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Avast reveals how attackers compromised CCleaner last year

Back in September last year, it was reported that popular system-cleaning tool CCleaner had been compromised by attackers for over a month. Some details of the incident were unclear at the time, but Avast, which acquired maker Piriform last July, has now revealed more information about what happened.

The attack saw hackers modify an updated version of CCleaner to include a malware backdoor. We knew there were 2.27 million downloads of the corrupted installation file worldwide, but how the attackers achieved this feat wasn’t specified at the time.

The security firm’s chief technology officer, Ondrej Vlcek, writes that the threat actors accessed Piriform’s network on March 11, 2017, four months before the company was taken over by Avast. The person or persons responsible somehow managed to get hold of stolen credentials to log into a TeamViewer remote desktop account on a developer PC.

“While we don’t know how the attackers got their hands on the credentials, we can only speculate that the threat actors used credentials the Piriform workstation user utilized for another service, which may have been leaked, to access the TeamViewer account,” he said.

The attackers installed the ShadowPad malware on two of the company’s compromised machines, before using its keylogger abilities to gain further access to Piriform’s systems. It wasn’t until August 2 that the first contaminated download of CCleaner appeared.

“Our investigation revealed that ShadowPad had been previously used in South Korea, and in Russia, where attackers intruded [on] a computer, observing a money transfer,” explained Vlcek.

Of the 2.27 million downloads of the affected program, a second stage attack—installing ShadowPad—took place on just 40 PCs, all of which belonged to tech and telecommunications companies. “We don’t have proof that a possible third stage with ShadowPad was distributed via CCleaner to any of the 40 PCs.”

Vlcek said that for Avast, there are two key takeaways from the attack. “First, M&A due diligence has to go beyond just legal and financial matters. Companies need to strongly focus on cybersecurity, and for us this has now become one of the key areas that require attention during an acquisition process.”

“Second, the supply chain hasn’t been a key priority for businesses, but this needs to change. Attackers will always try to find the weakest link, and if a product is downloaded by millions of users it is an attractive target for them. Companies need to increase their attention and investment in keeping the supply chain secure.”

TechSpot

Cisco Switches in Iran, Russia Hacked in Apparent Pro-US Attack

Hacked Cisco Switch

A significant number of Cisco switches located in Iran and Russia have been hijacked in what appears to be a hacktivist campaign conducted in protest of election-related hacking. However, it’s uncertain if the attacks involve a recently disclosed vulnerability or simply abuse a method that has been known for more than a year.

Cisco devices belonging to organizations in Russia and Iran have been hijacked via their Smart Install feature. The compromised switches had their IOS image rewritten and their configuration changed to display a U.S. flag using ASCII art and the message “Don’t mess with our elections…”

The hackers, calling themselves “JHT,” told Motherboard that they wanted to send a message to government-backed hackers targeting “the United States and other countries.” They claim to have only caused damage to devices in Iran and Russia, while allegedly patching most devices found in countries such as the U.S. and U.K.

Iran’s Communication and Information Technology Ministry stated that the attack had impacted roughly 3,500 switches in the country, but said a vast majority were quickly restored.

Kaspersky Lab reported that the attack appeared to mostly target the “Russian-speaking segment of the Internet.”

While there are some reports that the attack involves a recently patched remote code execution vulnerability in Cisco’s IOS operating system (CVE-2018-0171), that might not necessarily be the case.

The Cisco Smart Install Client is a legacy utility that allows no-touch installation of new Cisco switches. Roughly one year ago, the company warned customers about misuse of the Smart Install protocol following a spike in Internet scans attempting to detect unprotected devices that had this feature enabled.

Attacks, including ones launched by nation-state threat actors such as the Russia-linked Dragonfly, abused the fact that many organizations had failed to securely configure their switches, rather than an actual vulnerability.

Cisco issued a new warning last week as the disclosure of CVE-2018-0171 increases the risk of attacks, but the networking giant said it had not actually seen any attempts to exploit this vulnerability in the wild. Cisco’s advisory for this flaw still says there is no evidence of malicious exploitation.

There are hundreds of thousands of Cisco switches that can be hijacked by abusing the Smart Install protocol, and Cisco Talos experts believe attackers are unlikely to bother using CVE-2018-0171.

The Network Security Research Lab at Chinese security firm Qihoo 360 says the data from its honeypot shows that the attacks have “nothing to do with CVE-2018-0171” and instead rely on a publicly available Smart Install exploitation tool released several months ago.

While none of the major players in the infosec industry have confirmed that the attacks on Iran and Russia rely on CVE-2018-0171, technical details and proof-of-concept (PoC) code have been made available by researchers, making it easier for hackers to exploit.

Hamed Khoramyar, founder of Sweden-based ICT firm Aivivid, said the attacks exploited CVE-2018-0171. Kudelski Security also reported seeing attacks involving both CVE-2018-0171 and another recently disclosed IOS vulnerability tracked as CVE-2018-0156. However, Kudelski’s blog post also lists Khoramyar as one of its sources.

Security Week