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The Risks of Automatic Updates: A Closer Look at the Malicious 3CX Update

3CX Malicious Update

On March 31, 2023, several companies reported that their 3CX phone systems had suddenly stopped working. Upon investigation, they found that their systems had been compromised by a malicious software update delivered by 3CX's automatic update system. In this blog, we'll take a closer look at the incident and explore the lessons that can be learned from it.

The 3CX Incident: How It Happened

The attackers had managed to gain access to 3CX's update servers and replace a legitimate software update with a malicious version. This update, which was automatically installed on thousands of 3CX systems, contained a backdoor that gave the attackers full access to the compromised systems. They were able to steal sensitive data, listen in on calls, and even make unauthorized calls.

The Risks of Automatic Updates

The incident highlights the risks associated with automatic software updates, which are designed to keep systems up to date with the latest security patches and bug fixes. While automatic updates can be a convenient way to keep systems secure, they can also be a vector for malware and other malicious software.

In the case of the 3CX incident, the attackers were able to compromise the update system itself, which meant that even systems that were fully up to date were still vulnerable to the attack. This is a particularly worrying development, as it means that even the most security-conscious organizations may be at risk if their software vendors are compromised.

The Importance of Multi-Layered Security Measures

The incident also highlights the importance of multi-layered security measures. While automatic updates can be an important part of an organization's security strategy, they should not be relied upon as the sole defense against attacks. Other measures, such as regular vulnerability scanning, threat intelligence monitoring, and user training, can help to reduce the risks associated with automatic updates.

Organizations should also ensure that they have a robust incident response plan in place, which includes procedures for dealing with unexpected software failures or security breaches. This can help to minimize the impact of a security incident and ensure that systems are quickly restored to normal operation.

Evaluating Third-Party Software Security

Finally, organizations should carefully evaluate the security risks associated with any third-party software they use, including the software update mechanisms. Vendors should be asked about their security practices and measures, such as encryption, authentication, and monitoring, to ensure that their systems are protected against attacks.

3CX's Response

In response to the incident, 3CX has released a statement urging all users to immediately update their systems to the latest version, which includes a fix for the backdoor. They have also announced that they are conducting a full investigation into the incident and working with law enforcement to identify the attackers.

The 3CX incident is a stark reminder of the importance of multi-layered security measures and the risks associated with automatic software updates. While automatic updates can be a convenient way to keep systems up to date with the latest security patches and bug fixes, they can also be a vector for malware and other malicious software.

Organizations should carefully evaluate the security risks associated with any third-party software they use and take a proactive approach to security, including regular vulnerability scanning, threat intelligence monitoring, and user training. With the right security measures in place, organizations can help to reduce the risks associated with automatic updates and ensure that their systems remain secure against cyber threats.

Kimsuky's Attacks Alerted German and South Korean Agencies


In a joint warning issued by the German and South Korean intelligence agencies, it has been noted that a North Korean hacker group named Kimsuky has been increasing cyber-attack tactics against the South Korean network. With sophisticated phishing campaigns and malware attacks, the group has been suspected of being behind the attacks. It is believed that the North Korean government is behind them. Cyberattacks continue to pose a major threat to businesses and governments throughout the world as a result of increasing cyberattacks. 

Kimsuky (aka Thallium and SmokeScreen) is a North Korean threat group that has developed a reputation for utilizing cutting-edge tools and tactics in its operations. There have been two upcoming attack tactics developed by the group that enhances the espionage capabilities of the organization. These tactics raise no red flags on security radars. There are several malicious Android apps and YouTube extensions being abused as well as Google Chrome extensions.   

Kimsuky is believed to have expanded its tactics to attack a wide range of organizations in both countries, according to the German Office for Information Security (BSI) and South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS). Initially targeting U.S. government agencies, research institutions, and think tanks, the group has now spread to businesses in the technology and defense sectors as well. 

Kimsuky appears to be using a new malware called "BookCove" to steal sensitive information from its targets, according to a statement issued by the company. A spear-phishing email is designed to appear like it has been sent from a reputable source, but in reality, the message contains malware. Upon clicking the link or attachment in an email that contains malware, the user's computer is infected with the malware. The hacker can have access to the victim's data and can monitor the activities of the victim as a result of this. \

Various South Korean and German agencies suggest that organizations should implement the necessary precautions to safeguard themselves against these threats. Security measures must be taken, such as multi-factor authentication and regular updates, and employees must be educated on the risks associated with phishing. 

North Korean hacking group, Kimsuky, has been operating since 2013, providing malware for PCs. Several sources claim that the group is linked to the Reconnaissance General Bureau of the North Korean government. This Bureau gathers intelligence and conducts covert operations on behalf of the government. 

According to research, the apps, which embed FastFire and FastViewer, are distributed through Google Play's "internal testing" feature. This gives third-party developers the ability to send apps to a "small set of trusted testers." 

Nevertheless, it bears mentioning that these internal app testing exercises cannot exceed 100 users per app, regardless of the number of users. This is regardless of when the app is released into production. There is no doubt that this campaign has a very targeted nature, which indicates its focus. 

Two malware-laced apps use Android's accessibility services to steal sensitive information ranging from financial to personal information. APK packages for each app are listed below with their respective names in APK format:

  • Com. viewer. fast secure (FastFi) 
  • (FastViewer) 
Organizations can take the following measures to protect themselves against Kimsuky's attacks 

A multi-factor authentication system protects the network and system from unauthorized access since it requires the attacker to possess at least two factors, such as a password and a physical device, such as a mobile phone. 

Even if cyber criminals could get past some existing security measures, this would make it far harder for them to access private data. In addition to the above-mentioned measures, organizations may also wish to consider taking the following measures to protect themselves: 
  • Maintaining a regular software update schedule is important. 
  • The best practices for protecting your company's information are taught to your employees. 
  • It is essential to use tools and techniques to detect and respond to advanced threats. 
A robust incident response plan is a crucial tool for organizations to develop to be prepared in case of an incident. If cyberattacks occur, they should be able to respond rapidly and effectively to mitigate their impact.

A growing number of companies are attacked by state-sponsored groups like Kimsuky due to cyberattacks. To reduce their risk of falling victim to these sophisticated cyber-espionage tactics, businesses and governments in Germany need to take proactive steps to protect themselves, including improving their security systems. 

Operating silently, Kimsuky has continuously evolved its TTPs to keep up with changing threats, as well as developing efficient tactics. The majority of attacks are conducted using phishing or spear-phishing. The most significant priority that must be addressed against this threat is to protect the accounts of individuals or organizations and other critical assets. Those involved in organizations and individuals are advised to keep abreast of the latest tactics and adhere to relevant agencies' recommendations.