Misconfigured internet-facing servers are a growing risk for organizations and one of the preferred weapons for ransomware gangs to break into their victims’ networks. For example, a recent study by Group-IB, based on the analysis of more than 700 ransomware attacks in 2021, revealed that the compromise of an external remote service is the top initial access vector to launch a ransomware operation, leveraged in 47% of cases, ahead of phishing (26%), a more “traditional” attack vector. It’s also more common than the exploitation of a public-facing application (21%), which also involves, in some way, the compromise of a system directly exposed on the internet.
To add fuel to the fire, a new report by Cyble, found more than 8,000 exposed Virtual Network Computing (VNC) instances with authentication disabled, which is essentially a free entrance for threat actors, either as a consequence of configuration errors, or simply made to facilitate remote access to the organization itself without properly taking the security implications into consideration. For context, VNC is a graphical desktop-sharing system that allows a user to control another machine remotely. Even worse, some of the exposed VNC servers allowed access to industrial control systems.
The consequences of such unauthenticated access are quite straightforward. The attackers could exploit the compromised system, or abuse it as a foothold to move laterally or dig into the organization. Between July and August 2022 the Cyble researchers observed more than six million attacks on port TCP 5900, used by VNC, which further explains the flourishing business of the initial access brokers.
How Netskope mitigates the risk of misconfigured internet exposed services
Netskope Private Access allows you to publish resources in a simple and secure manner providing a zero trust alternative to legacy remote access technologies and preventing the direct exposure of services like VNC, RDP, or SSH. It is possible to publish and segment virtually any application located in a local data center, as well as in a private or public cloud, without opening any inbound service that can be probed by threat actors. There is also no need for any on-prem hardware device to install, patch, and maintain, which avoids scalability issues and performance bottlenecks. Finally, a check on the security posture of the endpoint is enforced before accessing the target application. A smarter and more secure way to provide remote connectivity.
But VNC is also one of the top exposed services for public workloads. In this risk scenario, Netskope Public Cloud Security detects misconfigurations on AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform, preventing organizations from leaving remote accesses exposed, or leaking data from publicly accessible buckets or blobs. A set of predefined profiles allows organizations to comply with best practices and industry standards. such as NIST CSF, PCI-DSS, and CIS, and it is also possible to easily build custom rules with domain-specific language. The same protection is also available for SaaS applications (such as Microsoft 365, Salesforce, GitHub, Zoom, and ServiceNow) thanks to the new SSPM (SaaS Security Posture Management) module.