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Wednesday, 14 April 2021 17:54

FBI cleans up Web shells on Microsoft Exchange Server installations Featured

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FBI cleans up Web shells on Microsoft Exchange Server installations Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

The FBI has intervened to clean up the mess left by attacks on on-premise Microsoft Exchange Server installations after obtaining court orders to access hundreds of vulnerable machines in the US and remove Web shells.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Department of Justice said these servers had been exploited in January and February by some groups who used zero-day vulnerabilities that Microsoft publicised on 3 March.

More groups piled on in March while some of the earlier Web shells were removed by the owners, the statement said.

The FBI removed the shells by issuing a command through the Web shell to the server, which was designed to cause the server to delete only the Web shell which was identified by its unique file path.

The DoJ said this operation had no connection to the announcement of new vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange on Tuesday.

“Today’s court-authorised removal of the malicious Web shells demonstrates the Department’s commitment to disrupt hacking activity using all of our legal tools, not just prosecutions,” said assistant attorney-general John Demers for the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

“Combined with the private sector’s and other government agencies’ efforts to date, including the release of detection tools and patches, we are together showing the strength that public-private partnership brings to our country’s cyber security.

"There’s no doubt that more work remains to be done, but let there also be no doubt that the Department is committed to playing its integral and necessary role in such efforts.”

Acting US Attorney Jennifer Lowery of the Southern District of Texas said: “Combatting cyber threats requires partnerships with private sector and government colleagues.

“This court-authorised operation to copy and remove malicious Web shells from hundreds of vulnerable computers shows our commitment to use any viable resource to fight cyber criminals.

"We will continue to do so in co-ordination with our partners and with the court to combat the threat until it is alleviated, and we can further protect our citizens from these malicious cyber breaches.”

Acting assistant director Tonya Ugoretz of the FBI’s Cyber Division said: “This operation is an example of the FBI’s commitment to combatting cyber threats through our enduring federal and private sector partnerships.

“Our successful action should serve as a reminder to malicious cyber actors that we will impose risk and consequences for cyber intrusions that threaten the national security and public safety of the American people and our international partners.

"The FBI will continue to use all tools available to us as the lead domestic law enforcement and intelligence agency to hold malicious cyber actors accountable for their actions.”


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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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