SecurityBrief Asia logo
Asia's leading source of cybersecurity and cyber-attack news
Story image

Strategy for cyber crime: own the routers, own the Internet

Mon 10 Apr 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Mobile devices and smart TVs controlled by cyber criminals make scary headlines. They have received a high profile in media coverage of the recent WikiLeaks CIA data dump. Yet lost in the leaks is something far scarier – the possibility that routers can be owned.

A recent blog from Cisco highlights the real issues (Cisco’s words in italics):

  • Malware exists that seems to target different types and families of Cisco devices, including multiple router and switches families.
  • The malware, once installed on a Cisco device, seem to provide a range of capabilities: data collection, data exfiltration, command execution with administrative privileges (and without any logging of such commands ever been executed), HTML traffic redirection, manipulation and modification (insertion of HTML code on web pages), DNS poisoning, covert tunnelling and others.
  • The malware authors have spent significant time making sure the tools, once installed, attempt to remain hidden from detection and forensic analysis on the device itself.
  • It would also seem a malware author expends significant resources on quality assurance testing in order, it seems, to make sure that once installed the malware will not cause the device to crash or misbehave.

The key takeaway in this post (and from the Vault 7 leak overall) is that our communications systems are not secure. It doesn’t matter if your smart TV is vulnerable when an attacker can control your network. If an attacker can control your routing tables and DNS, he/she can gain access to far more than your TV and mobile phone. Those devices are just the beginning.

Let’s break these capabilities down and shine a spotlight on each one:

Data Collection

If I were an intelligence agency, I would want to do this all the time. If I can control a router or a switch, I can span ports and forward traffic. I can sniff without being found to do raw packet dumps. I can learn unencrypted passwords, browsing behaviours and interests, and conduct passive vulnerability assessments for exploitation, among many other things.

Data Exfiltration

Covert channels for data exfiltration are among the goals of any capable attacker. This capability makes incident response and forensics almost impossible. It would give someone the ability to redirect TCP and UDP packets to subvert security controls in place. Want to bypass a firewall? Or all the firewalls? This capability provides this at scale.

Command execution with administrative privileges (and without any logging of such commands ever been executed)

Attackers want the highest level of access to any system they can penetrate. In a normally secure Cisco environment all commands are logged centrally. This provides an audit trail for change and configuration management and also speeds basic troubleshooting, in addition to being a great idea for security. Knowing when someone logs on and off is a key question to answer when managing security for a network infrastructure.

From an IT perspective we need to know who’s made changes on the system. This is crucial for basic troubleshooting. From an infosec perspective, being able to log all changes made to a system and reviewing the log on a regular basis is Security 101. For a US-based public company, change management and configuration management are auditable.

This capability bypasses good system management and also renders these controls non auditable. We all know rootkits are bad, but how do you detect and defend against a router rootkit?

HTML traffic redirection, manipulation and modification

From a Web perspective what couldn’t I do with this ability? Proxy bypass. Filtering bypass. Build a complete copy of a website, which looks and feels just like the website you think you are logging into. All of a user’s transactions, web searchers, social media profiles, etc. can be manipulated literally as they cross the wire.

Think about the implications of that for a second.

A user opens their web browser, which connects to Google. Google then asks for authentication information. It’s Google. I know it’s Google because the browser says www.google.com and Google asks me to update my certificate. I know this is OK because I trust Google. I install the certificate and now my SSL connections are subverted.

Generally speaking, most people don’t use two-factor authentication or multiple passwords for every site. We would bet if we compromised most people’s Google account we would own most of their other accounts as well.

On the recent Ask Partner Network compromise it’s interesting to note that only certain customers were targeted specifically. There is no indication to date as to why they received the malicious payload while others didn’t. It’s possible that HTML redirection was used in these attacks.  

Insertion of HTML code on webpages

Now, I can pretty much install whatever malware I want on your endpoint. Maybe you grew paranoid and replaced all of your endpoints. New devices get shipped out? Awesome, I control them, too.

Final Thoughts

We have discussed just the currently known capabilities. Based on the level of sophistication, I highly doubt we have covered them all.

This is not the first leak revealing back doors on routers. In 2014, Edward Snowden disclosed that the NSA would intercept and bug a Cisco router before it was sent to a customer under surveillance. Think about the level of effort and cost it would take to divert a device in transit or intercept a shipping truck. You need people, planning, time, resources and technology to achieve goals on a single target. In that particular scenario one device, or a portion of one shipment, is under control.

But this recent scenario is far different.

