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Microsoft Teams vulnerability shows threat of collaboration apps

Internet Cyber Security digital concept

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Microsoft Teams could very well be the largest enterprise communication platform on the planet. It rose to prominence through the COVID-19 pandemic as an integral space for enterprise users to keep up productivity.

Teams has over 270 million monthly active users. The pandemic helped accelerate the platforms reach from 75 million users in April 2020 to 115 million in October 2020, and 145 million in April 2021.

Overall,Gartner recorded a 44% rise in workers usage of collaboration tools since 2019, to the stage where 80% of workers were utilizing collaboration tools for work in 2021.

While these tools are convenient, their widespread use has opened the entranceway for some serious vulnerabilities.


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For instance, in accordance with research released by Vectra yesterday, versions of Teams for Windows, Mac and Linux are storing authentication tokens in plain text on the underlying device. That is significant since it means if an attacker hacks something where Teams is installed they are able to access authentication tokens and also other information.

This vulnerability highlights that enterprises cant afford to depend on the security of consumer-grade, public-grade communication platforms when theyre communicating sensitive information, IPs along with other data.

How lousy may be the Microsoft Teams vulnerability?

This isnt the 1st time that collaboration tools like Teams have obtained criticism to be insecure. In the beginning of the year, Avanan identified a substantial uptick in cyberattacks occurring over Microsoft Teams, with threat actors using chats and channels to circulate malicious .exe files.

These new vulnerabilities are another chink in the armor of applications that try to be enterprise-grade communication platforms.

Essentially, that is still [the] unsolved issue of stealing cookies along with other web credentials by attackers with local access, said John Bambenek, principal threat hunter at Netenrich. That isnt to state its not significant. The essential problem is that attackers can steal a cookie and utilize it on a variety of machines to replay an authenticated machine.

I’d like to see developers and tech companies send these credentials hashed with some local-machine specific information so cookie and credential relay attackers would disappear entirely, Bambenek added.

The issue with collaboration apps

Collaboration apps arent immune to vulnerabilities. Like any little bit of browser-based software, they will have underlying bugs and will be targeted with web-based attacks and phishing attempts.

Just lately it emerged a bug in Slack had exposed some users hashed passwords over an interval of five years. That came roughly per year after attackers used stolen cookies to hack EA Games personal communication channel, allegedly stealing 780GB of data like the Fifa 21 source code.

The issue isnt that solutions like Slack or Microsoft are particularly weak, but that theyre not optimized to maintain with the amount of sophisticated threats targeting modern organizations from both cybercriminals and state-sponsored actors.

Regardless of these weaknesses, many organizations continue steadily to share protected information through these channels. In accordance with Veritas Technologies, 71% of workers in offices globally admit to sharing sensitive and business-critical company data using virtual collaboration tools. Just what exactly can organizations do?

Limiting the chance of collaboration apps

Vectra reported the brand new Teams vulnerability to Microsoft in August, however the latter disagreed that the severe nature of the vulnerability warranted patching.

Regardless, enterprises processing and managing trade secrets or regulated information have to be wary of using communication apps that put high-value data vulnerable to exposure. That doesnt mean they ought to stop using communication apps completely. Nonetheless it does mean they ought to implement robust controls to lessen the chance of data leakage.

As you Deloitte report notes, collaboration technologies, while vital through the surge of virtual work, can pose serious threats to organizational security and privacy or even properly managed. As these technologies expand their reach and prevalence running a business operations, organizations should keep a pulse on potential threats, enact controls where feasible, and promote service availability.

Used, controls include using select strong randomized passwords, using cloud access security broker (CASB) answers to identify data exfiltration, implementing content guidelines for platforms, and deploying a web application firewalls to detect application layer attacks.

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