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BrakTooth Vulnerability Puts Bluetooth Users At Risk, Flaws Left Unpatched

 

White Hat hackers revealed a set of vulnerabilities named as BrakTooth, which affects commercial bluetooth gadgets, raising suspicions about vendor's intent to fix the flaws. Automated Systems Security (ASSET) Research Group at Singapore University of Technology and Design said that they released BrakTooth, "a family of 16 new security vulnerabilities (20+ CVEs) in commercial Bluetooth Classic (BR/EDR) stacks that range from denial of service (DoS) via firmware crashes and deadlocks in commodity hardware to arbitrary code execution (ACE).

"The team has shown off arbitrary code execution on an ESP32 microcontroller, commonly found in Internet of Things (IoT) devices which are rarely if ever updated by their manufacturers, denial of service attacks against laptops and smartphones with the Intel AX200 and Qualcomm WCN3390 chips, and the ability to freeze or shut down headphones and other Bluetooth audio devices,"said the Register. It said BrakTooth affects major SoC (System on Chip) vendors like Qualcomm, Intel, Texas Instruments, Silicon Labs, Infeneon and others.

BrakTooth represents around 1400 commercial products including Microsoft Surface Pro 7, Surface Laptop 3, Surface Book 3, and Surface Go 2, and Volvo FH infotainment systems which threaten to leak "fundamental attack vectors in the closed BT [Bluetooth] stack." 

This is not the first time that the group has made such claims, earlier, ASSET was behind the SweynTooth vulnerabilities in 2020. Vendors have been informed about the sixteen vulnerabilities, however, the feedbacks recieved vary. 

"Espressif, whose popular ESP32 microcontroller family was affected, was one of the first to release a patch closing the holes, along with Bluetrum Technology and Infineon. Intel, Actions, and Zhuhai Jieli Technology have confirmed they are either investigating the flaws or actively developing patches. Harman International and SiLabs, by contrast, "hardly communicated with the team," the researchers claimed, "and the status of their investigation is unclear at best," reports the Register. 

Qualcomm and Texas Instruments had it worse, latter said that it won't release the patches until the customers demand so, and the former is only patching few parts even though unpatched chips appear in brand new products releasing across the world.

Researchers Discovered a Vulnerability in Microsoft Azure's Cosmos DB

 

According to a copy of the email and a cyber security researcher, Microsoft warned thousands of its cloud computing customers, including some of the world's largest organizations, that intruders might read, update, or even delete their major databases. Researchers uncovered a "serious" vulnerability in Cosmos DB, a Microsoft Azure flagship database product, that allows an attacker to read, write, and remove data from Cosmos DB customers. 

Microsoft's proprietary database service Cosmos DB was launched in 2017 and is offered through the tech giant's cloud computing platform Azure. Coca-Cola, ExxonMobil, and Schneider Electric are just a few of the world's major organizations that utilize it to manage their data. Many of Microsoft's own programmes, such as Skype, Xbox, and Office, use Cosmos DB. 

Wiz's research team realized it was possible to gain access to keys that controlled access to databases owned by tens of thousands of companies. Ami Luttwak, Wiz's Chief Technology Officer, was previously the CTO of Microsoft's Cloud Security Group. Because Microsoft is unable to alter those keys on its own, consumers were emailed on Thursday and were told to create new ones. According to an email from Microsoft to Wiz, the company promised to pay them $40,000 for discovering and reporting the flaw. 

Wiz, which was founded by ex-Microsoft workers, identified the flaw on August 9, 2021. Three days later, the cybersecurity firm notified Microsoft about the problem. Microsoft's security teams disabled the vulnerable feature within 48 hours, according to Wiz. 

There was no evidence that the flaw had been exploited, according to Microsoft's notification to customers. The email stated, "We have no indication that external entities other than the researcher (Wiz) had access to the primary read-write key."

“This is the worst cloud vulnerability you can imagine. It is a long-lasting secret,” Luttwak told Reuters. “This is the central database of Azure, and we were able to get access to any customer database that we wanted.” Even clients who have not been contacted by Microsoft may have had their keys swiped by attackers, giving them access until their keys are changed, according to Luttwak. 

The flaw was found in Jupyter Notebook, a visualization tool that has been available for years but was only enabled by default in Cosmos in February. 

Microsoft has been plagued by bad security news for months. The same alleged Russian government hackers who entered SolarWinds and stole Microsoft source code broke into the company. Then, while a patch was being created, a large number of hackers got into Exchange email servers.

Microsoft Issues an Advisory on ProxyShell Vulnerabilities

 

Microsoft this week published guidance about three vulnerabilities referred to collectively as ProxyShell days after security researchers at the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warned that attackers were actively trying to exploit them. 

The ProxyShell vulnerabilities, which are tracked as CVE-2021-34473, CVE-2021-34523, and CVE-2021-31207, could allow hackers to run arbitrary code on a vulnerable machine without authentication. The first two flaws were fixed in April, while the third received a patch in May.

Orange Tsai, a security researcher at consulting firm DEVCORE exploited the ProxyShell vulnerabilities to target a Microsoft Exchange server during the Pwn2Own 2021 hacking contest, but technical details were made public only a few weeks ago, at the Black Hat and DEF CON cybersecurity conferences. Earlier, Orange Tsai had identified the ProxyLogon and ProxyOracle vulnerabilities in Exchange servers.

Last week, cybersecurity experts unearthed more than 1,900 unpatched systems that were exploited, and CISA issued a warning on attacks targeting Exchange servers impacted by the ProxyShell vulnerabilities.

In a blog post on Wednesday, Microsoft urged the customers to install patches as soon as possible, noting that only systems without the already issued patches are vulnerable to the attack. The company also advised users to install the latest set of updates on their Exchange servers, which would ensure they are shielded from any compromise attempts. 

“This past week, security researchers discussed several ProxyShell vulnerabilities, including those which might be exploited on unpatched Exchange servers to deploy ransomware or conduct other post-exploitation activities. If you have installed the May 2021 security updates or the July 2021 security updates on your Exchange servers, then you are protected from these vulnerabilities,” Microsoft stated.

