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The Risks in Vulnerable and Outdated Components

Sep 26, 2022
| by:
Shimon Brathwaite

In today’s digital world, software is ubiquitous. It is everywhere, and it touches almost every aspect of our lives. We depend on it for nearly everything we do, both in our personal and professional lives. Yet, few of us think about the risks inherent in the software we use every day. Risks in software can come from many different sources, but one of the most common is using vulnerable and outdated software components. In this blog post, we will explore why you should consider risk in vulnerable and outdated software components. We will discuss the dangers of using such software and how you can avoid them.

What are Vulnerable and Outdated Components?

Vulnerable and Outdated components are components of a system that are no longer supported or have been identified as being vulnerable to attack. As systems grow and change over time, it is often necessary to update or replace components to keep them secure. The most common example of this in an organization will be older versions of software. Older software versions usually have known security vulnerabilities that make them extremely easy to exploit for hackers and it’s important that you patch these systems quickly to prevent a potential security breach.

There are a few different ways to identify vulnerable and outdated components. One way is to look for components that are no longer supported by the vendor. This means that the vendor no longer provides security updates or patches for the component, leaving it vulnerable to attack. Another way to identify vulnerable and outdated components is to look for components that have known security vulnerabilities. These are vulnerabilities that have been publicly disclosed and for which there are known exploits.

When identifying vulnerable and outdated components, it is important to consider the impact that these components have on the security of the system. If the vulnerable component is accessible from outside the company network, for example, a vulnerable web server it's only a matter of time before hackers become aware of its presence and launch an attack against that machine.

In some cases, a vulnerable or outdated component may not seem to pose a risk because it is hidden inside the company network and not accessible from the internet. While these components are lower risk you still need to consider that an attacker can get inside of the network through another means and may be able to use that machine as a pivot point to progress further into the network. It's important to address these issues whenever they are made known to you to reduce the possibility of a data breach.

Risks of Not Fixing Vulnerable and Outdated Components

As the world increasingly relies on technology, it's important to keep all systems up-to-date and secure. Unfortunately, many companies don't do this, leaving themselves vulnerable to attack. Outdated components are especially dangerous, as they are more likely to have known security vulnerabilities.

Failing to fix these vulnerabilities can have serious consequences. Companies can be fined, sued, or even lose their business license if they are found to be using outdated or vulnerable components due to regulatory compliance regulations that mandate that companies have proper patching. In addition to this there is the risk of being hacked and suffering a data breach, which will have financial as well as reputational consequences for the business. The average cost of a data breach is over $4 million dollars globally

Types of Vulnerable/Outdated Components Attacks

Code injection

Code injection is a type of security vulnerability that allows attackers to execute malicious code on a target system. Code injection attacks are often used to take control of a system or to insert malicious code that will be executed when the system is accessed.

There are a variety of ways that code injection can be accomplished, but the most common method is through user input. Attackers can inject code into a system through user input fields, such as forms or comments. Once the code has been injected, it will be executed when the user accesses the system.

Code injection can also be accomplished through vulnerabilities in web applications. In some cases, attackers can exploit vulnerabilities to inject code into web applications. Once the code has been injected, it can be executed when the application is accessed. Below is an example of an SQL injection attack where the attacker inputted an SQL statement that will always evaluate as true in order to return all of the users in a given SQL table:

sql injection sequence

Source @ pentestlab

Buffer Overflow

A buffer overflow is a type of software vulnerability that can allow attackers to execute malicious code on a target system. This can happen when the program tries to store more data in a memory buffer than the buffer is allocated to hold. If the extra data is not handled properly, it can overwrite other parts of memory, which can lead to code execution. For example in the image below it shows that the buffer for the given application is 8 bytes long so if you input something that is 10 bytes long then the last two bytes will “overflow” and be executed outside the intended buffer.

buffer overflow

Source @ cloudflare

Buffer overflows are a serious security threat and can be very difficult to defend against. However, some measures can be taken to help mitigate the risk of a buffer overflow attack. For example, buffer size limits can be enforced and memory management can be improved. 

