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Chinese Hackers Target Cisco Discovery Protocol Vulnerability

Chinese state-sponsored hackers are targeting a Cisco Discovery Protocol vulnerability that was disclosed earlier this year, the networking giant and the U.S. National Security Agency revealed on Tuesday.

An advisory published by the NSA on Tuesday lists 25 vulnerabilities that have been exploited or targeted by threat actors believed to be sponsored by Beijing. The list includes several vulnerabilities that were not known to have been targeted, including CVE-2020-3118, which impacts Cisco products.

CVE-2020-3118 is one of the five vulnerabilities in the Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP) implementation of IOS XR software that were disclosed in February by IoT security firm Armis. The company reported at the time that the flaws, collectively tracked as CDPwn, impacted tens of millions of Cisco devices deployed in enterprise environments, including IP phones, switches, routers and cameras.

Just as the NSA issued its warning on the vulnerabilities targeted by Chinese hackers, Cisco updated its advisory to inform customers that it received reports earlier this month of attackers attempting to exploit CVE-2020-3118 in the wild. The company has advised customers to install the available IOS XR patches.

While it’s unclear which Chinese threat actor has targeted the flaw, the group tracked as APT41 is known to have exploited Cisco product vulnerabilities in its attacks.

The high-severity vulnerability can be exploited without authentication for arbitrary code execution with admin privileges and denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, but the attacker needs to have network access to the targeted device. Specifically, Cisco says, they need to be on the same broadcast domain as the impacted system.

When it disclosed the CDPwn vulnerabilities, Armis warned that they could allow an attacker to move from one network segment to another, intercept network traffic, and exfiltrate sensitive information.

Over the past few months, Cisco has also warned customers about attempts to exploit vulnerabilities affecting its firewalls and carrier-grade routers.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.