Zero-day vulnerabilities garner well-deserved attention, but often it is older vulnerabilities that are at the center of targeted attacks.
In a new report, researchers at Trend Micro found the majority of exploits involved in these incidents during the second half of 2013 focused on vulnerabilities that had patches available, including some that were patched as early as 2009. During the final six months of 2013, CVE-2012-0158 was the most exploited vulnerability in targeted attacks. CVE-2012-0158, addressed by Microsoft in MS12-027, involves a remote code execution vulnerability in Windows common controls.
The second most attacked vulnerability was CVE-2010-3333, a stack-based overflow affecting versions of Microsoft Office.
“Threat actors continued to exploit old vulnerabilities in various software and systems,” according to the report. “They took advantage of the fact that enterprises are often forced to delay patch and update application to maintain critical business operations and test the patches and updates in their environments before deployment. This delay opens up windows of exposure that could result in infection.”
“Our findings (based on cases that we have analyzed) indicate that 80 percent of targeted attack-related incidents affect government institutions,” blogged Bernadette Irinco of Trend Micro. “This is followed by the IT sector (both hardware and software) and the financial services (banks). In terms of countries affected, Taiwan and Japan are the two most hit by targeted attacks.”
“In addition, we also monitor the locations of various IP addresses that accessed known C&C servers associated with targeted attacks,” she added. “Our data show that Taiwan, Japan, and the United States were the most targeted countries.”
Nearly 60 percent of the time the malware used in targeted attacks are Trojans or spyware. Next in line were backdoors (22 percent) used to establish command and control communications.
“Spear phishing is still the most seen entry point for targeted attacks,” Irinco continued. “These email messages use relevant-sounding subjects that trick users into opening it and the file attachments therein that serve as malware carriers. In our 2014 prediction, we noted that mobile devices will also be leveraged by threat actors to gain entry to networks.”
The full report can be read here.