Exploit Targets Info Tech Support Companies

The holy grail of a cyber-attacker is the ability to achieve remote access to a computer on a network.  It is even better when the attacker can get administrator privileges.  Then they have the ability to do anything they need to do on the compromised computer to cross the network and compromise other computers and servers.  Who has this kind of access already?  Your IT support provider, that’s who!

So it should be no surprise that cyber-criminals are focusing their attacks on these companies.  IT support providers, also known as managed service providers (MSP) often install software agents on the servers and computers they manage for their business clients.  The purpose is to monitor all the computers and servers that they manage for emerging issues, while efficiently utilizing computer support personnel.  By using remote control sessions, they can service or repair computers in another location without having to physically go on location.  In order to do that, they log on remotely as an administrator.

When an MSP is compromised by a cyber-attacker, the bad actors basically have the keys to unlock any computer system that is being managed by the MSP.  In my experience, this is often thousands of computer systems, owned by hundreds of businesses.  One of those businesses may be yours.

US-CERT and Homeland Security have released warnings about these attacks.

TA18-276B: Advanced Persistent Threat Activity Exploiting Managed Service Providers

This is a longer article with a lot of technical details that would be important to mitigating this threat on your computer network.  If you are an MSP, this is your punch list.  If you are a business owner who has contracted with an outside IT Support firm, you will want to get answers to the hard questions posed by this alert.  If you are an enterprise class business with your own IT department, and you are using  one of these computer and network management system, then you have the same punch list as an MSP.

Another warning offers some additional links to technical resources.

APTs Targeting IT Service Provider Customers

10/03/2018 10:56 AM EDT  Original release date: October 03, 2018

The National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) has received multiple reports of advanced persistent threat (APT) actors actively exploiting trust relationships in information technology (IT) service provider networks around the world.

NCCIC encourages users and administrators to review TA18-276A: Using Rigorous Credential Control to Mitigate Trusted Network Exploitation and TA18-276B: Advanced Persistent Threat Activity Exploiting Managed Service Providers and the page on APTs Targeting IT Service Provider Customers for more information.

This is a really big deal, so get to it!

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About the Author:

Cybersecurity analyst, pen-tester, trainer, and speaker. Serving small business owners in the St Paul, Minneapolis, and western Wisconsin area since 2001. Cybersecurity and hacking have been a passion of mine since I entered the computer and networking business in 2000. I hold several cybersecurity certifications including Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Advanced Security Pratitioner (CASP), and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). Other computer industry certifications include A+, Network+ and Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE). As Cybersecurity Analyst at The WyzCo Group, I help our clients experience high levels of security on their computers, networks, and websites. In addition to consulting on security products and services, we also conduct security audits, vulnerability assessments and full penetration tests. We also work with companies and organizations that need to certify compliance with regulations such as PCI-DSS (credit card processing), HIPAA/HITECH (medical records), and GLBA. We also provide Cybersecurity Awareness Training for clients and their employees. I am a frequent speakers at cybersecurity conferences such as the Minnesota Bloggers Conference, Secure360 Security Conference, the (ISC)2 World Congress, and the ISSA International Conference, and many local community organizations, Chambers of Commerce, SCORE, and several school districts. I have been blogging on cybersecurity since 2008.

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