VMware vCenter Server CVE-2021-21972 Remote Code Execution Vulnerability: What You Need to Know

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VMware vCenter Server CVE-2021-21972 Remote Code Execution Vulnerability: What You Need to Know

This blog post was co-authored by Bob Rudis and Caitlin Condon.

What’s up?

On Feb. 23, 2021, VMware published an advisory (VMSA-2021-0002) describing three weaknesses affecting VMware ESXi, VMware vCenter Server, and VMware Cloud Foundation.

Before digging into the individual vulnerabilities, it is vital that all organizations that use the HTML5 VMware vSphere Client, i.e., VMware vCenter Server (7.x before 7.0 U1c, 6.7 before 6.7 U3l and 6.5 before 6.5 U3n) and VMware Cloud Foundation (4.x before 4.2 and 3.x before 3.10.1.2) immediately restrict network access to those clients—especially if they are not segmented off on a management network—implement the mitigation noted below, and consider performing accelerated/immediate patching on those systems.

Vulnerability details and recommendations

CVE-2021-21972 is a critical (CVSSv3 base 9.8) unauthenticated remote code execution vulnerability in the HTML5 vSphere client. Any malicious actor with access to port 443 can exploit this weakness and execute commands with unrestricted privileges.

PT Swarm has provided a detailed walkthrough of this weakness and how to exploit it.

Rapid7 researchers have independently analyzed, tested, and confirmed the exploitability of this weakness and have provided a full technical analysis.

Proof-of-concept working exploits are beginning to appear on public code-sharing sites.

Organizations should restrict access to this plugin and patch affected systems immediately (i.e., not wait for standard patch change windows).

VMware has provided steps for a temporary mitigation, which involves disabling the plugin.

CVE-2021-21973 is an important (CVSSv3 base 8.8) heap-overflow-based remote code execution vulnerability in VMware ESXi OpenSLP. Attackers with same-segment network access to port 427 on affected systems may be able to use the heap-overflow weakness to perform remote code execution.

VMware has provided steps for a temporary mitigation, which involves disabling the SLP service on affected systems.

Rapid7 recommends applying the vendor-provided patches as soon as possible after performing the vendor-recommended mitigation.

CVE-2021-21974 is a moderate (CVSSv3 base 5.3) server-side request forgery vulnerability affecting the HTML5 vSphere Client. Attackers with access to port 443 of affected systems can use this weakness to gain access to underlying system information.

VMware has provided steps for a temporary mitigation, which involves disabling the plugin.

Since attackers will already be focusing on VMware systems due to the other high-severity weaknesses, Rapid7 recommends applying the vendor-provided patches as soon as possible after performing the vendor-recommended mitigation.

Attacker activity

Rapid7 Labs has not detected broad scanning for internet-facing VMware vCenter servers, but Bad Packets has reported that they’ve detected opportunistic scanning. We will continue to monitor Project Heisenberg for attacker activity and update this blog post as we have more information.

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