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CISA Releases a Directive Asking Organizations to Patch Known Exploited Vulnerabilities

Posted on Nov 22, 2021 | Updated on December 01, 2022 | By Surojoy Gupta, Priya Ravindran, Pavithra Shankar

DHS CISA released a Binding Directive mandating organizations to patch a list of Known Exploited Vulnerabilities on November 03, 2021, with specified deadlines. This catalog started with 287 vulnerabilities, and the count stands at 859 today. This blog performs risk-based scrutiny of the vulnerabilities included in the catalog and provides additional threat context for each vulnerability. Our team of experts has also mapped each vulnerability to tactics, techniques, and procedures used by hackers to exploit them. 

Watch our experts decode CISA KEV!

Our researchers deep-dived into these vulnerabilities to understand the criticality of these CVEs and why they need to be addressed within the deadlines specified by CISA.

 

CVEs to Be Patched by December 2022

We have already crossed the patching deadline for 852 of the CISA KEVs. A further seven vulnerabilities need to be patched by the end of December 2022. 

We are fast running out of time to patch the CISA KEVs, with the last due date currently on the list being December 19, 2022.  If your organization still has a long way to go, CSW can help you prioritize the ones that pose the most danger to you.

Threat Analysis

A major part of our vulnerability research is the analysis of threat groups, including Advanced Persistent (APT) Groups and ransomware groups that are exploiting the vulnerabilities. In this section, we discuss the threat groups associated with the Known Exploited vulnerabilities warned about by CISA.

 

APTs

199 of CISA KEVs have APT associations, with over 50% of the CVEs linked to multiple groups. A huge majority of these APT groups have links to China, followed by Russian state-sponsored groups.

CVE-2012-0158 and CVE-2017-11882 have over 20 APT groups associated with each of them, making them pet favorites of threat actors.  

  • CVE-2012-0158 is a remote code execution vulnerability in Microsoft’s Windows Common Controls (MSCOMCTL.OCX). With a critical CVSS severity of 9.3, the vulnerability belongs to the weakness CWE-94, leading to code injection issues.

  • CVE-2017-11882 is a remote code execution vulnerability that exists in Microsoft Office versions 2007 to 2016.  Its weakness CWE-119, leads to Improper Restriction of Operations within the Bounds of a Memory Buffer, one of the Top 20 Most Dangerous Software Weaknesses as listed by MITRE

APT29 or the Nobelium group is the single most prolific APT amongst this group, with links to most of the APT vulnerabilities. This is the threat group behind the infamous Solarwinds supply chain attack back in December 2021.

Ransomware

211 of CISA KEVs have ransomware associations, with over 50% linked to multiple groups. A total of 11 vulnerabilities have been identified as exploited by more than 10 ransomware groups each.

CVE-2015-0359 has more than 50 ransomware associations with the likes of Cerber, Reveton, Cryptomix and Magniber on the list. CVE-2013-7331 and CVE-2013-3896 have more than 35 groups associated with each of them, including the infamous Sodinokibi and Cerber families.

A notable call out is CVE-2017-0143 which has 11 ransomware associations and 9 APT associations, marking it as a formidable threat to organizations using Microsoft Server Message Block servers. The Citrix vulnerability, CVE-2019-19781, is another worthy mention with 12 ransomware and 7 APT associations.

Read more about the vulnerabilities called out by CISA that are associated with ransomware here.

 

Critical CVEs Ignored by CISA

Our analysts highlight trending vulnerabilities that are yet to be added to CISA KEVs, which have the potential to cause severe impact if exploited. CSW has also repeatedly called these out in blogs and reports.

