Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

12/6/2013
07:00 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Linux Worm Targets Embedded Devices

Attacking a PHP vulnerability patched a year-and-a-half ago, the new outbreak shows the Internet of Things' seams

As security researchers look into a Linux worm that's gaining steam by targeting embedded devices, the lessons they learn could prove instructive for the industry as it seeks to protect the Internet of Things.

First brought to the forefront by researchers with Symantec just before Thanksgiving, and subsequently studied by others in labs at DeepEnd Research and Cisco, the Zollard worm has spiked the number of PHP exploit attempts for devices like routers, set-top boxes, security cameras, and more. The worm takes advantage of an old PHP vulnerability patched in May 2012 that, according to Cisco, is heavily exploited by a number of worms.

In the case of Zollard, in particular, the malware is tuned to go after a number of different architecture types beyond x86, including ARM, PPC, MIPS, and MIPSel. This activity of exploiting vulnerabilities in embedded devices could prove a more visceral portend for the potential dangers posed by the Internet of Things that many security pros have already been warning about for the past few years.

[Are you using your human sensors? See Using The Human Perimeter To Detect Outside Attacks.]

"The Internet of Things is a really terrible term to describe all of the terrible embedded devices that we have all around us that no one is going to ever fix and which will eventually be our downfall," says HD Moore, chief research officer at Rapid7. "I'm a little biased because I've spent so much time on it, but embedded devices are getting compromised left and right."

The big danger of these devices is the combination of forgetability and the hidden compute power they hold -- they're often single-purpose but still built on something like a Linux platform with online connectivity.

"They're small enough that a lot of administrators forget they're there and forget to patch them, change default passwords, and things like that," says Spencer McIntyre, security researcher for SecureState. "But they're running software that is well-known enough to contain vulnerabilities that can be leveraged by attackers."

And enterprises can't afford to sniff at the Internet of Things as a consumer trend only affecting newly connected house appliances; embedded devices are all over the enterprise, with plenty of items such as conference-room devices and printers at risk to malware like Zollard if they're not protected. In particular, routers and switches at large organizations could prove a juicy target for attackers, McIntyre says. "If someone is able to compromise a critical piece of infrastructure like that, then the floodgates are really open for what that attacker can do," McIntyre says, emphasizing the importance of organizations to re-evaluate their patch management and configuration management routines for these forgotten devices.

Unfortunately, embedded devices are often left to linger without appropriate firmware updates ever applied and with configuration frequently left at default states after a set-it-and-forget-it installation.

"This results in most embedded devices running fairly standard configurations," wrote Craig Williams, security researcher for Cisco. "If a vulnerability is found in default or common embedded configurations, attackers are much more likely to focus on it since the attack surface is going to be widespread."

Williams agreed that this stability could make attacks like Zollard more prevalent as these devices are "co-opted" by attackers for launching malware, reconnaissance, and other malicious activity. Moore, for example, predicts that we'll increasingly see botnets made up of infected embedded systems.

According to Williams, the answer is protection at the network level, pointing to current IDS signatures that block attacks against the PHP vulnerability that Zollard attacks.

"Though, as always, practicing defense in depth where possible is even better," he says.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Edge-DRsplash-10-edge-articles
7 Old IT Things Every New InfoSec Pro Should Know
Joan Goodchild, Staff Editor,  4/20/2021
News
Cloud-Native Businesses Struggle With Security
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  5/6/2021
Commentary
Defending Against Web Scraping Attacks
Rob Simon, Principal Security Consultant at TrustedSec,  5/7/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-20092
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-13
File Upload vulnerability exists in ArticleCMS 1.0 via the image upload feature at /admin by changing the Content-Type to image/jpeg and placing PHP code after the JPEG data, which could let a remote malicious user execute arbitrary PHP code.
CVE-2020-21342
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-13
Insecure permissions issue in zzcms 201910 via the reset any user password in /one/getpassword.php.
CVE-2020-25713
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-13
A malformed input file can lead to a segfault due to an out of bounds array access in raptor_xml_writer_start_element_common.
CVE-2020-27823
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-13
A flaw was found in OpenJPEG’s encoder. This flaw allows an attacker to pass specially crafted x,y offset input to OpenJPEG to use during encoding. The highest threat from this vulnerability is to confidentiality, integrity, as well as system availability.
CVE-2020-27830
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-13
A vulnerability was found in Linux Kernel where in the spk_ttyio_receive_buf2() function, it would dereference spk_ttyio_synth without checking whether it is NULL or not, and may lead to a NULL-ptr deref crash.