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

4/6/2020
07:05 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

More Attackers Have Begun Using Zero-Day Exploits

Vendors of offensive cyber tools have made it easy for any threat group with the right funds to leverage unpatched bugs, FireEye says.

Sophisticated advanced persistent threat groups are no longer the only ones leveraging zero-day exploits.

An analysis by FireEye of exploit activity last year showed that more cyberattackers exploited more zero-day vulnerabilities in 2019 than in any of the previous three years.

While known threat groups accounted for a substantial portion of the activity, FireEye found that a wide range of other groups leveraged zero-day exploits as well. In particular, researchers from FireEye observed a significant increase over time in zero-day exploit activity by international governments, US and other law enforcement agencies, and other customers of companies selling offensive cyber weapons.

"From 2012 to 2016, the actors most frequently using zero-days tended to be among the most sophisticated," says Kelli Vanderlee, manager of intelligence analysis at FireEye Mandiant.

But since about 2017, the field has substantially diversified, at least partially due to the role of vendors offering offensive cyber threat capabilities.

Examples of such vendors include the Hacking Team of Italy, NSO Group based in Israel, and Gamma International in the UK. Such firms have been observed selling cyber espionage and intrusion software and services — including zero-day exploits to governments and other entities for several years. Those that are said to have benefited from these tools include governments with dubious human rights records such as Sudan, Ethiopia, and Uzbekistan, Vanderlee says.

In 2019, tools provided by such private cyber offensive security firms were used in multiple attacks, according to FireEye.

Examples include a zero-day exploit in WhatsApp (CVE-2019-3568) that was used to distribute spyware developed by the NSO Group and an attack on a Russian healthcare organization that involved the use of a 2018 Adobe Flash zero-day (CVE-2018-15982). Another example was an Android zero-day bug (CVE-2019-2215) that attackers exploited using NSO group tools, FireEye said in a report summarizing its analysis this week.

The trend "suggests that zero-day use may no longer be an important indicator of sophistication," Vanderlee says. "Rather, it seems to be a more reliable indicator of access to resources."

Financially motivated groups too have been steadily ramping up their use of zero-day exploits though not quite to the level as espionage groups, FireEye said. As one example, the security vendor pointed to a targeted intrusion in February 2019, where attack group FIN6 exploited a zero-day vulnerability in Windows server software.

The increased use of zero-day exploits — and the wider range of threat actors that are using these tools could prove troublesome for enterprise organizations. According to FireEye, the number of adversaries that leverage zero-day exploits will almost certainly increase over the next few years and at a faster rate than their overall cyber offensive skills. The only thing that is going to limit their access to these tools will be the necessary funds.

"As access to zero-days becomes more widespread, enterprises must compare the full range of techniques used by attackers known to target them against existing controls and strategies," Vanderlee says. "While exploitation of a zero-day vulnerability gives attackers a significant advantage, a defense-in-depth approach may allow defenders to disrupt and defeat malicious operations at other stages of the attack life cycle," she notes.

One silver lining for defenders is that private companies are increasingly providing sophisticated tools to groups with limited overall capabilities and to groups with little regard for operational security. As a result, there is a higher chance that activity involving the use of zero-day bugs will be more easily observed, FireEye said in its report.

Related Content:

Check out The Edge, Dark Reading's new section for features, threat data, and in-depth perspectives. Today's featured story: "This Is Not Your Father's Ransomware."

Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 6/4/2020
Abandoned Apps May Pose Security Risk to Mobile Devices
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  5/29/2020
How AI and Automation Can Help Bridge the Cybersecurity Talent Gap
Peter Barker, Chief Product Officer at ForgeRock,  6/1/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: What? IT said I needed virus protection!
Current Issue
How Cybersecurity Incident Response Programs Work (and Why Some Don't)
This Tech Digest takes a look at the vital role cybersecurity incident response (IR) plays in managing cyber-risk within organizations. Download the Tech Digest today to find out how well-planned IR programs can detect intrusions, contain breaches, and help an organization restore normal operations.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-13768
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-04
In MiniShare before 1.4.2, there is a stack-based buffer overflow via an HTTP PUT request, which allows an attacker to achieve arbitrary code execution, a similar issue to CVE-2018-19861, CVE-2018-19862, and CVE-2019-17601. NOTE: this product is discontinued.
CVE-2020-13849
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-04
The MQTT protocol 3.1.1 requires a server to set a timeout value of 1.5 times the Keep-Alive value specified by a client, which allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (loss of the ability to establish new connections), as demonstrated by SlowITe.
CVE-2020-13848
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-04
Portable UPnP SDK (aka libupnp) 1.12.1 and earlier allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (crash) via a crafted SSDP message due to a NULL pointer dereference in the functions FindServiceControlURLPath and FindServiceEventURLPath in genlib/service_table/service_table.c.
CVE-2020-11682
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-04
Castel NextGen DVR v1.0.0 is vulnerable to CSRF in all state-changing request. A __RequestVerificationToken is set by the web interface, and included in requests sent by web interface. However, this token is not verified by the application: the token can be removed from all requests and the request ...
CVE-2020-12847
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-04
Pydio Cells 2.0.4 web application offers an administrative console named “Cells Console� that is available to users with an administrator role. This console provides an administrator user with the possibility of changing several settings, including the applicat...