Misconfigurations Helped the Microsoft “Midnight Blizzard” Campaign

Managing Partner, CISO

My entire career has been dotted with clients and friends who overlooked the importance of regular and thorough configuration reviews. I may have seen as many default passwords and configurations as thoughtful ones. The recent Microsoft “Midnight Blizzard” campaign should serve as a reminder that even established, sizeable, and presumably mature organizations are susceptible to vulnerabilities stemming from misconfigurations.

Microsoft Midnight Blizzard: A Calculated Attack on Misconfigured Systems

As detailed in this excellent timeline rundown:  https://www.zscaler.com/blogs/product-insights/microsoft-midnight-blizzard-and-scourge-identity-attacks, the “Midnight Blizzard” campaign exploited several weaknesses and utilized multiple methods, all made more impactful by an improperly secured Microsoft environment.  

Attackers targeted misconfigured Entra ID and SaaS applications, compromising the Entra ID environment and accessing the email accounts of Microsoft’s legal, security, and senior leadership teams.  

Regular Configuration Reviews Matter

Here’s why regular configuration reviews are essential: 

  • Proactive Defense: Identifying and rectifying misconfigurations before attackers exploit them significantly reduces the risk of a security breach.
  • Compliance Adherence: Some regulations mandate specific security configurations; many indicate configuration reviews and control. Regular reviews ensure adherence to these requirements and mitigate the risk of non-compliance penalties.
  • Improved Security Posture: By systematically reviewing configurations, organizations can maintain a strong security posture and minimize potential vulnerabilities.
  • Supporting Other Controls (or at least not negating them): Your efforts and spending on strong security controls can easily be negated by misconfiguration of those or supporting controls.

Building a Robust Security Review Process

Here are some key steps to establish a comprehensive configuration review process:

  • Define Baselines: Establish a clear understanding of the desired security configurations for all systems and software used within your organization.
  • Schedule Regular Reviews: Integrate regular configuration reviews into your security practices.
  • Automate Where Possible: Utilize automated tools to streamline the review process and identify deviations from the established security baseline.
  • Address Identified Issues: Promptly address any misconfigurations identified during the review process. Those items that cannot be immediately addressed should be documented and monitored per an appropriate risk classification.

Microsoft Configuration Reviews

As part of our BSA configuration reviews and management, we are adding our formal Microsoft configuration management offering. This offering can be performed as a moment-in-time review of your MS environment configuration, or as an ongoing program to monitor, secure, and optimize your Microsoft SaaS and Cloud environments. Contact us for more information.

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