2022-Microsoft Teams vulnerability shows danger of collaboration apps


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Microsoft Groups is probably the most important enterprise communication platform on the earth. It rose to prominence in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic as a key area for enterprise customers to keep up productiveness.

Groups has over 270 million monthly active users. The pandemic helped speed up the platform’s attain from 75 million customers in April 2020 to 115 million in October 2020, and 145 million in April 2021.

General, Gartner recorded a 44% rise in employees’ use of collaboration instruments since 2019, to the purpose the place 80% of employees had been utilizing collaboration instruments for work in 2021.

Whereas these instruments are handy, their widespread use has opened the door to some severe vulnerabilities. 


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For instance, in keeping with analysis launched by Vectra yesterday, variations of Groups for Home windows, Mac and Linux are storing authentication tokens in plain textual content on the underlying machine. That is important as a result of it means if an attacker hacks a system the place Groups is put in they’ll acquire entry to authentication tokens together with different info. 

This vulnerability highlights that enterprises can’t afford to depend on the safety of consumer-grade, public-grade communication platforms once they’re speaking delicate info, IPs and different knowledge. 

How unhealthy is the Microsoft Groups vulnerability?  

This isn’t the primary time that collaboration instruments like Groups have obtained criticism for being insecure. In the beginning of this yr, Avanan recognized a big uptick in cyberattacks going down over Microsoft Groups, with risk actors utilizing chats and channels to flow into malicious .exe recordsdata. 

These new vulnerabilities are one other chink within the armor of functions that goal to be enterprise-grade communication platforms.

“In essence, that is nonetheless [the] unsolved downside of stealing cookies and different net credentials by attackers with native entry,” mentioned John Bambenek, principal risk hunter at Netenrich. “That isn’t to say it’s not important. The elemental downside is that attackers can steal a cookie and apply it to any variety of machines to replay an authenticated machine.”

“I wish to see builders and tech firms ship these credentials hashed with some local-machine particular info so cookie and credential relay attackers would disappear completely,” Bambenek added. 

The issue with collaboration apps 

Collaboration apps aren’t proof against vulnerabilities. Like every piece of browser-based software program, they’ve underlying bugs and will be focused with web-based assaults and phishing makes an attempt. 

Only recently it emerged {that a} bug in Slack had uncovered some customers’ hashed passwords over a interval of 5 years. That got here roughly a yr after attackers used stolen cookies to hack EA Games’ private communication channel, allegedly stealing 780GB of information together with the Fifa 21 supply code. 

The issue isn’t that options like Slack or Microsoft are significantly weak, however that they’re not optimized to maintain up with the extent of subtle threats concentrating on trendy organizations from each cybercriminals and state-sponsored actors. 

Regardless of these weaknesses, many organizations proceed to share protected info by way of these channels. In accordance with Veritas Technologies, 71% of workplace employees globally admit to sharing delicate and business-critical firm knowledge utilizing digital collaboration instruments. So what can organizations do? 

Limiting the danger of collaboration apps  

Vectra reported the brand new Groups vulnerability to Microsoft in August, however the latter disagreed that the severity of the vulnerability warranted patching. 

In any case, enterprises processing and managing commerce secrets and techniques or regulated info must be cautious about utilizing communication apps that put high-value knowledge liable to publicity. That doesn’t imply they need to cease utilizing communication apps utterly. However it does imply they need to implement strong controls to scale back the danger of information leakage. 

As one Deloitte report notes, “collaboration applied sciences, whereas very important in the course of the surge of digital work, can pose severe threats to organizational safety and privateness if not correctly managed. As these applied sciences develop their attain and prevalence in enterprise operations, organizations ought to hold a pulse on potential threats, enact controls the place possible, and promote service availability.” 

In follow, controls embrace utilizing choose sturdy randomized passwords, utilizing cloud entry safety dealer (CASB) options to establish knowledge exfiltration, implementing content material pointers for platforms, and deploying an online software firewalls to detect software layer assaults.

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