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Chinese websites have been under attack for a week via a new PHP framework bug

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Over 45,000 Chinese websites have been under a barrage of attacks from miscreants looking to gain access to web servers, ZDNet has learned.

The attacks have targeted websites built with ThinkPHP, a Chinese-made PHP framework that is very popular among the local web development scene.

All attacks started after Chinese cyber-security firm VulnSpy posted a proof-of-concept exploit for ThinkPHP on ExploitDB, a website popular for hosting free exploit code.

The proof-of-concept code exploits a vulnerability in the framework’s invokeFunction method to execute malicious code on the underlying server. The vulnerability is remotely exploitable, as most vulnerabilities in web-based apps tend to be, and can allow an attacker to gain control over the server.

Attacks started within a day

“The PoC was published on December 11, and we saw internet-wide scans less than 24 hours later,” Troy Mursch, co-founder of Bad Packets LLC told ZDNet today.

Four other security firms —F5 Labs, GreyNoise, NewSky Security, and Trend Micro— have also reported similar scans, which have grown in intensity in the following days.

The number of organized threat groups exploiting the new ThinkPHP vulnerability has also grown as well. There are now the original attackers, another group that security experts named “D3c3mb3r,” and a group that’s using the ThinkPHP vulnerability to infect servers with the Miori IoT malware.

This last group, detected by Trend Micro, also suggests that the ThinkPHP framework might have been used to build control panels of some home routers and IoT devices, as Miori wouldn’t be able to function properly on actual Linux servers.

Furthermore, NewSky Security has also detected a fourth group scanning for ThinkPHP-based sites and attempting to run Microsoft Powershell commands.

“The Powershell one is bizarre,” Ankit Anubhav, Principal Security Researcher for NewSky Security told ZDNet. “They actually have some code that checks for OS type and runs different exploit code for Linux, but they also run Powershell just to try their luck.”

But the biggest of all groups exploiting this ThinkPHP vulnerability is the group they call D3c3mb3r. This group isn’t particularly focused on ThinkPHP sites only. This group scans for everything PHP.

“They are very loud on PHP,” Anubhav told us. “Mostly looking for web servers and not IoT devices.”

But this group, for now, isn’t doing anything special. They don’t infect servers with cryptocurrency miners or any malware. They simply scan for vulnerable hosts, run a basic “echo hello d3c3mb3r” command, and that’s it.

“I am not sure about their motive,” Anubhav said.

Over 45,000 vulnerable hosts

According to a Shodan search, there are currently over 45,800 servers running a ThinkPHP-based web app that are reachable online. Over 40,000 of these are hosted on Chinese IP addresses, which makes sense since ThinkPHP’s documentation is only available in Chinese, and most likely not used outside the country.

This also explains why most of the attackers looking for ThinkPHP sites are also mostly Chinese.

“So far the only hosts we’ve seen scanning for ThinkPHP installations have come from China or Russia,” Mursch told ZDNet after consulting data in regards to the origin of most these scans.

But you don’t need to be Chinese to exploit a vulnerability in Chinese software. As more threat groups will learn about this new easy way to hack into web servers, attacks on Chinese sites will intensify.

F5 Labs has also published a technical analysis of the ThinkPHP vulnerability and how the exploit code works, here.

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Work from Home Security

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Spin Master is a leading global children’s entertainment company that invents toys and games, produces dozens of television and studio series that are distributed in 160 countries, and creates a variety of digital games played by more than 30 million children. What was once a small private company founded by childhood friends is now a public global supply chain with over 1,500 employees and 28 offices around the world.

Like most organizations in 2020, Spin Master had to adapt quickly to the new normal of remote work, shifting most of its production from cubicles in regional and head offices to hundreds of employees working from home and other remote locations.

This dramatic shift created potential security risks, as most employees were no longer behind the firewall on the corporate network. Without the implementation of hardened endpoint security, the door would be open for bad actors to infiltrate the organization, acquire intellectual property, and ransom customer information. Additionally, the potential downtime caused by a security breach could harm the global supply chain. With that in mind, Spin Master created a self-imposed 30-day deadline to extend its network protection capabilities to the edge.

Key Findings:

  • Think Long Term: The initial goal of establishing a stop-gap work-from-home (WFH) and work-from-anywhere (WFA) strategy has since morphed into a permanent strategy, requiring long-term solutions.
  • Gather Skills: The real urgency posed by the global pandemic made forging partnerships with providers that could fill all the required skill sets a top priority.
  • Build Momentum: The compressed timeline left no room for delay or error. The Board of Directors threw its support behind the implementation team and gave it broad budget authority to ensure rapid action, while providing active guidance to align strategy with action.
  • Deliver Value: The team established two key requirements that the selected partner must deliver: implementation support and establishing an ongoing managed security operations center (SOC).
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Key Criteria for Evaluating Privileged Access Management

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Privileged Access Management (PAM) enables administrative access to critical IT systems while minimizing the chances of security compromises through monitoring, policy enforcement, and credential management.

A key operating principle of all PAM systems is the separation of user credentials for individual staff members from the system administration credentials they are permitted to use. PAM solutions store and manage all of the privileged credentials, providing system access without requiring users to remember, or even know, the privileged password. Of course, all staff have their own unique user ID and password that they use to complete everyday tasks such as accessing email and writing documents. Users who are permitted to handle system administration tasks that require privileged credentials log into the PAM solution, which provides and controls such access according to predefined security policies. These policies control who is allowed to use which privileged credentials when, where, and for what tasks. An organization’s policy may also require logging and recording of the actions undertaken with the privileged credentials.

Once implemented, PAM will improve your security posture in several ways. The first is by segregating day-to-day duties from duties that require elevated access, reducing the risk of accidental privileged actions. Secondly, automated password management reduces the possibility that credentials will be shared while also lowering the risk if credentials are accidentally exposed. Finally, extensive logging and activity recording in PAM solutions aids audits of critical system access for both preventative and forensic security.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Vendor Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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Adventist Risk Management Data Protection Infrastructure

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Companies always want to enhance their ability to quickly address pressing business needs. Toward that end, they look for new ways to make their IT infrastructures more efficient—and more cost effective. Today, those pressing needs often center around data protection and regulatory compliance, which was certainly the case for Adventist Risk Management. What they wanted was an end-to-end, best-in-class solution to meet their needs. After trying several others, they found the perfect combination with HYCU and Nutanix, which provided:

  • Ease of deployment
  • Outstanding ROI
  • Overall TCO improvement

Nutanix Cloud Platform provides a software-defined hyperconverged infrastructure, while HYCU offers purpose-built backup and recovery for Nutanix. Compared to the previous traditional infrastructure and data protection solutions in use at Adventist Risk Management, Nutanix and HYCU simplified processes, speeding day-to-day operations up to 75%. Now, migration and update activities typically scheduled for weekends can be performed during working hours and help to increase IT staff and management quality of life. HYCU further increased savings by providing faster and more frequent points of recovery as well as better DR Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) by increasing the ability to do daily backups from one to four per day.

Furthermore, the recent adoption of Nutanix Objects, which provides secure and performant S3 storage capabilities, enhanced the infrastructure by:

    • Improving overall performance for backups
    • Adding security against potential ransomware attacks
    • Replacing components difficult to manage and support

In the end, Nutanix and HYCU enabled their customer to save money, improve the existing environment, and, above all, meet regulatory compliance requirements without any struggle.

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