The vulnerability described on this and the following page affects various versions of the EXIM mail transfer agent (4.87 – 4.91). If you have any of these versions of EXIM in a non-default configuration, you may be at risk of this vulnerability being exploited.
The Operation Configured team have contacted you because research indicates that your organisation may have this vulnerability and it is exposed to the public internet. While it is possible that this information is incorrect because of the method of vulnerability identification employed by the Operation, it is important you establish for yourself whether your organisation is vulnerable. If you establish that your systems are vulnerable, there is an increased risk you will fall victim to a potentially devastating criminal cyber attack.
There is another technically focused summary of this vulnerability available for ICT and other technical teams. You should use them to support you in making choices about how to approach this situation.
IMPORTANT: While SEROCU are notifying organisations of this vulnerability, Officers from the team will NOT be asking for any information or other details. They will only be providing information. Any unsolicited contact claiming to be from the Police should always be treated with caution. For more information read about Verifying Authenticity.
About this Vulnerability
In June 2019, researchers discovered this vulnerability affecting certain versions of EXIM with non-default configurations, which allows criminals to remotely gain full access to these systems with administrative privileges (system / root) by sending certain commands to these systems with a specially crafted email.
Criminals can then install programs of their choice depending on their objectives, modify / delete data or email settings and even create new accounts. There is also the risk that this could enable further potential vulnerabilities to be exploited and allow the criminals to move laterally within enterprise networks and gain more access to systems, services and data.
It has been widely reported that this vulnerability in Exim has been exploited globally after just one week of the vulnerability being publicly disclosed. The common objective being to install ‘crypto-jacking’/’crypto-mining’ code on the Exim servers. The Russian military have been reportedly to have been exploiting this vulnerability since at least August 2019.
Crypto-jacking effectively uses your computer power and electricity in efforts to generate criminals their own cryptocurrency. This effectively decreases the speed and efficiency of your network and reduces the operational time these servers work before developing a fault.
The Risk this Vulnerability poses
There are significant risks should you choose to ignore or accept this vulnerability remaining in your system. Criminals are known to have been scanning for vulnerable EXIM servers and using them to attack and exploit organisations. Consequences may include, but are not limited to:
- Access to sensitive / confidential data
- Adding unauthorised user accounts onto the server
- Modification, deletion or theft of data
- Theft of electricity (crypto-mining)
- Increased degradation of affected hardware
- Corruption of your backups
- Using you to attack others that you work with, damaging your reputation
- Ransomware attack against your systems
- Fines from regulators such as the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)
- Your organisation ceasing operations because of system failure, reputational damage or financial losses
News Reporting of Exploitation of this Vulnerability
The exploitation of this vulnerability made the headlines:
The next steps for your organisation should be to:
- Verify the presence of this vulnerability in your organisation; if so:
- Establish if this vulnerability has already been exploited on your systems
- Work with your ICT team or provider to establish the degree of threat, potential harm and risk posed to your organisation
- Isolate and mitigate the risk as soon as possible
- Establish a plan to resolve this vulnerability and eliminate the risk
- Plan to improve your cybersecurity for the future
For more information: