Chinese state-backed hackers broke into a computer network that’s used by the Dutch armed forces by targeting Fortinet FortiGate devices.
“This [computer network] was used for unclassified research and development (R&D),” the Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) said in a statement. “Because this system was self-contained, it did not lead to any damage to the defense network.” The network had less than 50 users.
The intrusion, which took place in 2023, leveraged a known critical security flaw in FortiOS SSL-VPN (CVE-2022-42475, CVSS score: 9.3) that allows an unauthenticated attacker to execute arbitrary code via specially crafted requests.
Successful exploitation of the flaw paved the way for the deployment of a backdoor dubbed COATHANGER from an actor-controlled server that’s designed to grant persistent remote access to the compromised appliances.