Widespread cyberattack hits servers across Europe

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Hackers are exploiting a known vulnerability in VMware’s ESXi servers on a huge scale, targeting endpoints across Europe and North America, government officials and company spokespeople have confirmed.

Italy’s National Cybersecurity Agency (ACN) has warned businesses using these VMware products to update their devices immediately, and thus stay safe from the ongoing cybercrime campaign. 

ANSA (a major Italian news agency) further said that besides servers in Italy, hackers also targeted those located in France, Finland, the United States, and Canada. 

500 victims and counting

Reports have claimed “dozens” of organizations in Italy were affected by the campaign. The agency says companies were warned to take action “to avoid being locked out of their systems”, suggesting that the attackers were using the vulnerability in ransomware campaigns. 

Across the Atlantic, US cybersecurity officials were analyzing the incoming reports:

"CISA is working with our public and private sector partners to assess the impacts of these reported incidents and providing assistance where needed," Reuters cited the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

A VMware spokesperson said the hackers were abusing a flaw that was discovered in early 2021, and patched in February of that year. The company also urged its customers to apply the patch immediately. 

A separate report published by The Stack claims more than 500 companies have so far been affected by the campaign and indeed, it was a ransomware attack. Businesses in France are allegedly worst-hit. The country’s national government computer security incident response team, CERT-FR, says the attack is semi-automated, targeting servers vulnerable to CVE-2021-21974.

The flaw is described as an OpenSLP HeapOverflow vulnerability, allowing threat actors to execute code remotely.

So far, we don’t know which ransomware group initiated the attack and which encryptor is being deployed, but reports are saying that roughly 20 servers get hit every hour.

Sead Fadilpašić

Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.