According to the advisory, systems without either security updates are vulnerable to attacks. Furthermore, the company pointed out, Exchange servers should always be kept updated with the latest available Cumulative Update (CU) and Security Update (SU). Furthermore, Exchange servers are vulnerable if the server is running an older, unsupported CU; or those running older, unsupported CUs that have the March 2021 mitigations applied.

 “In all of the above scenarios, you must install one of the latest supported CUs and all applicable SUs to be protected. Any Exchange servers that are not on a supported CU and the latest available SU are vulnerable to ProxyShell and other attacks that leverage older vulnerabilities,” the company added.

38 Million Records Exposed Due to Microsoft Misconfiguration

 

According to experts, some 38 million records from over a thousand web apps that use Microsoft's Power Apps portals platform were left accessible online. Data from COVID-19 contact tracing operations, vaccine registrations, and employee databases, including home addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, and vaccination status, is believed to have been included in the records. 

Major corporations and organizations were impacted by the incident, including American Airlines, Ford, J.B. Hunt, the Maryland Department of Health, the New York City Municipal Transportation Authority, and New York City public schools. While the data breaches have already been fixed, they demonstrate how a single incorrect configuration setting in a widely used platform can have far-reaching repercussions.  

Customers can use the Power Apps services to easily create their own web and mobile apps. It provides developers with application programming interfaces (APIs) to use with the data they collect. Upguard discovered, however, that accessing those APIs makes data received through Power Apps Portals public by default, necessitating manual reconfiguration to keep the information private. 

In May, researchers from the security firm Upguard began investigating the problem. They discovered that data from several Power Apps portals, which was intended to be secret, was accessible to anyone who knew where to look. According to Upguard, on June 24th, it provided a vulnerability report to the Microsoft Security Resource Center, which included links to Power Apps portal accounts with sensitive data exposed and methods to discover APIs that allowed anonymous data access. 

“The number of accounts exposing sensitive information, however, indicates that the risk of this feature– the likelihood and impact of its misconfiguration– has not been adequately appreciated,” the researchers wrote in the report. “Multiple governmental bodies reported performing security reviews of their apps without identifying this issue, presumably because it has never been adequately publicized as a data security concern before.” 

 On Monday, a Microsoft representative defended the product's security, noting that the firm worked directly with affected users to ensure that their data remained private and that consumers were notified if their data was made publicly available. “Our products provide customers flexibility and privacy features to design scalable solutions that meet a wide variety of needs," a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement.

Kerberos Authentication Spoofing: A Quick Look

 

Since authentication is the first line of defence for security systems, if a threat actor gets past it, they can very much do whatever they want. Threat actors can log in as administrators and change configurations, get access to protected resources, and take control of appliances in order to steal sensitive data. 

Silverfort discovered that all four security systems they examined – Cisco ASA, F5 Big-IP, IBM QRadar, and Palo Alto Networks PAN-OS – were vulnerable to bypass vulnerabilities due to the way they implemented the Kerberos and LDAP authentication protocols. 

Kerberos was first introduced by Microsoft in Windows 2000. It's also become the industry standard for websites and Single-Sign-On implementations on a variety of platforms. Kerberos is an open-source project maintained by the Kerberos Consortium. Microsoft Windows presently uses Kerberos authentication as its default authorization method, and Kerberos implementations are available for Apple OS, FreeBSD, UNIX, and Linux. 

The Kerberos authentication protocol works in the following ways:

 • The client asks the Key Distribution Center (KDC) for an authentication ticket (TGT). 

 • The KDC checks the credentials and returns an encrypted TGT as well as the session key.

 • The Ticket Granting Service (TGS) secret key is used to encrypt the TGT. 

 • When the TGT expires, the client keeps it, and the local session manager requests another TGT (this process is transparent to the user).

Kerberos can be configured without Kerberos' SSO capabilities in the four security systems aforementioned. Instead, when logging in, the user is asked for a username and password, and the system then asks for the TGT. To put it another way, the security system acts as both a client and a server. A KDC spoofing vulnerability might occur if the Client/Server exchange is overlooked. 

The KDC Spoofing vulnerability allows an attacker to overcome Kerberos authentication, break security restrictions, and obtain unrestricted access to sensitive workloads using Big-IP Access Policy Manager (APM). In a report, Silverfort security researchers Yaron Kassner and Rotem Zach discussed it. 

F5 Networks released BIG-IP APM versions 12.1.6, 13.1.4, 14.1.4, and 15.1.3, which included a security patch for this vulnerability (CVE-2021-23008, CVSS score 8.1). Multi-factor authentication (MFA) or an IPSec tunnel between the impacted BIG-IP APM system and the Active Directory servers, was suggested by the company. 

IISerpent Trojan Manipulates Search Engine Optimization

 

Security researchers recently had to cope with a huge number of malware attacks targeting the Internet Information Services (IIS) component. The IISerpent Trojan is the most recent malware family to be added to the list. 

The malware is installed as a Microsoft IIS add-on. After that, it intercepts HTTP requests and traffic, but there's a catch. This IIS malware works differently than other IIS malware that leverages this opportunity to steal credentials and private data, such as the IISpy Backdoor. It only gets to work if it recognizes requests to specific search engines, rather than ordinary HTTP traffic. Search engines have crawlers that scour the Web for pages to index or re-index on a regular basis. It is possible for pages on the same domain to link to one another. Crawlers utilize specific algorithms to determine a page's search engine ranking. 

Buying adverts or implementing search engine optimization (SEO) strategies are two valid ways to improve page ranking in search engine result pages, however not all digital marketers follow the laws. SEO-boosting practices (which, however, contravene webmaster guidelines) such as loading pages with unrelated keywords or buying backlinks to improve a website's reputation are referred to as unethical SEO (historically known as black hat SEO).

IISerpent is a native IIS module, implemented as a C++ DLL and configured in the %windir%\system32\inetsrv\config\ApplicationHost.config file. IISerpent ensures both persistence and execution because all IIS modules are loaded by the IIS Worker Processes (w3wp.exe) and used to handle inbound HTTP requests.

