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TRU Positives: Weekly investigation summaries and recommendations from eSentire's Threat Response Unit (TRU)

NetSupport Manager - Insecure by Default

BY eSentire Threat Response Unit (TRU)

February 13, 2023 | 5 MINS READ


Threat Intelligence

Threat Response Unit

TRU Positive/Bulletin

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NetSupport Manager exposes hundreds of machines to remote takeover

Adversaries don’t work 9-5 and neither do we. At eSentire, our 24/7 SOCs are staffed with Elite Threat Hunters and Cyber Analysts who hunt, investigate, contain and respond to threats within minutes.

We have discovered some of the most dangerous threats and nation state attacks in our space – including the Kaseya MSP breach and the more_eggs malware.

Our Security Operations Centers are supported with Threat Intelligence, Tactical Threat Response and Advanced Threat Analytics driven by our Threat Response Unit – the TRU team.

In TRU Positives, eSentire’s Threat Response Unit (TRU) provides a summary of a recent threat investigation. We outline how we responded to the confirmed threat and what recommendations we have going forward.

Here’s the latest from our TRU Team…

In a recent intrusion investigation conducted by eSentire’s incident handling team, the laptop of a work-from-home user was compromised via a remote-control software called NetSupport Manager. The software had been legitimately installed by the IT team to facilitate remote support and administration, but unexpected circumstances left the machine exposed to attackers on the Internet.

The circumstances involved two factors that were not anticipated by the IT team when they deployed the software:

Our incident handlers were able to confirm this state of affairs by downloading a trial version of the NetSupport software and using it to connect to the compromised laptop via the public IP address of the user’s home router. No credentials were necessary to gain control of the user’s desktop.

The NetSupport Manager component that listens for and handles incoming remote-control sessions is called the Client. During initial installation via the InstallShield Wizard, the Client is installed in a listening state ready to accept connections on TCP port 5405.

Unless an extra step is performed using a separate application (the NetSupport Client Configurator component), the Client will allow unauthenticated remote-control connections, leaving the host in a vulnerable state. 

The lack of authentication by default is documented in a knowledge base article by the vendor, but neither the setup wizard nor the Getting Started guide make it sufficiently clear that extra steps via a separate application are necessary to enable authentication.

Insecure Default Configuration

Figure 1 NetSupport Manager install options

When the NetSupport Manager service is deployed manually via the InstallShield Wizard, there are three setup types to choose from: Typical, Client, and Custom (Figure 1). In all cases (if the Client component is included in the custom setup options), the installation concludes with the host in a vulnerable state.

No indication is given to the user that a separate step in the Client Configurator component is required to set up the authentication for the remote-control sessions.

The Configurator can operate in two modes: Basic and Advanced. In Basic mode, the configurator allows a pre-shared key (called Client Security Key) to be set. If the key doesn’t match on both sides of the connection, the attempt will fail.

Alternatively (or in addition to the security key), a user password can be set so the remote user will be prompted before a session can be established. Once these security options are configured, the Configurator app restarts the client for the new settings to take effect.

In Advanced mode, the Configurator app allows more flexible user authentication options to be set, including integrated Windows authentication, Active Directory authentication, and RADIUS authentication (Figures 2-3).

Figure 2 NetSupport Client Configurator basic authentication options
Figure 3 NetSupport Client Configurator advanced authentication options

Scanning For Misconfigured NetSupport Clients

Since it is very easy to leave a NetSupport Client in a vulnerable state, we decided to perform an Internet-wide scan to determine how prevalent such vulnerable configurations are in the wild. An Nmap version scan of the public IPv4 address space revealed 542 publicly accessible NetSupport clients on TCP port 5405 (Figure 4).

Of these, over 20% (111 hosts) were found to require no authentication whatsoever. The scanning can be automated via NetSupport Manager’s custom scripting engine, which provides a VB.NET-like domain-specific scripting language to automate various tasks (Figure 5).

Figure 4 Geographical distribution of publicly accessible NetSupport clients
Figure 5 Sample NetSupport script for connection scanning

Recommendations from the Threat Response Unit (TRU)

It is clear that the insecure default configuration of NetSupport clients leads to a high rate of unintended misconfigurations in the wild. Our scan of the public IPv4 address space indicates that over 20% of publicly accessible NetSupport clients allow remote access with no authentication whatsoever.

Attackers seem to be aware of this issue, since a lab host we intentionally left exposed to the public was found by an attacker in less than an hour, suggesting that threat actors are continuously scanning for vulnerable NetSupport clients to exploit.

Therefore, we strongly recommend:

eSentire’s Threat Response Unit (TRU) is a world-class team of threat researchers who develop new detections enriched by original threat intelligence and leverage new machine learning models that correlate multi-signal data and automate rapid response to advanced threats.

If you are not currently engaged with an MDR provider, eSentire MDR can help you reclaim the advantage and put your business ahead of disruption.

Learn what it means to have an elite team of Threat Hunters and Researchers that works for you. Connect with an eSentire Security Specialist.

eSentire Threat Response Unit (TRU)
eSentire Threat Response Unit (TRU)

The eSentire Threat Response Unit (TRU) is an industry-leading threat research team committed to helping your organization become more resilient. TRU is an elite team of threat hunters and researchers that supports our 24/7 Security Operations Centers (SOCs), builds threat detection models across the eSentire XDR Cloud Platform, and works as an extension of your security team to continuously improve our Managed Detection and Response service. By providing complete visibility across your attack surface and performing global threat sweeps and proactive hypothesis-driven threat hunts augmented by original threat research, we are laser-focused on defending your organization against known and unknown threats.

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