FBI warns of Iran-linked hackers attempting to exploit F5 BIG-IP flaw

Pierluigi Paganini August 08, 2020

According to the FBI, Iranian hackers are actively attempting to exploit an unauthenticated RCE flaw, tracked as CVE-2020-5902, in F5 Big-IP ADC devices.

The FBI is warning of Iranian hackers actively attempting to exploit an unauthenticated remote code execution flaw (CVE-2020-5902) affecting F5 Big-IP application delivery controller (ADC) devices.

Early June, researchers at F5 Networks addressed the CVE-2020-5902 vulnerability, it resides in undisclosed pages of Traffic Management User Interface (TMUI) of the BIG-IP product.

The BIG-IP product is an application delivery controller (ADC), it is used by government agencies and major business, including banks, services providers and IT giants like Facebook, Microsoft and Oracle.

F5 Networks says the BIG-IP devices are used on the networks of 48 companies included in the Fortune 50 list.

Immediately after the disclosure of the issue, the US Cyber Command posted a message on Twitter urging organizations using the F5 product to immediately patch their installs.

The vulnerability could be exploited by attackers to gain access to the TMUI component to execute arbitrary system commands, disable services, execute arbitrary Java code, and create or delete files, and potentially take over the BIG-IP device

The CVE-2020-5902 vulnerability received a CVSS score of 10, this means that is quite easy to exploit. The issue could be exploited by sending a specifically crafted HTTP request to the server hosting the Traffic Management User Interface (TMUI) utility for BIG-IP configuration.

Immediately after the public disclosure of the flaw, that several proof-of-concept (PoC) exploits have been released, some of them are very easy to use.

A few days after the disclosure of the vulnerability in the F5 Networks BIG-IP product threat actors started exploiting it in attacks in the wild. Threat actors exploited the CVE-2020-5902 flaw to obtain passwords, create web shells, and infect systems with various malware.

US CISA launched an investigation in potential compromise in multiple sectors with the support of several entities and confirmed two compromises.

“As early as July 6, 2020, CISA has seen broad scanning activity for the presence of this vulnerability across federal departments and agencies—this activity is currently occurring as of the publication of this Alert.” continues the alert.

This week, the FBI issued a Private Industry Notification (PIN) to warn that the Iran-linked threat actors are attempting to exploit the flaw since early July 2020. The PIN also includes indicators of compromise (IOCs) and Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs) associated with the attackers.

According to the FBI, Iranian nation-state hackers could exploit the flaw in F5 Big-IP ADC devices to gain access to the target networks, exfiltrate sensitive information, steal credentials, and drop several types of malware, including ransomware

The FBI PIN is based on the analysis of the group’s previous TTPs, which suggests the hackers will attempt to exploit the CVE-2020-5902 vulnerability to compromise unpatched F5 Big-IP ADC devices used by organizations in many industries.

The same threat actors were behind multiple attacks targeting unpatched VPN devices since August 2019, such as Pulse Secure VPN servers and Citrix ADC/Gateway.

The FBI is also warning private industry organizations, that Iranian hackers also use web shells to establish permanent access to the compromised networks and to regain access even after the systems have been patched following a cyber attack.

Experts also observed that the threat actors leverage post-exploitation tools such as Mimikatz and network reconnaissance tools.

Administrators are recommended to use F5’s CVE-2020-5902 IoC Detection Tool to detect potential compromise within their infrastructure.

Below the list of recommendations for the organizations to mitigate the exposure to attacks exploiting the CVE-2020-5902 vulnerability:

• Quarantine or take offline potentially affected systems
• Collect and review artifacts such as running processes/services, unusual authentications, and recent network connections
• Deploy a CISA-created Snort signature to detect malicious activity (available in the alert under Detection Methods)

In case organizations find evidence of CVE-2020-5902 exploitation, they are urged to implement the following recovery measures for the compromised systems:

• Reimaging compromised hosts
• Provisioning new account credentials
• Limiting access to the management interface to the fullest extent possible
• Implementing network segmentation

“CISA expects to see continued attacks exploiting unpatched F5 BIG-IP devices and strongly urges users and administrators to upgrade their software to the fixed versions,” the agency concludes.

“CISA also advises that administrators deploy the signature included in this Alert to help them determine whether their systems have been compromised.”

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, F5 BIG-IP)

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