IISerpent exports a function called RegisterModule, which provides module initialization, just like all native IIS modules. Its event handlers — methods of the module class (inherited from CHttpModule) that are called on certain server events – hide the underlying harmful functionality. IISerpent's code class alters the IIS server's OnBeginRequest and OnSendResponse methods, causing the malware's handlers to be called every time the IIS server begins processing a new inbound HTTP request and transmits the response buffer. 

Because everything appears normal to the webmaster and users - all the 'magic' happens in the background – these assaults are extremely difficult to detect. Of course, a short glance at a backlink analysis or network traffic data will suggest that something is amiss. 

The worst thing about the IISerpent Trojan's attack is that the websites that are attacked could lose their good SEO ranking. This is possible because search engine crawlers will quickly notice the link between the original page and the counterfeit website, which will usually result in SEO penalties.

Conti Group Exploited Vulnerable Microsoft Exchange Servers

 

According to cybersecurity consultancy firm Pondurance, the Conti ransomware gang is now using backdoors that are still active. On-premises Microsoft Exchange email servers that have been patched are still vulnerable. 

Pondurance researchers stated, "Despite patching, thousands of devices might still be compromised". Conti appears to be targeting firms that patched the Exchange issues initially attacked by Chinese attackers but failed to detect and remove the backdoor access that had already been installed.

On March 4th, Microsoft released emergency fixes for four vulnerabilities in its on-premises Exchange email servers. The Biden administration officially accused a group working for China's Ministry of State Security in July of running a string of attacks against vulnerable Microsoft Exchange email servers this year that disrupted thousands of firms in the United States and around the globe. 

The US has not authorized China for its aggressive cyber operations, according to Anne Neuberger, the US deputy national security advisor for cyber and emerging technologies, who stated last week that the US is first aiming to establish an international consensus on how to respond. 

Meanwhile, Chinese advanced persistent threat organizations have been discovered abusing vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange servers to breach telecommunications provider networks in Southeast Asia in an attempt to capture confidential communications from customers. 

The Pondurance researchers discovered one instance in which an unlicensed and exploited remote monitoring and management agent was deployed on an on-premises Exchange server. 

"The unauthorized RMM tool remained present on the victim machine for approximately four months and granted the ability for remote interaction with the victim machine," Pondurance says. "In July, the RMM tool was used by outside actors to install additional malicious frameworks, including Cobalt Strike. The resulting actions concluded with the installation of Conti ransomware." 

According to the researchers, the company patched Exchange without first ensuring that any previously established backdoor access had been deleted. 

"Pondurance recommends searching for unauthorized ScreenConnect services installed on on-premises Exchange servers that were vulnerable to [the flaw exploit] at some point," Pondurance stated.

"These services should be present within the registry and would have generated 'Service Created' event logs (event ID 7045) at the time of install in March 2021. You may also find ScreenConnect-related folders created in the filesystem under 'C:ProgramData,' 'C:Program Files (x86),' and 'C:WindowsTemp.'" 

Fat Face, a British clothing and accessory retailer paid Conti a $2 million ransom in March to unlock its computers after Conti accessed numerous files containing sensitive data. The organization has also been linked to healthcare-related attacks. After a Conti ransomware assault on Ireland's Health Service Executive in May, the FBI issued a warning to healthcare institutions and first responder networks, urging them to take precautions to avoid being a victim. 

Furthermore, after complaining about the profit share, a dissatisfied Conti affiliate reportedly released important training material from the ransomware group. Conti, a ransomware-as-a-service group, recruits affiliates to hack networks and encrypt devices in exchange for a cut of the ransom money.

According to Bleeping Computer, a security researcher published a post written by an outraged Conti affiliate who publicly exposed information about the ransomware campaign. 

According to the study, this information contains IP addresses for Cobalt Strike C2 servers as well as a 113 MB package including many tools and training materials for conducting ransomware operations. As per the Bleeping Computer report, the affiliate also wrote on a prominent Russian-speaking hacking site claiming he had been paid $1,500 as part of an attack, while the gang members made millions.

Microsoft Released Security Updates that Block PetitPotam NTLM Relay Attacks

 

The PetitPotam NTLM relay exploit, which allows a threat actor to take over a Windows domain, has been blocked by Microsoft security patches. Gilles Lionel, nicknamed Topotam, a security researcher, revealed a new method called PetitPotam in July that forces a domain controller to authenticate against a threat actor's server utilizing the MS-EFSRPC API capabilities. 

Gilles Lionel published a proof-of-concept (PoC) exploit for a brand new PetitPotam security flaw on July 23, 2021. This problem affected Microsoft's Active Directory Certificate Services (AD CS), which is needed to assure public key infrastructure (PKI) server functionality. 

According to the SANS Institute's Internet Storm Center, PetitPotam uses the Encrypting File System Remote Protocol (MS-EFSRPC) to start the authentication process in remote Windows instances and force them to divulge the NTLM hashes to the adversary. The attacker specifically exploits LSARPC to force any targeted server, including domain controllers (DCs), to connect to the malicious random server and perform NTLM authentication. As a result, the adversary acquires an authentication certificate that is valid for all domain services, including the DC. 

Despite the fact that the PetitPotam attack had devastating results and was simple to launch, the adversaries faced some constraints. To transfer the stolen credentials back to the DC or other internal instances, threat actors needed to achieve SYSTEM/ADMIN rights or maintain covert malicious infrastructure within the LAN, according to the researchers' findings. 

The majority of supported Windows versions, according to the researchers, are vulnerable to the PetitPotam. The technique has been successfully applied to Windows 10, Windows Server 2016, and Windows Server 2019. 

Microsoft provided a security update in August 2021 Patch Tuesday, that prevents the PetitPotam vector (CVE-2021-36942) from forcing a domain controller to authenticate against another server. "This security update blocks the affected API calls OpenEncryptedFileRawA and OpenEncryptedFileRawW through LSARPC interface," explains Microsoft in the CVE-2021-36942 advisory. 

Installing this update may damage backup software that uses the EFS API OpenEncryptedFileRaw(A/W) function, according to Microsoft. "The EFS API OpenEncryptedFileRaw(A/W), often used in backup software, continues to work in all versions of Windows (local and remote), except when backing up to or from a system running Windows Server 2008 SP2. OpenEncryptedFileRaw will no longer work on Windows Server 2008 SP2," warns Microsoft.

