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Iranian Hackers are Exploiting Microsoft and Fortinet Flaws

Iranian Hackers were exploiting Fortinet and Microsoft Exchange ProxyShell vulnerabilities.

 

Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States issued a combined advisory on Wednesday of active exploitation of Fortinet and Microsoft Exchange ProxyShell vulnerabilities by Iranian state-sponsored hackers. CVE-2021-34473, 2020-12812, 2019-5591, and 2018-13379 are the four vulnerabilities they urged administrators to fix right away.

"FBI and CISA have observed this Iranian government-sponsored APT group exploit Fortinet vulnerabilities since at least March 2021, and a Microsoft Exchange ProxyShell vulnerability since at least October 2021 to gain initial access to systems in advance of follow-on operations, which include deploying ransomware," a joint release stated. "Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) is also aware this APT group has used the same Microsoft Exchange vulnerability in Australia."

Rather than targeting a specific industry, the authorities said that the attackers merely focused on exploiting vulnerabilities wherever they could and then attempting to convert that initial access into data exfiltration, a ransomware assault, or extortion. 

To maintain access, the attackers would use the Fortinet and Exchange vulnerabilities to add tasks to the Windows Task Scheduler and create new accounts on domain controllers and other systems that looked like existing accounts. The next step was to enable BitLocker, post a ransom note, and download the files through FTP. 

In May 2021, CISA and FBI noticed the adversary misusing a Fortigate appliance to acquire a foothold on a web server holding the domain for a US municipal government, in addition to exploiting the ProxyShell vulnerability to obtain access to vulnerable networks. The APT attackers "exploited a Fortigate appliance to access environmental control networks associated with a U.S.-based hospital specializing in healthcare for children," according to the advisory. 

This is the second time the US government has issued a warning on advanced persistent threat groups targeting Fortinet FortiOS servers by exploiting CVE-2018-13379, CVE-2020-12812, and CVE-2019-5591 to attack government and commercial systems. 

The FBI and CISA released warnings in April that Fortinet gear vulnerabilities were being regularly exploited, and in July, the complete quartet of authorities listed Fortinet among the top 30 exploited vulnerabilities. Separately, Microsoft issued a warning on Wednesday about six Iranian groups that were utilizing vulnerabilities in the same set of products to spread ransomware.

Organizations should immediately patch software affected by the aforementioned vulnerabilities, enforce data backup and restoration procedures, implement network segmentation, secure accounts with multi-factor authentication, and patch operating systems, software, and firmware as and when updates are released as mitigations, according to the agencies.
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