Most US states show signs of a vulnerable election-related infrastructure

75% of all 56 U.S. states and territories leading up to the presidential election, showed signs of a vulnerable IT infrastructure, a SecurityScorecard report reveals.

election infrastructure

Since most state websites offer access to voter and election information, these findings may indicate unforeseen issues leading up to, and following, the US election.

Election infrastructure: High-level findings

Seventy-five percent of U.S. states and territories’ overall cyberhealth are rated a ‘C’ or below; 35% have a ‘D’ and below. States with a grade of ‘C’ are 3x more likely to experience a breach (or incident, such as ransomware) compared to an ‘A’ based on a three-year SecurityScorecard study of historical data. Those with a ‘D’ are nearly 5x more likely to experience a breach.

  • States with the highest scores: Kentucky (95) Kansas (92) Michigan (92)
  • States with the lowest scores: North Dakota (59) Illinois (60) Oklahoma (60)
  • Among states and territories, there are as many ‘F’ scores as there are ‘A’s
  • The Pandemic Effect: Many states’ scores have dropped significantly since January. For example, North Dakota scored a 72 in January and now has a 59. Why? Remote work mandates gave state networks a larger attack surface (e.g., thousands of state workers on home Wi-Fi), making it more difficult to ensure employees are using up-to-date software.

Significant security concerns were observed with two critically important “battleground” states, Iowa and Ohio, both of which scored a 68, or a ‘D’ rating.

The battleground states

According to political experts, the following states are considered “battleground” and will help determine the result of the election. But over half have a lacking overall IT infrastructure:

  • Michigan: 92 (A)
  • North Carolina: 81 (B)
  • Wisconsin: 88 (B)
  • Arizona: 81 (B)
  • Texas: 85 (B)
  • New Hampshire: 77 (C)
  • Pennsylvania: 85 (B)
  • Georgia: 77 (C)
  • Nevada: 74 (C)
  • Iowa: 68 (D)
  • Florida: 73 (C)
  • Ohio: 68 (D)

“The IT infrastructure of state governments should be of critical importance to securing election integrity,” said Alex Heid, Chief Research & Development Officer at SecurityScorecard.

“This is especially true in ‘battleground states’ where the Department of Homeland Security, political parties, campaigns, and state government officials should enforce vigilance through continuously monitoring state voter registration networks and web applications for the purpose of mitigating incoming attacks from malicious actors.

“The digital storage and transmission of voter registration and voter tally data needs to remain flawlessly intact. Some states have been doing well regarding their overall cybersecurity posture, but the vast majority have major improvements to make.”

Potential consequences of lower scores

  • Targeted phishing/malware delivery via e-mail and other mediums, potentially as a means to both infect networks and spread misinformation. Malicious actors often sell access to organizations they have successfully infected.
  • Attacks via third-party vendors – many states use the same vendors, so access into one could mean access to all. This is the top cybersecurity concern for political campaigns.
  • Voter registration databases could be impacted. In the worst-case scenario, attackers could remove voter registrations or change voter precinct information or make crucial systems entirely unavailable on Election Day through ransomware.

“These poor scores have consequences that go beyond elections; the findings show chronic underinvestment in IT by state governments,” said Rob Knake, the former director for cybersecurity policy at the White House in the Obama Administration.

“For instance, combatting COVID-19 requires the federal government to rely on the apparatus of the states. It suggests the need for a massive influx of funds as part of any future stimulus to refresh state IT systems to not only ensure safe and secure elections, but save more lives.”

A set of best practices for states

  • Create dedicated voter and election-specific websites under the domains of the official state domain, rather than using alternative domain names which can be subjected to typosquatting
  • Have an IT team specifically tasked and accountable for bolstering voter and election website cybersecurity: defined as confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all processed information
  • States should establish clear lines of authority for updating the information on these sites that includes the ‘two-person’ rule — no single individual should be able to update information without a second person authorizing it
  • States and counties should continuously monitor the cybersecurity exposure of all assets associated with election systems, and ensure that vendors supplying equipment and services to the election process undergo stringent processes

Critical flaw in SonicWall’s firewalls patched, update quickly! (CVE-2020-5135)

Earlier this week SonicWall patched 11 vulnerabilities affecting its Network Security Appliance (NSA). Among those is CVE-2020-5135, a critical stack-based buffer overflow vulnerability in the appliances’ VPN Portal that could be exploited to cause denial of service and possibly remote code execution.

CVE-2020-5135

About CVE-2020-5135

The SonicWall NSAs are next-generation firewall appliances, with a sandbox, an intrusion prevention system, SSL/TLS decryption and inspection capabilities, network-based malware protection, and VPN capabilities.

CVE-2020-5135 was discovered by Nikita Abramov of Positive Technologies and Craig Young of Tripwire’s Vulnerability and Exposures Research Team (VERT), and has been confirmed to affect:

  • SonicOS 6.5.4.7-79n and earlier
  • SonicOS 6.5.1.11-4n and earlier
  • SonicOS 6.0.5.3-93o and earlier
  • SonicOSv 6.5.4.4-44v-21-794 and earlier
  • SonicOS 7.0.0.0-1

“The flaw can be triggered by an unauthenticated HTTP request involving a custom protocol handler. The vulnerability exists within the HTTP/HTTPS service used for product management as well as SSL VPN remote access,” Tripwire VERT explained.

“This flaw exists pre-authentication and within a component (SSLVPN) which is typically exposed to the public Internet.”

By using Shodan, both Tripwire and Tenable researchers discovered nearly 800,000 SonicWall NSA devices with the affected HTTP server banner exposed on the internet. Though, as the latter noted, it is impossible to determine the actual number of vulnerable devices because their respective versions could not be determined (i.e., some may already have been patched).

A persistent DoS condition is apparently easy for attackers to achieve, as it requires no prior authentication and can be triggered by sending a specially crafted request to the vulnerable service/SSL VPN portal.

VERT says that a code execution exploit is “likely feasible,” though it’s a bit more difficult to pull off.

Mitigation and remediation

There is currently no evidence that the flaw is being actively exploited nor is there public PoC exploitation code available, so admins have a window of opportunity to upgrade affected devices.

Aside from implementing the offered update, they can alternatively disconnect the SSL VPN portal from the internet, though this action does not mitigate the risk of exploitation of some of the other flaws fixed by the latest updates.

Implementing the security updates is, therefore, the preferred step, especially because vulnerabilities in SSL VPN solutions are often targeted by cybercriminals and threat actors.

Theory and practice of web application security efforts in organizations worldwide

75% of executives believe their organization scans all web applications for security vulnerabilities, while nearly 50% of security staff say they don’t, a Netsparker survey reveals.

web application security efforts

Web application security efforts are insufficient

Even more concerning, over 60% of DevOps respondents indicate that new security vulnerabilities are being found faster than they can be fixed, indicating that web application security efforts are insufficient.

However, only just over 40% of executives are aware of this situation, and thus most companies are unlikely to be making the required investments to remedy the situation.

Despite this, respondents ranked web application security highest among areas they believe their company should focus. Over 66% of respondents named web application security as a priority – more than any other aspect of IT security, ahead of network security, endpoint security, and patch management.

