The Five Most Frequent Vulnerabilities Identified in Purple Shield’s Penetration Tests Over Recent Years

penetration testing, cybersecurity vulnerability, cybersecurity services

At Purple Shield Security, our years of experience in penetration testing have unveiled five primary vulnerabilities that persist across companies of every scale. This article breaks down these critical security issues, providing businesses with insights to better protect their digital infrastructure.

  1. Recurrent Vulnerabilities Uncovered

n our ongoing efforts to enhance business cybersecurity, we’ve identified several recurring vulnerabilities across various businesses. In this section, we’ll dissect these common issues, discuss their significance, and provide professional recommendations for safeguarding your company’s data more effectively.

  1. Password Weakness

Password Weakness remains a critical vulnerability in cybersecurity, characterized by the use of easily guessable or overly simplistic passwords across various client systems. Despite widespread knowledge of the risks associated with weak passwords, many users continue to opt for convenience over security, leading to the adoption of passwords that follow predictable patterns, such as “Companyname1”, “Password123”, or using easily accessible personal information like birthdays and anniversaries. These types of passwords are low-hanging fruits for attackers, who can exploit them to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data.

Cybercriminals employ various methods to exploit weak passwords, including brute force attacks, where they use automated tools to guess passwords rapidly, and credential stuffing, which involves using previously breached username and password pairs to gain access to other accounts. For example, when a user uses the same password across multiple platforms, and an attacker breaches one of those platforms, they could potentially access the user’s accounts on other platforms with the same credentials.

This underscores the critical need for robust password management protocols, including the use of password managers and the enforcement of complex, unique passphrases.

  1. Multifactor Authentication (MFA) Gaps

Multifactor Authentication(MFA) has become a fundamental aspect of cybersecurity, moving from being an optional extra to a vital defense mechanism against unauthorized access. Despite its importance, MFA is often not as effective as it could be due to misconfigurations and incomplete deployments, which can severely compromise the security it’s meant to enhance.

MFA misconfigurations can occur in various forms, one common issue being overly permissive initial enrollments. For instance, an organization might set up MFA for its employees but allow too much leniency in the initial setup process. This might include accepting easily obtainable factors like email verification without requiring a second, more secure factor such as a mobile push notification or a biometric factor. This leniency could enable attackers who have compromised an employee’s email to breeze through MFA setup and gain unauthorized access.

Another significant challenge is the incomplete deployment of MFA across all systems and applications where it’s necessary. For example, a company might protect its primary email system with MFA but fail to apply the same security to its cloud storage platform. Attackers can target these less-secured points of entry to bypass the security measures protecting more critical systems. An all-too-common scenario involves an attacker gaining access to a system that didn’t require MFA, using it as a foothold to launch further attacks within the network.

  1. Unpatched Vulnerabilities

The landscape of cyber threats is constantly evolving, making the timely and comprehensive application of software patches a cornerstone of cybersecurity. However, our testing often reveals lapses in this area, particularly with outdated systems or software no longer supported by vendors. Regularly updating all software layers is crucial to close potential entry points for attackers.

  1. Privileged Access Issues

Privileged Access Issues arise when individuals within an organization are granted more access rights than necessary for their role, particularly administrative privileges. These privileges can include the ability to change system settings, access confidential information, install software, and more. When too many people have such access, or when it’s not closely monitored, it creates significant security vulnerabilities.

A common issue is when employees are given local admin rights on their workstations, which allows them to install software and make system changes. While this may seem convenient, it also means that if an attacker compromises an employee’s account, they too can install malicious software or make changes to the system. An example could be a situation where an employee, with local admin rights, inadvertently downloads and installs a piece of malware, which then has the same level of access as the employee, compromising the system.

Another example is when employees are granted access to sensitive systems or data that is not necessary for their daily tasks. For instance, a marketing employee having access to financial systems or a finance employee having access to the HR system. This unnecessary access increases the risk of accidental or intentional data breaches.

  1. Microsoft and Azure Active Directory Configuration Flaws

Microsoft and Azure Active Directory (AD) serve as the backbone for managing user identities and access permissions within many organizational IT environments. These directories ensure that the right individuals have the right access to the right resources under the right conditions. However, incorrect configurations in these systems can lead to significant security vulnerabilities, potentially allowing unauthorized access to critical systems and data breaches.

