cybersecurity unicornHeartbleed, Shellshock, Winshock, and Kerberos Checksum are four vulnerabilities that caused problems of epic proportions in 2014. Referred to as “black swan events” or “unicorns,” these vulnerabilities have caused departments to reexamine everything from infrastructure to business continuity planning in an effort to avoid being blindsided again.

In a recent Dark Reading article, Giora Engel cross examines these four unicorns and provides detail on why they are so dangerous:

Wildly massive scope

If it has a processor and is connected to the Internet, one of these four vulnerabilities can (and probably did) directly and significantly affect it:

  • Impacts encrypted Web communications to over 66 % of Web servers
  • Impacts any UNIX/Linux server
  • Impacts any Windows workstation
  • Kerberos Checksum. Impacts any Windows-based managed network

A hacker with prior knowledge of these vulnerabilities could easily:

  • Gain access to any Web server’s private certificate and use it to eavesdrop on encrypted Web traffic or perform man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks
  • Perform remote code execution on any UNIX/Linux internet servers
  • Run any code with the highest privileges on any Windows workstation just by having it surf to a specially crafted web page
  • Gain unlimited privileges over managed corporate networks (which represent over 90% of corporate networks today)

Unbelievable Age

Unlike malware or various recently damaging and sophisticated cyberattacks, some of these vulnerabilities have been around for a very long time:

  • Shellshock: 25 years
  • Winshock: 19 years
  • Kerberos Checksum Vulnerability: 14 years
  • Heartbleed: 2 years

This means that these high-impact vulnerabilities remained unnoticed and were hiding in plain sight for an average of 15 years. Even with all the super-talented security researchers looking for weaknesses, performing code reviews and more, these vulnerabilities continued to provide “god mode” access to 90% of the Internet.

Covering All Sources

Our four vulnerabilities equally covered open and closed source systems — none were immune:

  • Heartbleed and Shellshock — open source
  • Winshock and Kerberos Checksum — closed source

For more information on these black swan events, see the full Dark Reading article


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High-Impact Vulnerabilities Come Out of Hiding

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