FireEye publishes details of SolarWinds hacking techniques, gives out free tool to detect signs of intrusion

n an update and white paper [PDF] released on Tuesday, FireEye warned that the hackers – which intelligence services and computer security outfits have concluded were state-sponsored Russians – had specifically targeted two groups of people: those with access to high-level information, and sysadmins.

But the targeting of those accounts will be difficult to detect, FireEye warned, because of the way they did it: forging the digital certificates and tokens used for authentication to look around networks without drawing much or any attention.


the paper gives a detailed rundown for how to search logs and what to look for to see if an account has been compromised, complete with step-by-step instructions for how to cut access and provide additional protection in future.

“When a credential that has been added to an application is used to login to Microsoft 365, it is recorded differently than an interactive user sign-in,” the paper notes. “In the Azure Portal these logins can be viewed by navigating to Sign-Ins under the Azure Active Directory blade and then clicking the service principal Sign-ins tab… Note that currently these sign-ins are not recorded in the Unified Audit Log.”

As for mitigation measures, FireEye suggests broadly: a review of all sysadmin accounts in particular to see if there are any “that have been configured or added to a specific service principal” and remove them, and then search for suspicious application credentials and remove them too.

Search and destroy

The biz has also released a free tool on GitHub it’s calling the Azure AD Investigator that will warn organizations if there are signs their networks were compromised via SolarWinds’ backdoored Orion software: there were an estimated 18,000 organizations potentially infected, SolarWinds warned last month; many of them government departments and Fortune 500 companies.


The report outlined the four “primary techniques” used by the hackers:

  1. Steal the Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS) token-signing certificate and use it to forge tokens for arbitrary users. This bypassed various authentication requirements.
  2. Modify or add trusted domains in Azure AD to add a new federated Identity Provider (IdP) that the attacker controls. This essentially created a backdoor on the network.
  3. Compromise the credentials of on-premises user accounts that are synchronized to Microsoft 365 that have high privileged directory roles, such as Global Administrator or Application Administrator. This is the targeting of sysadmins.
  4. Backdoor an existing Microsoft 365 application by adding a new application or service principal credential in order to use the legitimate permissions assigned to the application, such as the ability to read email, send email as an arbitrary user, access user calendars, etc.



Source: FireEye publishes details of SolarWinds hacking techniques, gives out free tool to detect signs of intrusion • The Register

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