Additional highlights

  • While just 20% of developers believe that development teams are resistant to incorporating security, close to half of security professionals say they encounter developer resistance.
  • Just under 40% of developers indicated that critical security issues get automatically escalated, showing that organizations still have a long way to go to fully integrate security into the software development process.
  • Just under 35% of developers report friction caused by security false positives, compared to over 54% of security staff. This suggests that security teams bear the bulk of extra work caused by false alarms.

Disconnect between theory and practice

The survey shows a worrying disconnect between the theory and practice of web application security. While most organizations appreciate the importance of web security, many still don’t scan all their applications and an even greater number struggle to deal with vulnerabilities in a timely manner.

web application security efforts

This research shows that perceptions and expectations of web application security vary widely depending on the role. This misalignment between perception and reality creates dangerous threats to the security of organizations and their customer’s data as well.

Major gaps in virtual appliance security plague organizations

As evolution to the cloud is accelerated by digital transformation across industries, virtual appliance security has fallen behind, Orca Security reveals.

virtual appliance security

Virtual appliance security

The report illuminated major gaps in virtual appliance security, finding many are being distributed with known, exploitable and fixable vulnerabilities and on outdated or unsupported operating systems.

To help move the cloud security industry towards a safer future and reduce risks for customers, 2,218 virtual appliance images from 540 software vendors were analyzed for known vulnerabilities and other risks to provide an objective assessment score and ranking.

Virtual appliances are an inexpensive and relatively easy way for software vendors to distribute their wares for customers to deploy in public and private cloud environments.

“Customers assume virtual appliances are free from security risks, but we found a troubling combination of rampant vulnerabilities and unmaintained operating systems,” said Avi Shua, CEO, Orca Security.

“The Orca Security 2020 State of Virtual Appliance Security Report shows how organizations must be vigilant to test and close any vulnerability gaps, and that the software industry still has a long way to go in protecting its customers.”

Known vulnerabilities run rampant

Most software vendors are distributing virtual appliances with known vulnerabilities and exploitable and fixable security flaws.

  • The research found that less than 8 percent of virtual appliances (177) were free of known vulnerabilities. In total, 401,571 vulnerabilities were discovered across the 2,218 virtual appliances from 540 software vendors.
  • For this research, 17 critical vulnerabilities were identified, deemed to have serious implications if found unaddressed in a virtual appliance. Some of these well-known and
    easily exploitable vulnerabilities included: EternalBlue, DejaBlue, BlueKeep, DirtyCOW, and Heartbleed.
  • Meanwhile, 15 percent of virtual appliances received an F rating, deemed to have failed the research test.
  • More than half of tested virtual appliances were below an average grade, with 56 percent obtaining a C rating or below (15.1 percent F; 16.1 percent D; 25 percent C).
  • However, due to a retesting of the 287 updates made by software vendors after receiving findings, the average grade of these rescanned virtual appliances has increased from a B to an A.

Outdated appliances increase risk

Multiple virtual appliances were at security risk from age and lack of updates. The research found that most vendors are not updating or discontinuing their outdated or end-of-life (EOL) products.

  • The research found that only 14 percent (312) of the virtual appliance images had been updated within the last three months.
  • Meanwhile, 47 percent (1,049) had not been updated within the last year; 5 percent (110) had been neglected for at least three years, and 11 percent (243) were running on out of date or EOL operating systems.
  • Although, some outdated virtual appliances have been updated after initial testing. For example, Redis Labs had a product that scored an F due to an out-of-date operating system and many vulnerabilities, but now scored an A+ after updates.

The silver lining

Under the principle of Coordinated Vulnerability Disclosure, researchers emailed each vendor directly, giving them the opportunity to fix their security issues. Fortunately, the tests have started to move the cloud security industry forward.

As a direct result of this research, vendors reported that 36,259 out of 401,571 vulnerabilities have been removed by patching or discontinuing their virtual appliances from distribution. Some of these key corrections or updates included:

  • Dell EMC issued a critical security advisory for its CloudBoost Virtual Edition
  • Cisco published fixes to 15 security issues found in the one of its virtual appliances scanned in the research
  • IBM updated or removed three of its virtual appliances within a week
  • Symantec removed three poorly scoring products
  • Splunk, Oracle, IBM, Kaspersky Labs and Cloudflare also removed products
  • Zoho updated half of its most vulnerable products
  • Qualys updated a 26-month-old virtual appliance that included a user enumeration vulnerability that Qualys itself had discovered and reported in 2018

Maintaining virtual appliances

For customers and software vendors concerned about the issues illuminated in the report, there are corrective and preventive actions that can be taken. Software suppliers should ensure their virtual appliances are well maintained and that new patches are provided as vulnerabilities are identified.

When vulnerabilities are discovered, the product should be patched or discontinued for use. Meanwhile, vulnerability management tools can also discover virtual appliances and scan them for known issues. Finally, companies should also use these tools to scan all virtual appliances for vulnerabilities before use as supplied by any software vendor.

GitHub envisions a world with fewer software vulnerabilities

After five months in beta, the GitHub Code Scanning security feature has been made generally available to all users: for free for public repositories, as a paid option for private ones.

GitHub code scanning

“So much of the world’s development happens on GitHub that security is not just an opportunity for us, but our responsibility. To secure software at scale, we need to make a base-level impact that can drive the most change; and that starts with the code,” Grey Baker, GitHub’s Senior Director of Product Management, told Help Net Security.

“Everything we’ve built previously was about responding to security incidents (dependency scanning, secret scanning, Dependabot) — reacting in real time, quickly. Our future state is about fundamentally preventing vulnerabilities from ever happening, by moving security core into the developer workflow.”

GitHub Code Scanning

The Code Scanning feature is powered by CodeQL, a powerful static analysis engine built by Semmle, which was acquired by GitHub in September 2019.

The engine can analyze code written in C, C++, C#, Java, JavaScript, TypeScript, Python and Go, but since the Code Scanning feature built on the open SARIF standard, it can also work with third-party analysis engines available from the GitHub Marketplace.

“We want developers to be able to use their tools of choice, for any of their projects on GitHub, all within the native GitHub experience they love. We’ve partnered with more than a dozen open source and commercial security vendors to date and we’ll continue to integrate code scanning with other third-party vendors through GitHub Actions and Apps,” Baker noted.

GitHub Actions

Among the third parties that offer automated security scans via GitHub Actions are Checkmarx and DefenseCode.

GitHub code scanning

“The major value add here is that developers can work, and stay within, the code development ecosystem in which they’re most accustomed to while using their preferred scanning tools,” explained James Brotsos, Senior Solutions Engineer at Checkmarx.

“GitHub is an immensely popular resource for developers, so having something that ensures the security of code without hindering agility is critical. Our ability to automate SAST and SCA scans directly within GitHub repos simplifies workflows and removes tedious steps for the development cycle that can traditionally stand in the way of achieving DevSecOps.”

Checkmarx’s SCA (software composition analysis) help developers discover and remedy vulnerabilities within open source components that are being included into the application and prioritizing them accordingly based on severity. Checkmarx SAST (static application security testing) scans proprietary code bases – even uncompiled – to detect new and existing vulnerabilities.

