Apache Struts 2 bug bites Canada, Cisco, VMware and others

Canuck tax and stats outages revealed as patch pauses

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) says its website was attacked by hackers exploiting an Apache Struts 2 vulnerability.

The site was taken offline to patch the security bug, and only publicly accessible information was lifted from the compromised web servers, we're told.

The flaw in the Struts 2 framework is trivial to exploit: just upload a file with an invalid Content-Type value. It then throws an exception, and opens the target to remote code execution. Shortly after the Struts 2 vulnerability was discovered and documented last week, researchers at Cisco's Talos said they'd observed it under “active attack”.

The Canada Revenue Agency held a press conference in Ottawa Monday afternoon, and confirmed Struts 2 was the reason it took down its services over the weekend. According to CBC, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat deputy CIO Jennifer Dawson said the hackers broke into CRA's website but no personal or sensitive information was accessed.

The Canadian government also says Statistics Canada's website was taken down last Thursday for the same patch, although it was not compromised. Shared Service Canada COO John Glowacki said while forensic work is continuing, analysis of system logs so far shows nobody “got inside” CRA's systems.

“We will not speak for other countries, but we will say we have information that some other countries are having greater problems with this specific vulnerability,” he added.

Expect vendors to start issuing their own advisories about Struts 2. Cisco has posted its first product advisory, and so far there's more "confirmed not vulnerable" than vulnerable products.

So far, only Cisco's Identity Services Engine, Prime Service Catalog Virtual Appliance, and Unified SIP Proxy Software need fixing. There is, however, an extensive list of products still under investigation.

VMware's also run up a warning flag, issuing an advisory reporting exposures in Horizon Desktop as-a-Service, vCenter Server, vRealize Operations Manager and vRealize Hyperic Server. Patches are pending. ®

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