One common issue is granting users more permissions than they need, similar to privileged access issues. For instance, a user who only needs to read certain data might be given permissions to modify it, increasing the risk of accidental or malicious changes.

Group policies in Microsoft AD manage the environment for user accounts and computer accounts. Misconfiguring these policies can lead to lax security, such as passwords not expiring or failing to enforce MFA. One example is a policy that allows for an overly long password expiration period, increasing the risk that compromised credentials could be used for extended periods without detection.

Beyond these primary areas, issues like web application vulnerabilities, including cross-site scripting (XSS) and broken object level authorization (BOLA), as well as deficiencies in incident detection and response, highlight the complex nature of the cybersecurity landscape.

Recommendations for Enhancing Security

To address these vulnerabilities, organizations should consider the following strategies:

  1. Strengthen Password Policies

Creating and enforcing strong password policies are foundational to securing access to systems and data. This includes setting stringent password requirements that go beyond the basics of length and complexity to incorporate elements such as passphrase guidelines, which encourage the use of longer, more memorable sequences of words. These are inherently more secure and user-friendly.

Additionally, organizations should promote the use of reputable password managers. These tools not only facilitate the creation of complex passwords without the need to remember them but also store them in a secure, encrypted format. Educating employees on the benefits and use of password managers can significantly enhance your security posture by minimizing the risk of weak passwords being the point of entry for cyber-attacks.

  1. Ensure Comprehensive MFA Implementation

Multifactor authentication (MFA) adds an essential security layer by requiring users to provide two or more verification factors to gain access to resources, thus making unauthorized access significantly harder. To ensure its effectiveness, organizations should conduct regular audits of their MFA configurations to cover all critical applications and services comprehensively.

It’s also crucial to educate users about the importance of MFA and train them on recognizing and reporting suspicious MFA prompts. This training helps in identifying potential phishing attempts or other malicious activities aimed at bypassing MFA protections.

  1. Adopt Regular Patch Management Protocols: Regularly updating software and systems is a critical defense mechanism against cyber threats. Organizations should establish protocols for monitoring and applying software updates and patches as they become available.

Prioritizing the maintenance of supported software versions is essential, as outdated software often lacks the security features and patches needed to protect against new vulnerabilities. By ensuring a routine is in place for these updates, organizations can close security gaps and safeguard their digital assets against exploitation.

  1. Limit Privileged Access

The principle of least privilege requires limiting computer, network, and system access rights strictly to what specific duties require. By restricting administrative privileges to only those personnel who truly need them, organizations can significantly reduce the risk of malicious insiders or compromised accounts causing extensive damage.

Utilizing privilege access management tools can help in enforcing these policies, ensuring that users have the appropriate level of access for their roles and nothing more. This approach limits the potential for abuse and minimizes the risk of significant security breaches.

  1. Configure Microsoft and Azure Active Directory Securely

Microsoft and Azure Active Directory (AD) is a critical component of many organizations’ IT environments, managing user and computer authentication and authorization. Regularly reviewing AD configurations and associated services is necessary to identify and rectify potential security issues before exploitation occurs.

This includes limiting permissions to the minimum necessary for each role, thereby adhering to the principle of least privilege. By conducting these reviews, organizations can ensure that their AD environment does not become a weak link in their security chain, protecting against unauthorized access and other security threats.

Recognizing these widespread vulnerabilities is the first crucial step for any organization aiming to reinforce its cybersecurity defenses. Once businesses acknowledge these vulnerabilities, they can implement targeted strategies to mitigate risks and significantly enhance their overall cybersecurity posture.

About Purple Shield Security

Purple Shield Security stands out from the crowd of cyber security firms. Picture us as the guardians of your digital space, always on the lookout to protect your business from the newest cyber dangers. We’ve got a variety of services to help keep you safe, including Managed Cyber SecurityCyber Security Consulting, Risk Analysis, Defense Services, Incident Response, and even a virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO).

Don’t put off making your business safer. Contact us now to see how Purple Shield Security can upgrade your cyber defenses.