Threat actors still exploiting old unpatched vulnerabilities, says Cisco

The exploitation of a vulnerability in Progress Software’s MOVEit file transfer application was one of the biggest cybersecurity news headlines of the year.

However, according to Cisco Systems, the most targeted vulnerabilities this year — as in previous years — were older security flaws in common applications.

That again underscores the preference of threat actors to target unpatched systems that can cause major disruptions, Cisco’s Talos threat intelligence division said in its annual Year in Review report.

In many cases, the vulnerabilities were more than 10 years old, giving users lots of time for them to have been patched. In fact, four of the top five most targeted vulnerabilities were also cited by the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) as being frequently exploited in prior years.

The top 10 targeted vulnerabilities were

–CVE-2017-01999, found in Microsoft Office and WordPad;
–CVE-2017-11882, found in Microsoft Exchange server;
–CVE-2020-1472, found in Microsoft Windows’ Netlogon utility;
–CVE-2012-1461, found in the Gzip file parser utility;
–CVE-2012-0158, found in Microsoft Office;
–CVE-2010-1907, found in Apple’s Safari browser;
–CVE-2021-1675, found in Windows’ print spooler;
–CVE-2015-0507, found in Oracle’s Java SE;
–CVE-2015-2426, found in Windows’ font driver.

Most of the vulnerabilities would cause substantial impact if exploited, the report notes, with seven receiving the highest “critical” score from the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS).

Ransomware continued to threaten enterprises globally in 2023, the report notes, with LockBit remaining the top threat in this space for the second year in a row. Healthcare was the top targeted industry this year, as adversaries maintained their focus on entities that have cybersecurity funding constraints and low downtime tolerance.

However, some ransomware groups such as Clop/Cl0p — behind the MOVEit exploits — deployed a collection of zero-day exploits, behavior usually associated with advanced persistent threat (APT) activity, the report says. A new trend of ransomware actors turning to pure extortion, skipping encryption altogether while threatening to leak sensitive data, also emerged.

At the same time, the report adds, leaked ransomware source code allowed low-skilled actors to enter the market.

One other point the report notes: The use of valid accounts was consistently a top weakness in Talos incident response engagements.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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