Researchers from the Microsoft 365 (opens in new tab) Defender Research Team were first alerted by a device owned by non-IT personnel trying to access the router’s management port. This led them to investigate whether there was an exploitable weakness in the firmware.
“In our research, we unpacked the router firmware and found three vulnerabilities that can be reliably exploited,” wrote (opens in new tab) Jonathan Bar Or, Principal Security Researcher at Microsoft.
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Interestingly, the researchers were led to explore the router while playing with the new device discovery capabilities (opens in new tab) in Microsoft Defender for Endpoint.
Securing the realm
The researchers point out that an increasing number of recent attacks on internet-facing devices suggest attackers are looking beyond exploiting weaknesses in the operating system.
Bar Or says these attacks hint that, in addition to securing their operating systems, businesses of all sizes must ensure that even “single-purpose software that run their hardware—like routers” are fully secure.
Describing the three issues, all of which have now been fixed, he notes that one enabled the researchers to access the router’s management pages by exploiting an authentication bypass vulnerability.
The researchers then extracted the credentials of the router’s admin user via a cryptographic side-channel attack, and even recovered authentication details stored in the router's memory by exploiting the configuration backup/restore feature.
“Routers are integral to networking, so it is important to secure the programs supporting its functions. Collaboration between vulnerability researchers, software vendors and other players is crucial to helping secure the overall user experience,” concludes Bar Or.
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