CVE

Patch

Threat Type

CVSS Severity

Added to CISA post CSW call out*
CVE-2022-26352 Patch Now Ransomware CRITICAL 17 days after being called out here (25 Aug)
CVE-2022-2294 Patch Now Spyware HIGH 17 days after being called out here (25 Aug)

CVE-2022-2004

Patch Now

Malware

NA

-

CVE-2022-2003

Patch Now

Malware

NA

-

CVE-2021-45461

Patch Now

Malware

CRITICAL

-

CVE-2020–9934

Patch Now

Spyware

MEDIUM

31 days after being called out here (08 Sep)

CVE-2019-9489

Patch Now

APT

HIGH

-

*Note:The above CVEs were explicitly highlighted in this blog on Aug 8, 2022

CVE Patch Threat Type CVSS Severity Added to CISA post CSW call out*

CVE-2016-1001

Patch Now

Malware,Ransomware

CRITICAL

 

CVE-2021-3493

1, 2

Malware

HIGH

30 days after being called out here (20 Oct)

CVE-2021-31196

Patch Now

APT

HIGH

 

CVE-2021-31206

Patch Now

APT,Ransomware

HIGH

 

CVE-2021-33768

Patch Now

APT

HIGH

 

CVE-2021-34470

Patch Now

APT

HIGH

 

CVE-2021-45046

1, 2, 3

APT

CRITICAL

 

CVE-2021-45105

1, 2, 3

APT

MEDIUM

 

*Note:The above CVEs were explicitly highlighted in this blog on Sep 21, 2022

CVE Patch Threat Type CVSS Severity Added to CISA post CSW call out*

CVE-2022-34721

Patch Now

APT

CRITICAL

 

CVE-2021-42298

Patch Now

Trending, Exploitation in the wild

HIGH

 

*Note:The above CVEs were explicitly highlighted in this blog on Dec 01, 2022

 

We have also noticed trending threats that are not part of CISA KEVs yet. However, these vulnerabilities do not fit into the KEV criteria, owing to factors like missing patches or lack of evidence of active exploitation. Nonetheless, we are noticing higher interest in these threats in hacker channels and urge users to be extra vigilant in tracking vendor updates for these vulnerabilities.

CVE

Vendor 

Product

CVSS Severity

CVE-2021-24284

Kaswara Project

Kaswara

CRITICAL

CVE-2020-26879

Commscope

Ruckus Vriot

CRITICAL

CVE-2020-26878

Commscope

Ruckus Vriot

HIGH

CVE-2020-12501

Pepperl Fuchs, Korenix

Multiple firmware versions

CRITICAL

CVE-2018-6055

Google

Chrome

HIGH

CVE-2022-3180 Wordpress WPGateway -

 

Watch our experts decode CISA KEV!


Exploit Analysis

Exploits for 448 vulnerabilities in the CISA KEV are available in the public domain. These include exploits falling into four different categories:

  • Remote Code Execution that can allow attackers to execute custom code from anywhere

  • Privilege Escalation providing attackers with elevated privileges once they gain entry into a network

  • Denial of Service that can lead to network takeovers or complete shutdown

  • Web Application Exploit codes capable of compromising web applications.

Let's look into an exploit breakdown for the CISA vulnerabilities.

Exploit Type

No. of CVEs

RCE/PE

372

RCE

322

PE

196

DoS

92

WebApp

251

Note: Some CVEs have multiple exploits associated with them.

With around 40% of the vulnerabilities having dangerous RCE/PE exploit codes, it is of utmost importance that organizations address these vulnerabilities at the earliest. If exploited, the consequences could be grave.

 

Latency Analysis

As part of our exploit analysis, we studied the latencies in NVD disclosure that magnified the impact of the exploited vulnerabilities. 

Latency Metrics

Overall

Critical

High

Medium

Low

Exploit before patch

151

79

59

12

0

Same day

72

37

32

3

-

Exploit after patch

180

78

83

14

-

Further, we also compared latencies with respect to patches released for the vulnerabilities to understand the trends behind attacks waged by hackers and threat actors alike.

Latency Metrics

Overall

Critical

High

Medium

Same day

202

79

101

19

Patch after NVD

166

77

69

20

Patch before NVD

461

162

238

59

We identified some interesting observations from our latency analysis of the CISA KEVs.