New DNS Flaw Enables 'Nation-State Level Spying' on Companies

 

Researchers discovered a new category of DNS vulnerabilities hitting major DNS-as-a-Service (DNSaaS) providers, which may enable attackers to get access to sensitive data of company networks. 

DNSaaS providers (also referred to as managed DNS providers) rent DNS to other businesses who don't want to maintain and protect yet additional network resources on their own. 

These DNS vulnerabilities, as disclosed by cloud security firm Wiz researchers Shir Tamari and Ami Luttwak at the Black Hat security conference, grant threat actors nation-state intelligence harvesting powers with simple domain registration. 

As per the description, they simply created a domain and utilized it to hijack a DNSaaS provider's nameserver (in this instance, Amazon Route 53), permitting them to eavesdrop on dynamic DNS traffic streaming from Route 53 users' networks. 

The Wiz researchers stated, "We found a simple loophole that allowed us to intercept a portion of worldwide dynamic DNS traffic going through managed DNS providers like Amazon and Google," 

"The dynamic DNS traffic we 'wiretapped' came from over 15,000 organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, 45 U.S. government agencies, and 85 international government agencies." 

Employee/computer identities and locations and extremely sensitive data about organizations' infrastructure, such as Internet-exposed network equipment, were among the data they acquired this way. 

In one instance, the researchers used network data from 40,000 corporate endpoints to trace the office locations of one of the world's major services companies. The information gathered in this manner would make it much simpler for threat actors to compromise an organization's network since it would offer them a bird's eye perspective of what's going on within corporations and governments and provide them with "nation-state level surveillance capacity." 

The researchers haven't found any indication that the DNS flaw they identified has ever been exploited in the open, but they do warn that anybody with the expertise of the vulnerabilities and the abilities to exploit it might have gathered data undiscovered for over a decade. 

"The impact is huge. Out of six major DNSaaS providers we examined, three were vulnerable to nameserver registration. Any cloud provider, domain registrar, and website host who provides DNSaaS could be vulnerable," they added at Black Hat. 

Patched by some, likely to affect others: 

Although two significant DNS providers (Google and Amazon) have already patched these DNS vulnerabilities, others are still likely prone, potentially exposing millions of devices to attacks. 

Moreover, it is unclear who is responsible for fixing this serious DNS flaw. Microsoft has previously informed Wiz that this is not a vulnerability since it could alter the dynamic DNS mechanism that permits Windows endpoints to leak internal network traffic to rogue DNS servers. 

Microsoft explained, this flaw as "a known misconfiguration that occurs when an organization works with external DNS resolvers." 

To minimize DNS conflicts and network difficulties, Redmond recommends utilizing distinct DNS names and zones for internal and external hosts and provides extensive guidance on how to correctly handle DNS dynamic updates in Windows. 

Maintained DNS providers can mitigate nameserver hijacking by adhering to the RFC's "reserved names" specification and checking and confirming domain ownership and validity before enabling their customers to register them. Companies renting DNS servers can also modify the default Start-of-Authority (SOA) record to stop internal network traffic from leaking via dynamic DNS updates.

CISA Partners with Leading Technology Providers for New Cybersecurity Initiative

 

As part of a new campaign aimed at improving the country's cyber defences, the US government has announced partnerships with Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and other major corporations. According to CISA Director Jen Easterly, the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative, or JCDC, would strive to take a proactive approach to cyber defense in the wake of multiple high-profile breaches that damaged the federal government and the general public. 

The JCDC would initially focus on battling ransomware and other cyberattacks against cloud computing providers, according to a Wall Street Journal report, in order to avoid situations like the recent Kaseya supply-chain ransomware incident that occurred earlier this summer. 

“The industry partners that have agreed to work side-by-side with CISA and our interagency teammates share the same commitment to defending our country’s national critical functions from cyber intrusions, and the imagination to spark new solutions,” Easterly said in the statement. 

CISA will be able to integrate unique cyber capabilities across numerous federal departments, state and local governments, and private sector firms to achieve shared objectives due to the establishment of the JCDC. The new programme will also enable the public and commercial sectors to share information, coordinate defensive cyber operations, and participate in joint exercises to improve cyber defense operations in the United States. 

 Aside from AWS, Microsoft, and Google Cloud, the JCDC will collaborate with AT&T, Crowdstrike, FireEye Mandiant, Lumen, Palo Alto Networks, and Verizon. Meanwhile, the Department of Defense (DoD), US Cyber Command, the National Security Agency (NSA), the Department of Justice (DoJ), the FBI, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence are among the government's partners. 

 Rep. Jim Langevin, D-RI, is a member of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission and a senior member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said the JCDC is “exactly the kind of aggressive, forward-thinking we need to combat the ever-growing cyber threats that face our nation.” In a statement, Langevin said the JCDC “brings together our [Cyberspace Solarium Commission] recommendations about planning, intelligence fusion and cybersecurity operations in a visionary way.” 

 According to a Langevin aide, the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative will house the Joint Planning Office, which Congress has authorised, as well as the Joint Collaborative Environment, if passed this year as politicians like Langevin hope.

Lemon Duck Develops into a Botnet Trying Hands-On-Keyboard Attacks

 

Throughout the past two years, a fine crypto-mining malware outbreak has developed into a gigantic botnet system and is now experimenting in infiltrated networks using hands-on-keyboard invasions, foreshadowing a serious turn that the group's controllers could see in the future with ransomware or other risky attacks. 

The botnet observed by the Israeli security company Guardicore during the first half of 2019 was identified as a LemonDuck. The malware LemonDuck is a code that can create undesirable, typically catastrophic system modifications. LemonDuck robs credentials, eliminates security measures, distributes emails, moves sideways, and finally drops more tools for human-operated gadgets. 

The botnet was originally a tiny operation that depended on classical email spam to deliver malicious files which would implant malware in victim devices.

LemonDuck's earliest versions were relatively simple. The systems have been infected, security software disabled, and then a Monero-mining application has been used to make money from the computer resources of the hacked company. 

