An unpatched critical vulnerability in Pulse Secure VPN
servers might have been used in the recent ransomware attack against London-based
foreign exchange company Travelex.
Hackers infected Travelex’s infrastructure with the
Sodinokibi ransomware on New Year’s Eve, forcing the company to shut down all
operations across 30 countries. The hackers say they’ve been inside the network
for the past six months and have downloaded 5GB worth of personal information,
including credit card numbers.
The hackers are now demanding Travelex pay $6 million for
them to decrypt the files and delete the stolen information. Neither of those
promises hold any certainty, as hackers often never follow through. There’s no
guarantee the data won’t hit the dark web even if they pay the ransom.
Security researcher Kevin Beaumont warns that it’s
possible that hackers gained access to the network via unpatched Pulse Secure
VPN server vulnerabilities.
Patches for these exploits have been around for more than six months, but some
companies failed to implement them, as often happens. One “commandment” of cybersecurity
is to always keep the software and hardware up to date, precisely for this
Making matters worse, cybersecurity company Bad Packets informed
Travelex about seven unpatched and vulnerable Pulse Secure VPN servers on
September 13, 2019.
As it stands, there’s 1000 estimated unpatched Pulse VPN
servers online in use in various industries worldwide. Pulse Secure issued a
statement, underlying the dangers and the path used by hackers.
“Threat actors will take advantage of the
vulnerability that was reported on Pulse Secure, Fortinet and Palo Alto VPN
products – and in this case, exploit unpatched VPN servers to propagate
malware, Revil (Sodinokibi), by distributing and activating the Ransomware
through interactive prompts of the VPN interface to the users attempting to
access resources through unpatched, vulnerable Pulse VPN servers,” Pulse
Secure said in a statement for SecurityWeek.
This is the second notable Sodinokibi infection in the
past week, with California IT service provider Synoptek having
to pay the ransom to get their operations online.
Sodinokibi is distributed as ransomware-as-a-service,
which means hackers can buy it and deploy it, with a portion of the ransomware
going back to its creators.