Fraud Management & Cybercrime , Incident & Breach Response , Ransomware

Breach Roundup: White House Calls for Memory-Safe Languages

Also: Malware Campaign Hits GitHub, Affects Over 100,000 Repos
Breach Roundup: White House Calls for Memory-Safe Languages
Image: Shutterstock

Every week, ISMG rounds up cybersecurity incidents and breaches around the world. This week, the Biden administration urged software developers to adopt memory-safe programming languages and moved to restrict Chinese connected cars, a pharma giant was breached, researchers found malicious repos in GitHub, the Phobos RaaS group is targeting the U.S., and Zyxel patched devices.

See Also: Small Business Firewall Guide

White House Urges Adoption of Memory-Safe Programming Languages

The Biden administration advocated for an industrywide shift to memory-safe programming languages such as Rust to mitigate memory-safety vulnerabilities in software. A technical report published Monday says "a proactive approach that focuses on eliminating entire classes of vulnerabilities reduces the potential attack surface and results in more reliable code, less downtime, and more predictable systems."

Memory-safe programming languages automatically prevent common memory programming errors that hackers exploit, such not closing out memory once a process is completed or allowing use of an uninitialized variable. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency advised developers to use memory-safe languages. Many advocates acknowledge that memory-safe languages aren't a panacea, since they vary in strictness. Such languages, which include Java, C# and Go, can include functions that allow apps to execute potentially unsafe memory management tasks and may rely on libraries written in non-memory safe-languages.

Cybersecurity researcher and all-around skeptic Rob Graham took to Twitter to debunk the recommendation, writing that the White House has "no understanding of the problem, and are simply responding to Rust fanatics."

"We can easily add memory safety to existing C/C++ code, but Rust fanatics don't want this. They want instead to rewrite the world's code using Rust," he said.

US Government Moves to Restrict Chinese Connected Car Tech

The Biden administration took first steps Thursday toward banning Chinese connected cars on U.S. roads, saying they are a risk to national security. Already called "computers on wheels" by security researchers, modern automobiles are adding even more digital gear in the form of advanced sensors and vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

"These technological advances will continue to rely on significant data collection not only about the vehicle and its myriad components, but also the driver, the occupants, the vehicle's surroundings, and nearby infrastructure," the Department of Commerce said in a proposed rule that could lead to prohibiting financial deals with Chinese connected car manufacturers.

In addition to surveillance by Chinese tech, which could send data back to the Beijing government, connected cars could be vectors for new cyberattacks, the advance notice of proposed rule-making states.

China and the United States are in a global race to dominate the electric vehicle market. "China is determined to dominate the future of the auto market, including by using unfair practices. China's policies could flood our market with its vehicles, posing risks to our national security. I’m not going to let that happen on my watch," President Joe Biden said in a statement accompanying the proposed rule.

The proposal is the latest in a string of actions the Biden administration has taken to limit Chinese access to the U.S. market, including an August executive order limiting U.S. investment in Chinese companies that develop advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (see: US Restricts Investment in Chinese AI, Other Technologies).

Pharmaceutical Giant Is Victim of Cyber Breach

Pharmaceutical leader Cencora, formerly AmerisourceBergen, informed U.S. regulators on Thursday about a breach of its systems in which personal data was compromised. The breach was detected on Feb. 21. The volume and nature of the stolen information remain undisclosed, leaving uncertainties regarding whether the victims are company employees or clients. Despite efforts to mitigate the breach, the company remains tight-lipped about specifics.

Cencora in a statement to Information Security Media Group on Wednesday said it has no reason to believe there is a connection between its breach and a previous incident at Change Healthcare (see: Groups Warn Health Sector of Change Healthcare Cyber Fallout).

A cyberattack on IT services firm Change Healthcare, a unit of Optum, has disrupting a large swath of the healthcare industry for more than a week. Ransomware operation BlackCat on its leak site Wednesday took responsibility for the attack, saying it has exfiltrated from Change Healthcare's systems 6 terabytes of data pertaining to a long list of Change Healthcare clients (see: Change Healthcare Outage Disrupts Firms Nationwide).

GitHub Attack: Over 100,000 Repos Affected

More than 100,000 GitHub repositories - and "presumably millions" - are affected by a campaign to create look-alike copies of known and trusted repositories that are infected with malicious code, said researchers at app security firm Apiiro.

Repo confusion attacks exploit human error. Attackers clone reputable repositories, insert malware and re-upload the repos to GitHub under identical names. Tainted repositories are then automatically forked numerous times and promoted across various online platforms to enhance their visibility, increasing the likelihood of their adoption by unwitting developers.

Once developers use code from malicious repositories, the malicious code initiates a convoluted unpacking process, involving seven layers of obfuscation. The process deploys a modified version of BlackCap-Grabber, an open-source information stealer. The stealer can extract browser cookies and passwords and hijack the Windows clipboard.

Phobos RaaS Group Is Active

An advisory from the U.S. federal government and the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center warns that the Phobos ransomware-as-a-service operation is actively targeting U.S. organizations.

The warning comes after Fortinet in January found Phobos operators spreading a crypto-locker variant dubbed Faust through a VBA script.

The ransomware group's affiliates typically gain access through phishing campaigns or by looking for vulnerable remote desktop protocol ports, the advisory says. They use brute force techniques to authenticate into the RDP service. "Threat actors leveraging Phobos have notably deployed remote access tools to establish a remote connection within the compromised network," according to the advisory.

Phobos operators earlier this month infected a string of hospitals and medical facilities in Romania.

Zyxel Addresses Security Flaws

Taiwanese networking device manufacturer Zyxel addressed multiple vulnerabilities discovered in its firewall and access point products. The vulnerabilities -which include risk of remote code execution, command injection and denial-of-service attacks - pose significant hazards to businesses if left unpatched, the company said.

One of the vulnerabilities identified by Zyxel, CVE-2023-6397, involves a null pointer dereference flaw in certain firewall versions. Exploiting this flaw could lead to denial-of-service conditions, particularly if a LAN-based attacker manages to download a crafted RAR compressed file onto a LAN-side host with the "Anti-Malware" feature enabled. CVE-2023-6398 is a post-authentication command injection vulnerability in the file upload binary of select firewall and access point versions. It could allow an authenticated attacker with administrator privileges to execute operating system commands via FTP.

Other Coverage From Last Week

With reporting from Information Security Media Group's Prajeet Nair, in Bengaluru, India; Marianne Kolbasuk McGee in Massachusetts; and David Perera in Washington, D.C.

About the Author

Anviksha More

Anviksha More

Senior Subeditor, ISMG Global News Desk

More has seven years of experience in journalism, writing and editing. She previously worked with Janes Defense and the Bangalore Mirror.

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