Attackers Can Take Control of Your Network in Three Seconds, and How to Stop Them

by | Oct/23/2020

An attacker can plug into any network port in your building and, within 3 seconds, take control of your entire network.

The attacker does not need to know any passwords; they do not even need a username. They plug in a cable, and 3 seconds later, they’ve completely compromised your network. An attacker posing as a visitor, a copier repair person, or a member of a cleaning crew can all compromise your organization. They can steal sensitive information, install ransomware, and can shut down operations entirely. They bypass the majority of, if not all, of your other protections because now they’re a Domain Administrator.

This exploit is so severe that the Department of Homeland Security directed all federal agencies to apply the patch in accordance with the Federal Emergency Directive 20-04.

Take these three steps ASAP:

First, ask your IT team if they’ve backed up your Domain Controller servers and applied Microsoft’s patches that address the Zerologon exploit CVE-2020-1472. They must do this immediately. Be compassionate if they’ve not. IMPORTANT: Realize that if an attacker already took over a network, the patch doesn’t help.

Second, if you have Domain Controllers using operating systems older than Windows Server 2008 R2, your IT professionals must shut them down for good. Be sure to migrate any mission-critical services to other servers.

Third, does your organization rely on third parties to support you? What if one of your major suppliers, a distributor, or your biggest customer falls prey to an attack? Prepare your organization now for an interruption of their operations. Be sure their executives know about this flaw and these three steps. You do not want a catastrophe at their organization to domino and cause a disaster for you, even though you’ve protected your systems.

Additional steps:

Inform your work-from-home team members that, in some cases, the attacker can take over your network using a VPN connection. Do you have an armed guard at every work-from-home user’s home to watch visitors? Of course not. But your entire organization might rely on their security. What if a teenager’s friend feels like playing around, experimenting, with this new cool exploit on a mom or dad’s computer?

The patches only protect you from attacks from Windows devices. If an attacker accesses a network port or cable with a non-Windows machine, the attacker can still take control of your network. Microsoft will release a second patch on February 9, 2021. Ask your IT team to configure alerts now to monitor security log events 5827 thru 5831 to see when connections are allowed or denied.

The average time for IT Professionals to apply critical security patches is five months, but you need to help yours be above average. Ask them what you can do to help them have time to test and install all critical security patches within 14 days or sooner. They might want to have a patch management tool. They might need more time to devote to applying updates.

Confirm that your IT Team disconnects or disables all unused Ethernet ports, including those in conference rooms. Lock doors to any offices and conference rooms that contain active Ethernet ports. Train everyone to be proactive and remove opportunities for anyone, including guests and repair people, to plug a device into a network port.

Keep in mind that 911 systems, airlines, governments, and every organization that you depend on are at risk for Zerologon exploit CVE-2020-1472 until they take action too.

Please forward this to fellow executives you care about so they can support their IT Professionals successfully backing up servers and applying the emergency patch.