Security Experts:

Critical, Exploitable Flaws in NETGEAR Router Firmware

Security researchers at Microsoft are flagging multiple gaping security holes in firmware shipped on NETGEAR routers, warning that exploitation could lead to identity theft and full system compromise.

The three vulnerabilities, rated critical by NETGEAR, affect the  firmware on NETGEAR DGN-2200v1 series routers. The company quietly shipped patches to address the flaws, which carry a CVSS Score of 7.1 – 9.4.

According to Microsoft's Jonathan Bar Or, exploits for these firmware flaws can compromise a network’s security, opening the gates for attackers to roam untethered through an entire organization.

Bar Or, a member of the Microsoft 365 Defender Research Team, said the vulnerabilities were found while the team conducted device fingerprinting work. 

[ Related: Eclypsium: BIOSConnect Flaws Haunt Millions of Dell Computers ]

"We noticed a very odd behavior: a device owned by a non-IT personnel was trying to access a NETGEAR DGN-2200v1 router’s management port. The communication was flagged as anomalous by machine learning models, but the communication itself was TLS-encrypted and private to protect customer privacy, so we decided to focus on the router and investigate whether it exhibited security weaknesses that can be exploited in a possible attack scenario," Bar Or explained.

The team unpacked the router firmware and found three vulnerabilities that can be reliably exploited.  

The Microsoft team was able to document side-channel attack scenarios and authentication bypass exploits that allowed the retrieval of secrets stored in the NETGEAR routers.

"Routers are integral to networking, so it is important to secure the programs supporting its functions," Bar Or said.

[ Related: Microsoft: Firmware Attacks Outpacing Security Investments ]

The Microsoft discovery comes less than a week after enterprise device security platform vendor Eclypsium documented multiple high-severity firmware vulnerabilities that expose millions of Dell computers to stealthy hacker attacks.

Eclypsium, a U.S. company that addresses firmware security threats, said the issue affects 129 Dell models of consumer and business laptops, desktops, and tablets, including devices that use Microsoft’s new Secured-core PC protections.

The company published a technical report to document the discovery, which affects an estimated 30 million Dell computer devices.  Separately, Dell released software fixes alongside a warning that this should be treated as a high-impact issue.

In all, Dell shipped patches for at least four documented CVEs credited to Eclypsium researchers Mickey Shkatov and Jesse Michael.  The researchers plan to discuss the vulnerabilities and potential impact at this years DEF CON security conference.

Firmware security has emerged as a front-burner issue recently with a recent Microsoft-sponsored study claiming a whopping 80 percent of businesses reported “at least one firmware attack” in the past two years but only 30 percent allocated any budget spend on firmware protection.

Microsoft has made firmware and IOT security a priority recently, with two strategic acquisitions -- Refirm Labs and CyberX -- meant to shore up its ability to pinpoint and fix weak links at the firmware layer.

Related: Microsoft: Firmware Attacks Outpacing Security Investments 

Related: Eclypsium: BIOSConnect Flaws Haunt Millions of Dell Computers

Related: Microsoft Buys ReFirm Labs to Expand IoT Firmware Security Push

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Ryan Naraine is Editor-at-Large at SecurityWeek and host of the popular Security Conversations podcast series. Ryan is a veteran cybersecurity strategist who has built security engagement programs at major global brands, including Intel Corp., Bishop Fox and GReAT. He is a co-founder of Threatpost and the global SAS conference series. Ryan's past career as a security journalist included bylines at major technology publications including Ziff Davis eWEEK, CBS Interactive's ZDNet, PCMag and PC World. Ryan is a director of the Security Tinkerers non-profit, an advisor to early-stage entrepreneurs, and a regular speaker at security conferences around the world. Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanaraine.