The seven deadly sins letting hackers hijack America's govt networks: These unpatched bugs leave systems open

'Unauthorized access to elections support systems' detected tho 'no evidence to date that integrity of elections data has been compromised'

If you're wondering which bugs in particular miscreants are exploiting to break into, or attempt to break into, US government networks, wonder no more. And then make sure you've patched them.

Uncle Sam's Dept of Homeland Security has this month identified at least six possible routes into the nation's computer systems, and the method used to gain total control over the machines once inside. Those six vulnerabilities are...

  1. CVE-2019-19781 in Citrix NetScaler
  2. CVE-2020-15505 in MobileIron
  3. CVE-2019-11510 in Pulse Secure
  4. CVE-2020-2021 in Palo Alto Networks
  5. CVE-2020-5902 in F5 BIG-IP
  6. CVE-2018-13379 in Fortinet FortiOS SSL VPN. CVE-2020-1472, aka ZeroLogon, in Microsoft Windows, which is exploited to escalate one's privileges, via the Netlogon protocol, to domain-level administrator access, granting total control.

So, for instance, we're told, miscreants can use, and have used, the Fortinet bug to obtain the usernames and plain-text passwords of SSL VPN users from the gateway's memory, log in as them, and then use ZeroLogon to infiltrate the network's central nervous system: Active Directory.

roof fire

Big US election coming up, security is vital and, oh look... a federal agency just got completely pwned for real


"CISA is aware of multiple cases where the Fortinet FortiOS SSL VPN vulnerability CVE-2018-13379 has been exploited to gain access to networks," explained Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) in its advisory.

"To a lesser extent, CISA has also observed threat actors exploiting the MobileIron vulnerability CVE-2020-15505. While these exploits have been observed recently, this activity is ongoing and still unfolding. After gaining initial access, the actors exploit CVE-2020-1472 to compromise all Active Directory (AD) identity services."

The agency said systems run by government organizations, great and small, have been targeted as well as private networks: "This recent malicious activity has often, but not exclusively, been directed at federal and state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) government networks."

It added that some of those computers are linked to the November elections in the United States, though they do not appear to be specifically targeted – and in any case, voting records and counts have not been affected:

Although it does not appear these targets are being selected because of their proximity to elections information, there may be some risk to elections information housed on government networks.

CISA is aware of some instances where this activity resulted in unauthorized access to elections support systems; however, CISA has no evidence to date that integrity of elections data has been compromised.

We note the FBI said similar in 2016, urging [PDF] Uncle Sam's IT staff to shore up their defenses by patching systems.

The advice today is to address the above seven flaws – the fixes have been available for a long while – assume you've already been compromised and work from there, reset account credentials if ZeroLogon has been exploited, and more.

"Organizations with externally facing infrastructure devices that have the vulnerabilities listed in this joint cybersecurity advisory, or other vulnerabilities, should move forward with an 'assume breach' mentality," CISA noted.

"As initial exploitation and escalation may be the only observable exploitation activity, most mitigations will need to focus on more traditional network hygiene and user management activities.

"Patch systems and equipment promptly and diligently." ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • IPSE: More than a third of freelancers have quit contracting since IR35 reforms

    Exodus, movement of the people... to the Middle East or elsewhere

    More than a third (35 per cent) of contractors in the UK have become permanent employees, retired, shifted to work overseas or are "simply not working" since IR35 tax legislation was revised earlier this year.

    This is according to the Association of Independent Professionals (IPSE) which found 35 per cent fewer freelancers among those it surveyed since 6 April when the government pushed through the delayed reform.

    "This research shows the devastating impact the changes to IR35 have had on contractors, needlessly compounding the financial damage of the pandemic," said Andy Chamberlain, director of policy at IPSE. "Now, just when contractors are needed the most - amid mounting labour shortages across the UK and particularly in haulage - government decisions have drive out a third of the sector."

    Continue reading
  • New Relic guzzles down CodeStream to help devs jump straight from app error telemetry to offending code

    'I can debug production from the IDE,' said CS boss Peter Pezaris

    Observability company New Relic has acquired CodeStream, specialists in developer collaboration, with the aim being to connect observability data with code in the development environment.

    CodeStream, founded in 2017 by Peter Pezaris, adds instant developer communication to coding environments. For example, a developer puzzling over some code written by a colleague can click next to that code, type a message to the other dev, and they will receive it either in the IDE if they happen to be working on the same project, or in a messaging tool such as Slack, complete with a reference to the code in question. They reply, and a discussion begins.

    Although it may seem a small thing, given that they could just use Slack (or any number of other messaging services) directly, the context and convenience makes it a worthwhile collaboration tool. CodeStream also integrates with pull requests from GitHub, GitLab, BitBucket, and issue management from Jira, Trello and others.

    Continue reading
  • Analogue tones of a ZX Spectrum Load set to ride again via podcast project

    Remember the R Tape Loading Error?

    The glory days of audio-cassette loading are set to return in the coming weeks, with retro fans to be treated to a broadcast for them to hit Play and Record to.

    Audio cassettes were the medium of choice for software back when Sinclair and Commodore's 8-bit hardware ruled the roost. The floppy disk seemed impossibly glamorous for the average home computer user and code was instead delivered via audio.

    While the sound of those files was unintelligible for most, for some enthusiasts it was possible to discern the type of data being loaded. Right up until the all-too-common R Tape Loading Error (which usually seemed to come right at the end of a lengthy period staring at a loading screen).

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021