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Vulnerable internet-facing Microsoft SQL (MS SQL) Servers are being targeted by threat actors as part of a new campaign to deploy the Cobalt Strike adversary simulation tool on compromised hosts.

“Attacks that target MS SQL servers include attacks to the environment where its vulnerability has not been patched, brute forcing, and dictionary attack against poorly managed servers,” South Korean cybersecurity company AhnLab Security Emergency Response Center (ASEC) said in a report published Monday.

Cobalt Strike is a commercial, full-featured penetration testing framework that allows an attacker to deploy an agent named “Beacon” on the victim machine, granting the operator remote access to the system. Although billed as a red team threat simulation platform, cracked versions of the software have been actively used by a wide range of threat actors.

Intrusions observed by ASEC involve the unidentified actor scanning port 1433 to check for exposed MS SQL servers to perform brute force or dictionary attacks against the system administrator account, i.e., “sa” account, to attempt a log in.

images from Hacker News