Nothing in this world is fully secure, from our borders to cyberspace. I know vulnerabilities are bad, but the worst part comes in when people just don't care to apply patches on time.

Late last year, Cisco's Talos intelligence and research group discovered three critical remote code execution (RCE) vulnerabilities in Memcached that exposed major websites including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, to hackers.

Memcached is a popular open-source and easily deployable distributed caching system that allows objects to be stored in memory.

The Memcached application has been designed to speed up dynamic web applications (for example php-based websites) by reducing stress on the database that helps administrators to increase performance and scale web applications.

It's been almost eight months since the Memcached developers have released patches for three critical RCE vulnerabilities (CVE-2016-8704, CVE-2016-8705 and CVE-2016-8706) but tens of thousands of servers running Memcached application are still vulnerable, allowing attackers to steal sensitive data remotely.

Researchers at Talos conducted Internet scans on two different occasions, one in late February and another in July, to find out how many servers are still running the vulnerable version of the Memcached application.

And the results are surprising...

Results from February Scan:

  • Total servers exposed on the Internet — 107,786
  • Servers still vulnerable — 85,121
  • Servers still vulnerable but require authentication — 23,707

And the top 5 countries with most vulnerable servers are the United States, followed by China, United Kingdom, France and Germany.

Results from July Scan:

  • Total servers exposed on the Internet — 106,001
  • servers still vulnerable — 73,403
  • Servers still vulnerable but require authentication — 18,012

After comparing results from both the Internet scans, researchers learned that only 2,958 servers found vulnerable in February scan had been patched before July scan, while the remaining are still left vulnerable to the remote hack.

Data Breach & Ransom Threats

This ignorance by organisations to apply patches on time is concerning, as Talos researchers warned that these vulnerable Memcached installations could be an easy target of ransomware attacks similar to the one that hit MongoDB databases in late December.

Although unlike MongoDB, Memcached is not a database, it "can still contain sensitive information and disruption in the service availability would certainly lead to further disruptions on dependent services."

The flaws in Memcached could allow hackers to replace cached content with their malicious one to deface the website, serve phishing pages, ransom threats, and malicious links to hijack victim's machine, placing hundreds of millions of online users at risk.

"With the recent spate of worm attacks leveraging vulnerabilities this should be a red flag for administrators around the world," the researchers concluded.

"If left unaddressed the vulnerabilities could be leveraged to impact organisations globally and affect business severely. It is highly recommended that these systems be patched immediately to help mitigate the risk to organisations."

Customers and organisations are advised to apply the patch as soon as possible even to Memcached deployments in "trusted" environments, as attackers with existing access could target vulnerable servers to move laterally within those networks.

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