“This is all done in an automated fashion, so as soon as a pull request takes place, a scan is triggered, and results are embedded directly into GitHub. Together, these integrations paint a holistic picture of the entire application’s security posture to ensure all potential gaps are accounted for,” Brotsos added.

Leon Juranic, CTO at DefenseCode, said that they are very excited by this initiative, as it provides access to security analysis to over 50+ million Github users.

“Having the security analysis results displayed as code scanning alerts in GitHub provides an convenient way to triage and prioritize fixes, a process that could be cumbersome usually requiring scrolling through many pages of exported reports, going back and forth between your code and the reported results, or reviewing them in dashboards provided by the security tool. The ease of use now means you can initiate scans, view, fix, and close alerts for potential vulnerabilities in your project’s code in an environment that is already familiar and where most of your other workflows are done,” he noted.

A week ago, GitHub also announced additional support for container scanning and standards and configuration scanning for infrastructure as code, with integration by 42Crunch, Accurics, Bridgecrew, Snyk, Aqua Security, and Anchore.

The benefits and future plans

“We expect code scanning to prevent thousands of vulnerabilities from ever existing, by catching them at code review time. We envisage a world with fewer software vulnerabilities because security review is an automated part of the developer workflow,” Baker explained.

“During the code scanning beta, developers fixed 72% of the security errors found by CodeQL and reported in the code scanning pull request experience. Achieving such a high fix rate is the result of years of research, as well as an integration that makes it easy to understand each result.”

Over 12,000 repositories tried code scanning during the beta, and another 7,000 have enabled it since it became generally available, he says, and the reception has been really positive, with many highlighting valuable security finds.

“We’ll continue to iterate and focus on feedback from the community, including around access control and permissions, which are of high priority to our users,” he concluded.

HP Device Manager vulnerabilities may allow full system takeover

Three vulnerabilities affecting HP Device Manager, an application for remote management of HP Thin Client devices, could be chained together to achieve unauthenticated remote command execution as SYSTEM, security researcher Nick Bloor has found.

HP Device Manager vulnerabilities

The vulnerabilities have been patched by HP nearly two weeks ago, but additional vulnerability and research details published on Monday may help attackers to craft a working exploit.

The vulnerabilities

Thin clients are low-performance computers optimized for establishing a remote connection with a server-based computing environment.

HP Device Manager allows IT admins to remotely deploy, update, and manage thousands of HP Thin Clients through a single console.

The three vulnerabilities discovered by Bloor “may allow locally managed accounts within HP Device Manager to be susceptible to dictionary attacks due to weak cipher implementation (CVE-2020-6925) and allow a malicious actor to remotely gain unauthorized access to resources (CVE-2020-6926), and/or allow a malicious actor to gain SYSTEM privileges (CVE-2020-6927).”

CVE-2020-6925 and CVE-2020-6926 affect all versions of HP Device Manager, CVE-2020-6927 (a privilege escalation vulnerability) affects HP Device Manager 5.0.0 to 5.0.3.

CVE-2020-6925 doesn’t impact customers who are using Active Directory authenticated accounts, HP pointed out, and CVE-2020-6927 doesn’t impact customers who are using an external database and have not installed the integrated Postgres service.

Fixes and mitigations

HP has provided a security update for the HP Device Manager 5.0.x branch – HPDM v5.0.4 – and will include the fixes for the 4.x branch in HP Device Manager 4.7 Service Pack 13.

Mitigations that partially mitigate these issues are also available, and include:

  • Limiting incoming access to Device Manager ports 1099 and 40002 to trusted IPs or localhost only
  • Removing the dm_postgres account from the Postgres database; or updating the dm_postgres account password within HP Device Manager Configuration Manager; or
    creating an inbound rule within Windows Firewall configuration to configure the PostgreSQL listening port (40006) for localhost access only.

Admins are advised to implement the offered security updates or mitigations as soon as possible.

Cybersecurity practices are becoming more formal, security teams are expanding

Organizations are building confidence that their cybersecurity practices are headed in the right direction, aided by advanced technologies, more detailed processes, comprehensive education and specialized skills, a research from CompTIA finds.

cybersecurity practices

Eight in 10 organizations surveyed said their cybersecurity practices are improving.

At the same time, many companies acknowledge that there is still more to do to make their security posture even more robust. Growing concerns about the number, scale and variety of cyberattacks, privacy considerations, a greater reliance on data and regulatory compliance are among the issues that have the attention of business and IT leaders.

Elevating cybersecurity

Two factors – one anticipated, the other unexpected – have contributed to the heightened awareness about the need for strong cybersecurity measures.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been the primary trigger for revisiting security,” said Seth Robinson, senior director for technology analysis at CompTIA. “The massive shift to remote work exposed vulnerabilities in workforce knowledge and connectivity, while phishing emails preyed on new health concerns.”

Robinson noted that the pandemic accelerated changes that were underway in many organizations that were undergoing the digital transformation of their business operations.

“This transformation elevated cybersecurity from an element within IT operations to an overarching business concern that demands executive-level attention,” he said. “It has become a critical business function, on par with a company’s financial procedures.”

As a result, companies have a better understanding of what do about cybersecurity. Nine in 10 organizations said their cybersecurity processes have become more formal and more critical.

Two examples are risk management, where companies assess their data and their systems to determine the level of security that each requires; and monitoring and measurement, where security efforts are continually tracked and new metrics are established to tie security activity to business objectives.

IT teams foundational skills

The report also highlights how the “cybersecurity chain” has expanded to include upper management, boards of directors, business units and outside firms in addition to IT personnel in conversations and decisions.

Within IT teams, foundational skills such as network and endpoint security have been paired with new skills, including identity management and application security, that have become more important as cloud and mobility have taken hold.

On the horizon, expect to see skills related to security monitoring and other proactive tactics gain a bigger foothold. Examples include data analysis, threat knowledge and understanding the regulatory landscape.

Cybersecurity insurance is another emerging area. The report reveals that 45% of large companies, 41% of mid-sized firms and 37% of small businesses currently have a cyber insurance policy.

Common coverage areas include the cost of restoring data (56% of policy holders), the cost of finding the root cause of a breach (47%), coverage for third-party incidents (43%) and response to ransomware (42%).

60% of IT pros list improving security as a top priority today

Kaseya announced the results of its sixth annual IT operations benchmark report, consisting of two distinct survey audiences: IT practitioners (the IT managers and technicians working daily with technology) and IT leaders (IT directors and above).

improving security top priority

The study surveyed 878 SMB respondents, 543 of whom were IT practitioners and 335 were IT leaders. The differences in priorities and concerns between the two audiences understandably center around aspects of their roles impacted most by COVID-19: IT leaders are currently more focused on maintaining operations while keeping IT budgets in check, whereas one of IT practitioners’ greatest struggles is maintaining productivity using limited resources.

However, many similarities also emerged for both groups, including an emphasis on IT security, data protection and the interplay between automation and productivity in 2020.

