Story image

'Golden SAML' attack technique can bypass authentication controls

22 Nov 2017

Researchers from CyberArk Labs have uncovered a new cyber attack technique that ‘poses serious risk’, but vendors are not doing much about it.

According to the CyberArk research team, the ‘Golden SAML’ technique is a risk because attackers can fake any identity and use it to gain authentication with any cloud application, including AWS and Azure.

The attackers can use their authentication to gain the highest privilege levels and gain approved, federated access to a targeted application.

Researcher Shaked Reiner explains that the attacker can authenticate across every service that uses security assertion markup language (SAML) 2.0 as a single sign-on (SSO) mechanism.

“The SAML protocol is an open standard for exchanging authentication and authorization data between parties, in particular, between an identity provider and a service provider,” Reiner says.

He explains that Active Directory isn’t necessarily the only tool that can authenticate and authorise users. It can be part of something bigger, known as a federation.

“A federation enables trust between different environments otherwise not related, like Microsoft AD, Azure, AWS and many others. This trust allows a user in an AD, for example, to be able to enjoy SSO benefits to all the trusted environments in such federation. Talking about a federation, an attacker will no longer suffice in dominating the domain controller of his victim,” Reiner explains.

Golden SAMLs can be created from anywhere, can work even when organisations use two-factor authentication and password changes won’t affect any generated SAML.

A golden SAML attack involves:

  • Token-signing private key
  • IdP public certificate
  • IdP name
  • Role name (role to assume)
  • Domain\username
  • Role session name in AWS
  • Amazon account ID

However, he says that vendors are not applying fixes.

"It’s not a vulnerability per se, but it gives attackers the ability to gain unauthorised access to any service in a federation (assuming it uses SAML, of course) with any privileges and to stay persistent in this environment in a stealthy manner."

“Golden SAML is rather similar. It’s not a vulnerability per se, but it gives attackers the ability to gain unauthorized access to any service in a federation (assuming it uses SAML, of course) with any privileges and to stay persistent in this environment in a stealthy manner.”

He also says that these types of attacks would be difficult to detect in a network.

“Moreover, according to the ‘assume breach’ paradigm, attackers will probably target the most valuable assets in the organisation.

He suggests that organisations implement endpoint security solutions that offer privilege management. These will benefit organisations and can stop attackers from gaining unauthorised access.

SecOps: Clear opportunities for powerful collaboration
If there’s one thing security and IT ops professionals should do this year, the words ‘team up’ should be top priority.
Interview: Culture and cloud - the battle for cybersecurity
ESET CTO Juraj Malcho talks about the importance of culture in a cybersecurity strategy and the challenges and benefits of a world in the cloud.
Enterprise cloud deployments being exploited by cybercriminals
A new report has revealed a concerning number of enterprises still believe security is the responsibility of the cloud service provider.
Ping Identity Platform updated with new CX and IT automation
The new versions improve the user and administrative experience, while also aiming to meet enterprise needs to operate quickly and purposefully.
Venafi and nCipher Security partner on machine identity protection
Cryptographic keys serve as machine identities and are the foundation of enterprise information technology systems.
Machine learning is a tool and the bad guys are using it
KPMG NZ’s CIO and ESET’s CTO spoke at a recent cybersecurity conference about how machine learning and data analytics are not to be feared, but used.
Seagate: Data trends, opportunities, and challenges at the edge
The development of edge technology and the rise of big data have brought many opportunities for data infrastructure companies to the fore.
Popular Android apps track users and violate Google's policies
Google has reportedly taken action against some of the violators.