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Sea Turtle DNS Hijacking Campaign Utilizes At Least Seven Patched Vulnerabilities

The Sea Turtle campaign exploits seven patchable vulnerabilities dating from 2009 to 2018 to breach organizations and hijack their DNS name records.

Background

On April 17, researchers at Cisco’s Talos Intelligence Group published a blog entitled DNS Hijacking Abuses Trust In Core Internet Service. This blog provided additional details about a two-year attack campaign targeting a variety of businesses and government organizations, particularly those located in the Middle East and North Africa. This blog was preceded by a January 2019 alert from the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) about a DNS infrastructure hijacking campaign that included some technical details along with indicators of compromise (IOCs) for the public at large. The DHS alert referenced research from FireEye’s Threat Research team and Crowdstrike, as well as a similar report from Cisco Talos in late November 2018.

Analysis

The analysis of the Sea Turtle campaign sheds light on some of the techniques used to breach targeted organizations including seven previously patched vulnerabilities and spearphishing emails. The vulnerabilities used by the attackers were either used to breach the organizations first or to move laterally within them post-compromise.

The following is Cisco’s list of vulnerabilities observed in the Sea Turtle attacks. It should not be considered a complete list:

Software/System Application Vulnerabilities:

Cisco Product-Related Vulnerabilities:

  • CVE-2017-3881 - Telnet Bug in Cluster Management Protocol for Cisco IOS and IOS XE
  • CVE-2017-6736 - Buffer Overflow in the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) for Cisco IOS and IOS XE
  • CVE-2018-0296 - Input Validation Vulnerability in Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA)

Proof-of-concept or exploit code is available for all of the vulnerabilities listed above.

Solution

Because the Sea Turtle campaign is leveraging known vulnerabilities disclosed over the last several years, it is vital for organizations to ensure they are conducting regular vulnerability assessments and have a thorough patch management process.

Identifying affected systems

A list of Nessus plugins to identify these vulnerabilities can be found here.

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