Improving security is a top priority

Although 63% of IT practitioners said they had not experienced a security breach or ransomware attack in the past three years, the increase in cyberattacks during the pandemic has cemented cybersecurity and data protection as a top priority for both groups.

More than half of IT practitioners and 60% of IT leaders listed “improving IT security” as their top priority in 2020, and more than half of respondents from both groups named “cybersecurity and data protection” as their top challenge.

But managing and working with limited budgets makes securing their company during this time difficult for IT teams. Although 73% of IT leaders are optimistic that their IT budgets will remain the same or increase in 2021, nearly one-third are still concerned about having inadequate IT budgets or resources to meet demands — a similar consideration for 32% of practitioners.

As a result of limited budgets, less than a third of practitioners are actually able to patch remote, off-network devices. This potentially exposes the entire company’s networks to higher security risks given the increase in remote workforces using personal devices or connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi connections during the pandemic.

Investing in IT automation improves productivity and reduces costs

In addition to potentially making companies vulnerable to security risks, slashed budgets can also impact an IT team’s productivity. Luckily, both IT practitioners and leaders are on the same page about the solution to this problem in 2020: automation.

IT practitioners who listed “increasing IT productivity through automation” and IT leaders who named “reducing IT costs” are simply pursuing the same goal, since higher productivity ultimately reduces operating costs.

When asked about the technologies IT leaders are planning to invest in for 2021, 60% said “IT automation.” Likewise, 38% of practitioners named “automation of IT processes” as a top use case for their endpoint management solution.

Use an NVIDIA GPU? Check whether you need security updates

NVIDIA has released security updates for the NVIDIA GPU Display Driver and the NVIDIA Virtual GPU Manager that fix a variety of serious vulnerabilities.

NVIDIA GPU security updates

The driver security update should be implemented by users of the company’s desktop, workstation and data center GPUs, while the vGPU software update is available for the Virtual GPU Manager component on Citrix Hypervisor, VMware vSphere, Red Hat Enterprise Linux KVM, and Nutanix AHV enterprise virtualization solutions.

NVIDIA GPU Display Driver security updates

Four security holes have been plugged in the Display Driver:

  • CVE‑2020‑5979 affects the Control Panel component and may lead to privilege escalation
  • CVE‑2020‑5980 affects multiple components and may lead to code execution or DOS
  • CVE‑2020‑5981 affects the DirectX11 user mode driver and can, according to NVIDIA, lead to DoS
  • CVE‑2020‑5982 affects the kernel mode layer and can lead to DoS.
CVE‑2020‑5980

CVE‑2020‑5980 was unearthed by Andy Gill of Pen Test Partners and the discovery detailed in a blog post published on Thursday.

The vulnerability allows for DLL hijacking, i.e., exploitation of execution flow of an application via external DLLs.

“If a vulnerable application is configured to run at a higher privilege level, then the malicious DLL that is loaded will also be executed at a higher level, thus achieving escalation of privilege. Often the application will behave no differently because malicious DLLs may also be configured to load the legitimate DLLs they were meant to replace or where a DLL doesn’t exist,” Gill explained.

CVE‑2020‑5981

CVE‑2020‑5981 was discovered by Piotr Bania of Cisco Talos. The CVE number covers multiple vulnerabilities and, Cisco claims, they could be exploited to achieve remote code execution (and not just DoS).

“An adversary could exploit these vulnerabilities by supplying the user with a malformed shader, eventually allowing them to execute code on the victim machine. These bugs could also allow the attacker to perform a guest-to-host escape through Hyper-V RemoteFX on Windows machines,” they say.

Users are advised to check which NVIDIA display driver version is currently installed on their system(s) and update it if necessary (updates are available from here).

NVIDIA vGPU Software security updates

Vulnerabilities CVE‑2020‑5983 to CVE‑2020‑5989 are found in the vGPU plugin and could lead to DoS, information disclosure, code execution, tampering, and privilege escalation.

Users are advised to upgrade to vGPU Software versions 11.1, 10.4, or 8.5 – updates are available through the NVIDIA Licensing Portal.

MatRiCT: A quantum-safe and privacy-preserving blockchain protocol

Researchers from CSIRO’s Data61 and the Monash Blockchain Technology Centre have developed the world’s most efficient blockchain protocol that is both secure against quantum computers and protects the privacy of its users and their transactions.

MatRiCT

The technology can be applied beyond cryptocurrencies, such as digital health, banking, finance and government services, as well as services which may require accountability to prevent illegal use.

The protocol — a set of rules governing how a blockchain network operates — is called MatRiCT.

Cryptocurrencies vulnerable to attacks by quantum computers

The cryptocurrency market is currently valued at more than $325 billion, with an average of approximately $50 billion traded daily over the past year.

However, blockchain-based cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are vulnerable to attacks by quantum computers, which are capable of performing complex calculations and processing substantial amounts of data to break blockchains, in significantly faster times than current computers.

“Quantum computing can compromise the signatures or keys used to authenticate transactions, as well as the integrity of blockchains themselves,” said Dr Muhammed Esgin, lead researcher at Monash University and Data61’s Distributed Systems Security Group. “Once this occurs, the underlying cryptocurrency could be altered, leading to theft, double spend or forgery, and users’ privacy may be jeopardised.

“Existing cryptocurrencies tend to either be quantum-safe or privacy-preserving, but for the first time our new protocol achieves both in a practical and deployable way.”

The MatRiCT protocol is based on hard lattice problems, which are quantum secure, and introduces three new key features: the shortest quantum-secure ring signature scheme to date, which authenticates activity and transactions using only the signature; a zero-knowledge proof method, which hides sensitive transaction information; and an auditability function, which could help prevent illegal cryptocurrency use.

Blockchain challenged by speed and energy consumption

Speed and energy consumption are significant challenges presented by blockchain technologies which can lead to inefficiencies and increased costs.

“The protocol is designed to address the inefficiencies in previous blockchain protocols such as complex authentication procedures, thereby speeding up calculation efficiencies and using less energy to resolve, leading to significant cost savings,” said Dr Ron Steinfeld, associate professor, co-author of the research and a quantum-safe cryptography expert at Monash University.

“Our new protocol is significantly faster and more efficient, as the identity signatures and proof required when conducting transactions are the shortest to date, thereby requiring less data communication, speeding up the transaction processing time, and reducing the amount of energy required to complete transactions.”

“Hcash will be incorporating the protocol into its own systems, transforming its existing cryptocurrency, HyperCash, into one that is both quantum safe and privacy protecting,” said Dr Joseph Liu, associate professor, Director of Monash Blockchain Technology Centre and HCash Chief Scientist.

Layered security becomes critical as malware attacks rise

Despite an 8% decrease in overall malware detections in Q2 2020, 70% of all attacks involved zero day malware – variants that circumvent antivirus signatures, which represents a 12% increase over the previous quarter, WatchGuard found.

malware detections Q2 2020

Malware detections during Q2 2020

Attackers are continuing to leverage evasive and encrypted threats. Zero day malware made up more than two-thirds of the total detections in Q2, while attacks sent over encrypted HTTPS connections accounted for 34%. This means that organizations that are not able to inspect encrypted traffic will miss a massive one-third of incoming threats.

