RCE vulnerabilities cannot be protected by legacy security solutions. Organizations need to understand how their software functions and be able to stop any digression in milliseconds, regardless of vulnerabilities, threats, or patch status, to better secure their server workloads against these attacks.
Remote code execution (RCE) vulnerability in a “workload” – often a compute instance that runs one or more software – is the gift that keeps on giving from an attacker’s perspective. Once the vulnerability has been exploited, the attacker can launch any malicious objective they want. RCE vulnerabilities, for instance, were at the heart of the Hafnium and Kaseya cyber-attacks, which affected over 30,000 enterprises in the United States in minutes.
RCE vulnerabilities aren’t going away anytime soon, unfortunately. The US government’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recently issued a warning regarding a critical RCE vulnerability in the popular open discussion platform Discourse, while Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday release included three critical RCE vulnerabilities.
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Accessing Server Workloads with RCE
Most adversaries are well-funded, determined, and skilled and can be highly effective with a vulnerable application and an early awareness of RCE vulnerability. The application relinquishes execution control to the attacker after delivering a well- constructed payload. The attacker’s initial malicious move is to launch a reverse shell, which allows them to take complete control of the victim’s workload.
The attacker now has complete control over the compromised workload and can perform whatever malicious action they choose. Executing ransomware, scraping user credentials, exfiltrating crucial data, crypto mining, pivoting to adjacent workloads, and other actions are among them. An attacker’s creativity knows no bounds.
Do Not Depend on Legacy Security Tools
Legacy security systems lack the context needed to defend workloads from fast-moving threats that occur in a fraction of a second or two. As a result, they are fully defenseless against RCE attacks. An effective security control must initiate protection as soon as the vulnerability is exploited and far before the attacker has keyboard control to successfully guard against an attack that leverages RCE vulnerability.
Failure to do so allows the threat actor to disguise their attacks and remain undetected. Despite the fact that legacy security solutions promise to work in the application’s runtime, they can only detect attacks that follow patterns that have previously been exploited by attackers. When non-developer contributed (or attacker-influenced) code begins to execute, a true runtime security control triggers protection. Even a skilled attacker will struggle to get around a security measure that provides full runtime protection.
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Stop the Execution of Attacker-Controlled Code
True runtime protection necessitates completely mapping the software by determining how developer-supplied code will execute one step at a time. When attacker-controlled code begins to execute, the company should act quickly to stop it. Failure to do so will result in catastrophic consequences, which the attacker will be able to control. Beyond known and unknown vulnerabilities, symptoms of compromise, and historical malicious behaviors, the ability to determine exactly when attacker-influenced code has started running is invaluable.
Adopt a True Protection Strategy
True protection requires security controls that enforce how the application should execute at each stage and stop it from doing what it shouldn’t, and they do so in real time – before an attack occurs. Because dwell time of attackers is non-existent with true protection, threat actors never have an opportunity to install malware or steal data.
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