  • Attackers are going after vulnerabilities even if they have existing patches or workarounds. Interestingly, most of the exploit codes were made publicly available after a patch was released for the vulnerability. This makes a strong case for organizations to revisit their patching cadence and address the vulnerabilities with a higher probability of exploitation.

  • Vulnerabilities are often identified and patched before they are added to the NVD. Thus, while the NVD is a reliable source, organizations need a more accurate threat intelligence platform to remediate potential threats proactively.

Read more about our deeper analysis into the latencies here.

Interesting Nuggets

CISA temporarily removes Windows vulnerability: On May 13, 2022, CISA removed CVE-2022-26925 from its KEV catalog as Microsoft botched its May patch update for the vulnerability that was being exploited and could result in authentication failures. On July 1, 2022, CISA re-added this security bug that resulted from Active Directory (AD) certificate authentication issues. CISA continues to urge administrators to apply the May updates to Windows client devices and non-domain controller Windows servers.

 

Weakness Analysis

The CISA KEVs are manifestations of over 70 different weaknesses in software. Almost 70% of these common weakness enumerations (CWEs) are part of MITRE’s Top 41 CWEs, and 57% are categorized under OWASP’s Top 10 error categories. This highlights the serious implications of these vulnerabilities that are present across hundreds of products currently being used by thousands of users. 

Here is a look into the top five weaknesses paving the way for the CISA KEVs:

Weakness

Description

Number of vulnerabilities

OWASP Ranking

MITRE Ranking

CWE-20 Improper input validation 102 A3 (Sensitive Data Exposure) 4

CWE-119

Improper Restriction of Operations within the Bounds of a Memory Buffer

81

-

17

CWE-787

Out-of-bounds Write

75

-

1

CWE-78

Improper Neutralization of Special Elements used in an OS Command ('OS Command Injection')

52

A3 (Sensitive Data Exposure)

5

CWE-416

Use after free

46

-

7

All developers need to be aware of the weaknesses they are introducing during the design stage and take steps to avoid such errors at the source.

 

CSW Has Called Out About 30% of KEVs

CSW’s researchers have called out 340+ of the KEVs in the past through detailed blogs, exhaustive coverage of patch watch news items, and comprehensive reports. 

 

Patch Analysis

About 47% of the CISA KEVs have direct patches available. For the rest, mitigations such as upgrades or workarounds are available. Overall, 50% of the CISA KEVs have workarounds. We strongly recommend organizations to immediately apply the workarounds in the event that they are unable to patch the vulnerabilities immediately.

Patching Deadlines

DHS CISA’s initiative of reducing risk through the Known Exploited Vulnerabilities (KEV) catalog is a remediation drive with strict timelines. Below, we look at the stipulated deadlines by which sets of vulnerabilities need to be patched. 

 Patching Deadlines 

 Number of CVEs 

December 2021

126

January 2022

3

February 2022

15

March 2022

103

April 2022

127

May 2022

218

June 2022

128

July 2022

35

August 2022

29

September 2022

40

October 2022

13

November 2022 15
December 2022 7

 

A meticulous remediation drive is definitely the need of the hour, as it forces the hand of federal entities and critical organizations to take immediate action to improve their cyber hygiene.

 

However, with the CISA KEV list now expanding to include 750+ vulnerabilities, organizations that haven't managed to keep up are at a loss. With no threat context available, security teams are struggling to prioritize from amongst these KEVs. 

 

CSW researchers have been closely monitoring the developments, and we can help organizations understand why a certain KEV needs to be prioritized. Our definitive threat intelligence can provide the much needed threat context to connect the dots and close the gaps in your security strategy

Reach out to us for a CISA KEV assessment.

 

CSW’s security researchers have also performed the mapping of the CISA KEVs to Mitre TTPs, addressing data gaps and other challenges along the way. Read more on our research here.

 

Note: This story is continuously evolving, so please follow our blogs to keep abreast of the updates to the CISA KEV, and their detailed analysis.

 

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