Security researchers have spotted the first mass-hacking campaign using the BlueKeep exploit; however, the exploit is not being used as a self-spreading worm, as Microsoft was afraid it would happen last May when it issued a dire warning and urged users to patch.
Instead, a hacker group has been using a demo BlueKeep exploit released by the Metasploit team back in September to hack into unpatched Windows systems and install a cryptocurrency miner.
This BlueKeep campaign has been happening at scale for almost two weeks, but it’s been only spotted today by cybersecurity expert Kevin Beaumont.
The British security expert said he found the exploits in logs recorded by honeypots he set up months before and forgot about. First attacks date back to October 23, Beaumont told ZDNet.
Beaumont’s discovery was confirmed by Marcus “MalwareTech” Hutchins, the security researcher who stopped the WannaCry ransomware outbreak, and who’s a recognized expert in the BlueKeep exploit.
The attacks discovered by Beaumont are nowhere near the scale of the attacks Microsoft was afraid of back in May, when it likened BlueKeep to EternalBlue, the exploit at the heart of the WannaCry, NotPetya, and Bad Rabbit ransomware outbreaks of 2017.
Microsoft engineers were terrified that BlueKeep would trigger another world-spanning malware outbreak that spread on its own, from unpatched system to unpatched system.
However, the first mass-hacking operation didn’t turn out to include self-spreading, worm-like capabilities. Instead, the hackers appear to search for Windows systems with RDP ports left exposed on the internet, deploy the BlueKeep Metasploit exploit, and later a cryptocurrency miner.
But these particular BlueKeep attacks don’t seem to work. Beaumont told ZDNet that the attacks crashed 10 of the 11 honeypots he was running.
This shows the attacker’s exploit code doesn’t work as they intend.
This fits right in with what most experts have said about BlueKeep for the past few months. The BlueKeep exploit can have devastating consequences, but it’s hard to get an exploit working without crashing the OS with a Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) error.
The person/group behind the recent attacks doesn’t appear to have the know-how needed to modify the BlueKeep demo exploit released by the Metasploit team back in September, which is a good thing. However, some of their attacks have succeeded.
What we are seeing today from this threat actor is the first hacking group that is trying to weaponize this dangerous exploit in an operation at scale, rather than at a specific target.
But ZDNet is also aware that other hackers have used BlueKeep in more targeted attacks, and have used it successfully.
At one point in the future, some low-skilled threat actor will figure out how to run BlueKeep properly, and that’s when we’ll see it used more broadly. Chances are that it’s still going to be used to mine cryptocurrency — the same thing for which EternalBlue is also mostly used nowadays.
BlueKeep patch information
BlueKeep is a nickname given to CVE-2019-0708, a vulnerability in the Microsoft RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) service. It impacts only:
- Windows 7
- Windows Server 2008 R2
- Windows Server 2008
Patches have been available since mid-May 2019. See official Microsoft advisory.
A first public demo BlueKeep exploit was released for the Metasploit penetration testing framework back in September. It was released to help system administrators test vulnerable systems, but it can also be re-purposed by malicious actors. Tens of other private exploits have existed since June, developed by cyber-security firms, but kept private in order to avoid helping attackers.
Despite having months to patch systems, the latest headcount of publicy-accessible Windows systems that expose an RDP endpoint online and are vulnerable to BlueKeep is at around 750,000. These scans don’t include systems inside private networks, behind firewalls.
The Five Pillars of (Azure) Cloud-based Application Security
This 1-hour webinar from GigaOm brings together experts in Azure cloud application migration and security, featuring GigaOm analyst Jon Collins and special guests from Fortinet, Director of Product Marketing for Public Cloud, Daniel Schrader, and Global Director of Public Cloud Architecture and Engineering, Aidan Walden.
These interesting times have accelerated the drive towards digital transformation, application rationalization, and migration to cloud-based architectures. Enterprise organizations are looking to increase efficiency, but without impacting performance or increasing risk, either from infrastructure resilience or end-user behaviors.
Success requires a combination of best practice and appropriate use of technology, depending on where the organization is on its cloud journey. Elements such as zero-trust access and security-driven networking need to be deployed in parallel with security-first operations, breach prevention and response.
If you are looking to migrate applications to the cloud and want to be sure your approach maximizes delivery whilst minimizing risk, this webinar is for you.
Data Management and Secure Data Storage for the Enterprise
This free 1-hour webinar from GigaOm Research brings together experts in data management and security, featuring GigaOm Analyst Enrico Signoretti and special guest from RackTop Systems, Jonathan Halstuch. The discussion will focus on data storage and how to protect data against cyberattacks.
Most of the recent news coverage and analysis of cyberattacks focus on hackers getting access and control of critical systems. Yet rarely is it mentioned that the most valuable asset for the organizations under attack is the data contained in these systems.
In this webinar, you will learn about the risks and costs of a poor data security management approach, and how to improve your data storage to prevent and mitigate the consequences of a compromised infrastructure.
CISO Podcast: Talking Anti-Phishing Solutions
Simon Gibson earlier this year published the report, “GigaOm Radar for Phishing Prevention and Detection,” which assessed more than a dozen security solutions focused on detecting and mitigating email-borne threats and vulnerabilities. As Gibson noted in his report, email remains a prime vector for attack, reflecting the strategic role it plays in corporate communications.
Earlier this week, Gibson’s report was a featured topic of discussions on David Spark’s popular CISO Security Vendor Relationship Podcast. In it, Spark interviewed a pair of chief information security officers—Mike Johnson, CISO for SalesForce, and James Dolph, CISO for Guidewire Software—to get their take on the role of anti-phishing solutions.
“I want to first give GigaOm some credit here for really pointing out the need to decide what to do with detections,” Johnson said when asked for his thoughts about selecting an anti-phishing tool. “I think a lot of companies charge into a solution for anti-phishing without thinking about what they are going to do when the thing triggers.”
As Johnson noted, the needs and vulnerabilities of a large organization aligned on Microsoft 365 are very different from those of a smaller outfit working with GSuite. A malicious Excel macro-laden file, for example, poses a credible threat to a Microsoft shop and therefore argues for a detonation solution to detect and neutralize malicious payloads before they can spread and morph. On the other hand, a smaller company is more exposed to business email compromise (BEC) attacks, since spending authority is often spread among many employees in these businesses.
Gibson’s radar report describes both in-line and out-of-band solutions, but Johnson said cloud-aligned infrastructures argue against traditional in-line schemes.
“If you put an in-line solution in front of [Microsoft] 365 or in front of GSuite, you are likely decreasing your reliability, because you’ve now introduced this single point of failure. Google and Microsoft have this massive amount of reliability that is built in,” Johnson said.
So how should IT decision makers go about selecting an anti-phishing solution? Dolph answered that question with a series of questions of his own:
“Does it nail the basics? Does it fit with the technologies we have in place? And then secondarily, is it reliable, is it tunable, is it manageable?” he asked. “Because it can add a lot overhead, especially if you have a small team if these tools are really disruptive to the email flow.”
Dolph concluded by noting that it’s important for solutions to provide insight that can help organizations target their protections, as well as support both training and awareness around threats. Finally, he urged organizations to consider how they can measure the effectiveness of solutions.
“I may look at other solutions in the future and how do I compare those solutions to the benchmark of what we have in place?”
Listen to the Podcast: CISO Podcast
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