration issues causing severe user-experience friction (e.g., Zoombombing, session hijacking) or regulatory non-compliance (e.g., privacy) must also be resolved.

In parallel, work must be initiated to address what is not publicly known, which may likely erupt and significantly add to the chaos. What other related issues exist that may have been ignored? With a root cause being people choosing to not invest in security, there are likely advocates in the organization who have been trying to raise issues. It is time for their vindication. These insights, reports, and champions can give great insights to other areas requiring immediate attention.

Setting clear and realistic expectations with customers is very important, as these steps can take some time to complete and may need to be done in stages. This is not the time for marketing spin. Honesty and transparency, mixed with a touch of humility, and presented in a professional manner will lay a foundation for trust. Select executives must be prepared to engage with the customers, resellers, suppliers, vendors, etc. in an open, consistent, and well-informed way. It is okay to not have all the answers and instead communicate how the organization will get there.

For Zoom I would recommend the following:

  1. Update and correct the privacy policy to include that customer data will not be shared or sold. Additionally, indicate what potentially sensitive data is captured or accessible by Zoom.
  2. Remove all offending code or extensions that gather data that falls outside of the new privacy policy. This includes activities that are known to the public and those that are not yet known. End contracts with third-party data vendors in such a way you are prepared for an audit of data acquisition and sharing practices.
  3. Scan the corporate, vendor, and partner environments for customer data that falls outside of the policy and move to delete. If required by law, notify users.
  4. Proactively engage privacy regulators and customers to outline what steps are being taken to respect their privacy, both in the short and long term, and the processes that will be instituted to provide transparent oversight for their benefit.
  5. Conduct a vulnerability scan of code, dependencies, and libraries. Professional tools and services should be used. Do not rely upon the knowledge base of the developers. Resolve or mitigate the detected issues and be prepared to provide the audit and supporting proof.
  6. As part of a security assessment, form an internal blue team to identify technical, configuration, and usage issues that could undermine security, privacy, and trust. This should be a cross-discipline team, not just engineers. Pull from marketing, management, sales, etc. to get the widest possible perspectives. This activity can happen quickly and provide important user-facing issues.
  7. For a deep-dive assessment, a professional external red team is required. Hire a reputable team and make it a priority for in-house product engineering to help the red team begin their work. This takes time but will find a much more in-depth set of vulnerabilities. No product team initially likes this process, but they will come to respect it and become better engineers because of it.
  8. Adopt an industry-proven end-to-end encryption technology. For Zoom this is foundational to the restoration of trust and continue patronage by security-conscious customers. Encryption is not easy. Seldom does a product organization get it right and even getting part of it wrong undermines the whole structure. Do NOT attempt to build or configure this internally. Trust factors are at play here. There are solutions in the industry that are vetted and solid for comprehensive and sustainable data security across untrusted networks and devices. Implement one and be prepared to announce what is being adopted. Good encryption does not require algorithm or configuration secrecy. There will be questions, many of which will need to go to that vendor, so choose wisely.
  9. Ensure all code changes go through rigorous tests and validation before being rushed into a patch. A poor update can cause major outages, unanticipated issues, and be the cause of even more problems. Now is not the time to take shortcuts. Move as quickly as possible, but adhere to quality control standards.

Marketing will have the challenge of expressing the proactive changes without overselling the credibility. The Advisor role, DPO, and CISO must be competent, experienced, and willing to work with marketing to engage industry experts and the media in pragmatic ways but not contribute to unnecessary news cycles that prolong negative sentiment.

Zoom should adopt all the leadership recommendations, as they overlap and support each other. Understanding and accountability must originate from the top and established for data privacy, infrastructure security, and processes incorporated into product development.

In addition to a Security DevOps champion, products require intense and varied testing to detect vulnerabilities. Some of this can and should be done internally for known vulnerabilities, but a professional community is required for a deeper scan to detect unpublished weaknesses. The use of bug bounties, penetration testing, and red teams is an industry best practice. Vulnerability management is a continuous process that begins in development but must persist well after product release and throughout the lifecycle as new vulnerabilities are discovered. It must be put in place to adopt this new way of thinking and operating.

Product vulnerability lifecycle

Recommendations for Zoom to better manage their product vulnerability lifecycle:

  1. Work with an established bug bounty vendor to set up a continuous program, offering in aggregate ~$1 million in bounties. This economic incentive will draw a global community of security researchers and ethical hackers to thoroughly scrutinize your product in ways you cannot. They will provide you with the data before malicious hackers can take advantage. It is an incredibly powerful decentralized resource.
  2. Incorporate a code vulnerability scanner into the DevOps processes. Commercial tools and services are available that scan code or match to third-party libraries and dependencies to vulnerabilities. This becomes a learning tool for your developers as much as it is a security assurance control. DevOps will get better at security over time, thus being less of a productivity sink while accelerating release times for secure products and features.
  3. Red teams and penetration testing services are expensive, but return a methodical set of results that provide very strong assurance. Incorporate such capabilities for major releases and to prove that critical security holes are actually patched.
  4. Blue teams are less expensive but still provide value that other controls may overlook. They will find many of the misconfiguration, misuse, and oddball feature settings which can cause user stress by undermining security and privacy. Incorporate a lightweight blue team review for every update that touches the user interface (UI) or any administration function.
  5. Establish a process for researchers to confidentially engage the product security team to disclose new vulnerabilities. Respect, recognize, and reward those who do.
  6. Make sure that, by design, the product can be effectively patched. It seems basic, but the details can be tricky. There should also be a way of verifying the patch was successfully installed. Metrics for compliance are important, especially during crisis events, as it will be one of the determining factors for when the crisis can be closed.

Incorporating these process enhancements will effectively establish an aggressive and proactive capability to find new vulnerabilities and maintain product security. Over time the organizations’ capability to produce and sustain secure products will continuously improve. It can be a significant competitive advantage on several fronts.

Privacy and the protection of data are also important. It is a responsibility shared among data owners, the DPO, and the CISO. Process improvement and accountability are expected when crisis situations highlight a lack of confidence in the current system and controls. When trust has been undermined, an independent third-party must conduct regular audits. These audits confirm compliance with the policies. They are valuable as a tool to strengthen customer confidence and for discussions with regulators. Zoom should establish a SAS 70 Type 2 type of recurring audit for data acquisition, security, and sharing. For the greatest level of trust, craft the audits so the results can be made public every year.

Establishing a DPO, updating data policies, instituting proper governance and oversight, and acting with transparency with regards to the checks and balances will set the organization on an admirable path that will build credibility as an asset. Privacy and data security continue to grow as important aspects of business. Zoom has an opportunity to showcase respect and responsibility if they maneuver correctly to embrace industry best practices.

In conclusion

I have covered some of the fundamentals for product security crisis response and done a walkthrough of what I would do, beginning Day 1 of leading a crisis response for a Zoom-type incident.

This is just a taste and not a comprehensive compendium. Cybersecurity crisis management is very complex and difficult. Being in the jaws of hourly crisis meetings and making tough decisions about ambiguous situations is grueling work that I don’t wish upon anyone. But if done correctly it can move rapidly and deliver results that benefit users and strengthen the organization.

Responding well to a crisis can highlight the professional, ethical, and adaptive qualities of an organization’s leadership. Optimally, it will enhance customers’ trust in management’s commitment for secure products, respect for user privacy, honesty of its marketing, and designs that preserve a positive user experience. If done poorly, it becomes a protracted blight on an organization, its products, and leadership. Often careers and businesses don’t survive for long.

Zoom has numerous challenges to face. It has already done many things right, you can read the details in their blog and watch a video of CEO Eric Yuan openly discuss the issues and efforts, but has a long way to go before it restores trust and makes its products secure. Every organization should take a moment to understand what Zoom is going through as a learning opportunity and introspectively explore how they want to avoid or address the risks. Confidence in products and an organization is at stake.

Hackers are compromising vulnerable ManageEngine Desktop Central instances

Is your organization using ManageEngine Desktop Central? If the answer is yes, make sure you’ve upgraded to version 10.0.474 or risk falling prey to attackers who are actively exploiting a recently disclosed RCE flaw (CVE-2020-10189) in its software.

About ManageEngine Desktop Central

ManageEngine Desktop Central is developed by ManageEngine, a division of Zoho Corporation, an software development company that focuses on web-based business tools and information technology.

Desktop Central is a unified endpoint management solution that helps companies, including managed service providers (MSPs), to centrally control servers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets.

About the vulnerability (CVE-2020-10189)

CVE-2020-10189 allows for deserialization of untrusted data and allows unauthenticated, remote attackers to execute arbitrary code on affected installations of ManageEngine Desktop Central and achieve SYSTEM/root privileges.

This would allow them to install malicious programs or push malicious updates onto the managed devices, lock them, and so on.

The vulnerability affects Desktop Central versions prior to 10.0.474 and was unearthed by Steven Seeley of Source Incite, who revealed its existence publicly last week through a tweet and security advisory that also links to PoC exploit code.

At the time, the vulnerability was a zero-day (unknown to and unaddressed by the vendor), since Seeley didn’t share his findings with Zoho/ManageEngine prior to the advisory’s publication – ostensibly because “Zoho typically ignores researchers.”

A day later ManageEngine issued a security update (v10.0.479) to correct the flaw and offered mitigation advice.

The danger

Nate Warfield, senior security program manager at Microsoft, used the Shodan search engine to find some 2,300 publicly accessible Desktop Central instances.

But even instances that aren’t exposed externally can be exploited by attackers who have achieved access to the target organization’s through another security hole, allowing them to broaden their presence.

Finally, since the solution is often used by managed service providers (MSPs), compromised Desktop Central instances could result in the simultaneous compromise of many client organizations’ endpoints and, through them, networks.

Organizations who use ManageEngine Desktop Central should upgrade to a safe version as soon as possible.