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.

Endpoint

Series of Zero-Day Vulnerabilities Could Endanger 200 Million Devices

Vulnerabilities in VxWorks' TCP stack could allow an attacker to execute random code, launch a DoS attack, or use the vulnerable system to attack other devices.

A series of vulnerabilities in a real-time operating system (RTOS) could leave up to 200 million devices open to exploit. And those devices include everything from network firewalls to medical devices. The vulnerabilities aren't theoretical — the exploits have been demonstrated — and many of the affected devices haven't been touched or actively managed in years.

A team of researchers from Armis found 11 critical zero-day vulnerabilities in VxWorks, a popular RTOS that has been in use since the late 1980s. The vulnerabilities, which include 6 remote code execution (RCE) vulnerabilities, and 5 that are denial of service, information leak, or logical flaw vulnerabilities, are present in versions of the operating system that span more than 13 years.

The RCE vulnerabilities, which would allow an attacker to execute any code they choose on a vulnerable system, have an additional quality that makes them critical. "Normally, when a network vulnerability is exploited, the attack comes from inside the network," says Ben Seri, vice president of research at Armis. He points out that firewalls and other network edge devices are programmed to recognize and stop network vulnerability exploits that come from outside the network.

"In this case, an attacker can leverage a vulnerability to attack a device that's behind network address translation (NAT) and behind a firewall," Seri explains, because, "The vulnerability is in the TCP header itself. It traverses these devices without being stopped by the firewall."

The issue, he says, is that the contents of a packet can be encrypted to be protected from theft or corruption, but headers travel in clear-text. If an attacker knows network communication is taking place, they can intercept the traffic and make their changes to the header without needing to know the packet's contents.

As has been the case with a number of other vulnerabilities, the problems are made worse by mis-configuration. "These are pretty basic memory exploit bugs, but users have to enable existing security features," says Craig Young, computer security researcher for Tripwire’s vulnerability and exposure research team (VERT). "The devices [Armis] were testing weren't making use of the secure configuration. From my experience, this isn't rare."

One of the factors complicating the way companies will address the vulnerabilities is that it can be very difficult to know whether a particular IoT device is running VxWorks. "A very big concern, when I start thinking about this, is how do we identify who's impacted? How does a business or organization identify, hey, do I have these things in my environment or not have these things in my environment?" asks Deral Heiland, research lead for IoT technology at Rapid 7. Most organizations, he says, don't know which operating systems are running under the covers of the firewalls, routers, printers, or process controllers in their organization.

"It's often like a 'plug and ignore' thing, Heiland explains. "If it happens to be on a printer or cable modem or some kind of communication device, it's not core to the business, but a side function of the business operation." And since they're not core functionality, many organizations won't know whether they're vulnerable or not.

Seri is quick to point out that there is some good news with the bad. While the vulnerabilities exist in every version of VxWorks from v6.5 forward, they are not present either in VxWorks 653 or VxWorks Certified — the versions most often used in the most sensitive and critical devices.

In addition, Young says the the sky is not falling due to these vulnerabilities in VxWorks' TCP stack routines. "This can't be trivially exploited by anyone without skill," he says. "When it's exploited, it will be on a per-device basis and the attacks will take time."

Even with the difficulty, though, the pool of potential victims is very large. Dave Weinstein, CSO of Claroty, says, "The potential for scale is pretty high. And while there has been no evidence of infections in the wild, there's a good chance that hackers have exploited this vulnerability given how long it goes back." 

Weinstein says that he's cautious about pronouncements of doom, and general prefers that difficult to patch vulnerabilities be communicated in private, rather than through public disclosure. But, he admits, "Then again, that won't land you on a big stage at BlackHat."

Seri and fellow researcher For Zusman will present their findings in Critical Zero Days Remotely Compromise the Most Popular Real-Time OS, on Thursday, August 8, at Black Hat USA.

Related Content:

 

Black Hat USA returns to Las Vegas with hands-on technical Trainings, cutting-edge Briefings, Arsenal open-source tool demonstrations, top-tier security solutions, and service providers in the Business Hall. Click for information on the conference and to register.

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... 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 8/10/2020
Researcher Finds New Office Macro Attacks for MacOS
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  8/7/2020
Exploiting Google Cloud Platform With Ease
Dark Reading Staff 8/6/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
This special report takes a look at how enterprises are using threat intelligence, as well as emerging best practices for integrating threat intel into security operations and incident response. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-8720
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
Buffer overflow in a subsystem for some Intel(R) Server Boards, Server Systems and Compute Modules before version 1.59 may allow a privileged user to potentially enable denial of service via local access.
CVE-2020-12300
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
Uninitialized pointer in BIOS firmware for Intel(R) Server Board Families S2600CW, S2600KP, S2600TP, and S2600WT may allow a privileged user to potentially enable escalation of privilege via local access.
CVE-2020-12301
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
Improper initialization in BIOS firmware for Intel(R) Server Board Families S2600ST, S2600BP and S2600WF may allow a privileged user to potentially enable escalation of privilege via local access.
CVE-2020-7307
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
Unprotected Storage of Credentials vulnerability in McAfee Data Loss Prevention (DLP) for Mac prior to 11.5.2 allows local users to gain access to the RiskDB username and password via unprotected log files containing plain text credentials.
CVE-2020-8679
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
Out-of-bounds write in Kernel Mode Driver for some Intel(R) Graphics Drivers before version 26.20.100.7755 may allow an authenticated user to potentially enable denial of service via local access.