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Microsoft Blames Nation-State Threat Actor for Confluence Zero-Day Attacks

Microsoft says an APT group tracked as Storm-0062 has been hacking Confluence installations since mid-September, three weeks before Atlassian’s disclosure.

Researchers at Microsoft say a known nation-state threat actor is behind the zero-day exploits hitting Atlassian’s Confluence Data Center and Server products.

A note from Redmond linked the ongoing attacks to an APT group tracked as Storm-0062 and warned that malicious activity dates back to September 14, a full three weeks before Atlassian’s public disclosure of the issue.

“Microsoft has observed nation-state threat actor Storm-0062 exploiting CVE-2023-22515 in the wild since September 14, 2023. CVE-2023-22515 was disclosed on October 4, 2023. Storm-0062 is tracked by others as DarkShadow or Oro0lxy,” the company said.

According to SecurityWeek sources, the Storm-0062 hacking team has been observed conducting cyberespionage operations for  China’s Ministry of State Security, a state intelligence agency.

Microsoft shared four IP addresses that were seen sending related exploit traffic targeting the critical CVE-2023-22515 privilege escalation vulnerability. 

“Any device with a network connection to a vulnerable application can exploit CVE-2023-22515 to create a Confluence administrator account within the application,” Microsoft said, confirming earlier warnings from Atlassian that patches should be applied with urgency.

“Organizations with vulnerable Confluence applications should upgrade as soon as possible to a fixed version: 8.3.3, 8.4.3, or 8.5.2 or later. Organizations should isolate vulnerable Confluence applications from the public internet until they are able to upgrade them,” the company added.

Atlassian updated its own advisory to confirm it has evidence that a known nation-state actor is actively exploiting the bug.

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On October 4, Atlassian rushed out an urgent patch for the issue alongside a notice that “a handful of customers” were hit by remote exploits.

“Atlassian has been made aware of an issue reported by a handful of customers where external attackers may have exploited a previously unknown vulnerability in publicly accessible Confluence Data Center and Server instances to create unauthorized Confluence administrator accounts and access Confluence instances,” the Australian company said.

The vulnerability, tracked as CVE-2023-22515, is described as a remotely exploitable privilege escalation issue affecting on-prem instances of Confluence Server and Confluence Data Center.

“Instances on the public internet are particularly at risk, as this vulnerability is exploitable anonymously,” Atlassian warned. “If an instance has already been compromised, upgrading will not remove the compromise.”

Atlassian published an FAQ urging business users to immediately check all affected Confluence instances for the following indicators of compromise:

  • Unexpected members of the confluence-administrator group
  • Unexpected newly created user accounts
  • Requests to /setup/*.action in network access logs
  • Presence of /setup/setupadministrator.action in an exception message in atlassian-confluence-security.log in the Confluence home directory

“If it is determined that your instance has been compromised, our advice is to immediately shut down and disconnect the server from the network/Internet. Also, you may want to immediately shut down any other systems which potentially share a user base or have common username/password combinations with the compromised system,” Atlassian added.

Security problems in Atlassian’s software products have been targeted in the past by both cybercriminal and state-sponsored threat actors. In CISA’s KEV (Known Exploited Vulnerabilities) catalog, there are six distinct Confluence vulnerabilities marked for urgent attention.

Related: Atlassian Ships Urgent Patch for Exploited Confluence Zero-Day

Related: Atlassian Patches Critical Bitbucket Security Defect

Related: Expects Confluence App Exploitation After Password Leak

Related: Atlassian Patches Remote Vulnerabilities in Confluence, Bamboo

Related: Cybercriminals, State-Sponsored APTs Exploiting Confluence Flaw

Written By

Ryan Naraine is Editor-at-Large at SecurityWeek and host of the popular Security Conversations podcast series. He is a security community engagement expert who has built programs at major global brands, including Intel Corp., Bishop Fox and GReAT. Ryan is a founding-director of the Security Tinkerers non-profit, an advisor to early-stage entrepreneurs, and a regular speaker at security conferences around the world.

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