Microsoft Exchange vulnerability actively exploited

As it turns out, there was another actively exploited vulnerability included in Microsoft’s patch Tuesday updates for February.

When Microsoft said in its update guide for CVE-2024-21410 that the vulnerability was likely to be exploited by attackers, they weren’t kidding. Soon after they changed the status to “Exploitation Detected”.

Today, I was alerted to the fact after spotting a warning by the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) about the same vulnerability, Something the BSI does not do lightly.

The Exchange vulnerability is listed in the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) database as CVE-2024-21410, an elevation of privilege vulnerability with a CVSS score of 9.8 out of 10.

Microsoft’s description of the vulnerability is a bit more revealing:

“An attacker could target an NTLM client such as Outlook with an NTLM credentials-leaking type vulnerability. The leaked credentials can then be relayed against the Exchange server to gain privileges as the victim client and to perform operations on the Exchange server on the victim’s behalf.”

In a Windows network, NTLM (New Technology LAN Manager) is a suite of Microsoft security protocols intended to provide authentication, integrity, and confidentiality to users. An attacker being able to impersonate a legitimate user could prove to be catastrophic.

Microsoft Exchange Servers, and mail servers in general, are central communication nodes in every organization and as such they are attractive targets for cybercriminals. Being able to perform a pass-the-hash attack would provide an attacker with a paved way into the heart of the network.

As part of the update, Microsoft has enabled Extended Protection for Authentication (EPA) by default with the Exchange Server 2019 Cumulative Update 14 (CU14). Without the protection enabled, an attacker can target Exchange Server to relay leaked NTLM credentials from other targets (for example Outlook).

If you are running Exchange Server 2019 CU13 or earlier and you have previously run the script that enables NTLM credentials Relay Protections then you are protected from this vulnerability. However, Microsoft strongly suggests installing the latest cumulative update.

Last year, Microsoft introduced Extended Protection support as an optional feature for Exchange Server 2016 CU23.

If you are unsure whether your organization has configured Extended Protection, you can use the latest version of the Exchange Server Health Checker script. The script will provide you with an overview of the Extended Protection status of your server.

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