Tag Archives: backdoor

DoublePulsar exploit: victim devices are widespread

Last month the hacking group known as the Shadow Brokers made available a set of exploits (this appears to be their last remaining set). These exploits allegedly came from the NSA. A full list of the exploits is available here. Microsoft’s analysis of the exploits made which applies to their products and which security updates resolve them are available here.

What is DoublePulsar and how does it affect a system?
The exploit from this recently released collection which targets the Windows SMB Server component of Windows is known as DoublePulsar. It is a kernel mode (or ring zero (defined)) exploit which provides an attacker with full control over an affected system as well as providing a backdoor (defined).

It is also allows the execution of shellcode (defined) and the downloading of further malware. A complete list of it’s capabilities is available from Symantec’s analysis.

This threat is being called similar to the MS08-067 vulnerability from October 2008 which lead to widespread installation of the Conficker malware (which still persists today). That article estimates this vulnerability will be with us for many years to come. In my professional career I still see large numbers of servers and workstations not patched against the MS08-067 vulnerability even after all these years. The exploits made available by the Shadow Brokers have been made easy to use by others posting YouTube videos and documentation of how to use them. Security researchers are tracking the spread of this malware here , here and here.

How can I protect myself from this threat?
Preventing a compromise by this threat:

If your servers or workstations have Windows Server 2008 or Windows Vista (respectively) or newer installed, please install Microsoft’s security update MS17-010 as soon as possible. As a defense in-depth measure (defined)(PDF), please also consider blocking port 445 from being accessed externally (since this is unlikely to be the last SMB exploit we see).

Please note, Windows Vista systems are also no longer supported and you should consider upgrading (if you are not already in the process of doing so). Windows Server 2008 will be supported until the 13th of January 2020.

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Update: 19th May 2017:
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With the rapid propagation of the WannaCry ransomware, Microsoft made available the MS17-010 update for Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Windows 8.0. The updates for these out of support operating systems are available from Microsoft’s blog post.

Once the update is installed, if your servers or workstations have Window Server 2003 or Windows XP (respectively) installed, please block port 445 (the Windows SMB protocol port) from being accessed from an external network (as previously recommended by US-CERT and mentioned in a past blog post of mine).

In addition to blocking port 445 as mentioned above, I would also suggest the following:

If you can, segregate your vulnerable devices (including devices within your network perimeter) so they don’t expose the following ports:

  • TCP port 445 with related protocols on UDP ports 137-138
  • TCP port 139
  • Also disable SMBv1 (it’s a deprecated protocol)
  • Please also block the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) port 3389 (defined) at the entry point to your corporate to prevent the spread of this malware as recommended by the US CERT.

To check if your system has been compromised by Double Pulsar, you can use this tool.

Removing the threat from a compromised system:
You can remove the infection simply by shutting the system down since the malware does not persist after a reboot. You can then patch the vulnerability and block access to port 445 to prevent the malware from returning (both as mentioned above).

Thank you.

Malware uses DNS protocol for command and control

In early March two Cisco Talos security researchers Edmund Brumaghin and Colin Grady released details of a multi-stage trojan horse which communicates with it’s creator(s) using the Domain Name Service (DNS)(defined) protocol.

Since DNS is a widely used essential protocol it is often allowed to pass through corporate and personal firewalls. The source of the malware is an email containing an attachment reportedly secured with McAfee. The attachment is a Microsoft Word document which when opened requests to enable macros (defined). If the user enables macros the macros unpacks a Microsoft PowerShell script (a computer programming language usually used for automating system administration tasks) which forms the second stage of the attack.

Next the script checks if currently logged in user has administrator rights for their Windows account and checks the installed version of PowerShell. The script then adds a backdoor (defined). If the earlier check for administrative privileges was positive the backdoor will persist after restarting or powering off the system. This backdoor uses DNS to receive and carry out commands from it’s creators.

While analysing this threat, the above mentioned security researchers did not witness the malware receiving DNS commands due to its targeted nature.

How can I protect myself from this threat?
Sine this malware arrives via email, please verify the emails you receive are genuine and not attempting to deliver malware. SANS recently provided extra advice on this (March 6th : source)

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Don’t Trust Links Sent in Email Messages March 6, 2017
A common method cyber criminals use to hack into people’s computers is to send them emails with malicious links. People are tricked into opening these links because they appear to come from someone or something they know and trust. If you click on a link, you may be taken to a site that attempts to harvest your information or tries to hack into your computer. Only click on links that you were expecting. Not sure about an email? Call the person to confirm they sent it.
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In addition if you inspect network traffic within your corporate network, please consider adding DNS to the list of protocols analysed. Attackers are likely to leverage this widely allowed protocol for command and control (defined) going forward.

Thank you.

Disclosed Microsoft Zero Day Under Attack By APT Group

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Update: 8th November:
The Microsoft zero day vulnerability discussed in this post has now been patched. Please refer to this post for the appropriate information and download links.

Thank you.

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Original Post:
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Earlier this week Google publicly disclosed (defined) details of a new zero day (defined) vulnerability affecting supported versions of Windows up to Windows 10. Fortunately, the disclosure only included minimal details.

