The PwC Operation Cloud Hopper Report released earlier this week by BAE Systems and PwC UK claims a China-based cyber gang called APT10 is responsible for a hacking campaign focused on managed IT service providers (MSPs).

According to the report, “APT10 has vastly increased the scale and scope of its targeting to include multiple sectors, which has likely been facilitated by its compromise of MSPs. Such providers are responsible for the remote management of customer IT and end-user systems, thus they generally have unfettered and direct access to their clients’ networks. They may also store significant quantities of customer data on their own internal infrastructure.”

The report indicated that APT10 has utilized spear phishing campaigns as a method of entry. The group is known to conduct significant research on targets to obtain company email addresses and craft relevant messages that will trick readers into downloading a malicious attachment or clicking a link to a malicious site.

Once the MSP is compromised, APT10 use the MSPs legitimate access and credentials to infiltrate client networks that match their targeting profiles. The researchers found, “In most cases, these stolen MSP credentials have provided administrator or domain administrator privileges.” From there the attackers can move laterally around the network and deploy credential theft tools, such as mimikatz or PwDump, to gain further credentials.

The Operation Cloud Hopper report drives home the importance for both MSPs and their clients to secure both the access needed to connect and the credentials needed to authenticate for all the clients’ systems.  The key is eliminating that “unfettered and direct access” to that most MSPs have today, without limiting speed or productivity or increasing the cost of service.

1. No VPN for Vendors: VPNs and other direct access methods give all or nothing, or unfettered, access to clients’ networks. If an attacker compromises an MSP’s VPN access, they can easily move laterally within a network without being detected. Instead, third-parties should be given access to clients’ systems through a secure remote access solution that only provides access the systems and applications they need, sets permissions on what they can do on those systems, and records a secure audit trail of all activity. 

Bomgar’s Remote Support and Privileged Access solutions allow vendors to quickly access client systems and efficiently perform tasks without requiring a VPN connection. MSPs can provide superior support while significantly reducing the risk of becoming an attack vector for their clients.

2. Lock up Client Credentials: Client credentials often need to be shared with multiple employees working for the MSP. Tools such as excel sheets are often used to store this information so that it can be easily accessible, but they are easy to compromise and expose plain text passwords. It can be a challenge to identify compromised accounts and manually rotate them.

Bomgar Vault allows MSPs to securely store, rotate, and randomize all client credentials. Admin passwords can be safely shared for various clients. And when used in conjunction with Bomgar Remote Support or Privileged Access, Bomgar Vault allows MSP employees to inject credentials into clients’ endpoints without exposing plain text passwords. This significantly reduces any chance of admin or domain admin credentials being phished.

Learn more about how Bomgar helps managed service providers and contact us today to learn how Bomgar can fit into your security profile.