The malware has witnessed one of the most spectacular developments in every botnet operation during the previous two years. It has continued to receive upgrades in its features, the innovation was visible as the authors of the malware introduced support for online attacks to the botnet with a new infection technique, in 2021.

Botnet attacked unsecured web servers employing exploit code and credential guessing (password guessing) on systems including email servers like Microsoft Exchange, SQL databases, Hadoop and Redis servers, and systems running SMB and RDP services that are open on the Internet. 

The botnet grew well above its crypto-mine competitors in size and sophistication. Currently, the botnet contains a wide variety of capabilities that enable it to eliminate competitor malware from the very same infected hosts, patch compromised systems to help prevent rivals attacking, and collect passwords in the local systems so that everlasting access may be guaranteed. 

Although Cisco Talos and Sophos have already investigated the activities of LemonDuck in their publications, Microsoft too has drawn attention to significant innovations in LemonDuck code aimed at bringing hands-on attacks to the devices. 

A rather new term in cybersecurity lingo, 'hands-on keyboard' attack is used when attackers discontinue employing automated scripts and log into a compromised device to manually execute instructions on their own. Hands-on-keyboard attacks are frequently connected with national threat players, ransomware gangs, and cybercriminal groups with a financial motive. 

“There was no sign of the hands-on-keyboard nature that future attacks would carry. However, we could tell even at that early phase that LemonDuck operators were serious about their business; their multi-stage PowerShell scripts were more complex and obfuscated than others’, and they already made extensive use of open-source tools for code execution and infection,” added Ophir Harpaz, the GuardiCore malware analyst who first spotted LemonDuck. 

Microsoft has observed authentication theft, removing security checks, and lateral movement – all from the beginning. 

“They started in March 2019 and never stopped since. There was not a single month where we didn’t observe a LemonDuck attack hitting our threat sensors,” Harpaz told. 

While there is an upsurge in instances hinting at LemonDuck infection becoming a hand-on-keyboard attack, there is no proof that the malware had moved away from its core objective of illegal crypto-mining. Nevertheless, Microsoft additionally pointed out that owners of LemonDuck have already commenced the development of other malware on affected devices including the family, Ramnit, and others.

Bot Protection Available in Azure Web App Firewall

Microsoft recently announced that WAF (Web Application Firewall) bot safety tool has attained general availability status on Azure Application Gateway from this week. Azure WAF is a cloud based feature built to safeguard client web applications from bot attacks, general web vulnerabilities and common exploits, including SQL injection, cross site scripting, security misconfigurations, and broken authority and more. Azure WAF can be planted within minutes with Azure Application gateway, Azure Content Delivery Network (CDN) and Azure front door. Microsoft on Friday said that it is announcing the general availability of the Web Application Firewall (WAF) bot protection feature on Application Gateway. 

The feature lets customers to control bot protection rule set for WAF to log requests or restrict them from known harmful IP addresses. "Roughly 20% of all Internet traffic comes from bad bots. They do things like scraping, scanning, and looking for vulnerabilities in your web application. When these bots are stopped at the Web Application Firewall (WAF), they can’t attack you. They also can’t use up your resources and services, such as your backends and other underlying infrastructure," reports Microsoft.

The new bot protection rule can be used with OWASP CRS (Core Rules Set) to give extra safety for web applications. Because of this new rule that blocks bad bots, criminals can usi ot for different malicious tasks which are resource consuming like scanning, scraping, and looking out for exploits in web apps. When the bot protection rule is implemented on Azure WAF via Application Gateway, bots that use known malicious IPs retrieved from Microsoft Threat Intelligence feed are get automatically restricted from accessing customer server resources or verifying them on potential vulnerability gaps. "The bot mitigation ruleset list of known bad IP addresses updates multiple times per day from the Microsoft Threat Intelligence feed to stay in sync with the bots," Microsoft said. 

"Your web applications are continuously protected even as the bot attack vectors change," reports Bleeping Computers. You can get more information on WAF on Microsoft's Azure Product Website. Bleeping Computers reports "the steps required to configure a bot protection rule set include: Creating a basic WAF policy for Application Gateway by following the instructions described in Create Web Application Firewall policies for Application Gateway. In the Basic policy page that you created previously, under Settings, select Rules. On the details page, under the Manage rules section, from the drop-down menu, select the check box for the bot Protection rule, and then select Save."

Hackers Applying HTML Smuggling To Distribute Malware

 

Another latest spam E-mail operation, which abused a technique named "HTML smuggling" to circumvent E-mail security measures and transmit malware on users' devices, was identified by Microsoft's security team. This campaign has been going on for weeks. 

Microsoft Corporation is an international American technology firm that develops computer software, consumer devices, computers, and associated services. 

HTML smuggling is a method used to overcome security systems by malicious HTML generation behind the firewall - in the browser at the targeted endpoint. 

Sandboxes, proxies, and sandboxes leveraging HTML5 and JavaScript characteristics bypass the conventional network security methods such as E-mail scanners. This is by producing the destructive HTML code on the target device in the browser that is already located within the network security perimeter. 

Typically network security solutions work by analyzing the 'wire' or information flows from the network to search for identified malware signatures and trends within the byte stream. The destructive payloads are built on the target device in the browser through the use of HTML smuggling so that no items are passed to the network's security systems for detection. 

The underlying concept behind an HTML email-based counterfeits is to include a link to an email document, which does not look harmful if it is scanned, or to a file type that email security programs, like EXE, DOC, MSI, and others, deem to be harmful. 

Furthermore, it does employ certain HTML elements, such as "href" and "download," as well as JavaScript code, while accessing the URL for an assembled harmful file within the browser. 

This approach isn't new and has been known since the mid-2010s, theoretically and malware programmers have used it from at least 2019 and have been detected throughout 2020. 

Microsoft stated in a series of tweets on Friday that it tracked an e-mail spam campaign that lasted weeks abusing HTML smuggling to put a destructive ZIP file on machines. 

