Mitigating Midnight Blizzard’s Password Spraying Cyber Attack: Insights and Solutions by 1Kosmos

Robert MacDonald

Less than a month into 2024 and password spraying is being named as the origin for our first eye-opening cyber-attack. In a blog post, Microsoft has identified Midnight Blizzard, the Russian state-sponsored actor also known as NOBELIUM for the attack on their corporate systems.

This is another in the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity threats. As organizations continue to grapple with the reality of sophisticated cyber-attacks, it becomes imperative to look for additional alternatives to bolster defenses if a breach is due to a wider security vulnerability.

Considering the recent guidance provided by Microsoft on the “Midnight Blizzard” nation-state attack, we at 1Kosmos delve into the nuances of this threat and offer insights into how organizations can navigate through the latest attack vector.

Understanding the Midnight Blizzard Cyber-Attack

What was the Midnight Blizzard cyber-attack? As covered by Microsoft Threat Intelligence, it represents a formidable challenge for organizations worldwide. Characterized by the group’s stealthy infiltration and persistent nature, this sophisticated attack exploited network vulnerabilities and breached Microsoft’s Outlook by using a test account to authorize a custom-built malicious application.

The group utilized a password spraying attack that successfully compromised a legacy, non-production test tenant account that did not have multifactor authentication (MFA) enabled. The account inadvertently gave hackers access to the inboxes of various executives, including those in cybersecurity and legal functions.

This allowed them to steal copies of their emails and attachments through a legacy OAuth application that had elevated access to the Microsoft corporate environment. The group had access for approximately six weeks before they were discovered.

The vulnerability was not limited to Microsoft’s own environment. As part of their forensic analysis, Microsoft determined that the same group of attackers used identical tactics to target the inboxes of an unspecified number of Microsoft’s customers.

The Attack

1Kosmos Perspective: Building Security Resilience

The nature of this attack illustrates a need to eliminate passwords, strengthen multi-factor authentication, prevent lateral movement, and simpifly the IT (Information Technology) stack.

How 1Kosmos can help:

Prevent Password Spraying Attacks: 1Kosmos can eliminate passwords wherever possible, and where not possible, enforce regular password reset intervals with a password reset workflow that proves the user’s identity to ensure the reset request’s validity.

Zero Trust Methodology: 1Kosmos authentication methods exceed Zero Trust guidelines and mitigate the risk posed by attackers, by verifying every user and device attempting to access resources. The result can limit the lateral movement of attackers within their networks, thwarting sophisticated infiltration attempts.

Phish-Proof MFA: 1Kosmos strong identity-based authentication protocols perform strong authentication and significantly improve the user experience. 1Kosmos LiveID is a phishing-proof MFA that proves identity at every access request.

Risk Based Authentication: One-size-fits-all authentication solutions prove ineffective, underscoring the imperative for risk-based authentication to become the standard rather than the exception. 1Kosmos can use contextual factors like device details and location to assess the risk level and apply the right level of authentication.

Audit and Reporting: 1Kosmos is built on a private and permissioned blockchain. This private, permissioned ledger retains a detailed, immutable audit trail of all events, enabling visibility to all logins, access attempts, information updates, and shared information related to the digital identity. These logs can be shared with SOC teams and other platforms to ensure quick digital forensic analysis.

Collaborative Defenses: Collaboration and integration are key to a successful security infrastructure. 1Kosmos has built out-of-the-box integrations with industry peers (including Microsoft) to enhance the resilience of organizations against sophisticated attacks. Relying on a duct tape infrastructure and the gaps they inject is exactly what these hackers are looking to exploit. A tightly coupled integration will reduce gaps and improve an overall security posture.

Industry Certifications: 1Kosmos has taken the step to ensure the safety and security of our platform. For instance, 1Kosmos is certified to many standards including FIDO2, NIST 800-63-3, UK DIATF and iBeta DEA EPCS. The combination of these standards prevents identity impersonation, account takeover and fraud while delivering frictionless user experiences that preserve user privacy.

1Kosmos Prevents Identity Based Attacks

As the threat landscape continues to evolve, we must remain focused and adaptive in our cybersecurity strategies. The Midnight Blizzard attack serves as a stark reminder of the persistent threat posed by nation-state adversaries. By embracing a proactive, collaborative, and identity-centric approach to security, organizations can bolster their resilience and effectively navigate through the digital storm unleashed by sophisticated attackers.

At 1Kosmos, we empower remote identity verification and passwordless multi-factor authentication, facilitating secure transactions with digital services for employees, customers, and residents alike. Through the integration of identity proofing, credential verification, and strong authentication, 1Kosmos effectively combats identity-based attacks, empowering organizations with the tools, insights, and expertise needed to combat threats such as this one and safeguard their digital assets.

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Meet the Author

Robert MacDonald

Vice President of Product Marketing

Robert is the Vice President of Product Marketing at 1Kosmos. He is a highly influential senior global marketer with more than 15 years of marketing experience in B2B and B2C software in the biometric authentication space. Prior to 1Kosmos, Rob managed product strategy and vision for the Identity and Access Management portfolio at Micro Focus, leading a team of product marketers to drive sales and support the channel. Earlier in his career he set the foundation for content planning, sales enablement and GTM activities for ForgeRock. He has also held senior marketing positions at Entrust, Dell, Quest and Corel Corporation.