France's cyber-agency says Centreon IT management software sabotaged by Russian Sandworm

Web hosts infiltrated for up to three years in attack that somewhat resembles SolarWinds mess

France’s Agence nationale de la sécurité des systèmes d'information (ANSSI), the nation’s cyber-security agency, has identified a years-long campaign to infiltrate IT monitoring platform Centreon.

Centreon (the company) claimed that Centreon (the software) is a spiffing open-source IT monitoring tool.

“Organizations must keep an unblinking eye on their IT infrastructure and operations to ensure service uptime and peak network availability,” according to the company’s blurb. Centreon the company said Centreon the software is that unblinking eye.

ANSSI on Monday revealed it is aware of two backdoors in Centreon the software, and said several French IT services providers have been infiltrated for up to three years.

In a detailed report [PDF] that The Register navigated with rusty high school French and online translation services, ANSSI said the attack used the PAS web shell and the Exaramel backdoor trojan.

Neither backdoor is new. The PAS web shell has been on security vendors’ radars since 2017 and mentions of Exaramel can be found in 2018. PAS does nasty things including brute force attacks on databases, to gain access to their contents. Exaramel is a remote-control tool.

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ANSSI said the attack was possible because some Centreon users didn’t keep their systems patched. The agency did not describe the consequences of the attack but said the combination of the two backdoors allowed complete compromise of Centreon, the software, and therefore lateral movement across networks.

As the attack targeted service providers, and such organisations are likely to offer multi-tenanted infrastructure, it’s possible many entities have been compromised.

ANSSI didn’t say Russia was responsible for the attack but did say the methods used to put the backdoors in place and operate them looked a lot like the ”Sandworm” crew that’s also suspected of having a role in the NotPetya ransomware.

ANSSI’s report recommends that all users of management tools should limit access to their web interfaces and harden the Linux servers on which they run.

But IT service providers and the vendors that cater to their needs are constantly reminded that security excellence is non-negotiable because they’re a gateway to numerous other organisations and therefore a prime target for criminals. Yet some have clearly run old and vulnerable versions of Centreon, the software, and then failed to spot bad actors rummaging about inside.

As did the many organisations that ran compromised versions of SolarWinds' Orion management software. ®

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