Files in the ZIP file, unfortunately, infect the users with the banking trojan Casbaneiro (Metamorfo). Casbaneiro is indeed a traditional Latin American bank Trojan that focuses on Brazilian and Mexican banks and cryptocurrency services. It leverages the method of social engineering, which displays false pop-up windows. These pop-ups attempt to entice potential victims to provide critical information; this information is stolen if it succeeds. 

Although Microsoft has announced that Microsoft Defender for Office 365 might recognize HTML-contracted files, OS maker raises a warning on Friday for customers who are not their clients or those who are unaware of the technology or do not have email security devices that scan incoming emails.

Fake Windows 11 Installers are Being Used to Spread Malware

 

Although Windows 11 isn't expected to be released until later this year, hackers have already begun attempting to use it to infect victims with malware. On Friday, security firm Kaspersky warned that crooks were using bogus installers to take advantage of consumers eager to get their hands on the Microsoft operating system update, which is set to be released in the fall. 

“Although Microsoft has made the process of downloading and installing Windows 11 from its official website fairly straightforward, many still visit other sources to download the software, which often contains unadvertised goodies from cybercriminals (and isn’t necessarily Windows 11 at all),” Kaspersky wrote. The sarcastic "goodies" include anything from harmless adware to password stealers and trojans. 

An executable file called 86307 windows 11 build 21996.1 x64 + activator.exe is one example. It certainly appears credible, with a file size of 1.75GB. However, the majority of that space is taken up by a single DLL file that contains a lot of irrelevant data. 

When you run the application, the installer seems to be a standard Windows installation wizard. Its primary function is to download and execute a more intriguing executable. The second executable is likewise an installer, with a license agreement that describes it as a “download manager for 86307 windows 11 build 21996.1 x64 + activator” and notes that it will also install some sponsored applications. If you accept the agreement, your computer will be infected with a number of malicious programmes. 

It's not uncommon for hackers to take advantage of victims' demand for a product or service, whether it's coronavirus contact tracing apps or the Telegram encrypted messaging app. In late June, Microsoft announced Windows 11 and made an initial “insider preview” accessible. Security has been highlighted as a key driving factor in the development of the operating system upgrade. 

The bogus installers are proliferating as Microsoft battles a number of security threats directed at the firm. Last week, Microsoft revealed instructions on how to protect against the "PetitPotam" attack, which might allow attackers to take control of Windows domains, as well as a solution for the "SeriousSAM" vulnerability, which could let attackers get administrative access. Last week, the corporation also issued a warning about LemonDuck, a cryptocurrency mining malware that has been targeting Microsoft devices. 

LemonDuck Targets Windows and Linux Systems

 

Initially, it was mainly a crypto-monetary botnet that allowed machine mining but later a transformation was initiated to make it a malware loader, bringing us to Microsoft's current update on this malevolent digital duck loaded with citrus. 

Microsoft warns users that LemonDuck's crypto-mining malware is aimed at both Windows and Linux, and distributes itself by phishing, exploiting, USB, and brute-force operations and attacks that exploit a serious vulnerability on the Exchange Server detected in March. 

In May, two years after the first bug appeared, the organization was found to be employing Exchange bugs for cryptocurrencies mining. 

Notably, throughout the period where security teams concentrate on correcting severe faults, and even eradicating competing spyware, the group behind LemonDuck makes use of high-profile weaknesses to protect the security system. 

The repercussions may be grave if one is attacked by the LemonDuck. Thus according to Microsoft, LemonDuck's capabilities include the robbing of key Windows and Linux PC credentials as well as the removal of security controls that make the system defenseless; email spreading (probably spearphishing attempts); and the reinstallation in devices to facilitate further execution of remote code (RCE) through back doors. 

Malware research teams from Cisco's Talos have indeed scoped the group's exchange activity. They observed that before loading payloads such as the Cobalt strike pentesting kit, a popular lateral movement tool, LemonDuck was utilizing automated tools to scan, detect, and exploit server software, which allows the malware to download additional modules. 

Microsoft post on the matter says, “(LemonDuck) uses a wide range of spreading mechanisms—phishing emails, exploits, USB devices, brute force, among others — and it has shown that it can quickly take advantage of news, events, or the release of new exploits to run effective campaigns. For example, in 2020, it was observed using Covid-19-themed lures in email attacks. In 2021, it exploited newly patched Exchange Server vulnerabilities to gain access to outdated systems." 

It is also revealed by Microsoft that although the attackers have initially predominantly focused on China, India is now in the top ten countries most afflicted by this malware. Precisely, India is among the six top countries targeted by cybercriminals alongside the USA, Russia, China, Germany, and Great Britain, with production and IoT businesses being the main targets. 

The risk is also heightened by the expanding malware architecture, which makes the cybersecurity sector even more vulnerable to these attacks. 

The usage of LemonCat, a distinct yet equally harmful and highly developed focused malware tool often used to install backdoors in systems through RCE attacks, is also mentioned by Microsoft. 

Further, Microsoft’s threat intelligence team states, “The threat is cross-platform, persistent, and constantly evolving. Research like this emphasizes the importance of having comprehensive visibility into the wide range of threats, as well as the ability to correlate simple, disparate activity such as coin mining to more dangerous adversarial attacks."

New Windows and Linux Flaws: Provide Attackers Highest System Privileges

 

Two new vulnerabilities, one in Windows and the other in Linux, were discovered on Tuesday, allowing hackers with a presence in a vulnerable machine to circumvent OS security limits and access critical resources. 

Microsoft's Windows 10 and upcoming Windows 11 versions have been discovered to be vulnerable to a new local privilege escalation vulnerability that allows users with low-level permissions to access Windows system files, permitting them to decrypt private keys and uncover the operating system installation password. The vulnerability has been named "SeriousSAM".

CERT Coordination Center (CERT/CC) stated in a vulnerability note published, "Starting with Windows 10 build 1809, non-administrative users are granted access to SAM, SYSTEM, and SECURITY registry hive files. This can allow for local privilege escalation (LPE)." 

The operating system configuration files in question are as follows - 

c:\Windows\System32\config\sam 
c:\Windows\System32\config\system 
c:\Windows\System32\config\security 

Microsoft acknowledged the vulnerability, which has been assigned the number CVE-2021-36934 but is yet to offer a patch or provide a timeframe for when a fix will be released. 