Even though the percentage of threats using encryption decreased from 64% in Q1, the volume of HTTPS-encrypted malware increased dramatically. It appears that more administrators are taking the necessary steps to enable HTTPS inspection, but there’s still more work to be done.

“Businesses aren’t the only ones that have adjusted operations due to the global COVID-19 pandemic – cyber criminals have too,” said Corey Nachreiner, CTO of WatchGuard.

“The rise in sophisticated attacks, despite the fact that overall malware detections declined in Q2 2020, likely due to the shift to remote work, shows that attackers are turning to more evasive tactics that traditional signature-based anti-malware defences simply can’t catch.

“Every organization should be prioritising behaviour-based threat detection, cloud-based sandboxing, and a layered set of security services to protect both the core network, as well as remote workforces.”

JavaScript-based attacks are on the rise

The scam script Trojan.Gnaeus made its debut at the top of WatchGuard’s top 10 malware list for Q2, making up nearly one in five malware detections. Gnaeus malware allows threat actors to hijack control of the victim’s browser with obfuscated code, and forcefully redirect away from their intended web destinations to domains under the attacker’s control.

Another popup-style JavaScript attack, J.S. PopUnder, was one of the most widespread malware variants last quarter. In this case, an obfuscated script scans a victim’s system properties and blocks debugging attempts as an anti-detection tactic.

To combat these threats, organizations should prevent users from loading a browser extension from an unknown source, keep browsers up to date with the latest patches, use reputable adblockers and maintain an updated anti-malware engine.

Attackers increasingly use encrypted Excel files to hide malware

XML-Trojan.Abracadabra is a new addition to the top 10 malware detections list, showing a rapid growth in popularity since the technique emerged in April.

Abracadabra is a malware variant delivered as an encrypted Excel file with the password “VelvetSweatshop”, the default password for Excel documents. Once opened, Excel automatically decrypts the file and a macro VBA script inside the spreadsheet downloads and runs an executable.

The use of a default password allows this malware to bypass many basic antivirus solutions since the file is encrypted and then decrypted by Excel. Organizations should never allow macros from an untrusted source, and leverage cloud-based sandboxing to safely verify the true intent of potentially dangerous files before they can cause an infection.

An old, highly exploitable DoS attack makes a comeback

A six-year-old DoS vulnerability affecting WordPress and Drupal made an appearance on a list of top 10 network attacks by volume in Q2. This vulnerability is particularly severe because it affects every unpatched Drupal and WordPress installation and creates DoS scenarios in which bad actors can cause CPU and memory exhaustion on underlying hardware.

Despite the high volume of these attacks, they were hyper-focused on a few dozen networks primarily in Germany. Since DoS scenarios require sustained traffic to victim networks, this means there’s a strong likelihood that attackers were selecting their targets intentionally.

Malware domains leverage command and control servers to wreak havoc

Two new destinations made top malware domains list in Q2. The most common was findresults[.]site, which uses a C&C server for a Dadobra trojan variant that creates an obfuscated file and associated registry to ensure the attack runs and can exfiltrate sensitive data and download additional malware when users start up Windows systems.

One user alerted the WatchGuard team to Cioco-froll[.]com, which uses another C&C server to support an Asprox botnet variant, often delivered via PDF document, and provides a C&C beacon to let the attacker know it has gained persistence and is ready to participate in the botnet.

DNS firewalling can help organizations detect and block these kinds of threats independent of the application protocol for the connection.

What are the most hack-resistant industries?

Government and financial service sectors globally are the most hack-resistant industries in 2020, according to Synack.

hack-resistant industries

Government and financial services scored 15 percent and 11 percent higher, respectively, than all other industries in 2020. Government agencies earned the top spot in part due to reducing the time it takes to remediate exploitable vulnerabilities by 73 percent.

Throughout the year, both sectors faced unprecedented challenges due to the global pandemic, but still maintained a commitment to thorough and continuous security testing that lessened the risk from cyberattacks.

“It’s a tremendously tough time for all organizations amidst today’s uncertainties. Data breaches are the last thing they need right now. That’s why it’s more crucial than ever to quickly find and fix potentially devastating vulnerabilities before they cause irreparable harm,” said Jay Kaplan, CEO at Synack. “If security isn’t a priority, trust can evaporate in an instant.”

The government sector earned 61 — the highest rating

The chaos of 2020 added new hardship to many government bodies, but security hasn’t necessarily suffered as many agencies have become more innovative and agile. Their ability to quickly remediate vulnerabilities drove this year’s top ranking.

Financial services scored 59 amidst massive COVID-19 disruptions

Financial services adapted quickly through the pandemic to help employees adjust to their new remote work realities and ensure customers could continue doing business. Continuous security testing played a significant role in the sector’s ARS.

hack-resistant industries

Healthcare and life sciences scored 56 despite pandemic challenges

The rush to deploy apps to help with the COVID-19 recovery led to serious cybersecurity challenges for healthcare and life sciences. Despite those issues, the sector had the third highest average score as research and manufacturing organizations stayed vigilant and continuously tested digital assets.

ARS scores increase 23 percent from continuous testing

For organizations that regularly release updated code or deploy new apps, point-in-time security analysis will not pick up potentially catastrophic vulnerabilities. A continuous approach to testing helps ensure vulnerabilities are found and fixed quickly, resulting in a higher ARS metric.

Large vendor ecosystems and low visibility increase third-party cyber risk

80% of organizations experienced a cybersecurity breach that originated from vulnerabilities in their vendor ecosystem in the past 12 months, and the average organization had been breached in this way 2.7 times, according to a BlueVoyant survey.

budgets third-party cyber risk

The research also found organizations are experiencing multiple pain points across their cyber risk management program as they aim to mitigate risk across a network that typically encompasses 1409 vendors.

The study was conducted by Opinion Matters and recorded the views and experiences of 1505 CIOs, CISOs and Chief Procurement Officers in organizations with more than 1000 employees across a range of vertical sectors including business and professional services, financial services, healthcare and pharmaceutical, manufacturing, utilities and energy. It covered five countries: USA, UK, Mexico, Switzerland and Singapore.

Third-party cyber risk budgets and other key findings

  • 29% say they have no way of knowing if cyber risk emerges in a third-party vendor
  • 22.5% monitor their entire supply chain
  • 32% only re-assess and report their vendor’s cyber risk position either six-monthly or less frequently
  • The average headcount in internal and external cyber risk management teams is 12
  • 81% say that budgets for third-party cyber risk management are increasing, by an average figure of 40%

Commenting on the research findings, Jim Penrose, COO BlueVoyant, said: “That four in five organizations have experienced recent cybersecurity breaches originating in their vendor ecosystem is of huge concern.

“The research clearly indicated the reasons behind this high breach frequency: only 23% are monitoring all suppliers, meaning 77% have limited visibility and almost one-third only re-assess their vendors’ cyber risk position six-monthly or annually. That means in the intervening period they are effectively flying blind to risks that could emerge at any moment in the prevailing cyber threat environment.”

Multiple pain points exist in third-party cyber risk programs as budgets rise

Further insight into the difficulties that are leading to breaches was revealed when respondents were asked to identify the top three pain points related to their third-party cyber risk programs, in the past 12 months.

