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CISA and FBI Publish List of Top 10 Exploited Vulnerabilities

On Tuesday, the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a joint public service announcement detailing the top 10 most exploited vulnerabilities between 2016 and 2019. These vulnerabilities have been exploited by sophisticated nation state hackers to attack organizations in the public and private sectors to gain access to their networks to steal sensitive data.

The vulnerabilities included in the list have been extensively exploited by hacking groups with ties to China, Iran, Russia and North Korea with those cyber actors are still conducting attacks exploiting the vulnerabilities, even though patches have been released to address the flaws. In some cases, patches have been available for more than 5 years, but some organizations have still not applied the patches.

Exploiting the vulnerabilities in the top 10 list requires fewer resources compared to zero-day exploits, which means more attacks can be conducted. When patches are applied to address the top 10 vulnerabilities, nation state hackers will be forced to develop new exploits which will limit their ability to conduct attacks.

“A concerted campaign to patch these vulnerabilities would introduce friction into foreign adversaries’ operational tradecraft and force them to develop or acquire exploits that are more costly and less widely effective. A concerted patching campaign would also bolster network security by focusing scarce defensive resources on the observed activities of foreign adversaries,” explains CISA and FBI in the alert.

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CISA and the FBI hope the list will help organizations to prioritize patching and are urging all organizations to invest more time and resources into patching and develop a program that will keep all system patching up to date moving forward.

Top 10 Routinely Exploited Vulnerabilities

The top 10 list of routinely exploited vulnerabilities includes flaws in Microsoft Office, Microsoft Windows, Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft .NET Framework, Apache Struts, Adobe Flash Player, and Drupal. Out of the top ten, most nation state hacking groups have concentrated on just three vulnerabilities – CVE-2017-11882, CVE-2017-0199, and CVE-2012-0158 – all of which concern Microsoft’s OLE technology. Microsoft’s Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) allows content from other applications to be embedded in Word Documents. The fourth most commonly exploited vulnerability – CVE-2017-5638 – is present in the web framework, Apache Struts. These vulnerabilities have been exploited to deploy a range of different malware payloads including Loki, FormBook, Pony/FAREIT, FINSPY, LATENTBOT, Dridex, JexBos, China Chopper, DOGCALL, WingBird, FinFisher, and Kitty.

Priority Vulnerability Affected Products
1 CVE-2017-11882 Microsoft Office 2007 SP3/2010 SP2/2013 SP1/2016 Products
2 CVE-2017-0199 Microsoft Office 2007 SP3/2010 SP2/2013 SP1/2016, Vista SP2, Server 2008 SP2, Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1
3 CVE-2017-5638 Apache Struts 2 2.3.x before 2.3.32 and 2.5.x before
4 CVE-2012-0158 Microsoft Office 2003 SP3, 2007 SP2 and SP3, and 2010 Gold and SP1; Office 2003 Web Components SP3; SQL Server 2000 SP4, 2005 SP4, and 2008 SP2, SP3, and R2; BizTalk Server 2002 SP1; Commerce Server 2002 SP4, 2007 SP2, and 2009 Gold and R2; Visual FoxPro 8.0 SP1 and 9.0 SP2; and Visual Basic 6.0
5 CVE-2019-0604 Microsoft SharePoint
6 CVE-2017-0143 Microsoft Windows Vista SP2; Windows Server 2008 SP2 and R2 SP1; Windows 7 SP1; Windows 8.1; Windows Server 2012 Gold and R2; Windows RT
7 CVE-2018-4878 Adobe Flash Player before
8 CVE-2017-8759 Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0, 3.5, 3.5.1, 4.5.2, 4.6, 4.6.1, 4.6.2 and 4.7
9 CVE-2015-1641 Microsoft Word 2007 SP3, Office 2010 SP2, Word 2010 SP2, Word 2013 SP1, Word 2013 RT SP1, Word for Mac 2011, Office Compatibility Pack SP3, Word Automation Services on SharePoint Server 2010 SP2 and 2013 SP1, and Office Web Apps Server 2010 SP2 and 2013 SP1
10 CVE-2018-7600 Drupal before 7.58, 8.x before 8.3.9, 8.4.x before 8.4.6, and 8.5.x before 8.5.1


A warning has also been issued about two vulnerabilities that have been exploited in attacks in 2020. These vulnerabilities both concern Virtual Private Network (VPN) solutions and have been exploited by nation state hackers and cybercriminal groups: The Citrix vulnerability CVE-2019-19781 and the Pulse Secure VPN vulnerability CVE-2019-11510.

The rush to implement cloud collaboration services such as Microsoft Office 365 to allow employees to work remotely due to COVID-19 has given hackers new options for attacking organizations. Hasty deployments of these solutions have led to oversights in security configurations which makes them vulnerable to attack. Cybersecurity weaknesses are also being targeted, such as poor employee education about phishing and social engineering. A lack of system recovery and contingency plans has also placed organizations at risk of ransomware attacks.

Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.