The Windows makers explained, "An elevation of privilege vulnerability exists because of overly permissive Access Control Lists (ACLs) on multiple system files, including the Security Accounts Manager (SAM) database. An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could run arbitrary code with SYSTEM privileges. An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights.” 

However, successful exploitation of the issue implies that the attacker has already gained a foothold and has the capacity to execute code on the target machine. In the meanwhile, users should restrict entry to sam, system, and security files and erase VSS shadow copies of the system disc, according to the CERT/CC. 

Since the release of Patch Tuesday updates on July 13, this is also the third publicly documented unpatched issue in Windows. Apart from CVE-2021-36934, two other vulnerabilities in the Print Spooler component have been identified, leading Microsoft to advise all users to halt and terminate the service to protect their computers from exploitation. 

"Sequoia" privilege escalation flaw affected Linux distros:

Remediations have been issued for a security shortcoming affecting all Linux kernel versions from 2014 that can be exploited by malicious users and malware already deployed on a system to gain root-level privileges. 

The vulnerability, nicknamed "Sequoia" by Qualys researchers, has been issued the identifier CVE-2021-33909 and affects default Ubuntu 20.04, Ubuntu 20.10, Ubuntu 21.04, Debian 11, and Fedora 34 Workstation installations. The issue also affects Red Hat Enterprise Linux versions 6, 7, and 8. 

The vulnerability is a size t-to-int type conversion flaw in the Linux Kernel's "seq file" file system interface, which allows an unprivileged local intruder to generate, install, and delete a deep directory structure with a total path length of more than 1GB, resulting in a privilege escalation on the vulnerable host. 

According to Qualys, unprivileged attackers could use a stack exhaustion denial-of-service vulnerability in the system (CVE-2021-33910) to corrupt the software suite and induce a kernel panic.

Israeli Firm Assisted Governments Target Journalists & Activists with Zero Days and Spyware

 

Microsoft as part of its Patch on Tuesday fixed two of the zero-day Windows flaws weaponized by Candiru, an Israeli firm in a series of "precision attacks" to hack more than 100 journalists, academics, activists, and political dissidents globally. 

According to a report published by the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab, the spyware vendor has also been formally identified as the commercial surveillance firm that Google's Threat Analysis Group (TAG) revealed was exploiting multiple zero-day vulnerabilities in Chrome browser to attack victims in Armenia. 

"Candiru's apparent widespread presence, and the use of its surveillance technology against global civil society, is a potent reminder that the mercenary spyware industry contains many players and is prone to widespread abuse," Citizen Lab researchers stated.

"This case demonstrates, yet again, that in the absence of any international safeguards or strong government export controls, spyware vendors will sell to government clients who will routinely abuse their services." 

Founded in 2014, the private-sector offensive actor (PSOA) — codenamed "Sourgum" by Microsoft — is stated to be the creator of DevilsTongue, an espionage toolkit able to infect and track a wide range of devices across multiple platforms, including iPhones, Androids, Macs, PCs, and cloud accounts. 

After gaining a hard drive from "a politically active victim in Western Europe," Citizen Lab stated it was able to restore a copy of Candiru's Windows spyware, which was then reverse engineered to identify two never-before-seen Windows zero-day exploits for vulnerabilities tracked as CVE-2021-31979 and CVE-2021-33771 that were leveraged to install malware on victim boxes. 

The infection chain used a combination of browser and Windows vulnerabilities, with the latter being transmitted through single-use URLs emailed on WhatsApp to targets. On July 13, Microsoft patched both privilege escalation issues, which allow an attacker to bypass browser sandboxes and obtain kernel code execution. 

The attacks resulted in the deployment of DevilsTongue, a modular C/C++-based backdoor capable of exfiltrating files, exporting messages saved in the encrypted messaging app Signal, and stealing cookies and passwords from Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and Opera browsers. Microsoft discovered that the digital weapon could gather data, read the victim's messages, get photos, and even send messages on their behalf using stolen cookies from logged-in email and social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Yahoo, Mail.ru, Odnoklassniki, and Vkontakte.

Furthermore, the Citizen Lab study linked two Google Chrome vulnerabilities — CVE-2021-21166 and CVE-2021-30551 — to the Tel Aviv firm, citing similarities in the websites used to disseminate the exploits. 

A total of 764 domains related to Candiru's spyware infrastructure were discovered, many of which purported to be advocacy groups such as Amnesty International, the Black Lives Matter movement, media businesses, and other civil-society-oriented enterprises. 

Saudi Arabia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Hungary, and Indonesia were among the countries that ran systems under their authority. 

According to a Microsoft report, an Israeli hacking-for-hire firm has assisted government clients in spying on more than 100 people throughout the world, including politicians, dissidents, human rights activists, diplomatic staff, and journalists.

Among other well-known news outlets, the Guardian and the Washington Post released information of what they termed "global surveillance operations" using Pegasus. The surveillance is said to be aimed at journalists and according to the claims, Pegasus malware is being used to spy on people by over ten nations. 

SOURGUM's malware has so far targeted over 100 victims in Palestine, Israel, Iran, Lebanon, Yemen, Spain (Catalonia), United Kingdom, Turkey, Armenia, and Singapore. 

These attacks mostly targeted consumer accounts, implying that Sourgum's users were pursuing part of the attack. TAG researchers Maddie Stone and Clement Lecigne noticed a rise in attackers utilizing more zero-day vulnerabilities in their cyber offensives in the early 2010s, which they attribute to more commercial vendors offering access to zero-day flaws. 

Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) stated in a technical rundown, "Private-sector offensive actors are private companies that manufacture and sell cyberweapons in hacking-as-a-service packages, often to government agencies around the world, to hack into their targets' computers, phones, network infrastructure, and other devices.” 

"With these hacking packages, usually the government agencies choose the targets and run the actual operations themselves. The tools, tactics, and procedures used by these companies only add to the complexity, scale, and sophistication of attacks," MSTIC added.

By Fooling a Webcam, Hackers were Able to get Past Windows Hello

 

Biometric authentication is a critical component of the IT industry's plan to eliminate the need for passwords. However, a new method for fooling Microsoft's Windows Hello facial recognition technology demonstrates that a little hardware tinkering can make the system unlock when it shouldn't.

