Microsoft Groups vulnerability reveals hazard of collaboration apps

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Microsoft Groups is maybe the most important enterprise communication platform on the planet. It rose to prominence through the COVID-19 pandemic as a key house for enterprise customers to keep up productiveness.

Teams 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.

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

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


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For instance, in line 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 system. That is important as a result of it means if an attacker hacks a system the place Groups is put in they will achieve entry to authentication tokens together with different data. 

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 data, IPs and different knowledge. 

How dangerous is the Microsoft Groups vulnerability?  

This isn’t the primary time that collaboration tools like Groups have acquired criticism for being insecure. At first of this 12 months, Avanan recognized a major uptick in cyberattacks going down over Microsoft Groups, with menace actors utilizing chats and channels to flow into malicious .exe information. 

These new vulnerabilities are one other chink within the armor of purposes that purpose 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,” stated John Bambenek, principal menace hunter at Netenrich. “That isn’t to say it’s not important. The basic 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 data so cookie and credential relay attackers would disappear completely,” Bambenek added. 

The issue with collaboration apps 

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

Only in the near past it emerged {that a} bug in Slack had uncovered some customers’ hashed passwords over a interval of 5 years. That got here roughly a 12 months after attackers used stolen cookies to hack EA Games’ private communication channel, allegedly stealing 780GB of knowledge together with the Fifa 21 supply code. 

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

Regardless of these weaknesses, many organizations proceed to share protected data by way of these channels. Based on 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 data have to be cautious about utilizing communication apps that put high-value knowledge prone to publicity. That doesn’t imply they need to cease utilizing communication apps utterly. Nevertheless it does imply they need to implement strong controls to scale back the danger of knowledge leakage. 

As one Deloitte report notes, “collaboration applied sciences, whereas very important through the surge of digital work, can pose critical 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 maintain a pulse on potential threats, enact controls the place possible, and promote service availability.” 

In observe, controls embody utilizing choose sturdy randomized passwords, utilizing cloud entry safety dealer (CASB) options to determine knowledge exfiltration, implementing content material tips for platforms, and deploying an internet software firewalls to detect software layer assaults.

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