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Exploits Explained: Default Credentials Still a Problem Today

SRT Community
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Popeax is a member of the Synack Red Team.

Often people think security research requires deep knowledge of systems and exploits, and sometimes it does, but in this case all it took was some curiosity and a Google search to find an alarmingly simple exploit using default credentials.

On a recent host engagement, I discovered an unusual login page running on port 8080, a standard but less often used HTTP port. The login page did not resemble anything I had encountered in the thousands of login pages across hundreds of client engagements.

Nothing new. Even for a seasoned member of the Synack Red Team (SRT), it isn’t unusual to discover commercial products that one hasn’t seen before.

The login page clearly showed the product as some type of IBM server. In the URL, I noticed the string “profoundui.” A quick Internet search identified an IBM resource that stated:

“Profound UI is a graphical, browser-based framework that makes it easy to transform existing RPG applications into Web applications, or develop new rich Web and mobile applications that run on the IBM i (previously known as the AS/400, iSeries, System i) platform using RPG, PHP, or Node.js.”

Given these facts, I Googled for “IBM AS/400 default password” and found IBM documentation that listed default AS/400 credentials.

As any elite hacker would do, I copied and pasted all six default usernames and passwords into the login form.

Sure enough the last set of credentials worked with user QSRVBAS and password QSRVBAS.

It was beyond the scope of the engagement to proceed any further to see how much access was possible. The vulnerability was documented in the report that was given to the client to be remediated.

After a few days, the client requested a patch verification of the vulnerability using Synack’s patch verification workflow. This workflow allows a client to request the SRT to verify an implemented patch within the Synack Platform. After receiving the patch verification request, I quickly verified the vulnerability was no longer exploitable.

It is hard to believe, but even today commercial products still ship and are installed with default credentials. Often the onus is on the end user to be aware they must change the credentials and lock the default accounts.

The ingenuity and curiosity of the SRT cannot be replicated by scanners or automated technology. The SRT members are adept at finding this type of vulnerability in custom and commercial applications, even while running in obscure locations, which leads to exploitable vulnerabilities being surfaced to the customer.