On Tuesday, March 2nd, Microsoft released an out-of-band security update addressing a total of 7 CVEs, four of which are associated with ongoing, targeted attacks. The update was in response to an active campaign that was seen on Microsoft clients compromising Exchange servers by bypassing authentication and allowing attackers to read emails and potentially penetrate enterprise networks without the need to authenticate.
The SentinelLabs team has been closely tracking HAFNIUM and Exchange Server impacts. Customers with the Deep Visibility threat hunting module (STAR) may also automate responses (alerts, network quarantine, kill, quarantine) should these IoCs be seen in the future. Our customers can stay ahead of this emerging threat with our protection capabilities and real-time alerts.
- The attack is relevant for Microsoft Exchange servers (on-prem only). The SentinelOne agent supports protecting Exchange servers and is widely deployed on Exchange servers.
- The SentinelOne agent includes dedicated logic to protect from password scrapping, including Lsass dumping and Mimikatz attempts on the agent.
- The SentinelOne Singularity platform supports Deep Visibility hunting queries, allowing customers to do retrospective hunting to identify if there were any HAFNIUM artifacts in their environments.
- All SentinelOne Vigilance clients have already been proactively reviewed for any HAFNIUM attempts and will be closely monitored.
- SentinelLabs and the Vigilance threat hunting teams continue to monitor our existing customers’ infrastructure for any evidence of HAFNIUM, its payloads, and other TTPs. If identified, customers will be notified by our WatchTower service and provided with a course of recommended actions to follow.
Microsoft update addresses a total of 7 CVEs, 4 of which are associated with ongoing and targeted attacks.
The associated flaws affect Microsoft Exchange 2013, 2016, and 2019. These flaws have been leveraged by an attack group dubbed HAFNIUM, and represent a portion of a more broad attack chain. Additional tools associated with this campaign include:
In the days following the disclosure of these flaws, we have observed a significant increase in the amount of scanning and subsequent exploit attempts of these vulnerabilities. The targeting of these flaws is not exclusive to the HAFNIUM group, and we are starting to see separate campaigns which attempt to distribute additional malware families.
It is also critical to note that we are also observing the proliferation of public PoC code for CVE-2021-27065.
CVE-2021-26855 – Remote Code Execution flaw, via untrusted connections to the Exchange server on port 443. Does not require user interaction
CVE-2021-26857 – Remote Code Execution flaw, via untrusted connections to the Exchange server on port 443.
CVE-2021-26858 – Remote Code Execution flaw, via untrusted connections to the Exchange server on port 443
CVE-2021-27065 – Remote Code Execution flaw, via untrusted connections to the Exchange server on port 443
Three additional CVEs are included in the fix, but are not known to be part of the observed attacks. These are CVE-2021-26412, CVE-2021-26854, CVE-27078
It should be noted that all but CVE-2021-26855 require user interaction. In addition, the relevant CVEs affect on-prem installs of Exchange Server only. Exchange Online is not directly affected, though hybrid environments will have at least one Exchange server requiring patching.
The exploitation of stated vulnerabilities allowed the attackers to gain their initial foothold in the environment. Once the target has been breached, webshells of various types were deployed to allow for further management and exfiltration from compromised hosts. Where needed, additional tools were used to facilitate lateral movement, persistent access, and remote manipulation. Open source tools such as PowerCAT, Nishang,7zip, WinRAR, and Procdump were utilized to do just that.
HAFNIUM, as a group, has been linked to attacks against the defense industry, Government and policy-related entities, law firms, and medical and educational institutions. Current intelligence indicates that the group operates out of China. The group is considered highly-sophisticated. Their arsenal of tools includes 0-days along with customized malware, COTS/Open-source tools, and LOTL techniques. This includes heavy use of PowerShell and other common native OS features.
In addition to releasing an out-of-band update, Microsoft has also provided detailed guidance and hunting queries (primarily Exchange log-based). We recommend prioritizing Microsoft’s update, along with the additional guidance made available.
Microsoft KB5000871 – Security update for Microsoft Exchange Server 2019, 2016, and 2013
Microsoft KB5000978 – Security update for Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Service Pack 3
Microsoft MSRC Blog Post – Multiple Security Updates Released for Exchange Server
Microsoft Blog – New nation-state cyberattacks
Associated Threats: Webshells
(Note: A majority of the hosts below are VPS/VPN/Cloud service providers. The ‘maliciousness’ of these hosts has a limited shelf-life and may result in false positives be limited to this activity.)
- T1003.003 – OS Credential Dumping: NTDS
- T1021.002 – Remote Services: SMB/Windows Admin Shares
- TA0010 – Exfiltration
- T1105 – Ingress Tool Transfer
- T1003.001 – OS Credential Dumping: LSASS Memory
- T1059.001 – Command and Scripting Interpreter: PowerShell
- T1114.001 – Email Collection: Local Email Collection
- T1136 – Create Account
- S0020 – China Chopper
- T1027 – Obfuscated Files or Information
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