Hackers backed by nation-states are exploiting critical vulnerabilities in the Pulse Secure VPN to bypass two-factor authentication protections and gain stealthy access to networks belonging to a raft of organizations in the US Defense industry and elsewhere, researchers said.
At least one of the security flaws is a zero-day, meaning it was unknown to Pulse Secure developers and most of the research world when hackers began actively exploiting it, security firm Mandiant said in a blog post published Tuesday. Besides CVE-2021-22893, as the zero-day is tracked, multiple hacking groups—and at least one that likely works on behalf of the Chinese government—are also exploiting several Pulse Secure vulnerabilities fixed in 2019 and 2020.
“Mandiant is currently tracking 12 malware families associated with the exploitation of Pulse Secure VPN devices,” researchers Dan Perez, Sarah Jones, Greg Wood, and Stephen Eckels wrote. “These families are related to the circumvention of authentication and backdoor access to these devices, but they are not necessarily related to each other and have been observed in separate investigations. It is likely that multiple actors are responsible for the creation and deployment of these various code families.”