Based on the latest leak, the capability to target a significant number of Cisco routers exists. This model is much more scalable and lends itself to better results. Exploiting a router in place costs ways less than intercepting a shipping truck in the middle of the night and is much more scalable. Attackers can now own the entire Internet.

Want to own one device?  Intercept it in transit. Want to own the Internet? Own the routers.

All these tools are now public. We expect WikiLeaks to make more vulnerabilities public in the near future.  As a community we must elevate this discussion. These capabilities exist to better protect nations and infrastructures.  When offensive capabilities we have built start falling into the hands of malicious actors looking to do harm and materially damaging cyber defensive operations, it is time to ask the question:

What can we do better?

Article by Rick McElroy, Carbon Black.

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
How to ensure ethical deployment of AI implentations
The increase in automation and machine technology such as AI and machine learning has unlocked a whole new level of scale and service to organisations. 
Story image
Digital Transformation
How to modernise legacy apps without compromising security
At a time when digital transformation has become central to business, even the most important applications come with a ‘use-by’ date.
Story image
Ransomware
A third of companies paying ransom don’t recover data - report
Veeam's report finds 76% of businesses who are victims of cyberattacks paid the ransom to recover data, but a third were still unable to get their information back.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
AI-based email security platform Abnormal Security valued at $4B
"A new breed of cybersecurity solutions that leverage AI is required to change the game and stop the rising threat of sophisticated and targeted email attacks."
Story image
Cybersecurity
ThoughtLab reveals 10 best practices for cybersecurity in 2022
The benchmarking study reveals best practices that can reduce the probability of a material breach and the time it takes to find and respond to those that happen.
Story image
Cybersecurity
CyberArk launches $30M investment fund to advance security
CyberArk has announced the launch of CyberArk Ventures, a $30 million global investment fund dedicated to advancing the next generation of security disruptors.
Story image
Digital Transformation
Physical security systems guide the hybrid workplace to new heights
Organisations are reviewing how data gathered from their physical security systems can optimise, protect and enhance their business operations in unique ways.
Story image
Firewall
Sophos named Gartner Peer Insights Customers Choice for network firewalls
The company earned the highest overall customer rating among vendors with at least 150 verified customer reviews.
Story image
VPN
Palo Alto Networks says ZTNA 1.0 not secure enough
Palo Alto Networks is urging the industry to move to Zero Trust Network Access 2.0 because previous versions have major gaps in security protection.
Story image
Training
Fortinet training edges toward closing cybersecurity gap
The Fortinet Training Institute has made significant progress in closing the cybersecurity skills gap, on track to train one million people by 2026.
Story image
Cybersecurity
HackerOne launches Attack Resistance Management solution
HackerOne has launched Attack Resistance Management - a new category of security solution that targets the root causes of the attack resistance gap. 
Story image
Secure access service edge / SASE
Versa Networks recognised as SASE leader in Govie Awards
Versa Networks has announced its SASE offering has been recognised in The Govies Government Security Awards competition by Security Today magazine.
Story image
Appian
Appian awarded billions in damages against Pegasystems Inc.
Appian has been awarded USD$2.036 billion in damages against Pegasystems Inc as the result of a jury verdict in the Circuit Court for Fairfax County, Virginia.
Story image
Blue Prism
Blue Prism Desktop uses IA to defend against vulnerabilities
SS&C Blue Prism Desktop aims to help protect businesses against vulnerabilities, using a combination of security measures and intelligent automation tech.
Story image
APAC
Odaseva expands in APAC and UK with more security features
Odaseva, a data platform for Salesforce, is establishing new headquarters in London as well as a new data center in India.
Story image
Phishing
KnowBe4 celebrates reaching 50,000 customers worldwide
KnowBe4 has reached the milestone of 50,000 customers, adding nearly 2,500 in the first quarter of 2022 alone.
Story image
Microsoft
Apple, Google and Microsoft expands plans to get rid of passwords
FIDO Alliance says the world is closer to not relying on passwords after Apple, Google and Microsoft expands their support for a passwordless sign-in standard.
Story image
Cybersecurity
The 'A-B-C' of effective application security
Software applications have been a key tool for businesses for decades, but the way they are designed and operated has changed during the past few years.
Story image
Phishing
Developments in phishing and how to protect your business
Phishing, the practice of sending malicious emails to encourage users to perform actions that benefit an attacker, is a key security concern for modern businesses due to its prevalence and impact.
Story image
Malware
Use of malware, botnets and exploits expands in Q1 2022
