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NSA: Russian Hackers Exploiting VPN Vulnerabilities - Patch Immediately

The U.S. government on Thursday warned that Russian APT operators are exploiting five known -- and already patched -- vulnerabilities in corporate VPN infrastructure products, insisting it is “critically important” to mitigate these issues immediately.

The urgent advisory was issued by the National Security Agency (NSA) to call attention to a quintet of CVEs that are being actively exploited by a threat actor affiliated with Russia’s foreign intelligence service (SVR).

According to the NSA, the five vulnerabilities should be prioritized for patching alongside the newest batch of Exchange Server updates released by Microsoft earlier this week.

Here are the five vulnerabilities that need immediate attention:

CVE-2018-13379 Fortinet FortiGate VPN 

CVE-2019-9670 Synacor Zimbra Collaboration Suite (advisory here)

CVE-2019-11510 Pulse Secure Pulse Connect Secure VPN

CVE-2019-19781 Citrix Application Delivery Controller and Gateway 

CVE-2020-4006 VMware Workspace ONE Access

“Mitigation against these vulnerabilities is critically important as U.S. and allied networks are constantly scanned, targeted, and exploited by Russian state-sponsored cyber actors,” the NSA said.

The NSA’s decision to pinpoint the five old security flaws suggests that many organizations are slow to apply the available fixes, especially during the pandemic when work-from-home expanded the need for VPN technologies.

The advisory comes on the same day the U.S. government formally attributed the SolarWinds supply chain mega-hack to Russia’s SVP and announced expanded sanctions and the expulsion of diplomats.

“In addition to compromising the SolarWinds Orion software supply chain, recent SVR activities include targeting COVID-19 research facilities via WellMess malware and targeting networks through the VMware vulnerability disclosed by NSA,” the agency said.

The new advisory also includes additional tactics, techniques, and procedures being used by the threat actor.  

”[We] strongly encourage all cybersecurity stakeholders to check their networks for indicators of compromise related to all five vulnerabilities and the techniques detailed in the advisory and to urgently implement associated mitigations,” it added. 

In a separate but related announcement, the U.S. announced the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats and sanctions against nearly three dozen people and companies as it moved to hold the Kremlin accountable for interference in last year’s presidential election and the hacking of federal agencies.

Related: CISA, FBI Warn of Attacks Targeting Fortinet FortiOS

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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.