France uncovers SolarWinds-esque cyber attack targeting Centreon

Image of a cyber criminal using several computers in a dark room
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French cyber security authorities have disclosed a wide-reaching supply-chain attack targeting several major household names by hackers who compromised the Centreon enterprise IT platform.

The first evidence of the intrusion campaign dates back to 2017 with the attack lasting until 2020, according to the ANSSI cyber security agency. This mostly affected IT providers, in particular web hosting providers.

Centreon describes itself as a company that offers AIOps-ready IT monitoring services that provide visibility to complex IT workflows from the cloud to the edge. Its customers include Airbus and Orange among other major French clients.

During its investigation, ANSSI discovered the presence of a backdoor in the form of a web shell dropped on several Centreon servers exposed to the internet.

This backdoor was identified as the PAS web shell version 3.1.4, which is in the category of a full-featured PHP web shell used by attackers to maintain persistent access to a compromised web portal.

The same servers also played host to another backdoor identical to one that cyber security firm ESET has dubbed Exaramel, and has associated with the TeleBots threat group - a Russian cyber gang with alleged ties to the government.


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This campaign also bears several similarities with previous cyber campaigns attributed to Sandworm, an infamous group that allegedly exploits vulnerabilities for surveillance against high-value targets on behalf of the Russian government. Such Sandworm attacks were previously seen as far back as 2014 affecting Windows 7, for example.

The nature of the attack is eerily similar to the devastating SolarWinds Orion hack that affected up to 18,000 organisations, which authorities have also linked with Russian actors.

"Centreon became aware of the information made public by the Anssi this evening (Monday), at the time it was published, regarding the events that are known to have started in 2017, possibly as early as 2015," Centreon said, according to the AFP.

"We are doing everything we can to fully understand the technical information in the report," it added.

Keumars Afifi-Sabet
Features Editor

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.