Mitigate Citrix Vulnerability in Face of PoC Exploits

Despite a Citrix warning in mid-December of a serious vulnerability in Citrix Application Delivery Controller (ADC) and Citrix Gateway (formerly NetScaler and NetScaler Gateway), thousands of companies have yet to put in place the recommended mitigations.

In the meantime, several proof of concept (PoC) exploits have been published on GitHub, making it extremely easy for attackers to gain access to networks and impersonate authorized users.

Thousands of Citrix systems still vulnerable

Initial estimates put the number of vulnerable systems at 80,000 in 158 countries. Researchers reported on 8 January that scans showed the number was probably around 60,000 and that 67% did not have mitigations enabled, including high value targets in finance, government and healthcare.

Any company that uses either of the affected Citrix products should therefore implement the mitigation measures as soon as possible to reduce the risk of unauthenticated attackers using the PoC exploits to carry out arbitrary code execution on their systems.

Citrix “strongly urges” affected customers to apply the provided mitigation and recommends that customers upgrade all vulnerable appliances to a fixed version of the appliance firmware when released.

Window of opportunity for attackers

The first security updates are expected to be available on 20 January 2020 for versions 11.1 and 12.0. A fix for versions 12.1 and 13.0 is expected on 27 January, while a fix for version 10.5 is expected only on 31 January.

In the light of the fact that PoCs have been published and various security research teams have reported evidence that attackers are scanning the internet for vulnerable appliances and attempting exploits, IT admins using affected Citrix products should not wait to implement mitigations to reduce the risk of compromise.

Mitigate and patch as soon as possible

When easily exploitable vulnerabilities are announced by suppliers, it is always a good idea to apply recommended mitigations and security updates as soon as they are available. The importance of this is underlined by the impact of attacks like WannaCry and NotPetya due to the failure of affected organizations to apply patches as soon as they were available.

Patching reduces the attack surface by ensuring that vulnerabilities are mitigated as quickly as possible. Many forms of ransomware exploit known vulnerabilities for which patches are available, for example. For more detail see KuppingerCole’s leadership brief: Defending Against Ransomware and advisory note: Understanding and Countering Ransomware.

Other related research includes:
Leadership Brief: Optimizing your Cybersecurity Spending
Leadership Brief: Penetration Testing Done Right
Leadership Brief: Responding to Cyber Incidents

Related blog posts include:
Akamai to Block Magecart-Style Attacks
Microsoft Partnership Enables Security at Firmware Level
API Security in Microservices Architectures


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