The most common problems were:

  • Managing the volume of alerts generated by the program
  • Working with suppliers to improve security performance, and
  • Prioritizing which risks are urgent and which are not.

However, overall responses were almost equally spread across thirteen different areas of concern. In response to these issues, budgets for third-party cyber risk programs are set to rise in the coming year. 81% of survey respondents said they expect to see budgets increase, by 40% on average.

Jim Penrose continues: “The fact that cyber risk management professionals are reporting difficulties across the board shows the complexity they face in trying to improve performance.

“It is encouraging that budget is being committed to tackling the problem, but with so many issues to solve many organizations will find it hard to know where to start. Certainly, the current approach is not working, so simply trying to do more of the same will not shift the dial on third-party cyber risk.”

Variation across industry sectors

Analysis of the responses from different commercial sectors revealed considerable variations in their experiences of third-party cyber risk. The business services sector is suffering the highest rate of breaches, with 89% saying they have been breached via a weakness in a third-party in the past 12 months.

The average number of incidents experienced in the past 12 months was also highest in this sector, at 3.6. This is undoubtedly partly down to the fact that firms in the sector reported working with 2572 vendors, on average.

In contrast, only 57% of respondents from the manufacturing sector said they had suffered third-party cyber breaches in the past 12 months. The sector works with 1325 vendors on average, but had a much lower breach frequency, at 1.7.

“Thirteen percent of respondents from the manufacturing sector also reported having no pain points in their third-party cyber risk management programs, a percentage more than twice as high as any other sector.

Commenting on the stark differences observed between sectors, Jim Penrose said: “This underlines that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to managing third-party cyber risk.

“Different industries have different needs and are at varying stages of maturity in their cyber risk management programs. This must be factored into attempts to improve performance so that investment is directed where it has the greatest impact.”

Mix of tools and tactics in play

The survey investigated the tools organizations have in place to implement third-party cyber risk management and found a mix of approaches with no single approach dominating.

Many organizations are evolving towards a data-driven strategy, with supplier risk data and analytics in use by 40%. However static, point-in-time tactics such as on-site audits and supplier questionnaires remain common.

Jim Penrose concludes: “Overall the research findings indicate a situation where the large scale of vendor ecosystems and the fast-changing threat environment is defeating attempts to effectively manage third-party cyber risk in a meaningful way.

“Visibility into such a large and heterogenous group of vendors is obscured due to lack of resources and a continuing reliance on manual, point-in-time processes, meaning real-time emerging cyber risk is invisible for much of the time.

“For organizations to make meaningful progress in managing third-party cyber risk and reduce the current concerning rate of breaches, they need to be pursuing greater visibility across their vendor ecosystem and achieving better context around alerts so they can be prioritized, triaged and quickly remediated with suppliers.”

Only 44% of healthcare providers conform to protocols outlined by the NIST CSF

Only 44% of healthcare providers, including hospital and health systems, conformed to protocols outlined by the NIST CSF – with scores in some cases trending backwards since 2017, CynergisTek reveals.

healthcare NIST CSF

Healthcare providers and NIST CSF

Analysts examined nearly 300 assessments of provider facilities across the continuum, including hospitals, physician practices, ACOs and Business Associates.

The report also found that healthcare supply chain security is one of the lowest ranked areas for NIST CSF conformance. This is a critical weakness, given that COVID-19 demonstrated just how broken the healthcare supply chain really is with providers buying PPE from unvetted suppliers.

“We found healthcare organizations continue to enhance and improve their programs year-over-year. The problem is they are not investing fast enough relative to an innovative and well-resourced adversary,” said Caleb Barlow, CEO of CynergisTek.

“These issues, combined with the rapid onset of remote work, accelerated deployment of telemedicine and impending openness of EHRs and interoperability, have set us on a path where investments need to be made now to shore up America’s health system.

“However, the report isn’t all doom and gloom. Organizations that have invested in their programs and had regular risk assessments, devised a plan, addressed prioritized issues stemming from the assessments and leveraged proven strategies like hiring the right staff and evidence-based tools have seen significant improvements to their NIST CSF conformance scores.”

Bigger budgets don’t mean better security performance

The report revealed bigger healthcare institutions with bigger budgets didn’t necessarily perform better when it comes to security, and in some cases, performed worse than smaller organizations or those that invested less.

In some cases, this was a direct result of consolidation where systems directly connect to newly-acquired hospitals without first shoring up their security posture and conducting a compromise assessment.

“What our report has uncovered over recent years is that healthcare is still behind the curve on security. While healthcare’s focus on information security has increased over the last 15 years, investment is still lagging. In the age of remote working and an attack surface that has exponentially grown, simply maintaining a security status quo won’t cut it,” said David Finn, EVP of Strategic Innovation at CynergisTek.

“The good news is that issues emerging in our assessments are largely addressable. The bad news is that it is going to require investment in an industry still struggling with financial losses from COVID-19.”

Leading factors influencing performance include poor security planning and lack of organizational focus, inadequate reporting structures and funding, confusion around priorities, lack of staff and no clear plan.

Key strategies to bolster healthcare security and achieve success

Look under the hood at security and privacy amid mergers and acquisitions: For health systems planning to integrate new organizations into the fold through mergers and acquisitions, leadership should look under the hood and be more diligent when examining the organization’s security and privacy infrastructure, measures and performance.

It’s important to understand their books and revenue streams as well as their potential security risks and gaps to prevent these issues from becoming liabilities.

Make security an enterprise priority: While other sectors like finance and aerospace have treated security as an enterprise-level priority, healthcare must also make this kind of commitment.

Understanding how these risks tie to the bigger picture will help an organization that thinks it cannot afford to invest in privacy and information security risk management activities understand why making such an investment is crucial.

Hospitals and healthcare organizations should create collaborative, cross-functional task forces like enterprise response teams, which offer other business units an eye-opening look into how security and privacy touch all parts of the business including financial, HR, and more.

Money isn’t a solution: Just throwing money at a problem doesn’t work. Security leaders need to identify priorities and have a plan which leverages talent, tried and true strategies like multi-factor authentication, privileged access management and on-going staff training to truly up level their defenses and take a more holistic approach, especially when bringing on new services such as telehealth.

Accelerate the move to cloud: While healthcare has traditionally been slow to adopt the cloud, these solutions provide the agility and scalability that can help leaders cope with situations like COVID-19, and other crises more effectively.

Shore up security posture: We frequently learn the hard way that security can disrupt workflow. COVID-19 taught us that workflow can also disrupt security and things are going to get worse before getting better. Get an assessment quickly to determine immediate needs and coming up with a game plan to bolster defenses needed in this next normal.

CISA orders federal agencies to implement Zerologon fix by Monday

If you had any doubts about the criticality of the Zerologon vulnerability (CVE-2020-1472) affecting Windows Server, here is a confirmation: the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has issued on Friday an emergency directive instructing federal agencies to “immediately apply the Windows Server August 2020 security update to all domain controllers” – and to do so by the end of Monday (September 21).

CISA Zerologon

“If affected domain controllers cannot be updated, ensure they are removed from the network,” CISA advised.