Command Injection

Command injection is a type of attack that allows an attacker to execute arbitrary commands on a target system. This can be done by submitting malicious input to a program that executes system commands. If the input is not properly validated, the attacker can execute arbitrary commands on the system. An attacker can use command injection to take control of a system, install malware, or even delete files. Below is an example from the open source project, damn vulnerable web application (DVWA). Here the attacker inputs the present work directory (pwd) command into a web input form and the command is executed, returning the highlighted text. 

Source @ chris young

Cross Site Scripting (XSS)

Cross-site scripting (XSS) is a type of security vulnerability that can allow attackers to inject malicious code into web pages. This code is then executed by unsuspecting users who visit the infected site. XSS attacks are a serious security threat, as they can be used to hijack user sessions, gain access to sensitive information, or even launch attacks on other websites. Below is an illustration of how the attack works.

cross site scripting

Source @ websitesecuritystore

Best Practices to Avoid Components with Known Vulnerabilities

Enable Software Composition Analysis (SCA)

Software Composition Analysis (SCA) is a process of identifying and analyzing the software components used in a system. It is a vital part of ensuring software quality and security, as it allows for the identification of risks and vulnerabilities associated with the use of third-party components.

SCA can be performed manually or using automated tools. In either case, it is important to have a clear understanding of the dependencies between components and the way they interact with each other. This will allow for the identification of potential issues and the creation of mitigation plans.

Enabling SCA is a crucial step in ensuring the quality and security of your software. By understanding the dependencies between components, you can identify risks and vulnerabilities early on and take steps to avoid them.

Deploy Web Application Firewalls (WAFs)

Web Application Firewalls (WAFs) are a critical security defense for websites and web applications. A WAF inspects incoming traffic and blocks malicious requests before they reach the web application. This helps to protect the application from many of the injection based attacks we discussed above including such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and other web-based attacks identified in the OWASP Top 10.

WAFs can be deployed in several ways, including as a cloud-based service, as an on-premises appliance, or as a software application.

Formalize the Patch Management Process

An organization's patch management process should be formalized to ensure that all systems are kept up-to-date with the latest security patches. A patch management process should include a patch repository, automated patch deployment, and patch testing.

A patch repository is a central location where all patches are stored and managed. The patch repository should be accessible to all authorized users. Automated patch deployment is the process of automatically deploying patches to systems. This can be done using a patch management system or a script. Patch testing is the process of testing patches to ensure that they do not cause any negative side effects. Patch testing should be done before deploying patches to production systems. Lastly, the patch management process should be reviewed and updated regularly.

Enforce Continuous Monitoring (Penetration Testing)

As information systems become increasingly complex, the need for continuous monitoring of these systems grows as well. Traditional security methods are no longer enough to keep up with the constantly changing landscape of information security. This is where penetration testing comes in.

Penetration testing is a way of simulating an attack on an information system to find weaknesses and vulnerabilities. By finding and addressing these weaknesses, you can help to keep your system secure against real attacks.

There are different types of penetration tests, but all of them aim to find weaknesses in a system so that they can be fixed. Continuous monitoring of your systems is essential to keeping them secure.

If you have an information system, it is important to make sure that it is constantly monitored for security vulnerabilities. Penetration testing is one way to do this. 

Conclusion

There are many reasons to consider risk in vulnerable and outdated components. First and foremost, these components can pose a security risk. Additionally, they can be difficult to update and maintain, and they can cause compatibility issues. Finally, they can be a financial and reputational risk by causing data breaches. To learn more about how to manage risk in your organization, subscribe to our newsletter.

Sources

https://www.ibm.com/security/data-breach

https://owasp.org/www-project-top-ten/

https://chris-young.net/2018/03/28/dvwa-command-injection/

https://websitesecuritystore.com/blog/real-world-cross-site-scripting-examples/

https://www.cloudflare.com/learning/security/threats/buffer-overflow/

https://chris-young.net/2018/03/28/dvwa-command-injection/

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About the Author

Shimon Brathwaite
Shimon Brathwaite is a cybersecurity professional, Consultant, and Author at securitymadesimple. He is a graduate of Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. He has worked in several financial institutions in security-related roles, as a consultant in incident response and is a published author with a book on cybersecurity law. My professional certifications include Security+, CEH and AWS Security Specialist.
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