Face-recognition authentication has become more prevalent in recent years thanks to services like Apple's FaceID, with Windows Hello driving usage even further. Face recognition by Hello is compatible with a variety of third-party webcams. 

Only webcams having an infrared sensor in addition to the conventional RGB sensor operate with Windows Hello facial recognition. However, it turns out that the system doesn't even look at RGB data. The researchers discovered that by using a single straight-on infrared image of a target's face and a black frame, they were able to open the victim's Windows Hello–protected device. The researchers were able to fool Windows Hello into thinking the device owner's face was there and unlocking by manipulating a USB webcam to produce an attacker-chosen image. 

“We tried to find the weakest point in the facial recognition and what would be the most interesting from the attacker’s perspective, the most approachable option,” says Omer Tsarfati, a researcher at the security firm CyberArk. “We created a full map of the Windows Hello facial-recognition flow and saw that the most convenient for an attacker would be to pretend to be the camera because the whole system is relying on this input.”

Microsoft dubbed the discovery a "Windows Hello security feature bypass vulnerability" and patched the problem on Tuesday. Furthermore, the company recommends that users use "Windows Hello enhanced sign-in security," which employs Microsoft's "virtualization-based security" to encrypt Windows Hello facial data and process it in a secure area of memory. 

Tsarfati, who will present the findings at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas next month, says the CyberArk team focused on Windows Hello's facial-recognition authentication because there has already been a lot of research into PIN cracking and fingerprint-sensor spoofing in the industry. 

He goes on to say that the team was attracted by a large number of Windows Hello users. Microsoft said in May 2020 that the service had over 150 million users. In December, Microsoft announced that 84.7 percent of Windows 10 users utilize Windows Hello to log in.

Chinese Hackers Exploit New SolarWinds Zero-Day in Targeted Attacks

 

Microsoft Threat Intelligence Centre (MSTIC) on Tuesday revealed a zero-day remote code execution exploit, being used to attack SolarWinds Serv-U FTP software in limited and targeted attacks. Microsoft revealed that the attacks are linked to a China-based threat group tracked as 'DEV-0322.' 

“MSTIC attributes this campaign with high confidence to DEV-0322, a group operating out of China, based on observed victimology, tactics, and procedures," Microsoft said in an update on Wednesday.

To carry out the attack, threat actors deployed malware in the Orion software sold by the IT management company SolarWinds. According to the local media outlets, the hackers exploited at least 250 federal agencies and top organizations in the US. 

Tracked as CVE-2021-35211, the RCE vulnerability resides in Serv-U's implementation of the Secure Shell (SSH) protocol. While it was previously revealed that the attacks were limited in scope, SolarWinds said it's unaware of the identity of the potentially affected customers. 

“The vulnerability being exploited is CVE-2021-35211, which was recently patched by SolarWinds. We strongly urge all customers to update their instances of Serv-U to the latest available version," Microsoft advised. 

On Tuesday, SolarWinds published a security update for a zero-day vulnerability in Serv-U FTP servers that allow remote code execution when SSH is enabled. According to SolarWinds, this flaw was disclosed by Microsoft, who saw a hacker actively exploiting it to execute commands on vulnerable customer's devices.

"This activity group is based in China and has been observed using commercial VPN solutions and compromised consumer routers in their attacker infrastructure," says a new blog post by the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center. 

According to Microsoft, the ‘DEV-0322’ hacking group has previously targeted entities in the US Defense Industrial Base Sector and software companies. "The Defense Industrial Base (DIB) Sector is the worldwide industrial complex that enables research and development (R&D), as well as design, production, delivery, and maintenance of military weapons systems, subsystems, and components or parts, to meet U.S. military requirements," explains a CISA document describing the DIB sector.

In December 2020, Microsoft revealed that a separate espionage group may have been exploiting the IT infrastructure provider's Orion software to drop a persistent backdoor called Supernova on compromised systems. The intrusions have since been attributed to a China-linked threat actor called Spiral.

Cobalt Strike Payloads: Hackers Capitalizing on Ongoing Kaseya Ransomware Attacks

 

Cyberattack actors are trying to monetize off the currently ongoing Kaseya ransomware attack incident by attacking probable victims in a spam campaign attack forcing Cobalt Strike payloads acting as Kaseya VSA security updates. Cobalt Strike is a genuine penetration testing software and threat detection tool which is also used by attackers for post-cyberattack tasks and plant beacons that lets them to gain remote access to hack into compromised systems. The primary goal of such attacks is either stealing data (harvesting)/exfiltrating sensitive information, or deploying second-stage malware payloads. 

Cisco Talos Incident Response (CTIR) team in a September report said that "interestingly, 66 percent of all ransomware attacks this quarter involved red-teaming framework Cobalt Strike, suggesting that ransomware actors are increasingly relying on the tool as they abandon commodity trojans." The malware spam campaign discovered by Malwarebytes Threat Intelligence experts use two distinct approaches to plant the Cobalt Strike payloads. Emails sent as a part of this spam campaign comes with an infected attachment and an attached link built to disguised as a Microsoft patch for Kaseya VSA zero-day compromised in the Revil ransomware attack. 

Malwarebytes Threat Intelligence team said that a malspam campaign is taking advantage of the Kaseya VSA ransomware attack to drop CobaltStrike. It contains an attachment named 'SecurityUpdates.exe' as well as a link pretending to be a security update from Microsoft to patch Kaseya vulnerability, the report said. The hackers gain persistent remote access to attack systems after running malicious attachments/downloads and launching fake Microsoft updates on their devices. 

Bleeping Computer reports "just as with this month's malspam campaign, the June phishing campaign was also pushing malicious payloads designed to deploy the Cobalt Strike penetration testing tool, which would have allowed the attackers to compromise the recipients' systems. The payload download pages were also customized using the target company's graphics to make them appear trustworthy." These two campaigns highlight that threat actors in the phishing business keep track of the latest news for pushing lures relevant to recent events to boost their campaigns rates of success, said Bleeping Computers.