US Aviation Org Targeted by Iranian APT: Vulnerabilities in ManageEngine and Fortinet Exploited

US Aviation Org Targeted by Iranian APT: Vulnerabilities in ManageEngine and Fortinet ExploitedUSaviation,IranianAPT,vulnerabilities,ManageEngine,Fortinet,cyberattack,cybersecurity

US Aeronautical Organization Targeted in State-Sponsored Cyber Attack


A recent cyber attack on a US aeronautical organization has once again highlighted the persistent threat posed by state-sponsored actors in the digital realm. While the organization remains unnamed, a statement by US Cyber Command has shed light on the nature of the attack and the actors behind it. According to the statement, the attackers utilized known vulnerabilities in Zoho ManageEngine software and Fortinet firewalls, indicating their advanced capabilities and intent to exploit weaknesses in the targeted organization’s security infrastructure.

The Attack

The attackers used the CVE-2022-47966 remote code execution (RCE) flaw in Zoho ManageEngine software to gain unauthorized access to the organization’s public-facing application. This vulnerability was previously flagged by officials in January, emphasizing the importance of promptly addressing software vulnerabilities to prevent potential intrusions. It’s worth noting that this particular vulnerability could be exploited if single sign-on functionality had ever been enabled in affected ManageEngine products.

Once inside the organization’s network, the threat actors established persistence and moved laterally. In addition to the ManageEngine vulnerability, they also exploited CVE-2022-42475, a zero-day vulnerability in Fortinet firewalls. This exploit targeted a heap-based buffer overflow vulnerability in FortiOS SSL-VPN, enabling the attackers to execute arbitrary code or commands remotely. The fact that this vulnerability was being used as a zero-day highlights the sophisticated nature of the attackers’ techniques.


US Cyber Command’s statement explicitly mentioned “Iranian exploitation efforts,” indicating that the attack was sponsored by the Iranian government. The organization also acknowledged that this was not a standalone incident, as the targeted organization was under attack by multiple nation-states. This revelation underscores the ongoing cyber warfare being waged by state-sponsored actors, with the aviation sector serving as a prime target due to its critical infrastructure and economic significance.

Lessons Learned

This incident serves as a reminder that even organizations with robust security measures in place are not immune to cyber attacks. It highlights the importance of organizations proactively addressing software vulnerabilities and keeping their systems up to date with the latest patches and security updates. In this case, the risks associated with ManageEngine software and Fortinet firewalls were known, and officials had already issued warnings regarding these vulnerabilities.

Mitigation Strategies

To minimize the risk of similar attacks, the Cyber National Mission Force has urged organizations to review and implement recommended mitigation strategies. This includes considering the cross-sector cybersecurity performance goals outlined by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) and following the National Security Agency’s (NSA) recommended best practices for securing remotely accessible software. These measures can help organizations improve their cyber resilience and better defend against state-sponsored threat actors.

Editorial: Strengthening Cyber Defense in the Face of State-Sponsored Threats

The Evolving Cyber Threat Landscape

The recent attack on the US aeronautical organization once again highlights the evolving and increasingly complex cyber threat landscape. State-sponsored actors continue to demonstrate their ability to exploit vulnerabilities and infiltrate high-value targets, underscoring the urgent need for enhanced cyber defenses at both the organizational and national levels.

The Role of International Cooperation

Addressing this global challenge requires international cooperation among governments, technology companies, and cybersecurity experts. Collaborative efforts can lead to the development of robust defensive mechanisms and the identification of common threat actors. Additionally, sharing threat intelligence and best practices can significantly enhance the collective ability to detect, prevent, and respond to cyber attacks.

Investing in Cybersecurity

Governments must recognize cybersecurity as a critical national priority and allocate adequate resources to both defensive and offensive capabilities. This includes funding for research and development of cutting-edge technologies, as well as investments in training cybersecurity professionals. Additionally, private organizations must prioritize cybersecurity in their budgets and actively engage in threat intelligence sharing initiatives to contribute to the collective defense.

User Awareness and Education

End-users remain one of the weakest links in the cybersecurity chain. Organizations must invest in user awareness and education programs to equip individuals with the knowledge to recognize and respond to potential threats. By promoting a culture of cybersecurity within their workforce, organizations can create an additional layer of defense against social engineering and other deceptive tactics employed by threat actors.


The recent cyber attack on the US aeronautical organization serves as a wake-up call for organizations and governments alike. Heightened vigilance, regular software patching, implementation of best practices, and international cooperation are crucial steps in bolstering cyber defense. Recognizing cyber threats as an existential risk and committing to stronger cybersecurity measures will be pivotal in safeguarding critical infrastructure and national interests in an increasingly digital world.


US Aviation Org Targeted by Iranian APT: Vulnerabilities in ManageEngine and Fortinet Exploited
<< photo by Tima Miroshnichenko >>
The image is for illustrative purposes only and does not depict the actual situation.

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