To make sure the order has been complied with, the agency asks department-level Chief Information Officers (CIOs) or equivalents to submit completion reports by Wednesday.

About the vulnerability

Security updates fixing CVE-2020-1472, a privilege elevation vulnerability in the Netlogon Remote Protocol (MS-NRPC), were provided by Microsoft in August, and the researchers who discovered the bug revealed more technical information about it last week.

That release was followed by the publication of a slew of PoC exploits.

Zerologon’s severity stems from the fact that it can be leveraged by an unauthenticated attacker with network access to a domain controller to impersonate any domain-joined computer, including a domain controller.

“Among other actions, the attacker can set an empty password for the domain controller’s Active Directory computer account, causing a denial of service, and potentially allowing the attacker to gain domain administrator privileges. The compromise of Active Directory infrastructure is likely a significant and costly impact,” CERT/CC says.

The risk

“CISA has determined that this vulnerability poses an unacceptable risk to the Federal Civilian Executive Branch and requires an immediate and emergency action,” the agency noted in the emergency directive.

“This determination is based on the following: the availability of the exploit code in the wild increasing likelihood of any upatched domain controller being exploited; the widespread presence of the affected domain controllers across the federal enterprise; the high potential for a compromise of agency information systems; the grave impact of a successful compromise; and the continued presence of the vulnerability more than 30 days since the update was released.”

State and local governments should heed this call as well, not to mention organizations in the private sector.

We’re still to hear about the vulnerability being actively exploited in the wild, but it’s just a matter of time until attackers gain the ability to leverage it and start doing it.

What’s causing uncertainty about election security?

Confidence levels in securing the election are low, and declining, according to an ISACA survey of more than 3,000 IT governance, risk, security and audit professionals in the US.

uncertainty election security

While federal, state and local governments continue to harden election infrastructure technical controls and security procedures, 56 percent of respondents are less confident in election security since the pandemic started—signaling the need for greater education of the electorate and training of election personnel to drive awareness and trust.

Respondents say they believe that funding, legislation, technical controls and election infrastructure are all inadequate, including 63 percent who are not confident in the resilience of election infrastructure, and 57 percent who believe that funding is not sufficient to prevent hacking of elections.

Top threats to election security

Respondents identified the following as the top threats to election security:

  • Misinformation/disinformation campaigns (73%)
  • Tampering with tabulation of voter results (64%)
  • Hacking or tampering with voter registration rolls
  • Hacking or tampering with voting machines (both 62%)

The combination of low confidence and high perception of threats requires a call to action, according to retired Brigadier General Greg Touhill, ISACA board director and president of the AppGate Federal Group. “The overwhelming majority of localities have sound election security procedures in place, but the public’s perception does not match the reality.”

“This means that governments, from the county level on up, need to clearly and robustly communicate about what they are doing to secure their election infrastructure. As the study indicates, the most real threat to the election—impacting all candidates from all parties—is misinformation and disinformation campaigns.”

uncertainty election security

How to ensure voter confidence and accountability

The survey found that respondents believed the following actions could help ensure voter confidence and accountability:

  • Educating the electorate about misinformation (65%)
  • Using electronic voting machines with paper audit trails (64%)
  • Increased training for election and election security personnel (62%)

Mobile messengers expose billions of users to privacy attacks

Popular mobile messengers expose personal data via discovery services that allow users to find contacts based on phone numbers from their address book, according to researchers.

mobile messengers privacy

When installing a mobile messenger like WhatsApp, new users can instantly start texting existing contacts based on the phone numbers stored on their device. For this to happen, users must grant the app permission to access and regularly upload their address book to company servers in a process called mobile contact discovery.

A recent study by a team of researchers from the Secure Software Systems Group at the University of Würzburg and the Cryptography and Privacy Engineering Group at TU Darmstadt shows that currently deployed contact discovery services severely threaten the privacy of billions of users.

Utilizing very few resources, the researchers were able to perform practical crawling attacks on the popular messengers WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram. The results of the experiments demonstrate that malicious users or hackers can collect sensitive data at a large scale and without noteworthy restrictions by querying contact discovery services for random phone numbers.

Attackers are enabled to build accurate behavior models

For the extensive study, the researchers queried 10% of all US mobile phone numbers for WhatsApp and 100% for Signal. Thereby, they were able to gather personal (meta) data commonly stored in the messengers’ user profiles, including profile pictures, nicknames, status texts and the “last online” time.

The analyzed data also reveals interesting statistics about user behavior. For example, very few users change the default privacy settings, which for most messengers are not privacy-friendly at all.

The researchers found that about 50% of WhatsApp users in the US have a public profile picture and 90% a public “About” text. Interestingly, 40% of Signal users, which can be assumed to be more privacy concerned in general, are also using WhatsApp, and every other of those Signal users has a public profile picture on WhatsApp.

Tracking such data over time enables attackers to build accurate behavior models. When the data is matched across social networks and public data sources, third parties can also build detailed profiles, for example to scam users.

For Telegram, the researchers found that its contact discovery service exposes sensitive information even about owners of phone numbers who are not registered with the service.

Which information is revealed during contact discovery and can be collected via crawling attacks depends on the service provider and the privacy settings of the user. WhatsApp and Telegram, for example, transmit the user’s entire address book to their servers.

More privacy-concerned messengers like Signal transfer only short cryptographic hash values of phone numbers or rely on trusted hardware. However, the research team shows that with new and optimized attack strategies, the low entropy of phone numbers enables attackers to deduce corresponding phone numbers from cryptographic hashes within milliseconds.

Moreover, since there are no noteworthy restrictions for signing up with messaging services, any third party can create a large number of accounts to crawl the user database of a messenger for information by requesting data for random phone numbers.

“We strongly advise all users of messenger apps to revisit their privacy settings. This is currently the most effective protection against our investigated crawling attacks,” agree Prof. Alexandra Dmitrienko (University of Würzburg) and Prof. Thomas Schneider (TU Darmstadt).

Impact of research results: Service providers improve their security measures

The research team reported their findings to the respective service providers. As a result, WhatsApp has improved their protection mechanisms such that large-scale attacks can be detected, and Signal has reduced the number of possible queries to complicate crawling.

The researchers also proposed many other mitigation techniques, including a new contact discovery method that could be adopted to further reduce the efficiency of attacks without negatively impacting usability.

What are the most vulnerable departments and sectors to phishing attacks?

While cyber attackers chase down system vulnerabilities and valuable data each passing day, the business world has taken the measures against them. The latest trends and cybersecurity statistics reveal that data from various sources, especially mobile and IoT devices, is targeted and attacked. Organizations face the risk of data loss due to unprotected data and weak cyber security practices.

vulnerable sectors phishing

In the first half of last year, 4.1 billion of data records were exposed, while the average time needed to detect a leak was 206 days. While the average loss caused by a data breach is estimated at $3.86 million for businesses, cyberattacks will create over $5 trillion in losses globally in the next year.

Keepnet Labs has revealed the most vulnerable departments and sectors against phishing attacks, based on a data set of 410 thousand phishing emails, covering a period of one year.