"As zero-day attacks and other vulnerabilities among companies like Google and Microsoft come to light, threat actors are quickly adjusting their tactics."
Story image
Malware
Sharp increase in phishing as cybercriminals leverage SEO to lure victims
"Malware lurking everywhere, from cloud apps to search engines, leaving organisations at greater risk than ever before."
Story image
Cybersecurity
Managed service providers: effective scoping to avoid costly vendor pitfalls
Managed security services are outsourced services focusing on the security and resilience of business networks.
Story image
Application Security
What are the DDoS attack trend predictions for 2022?
Mitigation and recovery are vital to ensuring brand reputation remains solid in the face of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack and that business growth and innovation can continue.
Story image
Ransomware
Zerto unveils updates to ransomware recovery capabilities
"Organisations face increased risks from the volume and sophistication of ransomware attacks prevalent today."
Story image
Tech job moves
Tech job moves - Cisco, Hitachi Vantara, Tricentis & Zscaler
We round up all job appointments from April 28 - May 5, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
Microsoft
Microsoft unveils three new security managed services
Security Experts includes three new managed services, Defender Experts for Hunting, Defender Experts for XDR, Security Services for Enterprise.
Story image
Forensics
Exterro adds advanced capabilities to digital forensic tool
The launch is in-line with Exterro’s investment in the FTK product line, and underscores the company's commitment to the digital forensics.
Story image
Remote Working
How zero trust and SD-WANs can support productive remote working
The way people connect with applications and data has changed, users are remotely accessing resources that could be stored anywhere from a corporate data center to the cloud.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Hard numbers: Why ambiguity in cybersecurity no longer adds up
As cybersecurity costs and risks continue to escalate, CEOs continue to struggle with what their investment in cyber protection buys. Getting rid of ambiguity becomes necessary.
Story image
Tech job moves
Tech job moves - Datacom, Micro Focus, SnapLogic and VMware
We round up all job appointments from May 6-12, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
SonicWall
Find out how you and your business can prevent being caught out by everything from ransomware to cryptojacking.
Link image
Story image
Cybersecurity
New report reveals evolving techniques targeting cloud-native environments
Companies are adopting cloud-native technologies faster than ever before. Unfortunately, with new technology comes new threats and challenges.
Story image
Data Protection
Managed Service Providers key to customer data protection
Frequent cyberattacks in the ASEAN region drive the demand for MSPs that can deliver purpose-built security solutions for SME customers.
Story image
Hyperscale
SpaceDC partners with Aofei for data center sales in Asia
SpaceDC has partnered with Aofei Data International to sell Aofei's data centers, CDN and SDN in China.
Story image
Phishing
Google reveals new safety and security measures for users
Google's new measures include automatic two step verification, virtual cards and making it easier to remove contact information on Google Search results.
Story image
Ivanti
Ivanti and Lookout bring zero trust security to hybrid work
Ivanti and Lookout have joined forces to help organisations accelerate cloud adoption and mature their zero trust security posture in the everywhere workplace.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Video: 10 Minute IT Jams - An update from IronNet
Michael Ehrlich joins us today to discuss the history of IronNet and the crucial role the company plays in the cyber defence space.
Story image
BeyondTrust
BeyondTrust integrates Password Safe solution with SailPoint
BeyondTrust has announced the integration of BeyondTrust Password Safe with SailPoint identity security offerings.
Story image
Ransomware
Cybersecurity starts with education
In 2021, 80% of Australian organisations responding to the Sophos State of Ransomware study reported being hit by ransomware. 
Story image
Workato
Workato unveils enhancements to enterprise automation platform
"The extra layer of protection with EKM, zero-logging, and hourly key rotation gives customers a lot more visibility and control over more sensitive data."
Story image
Cybersecurity
A10 Networks finds over 15 million DDoS weapons in 2021
A10 Networks notes that in the 2H 2021 reporting period, its security research team tracked more than 15.4 million Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) weapons.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
ForgeRock releases Autonomous Access solution powered by AI
ForgeRock has officially introduced ForgeRock Autonomous Access, a new solution that uses AI to prevent identity-based cyber attacks and fraud.
Story image
Fortinet
Fortinet sees 34% revenue increase in latest financial results
Fortinet has released its financial results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2022, seeing a total revenue increase of 34.4% compared to the same quarter last year.
Story image
Sift
Sift shares crucial advice for preventing serious ATO breaches
Are you or your business struggling with Account Takeover Fraud (ATO)? One of the latest ebooks from Sift can provide readers with the tools and expertise to help launch them into the new era of account security.