Why Should These Issues Be Considered Important?
The vulnerability disclosed by Google could result with an attacker being able to elevate their privileges (defined) on an affected system. However, when used in combination with a previously patched Adobe Flash Player vulnerability (reference previous post) this could result in a Windows system under your responsibility or in your ownership to have a backdoor (defined) installed.

Some good news is that this new exploit primarily targets organisations that operate in the following sectors (thus all other organisations are at somewhat reduced risk): government, intelligence or military organisations.

The nature of the backdoor is the decision of the attacker but would usually include a means of remaining persistent on the system and allowing the attacker to remote access the infected system. This backdoor can then be used to move data of the attacker’s choice off the affected system. The APT group known as STRONTIUM by Microsoft (other aliases used in the wider cyber security industry are APT28, also aka Sofacy aka Fancy Bear aka TsarTeam aka Sednit aka PawnStorm). STRONTIUM is also known for moving laterally throughout the network which they compromise (where the pass the hash (PtH) (defined) technique is the method of choice to do so).

How Can I Protect Myself From This Issue?
While a patch from Microsoft is in progress (scheduled for release on the 8th of November): follow safe email guidelines namely don’t click on unexpected/unsolicited links or open potentially dangerous email attachments to prevent the execution (carrying out of) the exploits actions in the first instance.

If you use the Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome web browsers the exploit for the local elevation of privilege vulnerability will be mitigated. This is due to Chrome’s sandbox (defined) blocking the use of API (defined) calls to the win32k.sys driver (defined). This in addition to its existing mitigations when installed on Windows 10 which I previously discussed.

Microsoft Edge on the other hand implements Code Integrity to prevent the next steps of exploitation.

To protect endpoints within your organisation you could consider utilising the logging capabilities of Microsoft EMET and Systinternals’ Sysmon by processing their logs using a SIEM (defined) and taking action when that SIEM a alerts you to suspicion activity. This is especially true since this exploit can occur from within web browsers, the Java JRE, Microsoft Word and Microsoft PowerPoint (namely that these applications are used to open suspicious/untrusted files).

My thanks to a colleague (you know who you are!) for compiling very useful information for this blog post.

Thank you.

Juniper Issues Emergency Security Updates For VPN Devices

On the 17th of December Juniper Networks released a security advisory which detailed 2 critical security issues (these have been assigned 2x CVE numbers (defined) within their NetScreen devices which offer VPN (Virtual Private Networks) (defined) access. Juniper have released emergency security updates to address these issues.

Why Should These Issues Be Considered Important?
The first issue assigned CVE-2015-7755 could allow an attacker to remotely access your Juniper VPN device using SSH or telnet. They could do so by accessing your device using either of these protocols. They will then receive a logon prompt however due to this issue they can enter any username and since the password has been publically disclosed they would then obtain access to your device with the highest privileges available. This is an extremely serious backdoor (defined) that an attacker can easily exploit.

The second vulnerability designated CVE-2015-7756 could allow an attacker who can capture your VPN network traffic to decrypt that encrypted traffic and read all of it’s contents. In addition, there is no means of detecting if this second vulnerability has been exploited.

Juniper NetScreen devices using the operating system versions mentioned below have been confirmed to have been affected by these issues:

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The first issue mentioned above (the administrative access issue) affects the following versions of ScreenOS (the operating system that powers these Juniper devices):

ScreenOS 6.3.0r17 through 6.3.0r20
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The VPN decryption issues affects ScreenOS 6.2.0r15 through 6.2.0r18 and 6.3.0r12 through 6.3.0r20
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Finally, there are theories with compelling evidence of how this backdoor code came to be present within Juniper’s products in the first instance. The definitive answer does not appear to be completely clear at this time. If you wish to read more on this aspect of these security issues, please find below further references:

Juniper Finds Backdoor That Decrypts VPN Traffic by Michael Mimoso (Kaspersky ThreatPost)
Juniper Backdoor Password Goes Public by Michael Mimoso (Kaspersky ThreatPost)
Juniper Backdoor Picture Getting Clearer by Michael Mimoso (Kaspersky ThreatPost)
On the Juniper backdoor by Matthew Green (John Hopkins University)
Who were the attackers and how did they get in? by Jeremy Kirk (IDG News Service)
CVE-2015-7755: Juniper ScreenOS Authentication Backdoor by H. D. Moore (Rapid7)
“Unauthorised code” on Juniper firewalls gives attackers admin access, decrypts VPN traffic by Graham Cluley (writing on behalf of BitDefender)

How Can I Protect Myself From These Issues?
As directed within Juniper’s security advisory if you are using the affected Juniper devices within your corporation or small business, please apply the necessary updates as soon as possible since these issues are very serious. Download links for these updates are provided within the above mentioned security advisory. Juniper also supplies additional best practice within that advisory.

SNORT IDS/IPS (defined) and Sagan (an open source log analysis engine) rules to detect the first issue (administrative access) being exploited are provided in Rapid7’s blog post. That blog post also contains advice if you are having an issue installing the updates to address these issues.

Thank you.

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Note: I am currently working on more upcoming content for this blog. Since this will be my final post before the 25th of December I wanted to wish you and yours a safe and very Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays. I will return later this week with more blog posts.

Thanks again.