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Microsoft Exchange Server Vulnerabilities: Ensuring the Security of Your Business

18 March, 2021

In today’s technology-driven world, we understand the vital role that technology plays in every industry. It enables innovation, enhances communication within organizations, and provides a competitive edge. However, it is important to be aware that new technologies can also have vulnerabilities. Recently, security flaws were discovered in Microsoft Exchange Servers, prompting us to issue this blog post as a cautionary message to all those utilizing these servers.

Potential Vulnerabilities in Your Microsoft Exchange Server

We are particularly concerned about the large number of small businesses that rely on Microsoft Exchange Servers to supplement their IT departments. Unfortunately, this means that many small businesses are at risk. Over 60,000 companies and organizations worldwide have fallen victim to attacks. Chinese hackers have been confirmed to target and exploit vulnerabilities in on-premise servers, specifically Microsoft Exchange ’13, ’16, and ’19.

Threats and Breaches

In January, Microsoft became aware of “zero-day” bugs, referring to flaws that are known but not yet addressed. As these vulnerabilities are uncovered, the likelihood of attacks and breaches increases, posing a significant danger to organizations holding sensitive data. On March 2nd, Microsoft released updates to address the zero-day bugs, and they reported a limited number of targeted attacks. However, there remains a substantial potential for attacks on individual Exchange Servers due to the pace at which patches are installed. As a result, the number of victims continues to grow as hackers target unpatched systems.

Perpetrators of these Attacks

Initially, Microsoft reported that Hafnium, a state-sponsored Chinese APT group, exploited the zero-day vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to Exchange servers. These attacks allow hackers to infiltrate email accounts and install malware, granting them long-term access for future breaches. Hafnium has primarily targeted various US entities, including NGOs, policy think tanks, defense contractors, higher education institutions, law firms, and infectious disease research facilities. The group has used legitimate software, such as Covenant, an open-source framework, to control compromised servers, often uploading stolen data to file-sharing sites.

While Hafnium’s attempts to compromise customers’ accounts have been unsuccessful to date, it is crucial to remain vigilant as they continue to develop new attack methods. If hackers are determined to find a vulnerability, they will persist until successful.

Threats from Other Groups

Following Hafnium’s initial attacks, numerous other groups have exploited the flaws in Microsoft Exchange Servers. A report identified at least ten groups actively targeting unpatched servers.

Ensuring Your Business’s Protection

If your business uses Microsoft Exchange Servers, it is essential to take immediate action. First, verify if your Exchange Server has been updated recently. If not, reset all passwords as a precautionary measure since passwords stored in memory could be vulnerable. Next, install the latest system patch, and consider changing passwords once the patch is applied, emphasizing the importance of maximum security during breaches.

Steps to Enhance Server Security

To bolster your protection, we recommend the following measures:

  1. Patch your system using the latest Microsoft updates.
  2. Reset all passwords and update credentials.
  3. Verify the integrity of your backup device and test its functionality.
  4. Assess your router’s security measures and consult with your vendor regarding the last update to their signatures.
  5. Conduct scans and investigate any suspicious activities on your Exchange servers.
  6. If uncertain about your network’s safety, consider restoring your Exchange server to a state before the compromises occurred.

If you require assistance identifying your server type or applying update patches, we are here to help. Contact us today, and we will ensure you receive the necessary support to mitigate this threat and bring peace of mind to your business.

18 March, 2021