Accordingly, 90% of successful cyber attacks occur through email-based attacks. These cyberattacks use deceptive, deceptive and fraudulent social engineering techniques, especially to bypass various security mechanisms / controls.

1 out of 8 people share the information requested by attackers

According to the report, which identifies the sectors and departments that are most vulnerable to phishing attacks:

  • 1 out of 2 employees opens and reads phishing emails.
  • 1 out of 3 employees clicks links or opens file attachments in phishing emails (which may cause silent installation of malware / ransomware).
  • 1 out of every 8 employees shares the information requested in phishing emails.

Sectors most vulnerable to cyber attacks

Top 5 sectors with the highest click rates on malicious links in phishing emails:

  • Consulting (63%)
  • Clothing and accessories (48%)
  • Education (47%)
  • Technology (40%)
  • Holdings / conglomerates (32.37%)

Sectors with the highest rates of data sharing:

  • Clothing and accessories (43%)
  • Consulting (30%)
  • Securities and stock exchange (23%)
  • Education (22%)

Corporate departments most affected by cyber attacks

The top three departments with the highest rates of clicking fake links in phishing emails:

  • Law / audit / internal control (59%)
  • Procurement / administrative affairs (58%)
  • Quality management / Health (56%)

While the findings reveal that these departments have not changed according to last year’s statistics, the report concludes that most of the sensitive information needed by cybercriminals is accessible via users working in these vulnerable units.

This in turn poses a serious threat to their respective organizations, because employees with such privileged access to this prized information are the key people in those organizations who motivate the hackers to infiltrate organizations and execute their intended, malicious campaigns.

The top three departments with the highest rates of sharing data:

  • Quality management / health (27%)
  • Procurement / administrative affairs (26%)
  • Legal / audit / internal control (25%)

These statistics reveal that certain departments are more inclined to share sensitive information compared to others, and considering their position, they should be much more careful against cyber attacks.

Are your domain controllers safe from Zerologon attacks?

CVE-2020-1472, a privilege elevation vulnerability in the Netlogon Remote Protocol (MS-NRPC) for which Microsoft released a patch in August, has just become a huge liability for organizations that are struggling with timely patching.

Secura researchers – the very same ones who found and disclosed the flaw to Microsoft – have published additional technical details on Monday, and just a few hours later several PoC exploit/tools have been published on GitHub.

CVE-2020-1472

About CVE-2020-1472

CVE-2020-1472 (aka Zerologon) affects all supported Windows Server versions, but the danger is highest for servers that function as Active Directory domain controllers in enterprise networks.

The vulnerability stems from a flaw in a cryptographic authentication scheme used by the Netlogon Remote Protocol.

“By simply sending a number of Netlogon messages in which various fields are filled with zeroes, an attacker can change the computer password of the domain controller that is stored in the AD. This can then be used to obtain domain admin credentials and then restore the original DC password,” Secura researchers explained.

“This attack has a huge impact: it basically allows any attacker on the local network (such as a malicious insider or someone who simply plugged in a device to an on-premise network port) to completely compromise the Windows domain. The attack is completely unauthenticated: the attacker does not need any user credentials.”

“In a hypothetical attack, one could use this vulnerability to deploy ransomware throughout an organization and maintain a persistent presence if cleanup and restoration efforts miss any additional malicious scripts,” Tenable security response manager Ryan Seguin noted.

“Organizations with network-accessible backups could end up with a perfect storm if a ransomware group destroys backups to increase their likelihood of payout from the victim organization.”

Exploitation

Many PoC exploits have been released security researchers in the past day (1, 2, 3, 4), and the effectiveness of some of them has been confirmed:

Secura researchers published a Python script organizations can used to check whether a domain controller is vulnerable or not.

Remediation

Systems that have received the patch released in August are safe from attack, as it enforces secure NRPC for all Windows servers and clients in the domain. All Active Directory domain controllers should be updated, including read-only domain controllers.

“The updates will enable the Domain Controllers (DCs) to protect Windows devices by default, log events for non-compliant device discovery, and have the option to enable protection for all domain-joined devices with explicit exceptions,” Microsoft explained.

But complete remediation will happen after organizations deploy Domain Controller (DC) enforcement mode, which requires all Windows and non-Windows devices to use secure NRPC or to explicitly allow the account by adding an exception for any non-compliant device.

While organization can deploy DC enforcement mode immediately by enabling specific registry key, on February 9, 2021, DCs will be placed in enforcement mode automatically.

This phased rollout is due to the fact that there are many non-Windows device implementations of the Netlogon Remote Protocol, and vendors of non-compliant implementations have been given enough time to provide customers with the needed updates.

Vulnerabilities discovered in PAN-OS, which powers Palo Alto Networks’ firewalls

Palo Alto Networks remediated vulnerabilities in PAN-OS (operating systems version 8.1 or later).

vulnerabilities PAN-OS

Attackers can use these vulnerabilities to gain access to sensitive data or develop the attack to gain access to the internal segments of the network of a company that uses vulnerable protection tools. Today, over 66,000 companies in 150 countries around the world (comprising 85% of the Fortune 100) use Palo Alto Networks NGFW.

CVE-2020-2037

Vulnerability CVE-2020-2037 (Сommand Injection) has a score of 7.2. It allows executing arbitrary OS commands in the firewall. The attack requires authorization in the software data management web interface. After that, attackers can access a special firewall section, place malicious code in one of the web forms, and obtain maximum privileges in the OS.

“We performed black-box testing of the NGFW management web interface to detect this vulnerability, which results from the lack of user input sanitization. During a real attack, hackers can, for example, bruteforce the password for the administrator panel, perform RCE, and gain access to the Palo Alto product, as well as the company’s internal network,” said Mikhail Klyuchnikov, researcher at Positive Technologies.

“The administrator panel may be located both inside and outside the corporate network, whichever is more convenient for the admins. But, of course, for security reasons, it’s better to have it inside. And therefore, such attacks may be conducted both from the internal and external networks.”

CVE-2020-2036

The second vulnerability, CVE-2020-2036 (XSS), has a score of 8.8. If a potential victim authorizes in the administrator panel and clicks a specially crafted malicious link, attackers will be able to perform any actions on behalf of this user in the context of the Palo Alto application, spoof pages, and develop attacks.

The attack can be conducted from the Internet, but if the administrator panel is located inside, attackers will have to know its address inside the network.

CVE-2020-2038

One more vulnerability, CVE-2020-2038, with a score of 7.2 was detected in the PAN-OS software interface. It extends the set of system commands enabling a variety of potential attacks (as the first vulnerability, it is Command Injection).

By default, when working with this interface, there are restrictions on the system command call. The exception is some basic commands (such as ping); however, attackers can inject any OS commands using insufficient filtering of user data. Attackers having the API key or user data for its generation can run arbitrary system commands with maximum privileges.

CVE-2020-2039

Finally, the fourth vulnerability (CVE-2020-2039, score 5.3) allows an unauthorized user to upload arbitrary files of any size to a certain directory on the server, which might lead to denial of service. To exploit this vulnerability, attackers can upload an unlimited number of files of various sizes, which may completely deplete free space in the system making the administrator panel unavailable.