Microsoft warns of attacks targeting MSSQL servers using the tool sqlps

Microsoft warns of brute-forcing attacks targeting Microsoft SQL Server (MSSQL) database servers exposed online.

Microsoft warns of a new hacking campaign aimed at MSSQL servers, threat actors are launching brute-forcing attacks against poorly protected instances. The attacks are using the legitimate tool sqlps.exe, a sort of SQL Server PowerShell file, as a LOLBin (short for living-off-the-land binary).

Microsoft warned of the attacks in a series of tweets, it doesn’t attribute them to a specific threat actor.

The sqlps.exe utility is described by Microsoft as a PowerShell wrapper for running SQL-built cmdlets.

Threat actors also use sqlps.exe to create a new account that they add to the sysadmin role, allowing them to take full control of the SQL server instance. Then the attackers are able to perform other malicious actions, such as deploying malware.

The attack is fileless and do not leave traces on the targeted systems bypassing antimalware solutions.

Experts pointed out that the use of the sqlps tool allows to bypass Script Blocmdletck Logging, used to record the content of all script blocks that it processes.

Experts recommend to not expose MSSQL servers online, secure them with string admin credentials, apply the latest security updates, enable logging to monitor for potentially attack patters.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, MSSQL servers)

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Pierluigi Paganini: Pierluigi Paganini is member of the ENISA (European Union Agency for Network and Information Security) Threat Landscape Stakeholder Group and Cyber G7 Group, he is also a Security Evangelist, Security Analyst and Freelance Writer. Editor-in-Chief at "Cyber Defense Magazine", Pierluigi is a cyber security expert with over 20 years experience in the field, he is Certified Ethical Hacker at EC Council in London. The passion for writing and a strong belief that security is founded on sharing and awareness led Pierluigi to find the security blog "Security Affairs" recently named a Top National Security Resource for US. Pierluigi is a member of the "The Hacker News" team and he is a writer for some major publications in the field such as Cyber War Zone, ICTTF, Infosec Island, Infosec Institute, The Hacker News Magazine and for many other Security magazines. Author of the Books "The Deep Dark Web" and “Digital Virtual Currency and Bitcoin”.

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