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Forescout and JSOF Disclose New DNS Vulnerabilities, Impacting Millions of Enterprise and Consumer Devices

Forescout Research Labs | April 12, 2021

Today, Forescout Research Labs, partnering with JSOF Research, disclose NAME:WRECK, a set of nine vulnerabilities affecting four popular TCP/IP stacks (FreeBSD, Nucleus NET, IPnet and NetX). These vulnerabilities relate to Domain Name System (DNS) implementations, causing either Denial of Service (DoS) or Remote Code Execution (RCE), allowing attackers to take target devices offline or to take control over them.

The widespread use of these stacks and often external exposure of vulnerable DNS clients lead to a dramatically increased attack surface. This research is further indication that the community should fix DNS problems that we believe are more widespread than what we currently know.

This research uncovered vulnerabilities on very popular stacks:

  1. Nucleus NET is part of the Nucleus RTOS. The Nucleus RTOS website mentions that more than 3 billion devices use this real-time operating system, such as ultrasound machines, storage systems, critical systems for avionics and others. The most common device types running Nucleus RTOS include building automation, operational technology and VoIP.
  2. FreeBSD is widely known to be used for high-performance servers in millions of IT networks and is also the basis for other well-known open-source projects, such as firewalls and several commercial network appliances. The most common device types on Device Cloud running FreeBSD include computers, printers and networking equipment.
  3. NetX is usually run by the ThreadX RTOS. Typical applications include medical devices, systems-on-a-chip and several printer models. ThreadX was known to have 6.2 billion deployments in 2017, with mobile phones (probably in baseband processors), consumer electronics and business automation being the most common product categories. The most common device types running ThreadX include printers, smart clocks and energy and power equipment in Industrial Control Systems.

Organizations in the Healthcare and Government sectors are in the top three most affected for all three stacks. If we conservatively assume that 1% of the more than 10 billion deployments discussed above are vulnerable, we can estimate that at least 100 million devices are impacted by NAME:WRECK.

The details of these vulnerabilities are described in our technical report and will be presented at Black Hat Asia 2021.

Helping the community to fix DNS vulnerabilities

Disclosing these vulnerabilities to vendors provides much-needed information and education on the impacted products and continues the dialogue in the research community:

  1. We urge developers of TCP/IP stacks that have yet to be analyzed to take the anti-patterns available in our technical report, check their code for the presence of bugs and fix them. To help with this process, we are releasing open-source code developed for the Joern static analysis tool. This code formalizes the anti-patterns we identified, allowing researchers and developers to automatically analyze other stacks for similar vulnerabilities.
  2. We invite researchers, developers and vendors to reach out to us if they are interested in a set of small proof-of-concept crashing network packets for the identified anti-patterns. These packets can be used to automatically test intrusion detection rules.
  3. We realized that many vulnerabilities exist because RFC documents are either unclear, ambiguous or too complex. To help prevent such issues from reappearing in the future, we have submitted to the IETF an informational RFC draft where we list the anti-patterns we identified and how to avoid them while implementing a DNS client or server.

Recommended Mitigation

Complete protection against NAME:WRECK requires patching devices running the vulnerable versions of the IP stacks. FreeBSD, Nucleus NET and NetX have been recently patched, and device vendors using this software should provide their own updates to customers.

However, patching devices is not always possible, and the required effort changes drastically depending upon whether the device is a standard IT server or an IoT device.

Given the challenges of patching, we also recommend the following mitigation strategy:

  1. Discover and inventory devices running the vulnerable stacks. Forescout Research Labs has released an open-source script that uses active fingerprinting to detect devices running the affected stacks. The script is updated constantly with new signatures to follow the latest development of our research. Forescout customers using eyeSight can also automatically identify devices using FreeBSD, Nucleus RTOS, ThreadX or VxWorks.
  2. Enforce segmentation controls and proper network hygiene to mitigate the risk from vulnerable devices. Restrict external communication paths, and isolate or contain vulnerable devices in zones as a mitigating control if they cannot be patched or until they can be patched.
  3. Monitor progressive patches released by affected device vendors and devise a remediation plan for your vulnerable asset inventory, balancing business risk and business continuity requirements.
  4. Configure devices to rely on internal DNS servers as much as possible and closely monitor external DNS traffic since exploitation requires a malicious DNS server to reply with malicious packets.
  5. Monitor all network traffic for malicious packets that try to exploit known vulnerabilities or possible 0-days affecting DNS, mDNS and DHCP clients. Anomalous and malformed traffic should be blocked, or its presence should be at least alerted to network operators. To exploit NAME:WRECK vulnerabilities, an attacker should adopt a similar procedure for any TCP/IP stack. This means that the same detection technique used to identify exploitation of NAME:WRECK will also work to detect exploitation on other TCP/IP stacks and products that we could not yet analyze. In addition, Forescout eyeInspect customers that enabled the threat detection SD script delivered as part of AMNESIA:33 can detect exploitation of NAME:WRECK.

For more information, visit our NAME:WRECK resources page.