Security Experts:

Two Popular VPNs Exposed Users to Attacks Via Fake Updates

Researchers analyzed some of the most popular VPNs and discovered that two of them were affected by vulnerabilities that could be exploited to hack users’ devices.

VPNpro, a company that specializes in analyzing and comparing VPN services, analyzed the 20 most popular VPNs to see which of them allow attackers to intercept communications and push fake updates.

The analysis revealed that PrivateVPN and Betternet VPNs were vulnerable to these types of attacks. Both vendors were notified in mid-February and they have released patches that should prevent attacks.

“The most important part of the fix is that they don't accept unverified update files anymore. Since we were intercepting only update network requests, the issue no longer exists,” VPNpro told SecurityWeek.

The analysis revealed that PrivateVPN, Betternet, TorGuard and CyberGhost allowed an attacker to intercept the connection, and the VPN connected while being intercepted. However, only PrivateVPN and Betternet downloaded a fake update, and PrivateVPN even executed the update automatically. Betternet did not automatically execute the update, but prompted the user to update the app, which in many cases would also likely lead to execution of the fake update.

According to VPNpro, a man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacker could have intercepted the targeted user’s VPN connection and pushed a fake software update. In the most likely scenarios, the attacker convinces the victim to connect to a malicious Wi-Fi network in a public location, or they somehow gain access to the target’s router.

The malicious software update could have unleashed a piece of malware on the victim’s device. This includes ransomware or malware designed to steal sensitive information, abuse the compromised device for cryptocurrency mining, or add the device to a botnet.

Related: Android VPNs Introduce Security, Privacy Risks: Study

Related: No Patch for VPN Bypass Flaw Discovered in iOS

Related: Iranian Hackers Exploited Enterprise VPN Flaws in Major Campaign

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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.