Cisco confirms two of the Shadow Brokers' 'NSA' vulns are real

Tech giant rushes to fix firewall remote code execution flaw

It's looking increasingly likely that the hacking tools put up for auction by the Shadow Brokers group are real – after Cisco confirmed two exploits in the leaked archive are legit.

The two exploits, listed in the archive directory as EPICBANANA and EXTRABACON, can be used to achieve remote code execution on Cisco firewall products. A vulnerability exploited by one of the tools was patched in 2011 but the other exploit's vulnerability is entirely new – and there is no fix available at the moment.

What's worse is that the unpatched programming blunder has been lingering in Cisco hardware for years, since at least 2013. Whoever knew about the hole obviously didn't tell the manufacturer of the vulnerable gear.

"The Cisco ASA SNMP Remote Code Execution vulnerability is a newly found defect, and TALOS and Cisco IPS have both produced signatures to detect this issue," said Omar Santos, principal engineer for the Cisco Product Security Incident Response Team (PSIRT).

"The Cisco ASA CLI Remote Code Execution vulnerability was addressed in a defect fixed in 2011. We have issued a formal Security Advisory to increase its visibility with our customers so they can ensure they are running software versions that defend against the exploit Shadow Brokers has shared."

As mentioned, so far, Cisco has issued Snort rules to detect exploitation of the unpatched SNMP security hole.

The new SNMP flaw, described as EXTRABACON in the archive, uses a buffer overflow vulnerability in Cisco's ASA, PIX, and Firewall Services Module. In order to work, the target device has to be set up with the snmp-server enable command, the attacker must know the SNMP community string, and the devices are only vulnerable to IPv4 traffic. But once the exploit is successful, it would allow malware to be installed and all traffic monitored.

The EPICBANANA exploit can be used to bring down Cisco's Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA) Software (version 8.4.1 or earlier) using invalid commands, and then run code on the system.

Again, there are some caveats. The attacker must be locally authenticated on the system (for example by hacking one of the users) and also must know the telnet or SSH password for the software. However, once that's been achieved, typing in certain invalid commands will allow the exploit to work.

The admission from Cisco raises the odds that the Shadow Brokers are for real. The exploit code was obtained by the Brokers after they allegedly compromised the Equation Group, which is believed to be an intelligence agency-grade hacking unit and quite possibly part of the NSA. In other words, it's thought that the Brokers snatched the NSA's Equation Group code, dumped some of it on GitHub and tried to sell the rest online.

With today's verification by Cisco that some of the leaked exploit code is real, does this mean the NSA has been hacked? Certainly not.

On Tuesday, investigators at Kaspersky Lab told The Reg that the code released by the Shadow Brokers does bear the hallmark of the Equation Group's code, but it appears as though the archive is a software dump that was collected in 2013, around the time Edward Snowden went on the run.

Snowden himself has said he thinks the auction is bogus and the software release is a shot across the bow of the NSA by Russian intelligence. He guessed that if the NSA seeks to retaliate for hacks against political targets in the US, then more files will be released linking the NSA to hacking attacks.

Meanwhile, some believe it was an inside job by a disgruntled NSA staffer – because there is simply no way the agency would allow this material to fall in hackers' hands. ®

Similar topics

Narrower topics

Other stories you might like

  • AMD claims its GPUs beat Nvidia on performance per dollar
    * Terms, conditions, hardware specs and software may vary – a lot

    As a slowdown in PC sales brings down prices for graphics cards, AMD is hoping to win over the market's remaining buyers with a bold, new claim that its latest Radeon cards provide better performance for the dollar than Nvidia's most recent GeForce cards.

    In an image tweeted Monday by AMD's top gaming executive, the chip designer claims its lineup of Radeon RX 6000 cards provide better performance per dollar than competing ones from Nvidia, with all but two of the ten cards listed offering advantages in the double-digit percentages. AMD also claims to provide better performance for the power required by each card in all but two of the cards.

    Continue reading
  • Google opens the pod doors on Bay View campus
    A futuristic design won't make people want to come back – just ask Apple

    After nearly a decade of planning and five years of construction, Google is cutting the ribbon on its Bay View campus, the first that Google itself designed.

    The Bay View campus in Mountain View – slated to open this week – consists of two office buildings (one of which, Charleston East, is still under construction), 20 acres of open space, a 1,000-person event center and 240 short-term accommodations for Google employees. The search giant said the buildings at Bay View total 1.1 million square feet. For reference, that's less than half the size of Apple's spaceship. 

    The roofs on the two main buildings, which look like pavilions roofed in sails, were designed that way for a purpose: They're a network of 90,000 scale-like solar panels nicknamed "dragonscales" for their layout and shimmer. By scaling the tiles, Google said the design minimises damage from wind, rain and snow, and the sloped pavilion-like roof improves solar capture by adding additional curves in the roof. 

    Continue reading
  • Pentester pops open Tesla Model 3 using low-cost Bluetooth module
    Anything that uses proximity-based BLE is vulnerable, claim researchers

    Tesla Model 3 and Y owners, beware: the passive entry feature on your vehicle could potentially be hoodwinked by a relay attack, leading to the theft of the flash motor.

    Discovered and demonstrated by researchers at NCC Group, the technique involves relaying the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signals from a smartphone that has been paired with a Tesla back to the vehicle. Far from simply unlocking the door, this hack lets a miscreant start the car and drive away, too.

    Essentially, what happens is this: the paired smartphone should be physically close by the Tesla to unlock it. NCC's technique involves one gadget near the paired phone, and another gadget near the car. The phone-side gadget relays signals from the phone to the car-side gadget, which forwards them to the vehicle to unlock and start it. This shouldn't normally happen because the phone and car are so far apart. The car has a defense mechanism – based on measuring transmission latency to detect that a paired device is too far away – that ideally prevents relayed signals from working, though this can be defeated by simply cutting the latency of the relay process.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022