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Why you need to migrate from Atlassian Server sooner than later: The rising tide of security threats

The rising tide of security threats

Why you need to migrate from Atlassian Server sooner than later

On February 15, 2024, Atlassian Server reached its end of life — and the implications are significant. The ceasing of technical support, security updates, and bug fixes for critical vulnerabilities poses significant risks to the operational integrity and data security of organizations still relying on the platform, including downtime, potential data loss, and compliance-related issues. 

Additionally, since the termination of Atlassian Server license sales in 2021, the codebase has remained stagnant. This means current Server applications can’t scale and integrate with modern technologies. The inability to purchase new apps further restricts functionality and innovation.

Of the different risks associated with the continued use of Atlassian Server, security vulnerabilities are of the highest concern. Leading up to February 15, we saw an increase in high-severity (though not necessarily critical) security vulnerabilities exposed in Atlassian Server. Specifically, 26 vulnerabilities in November 2023, 7 in December 2023, and 28 in January 2024.

Without ongoing support and updates, businesses face heightened vulnerability to security breaches and software failures. They risk falling behind technologically — not to mention compromising the integrity of their operations. So, if your organization has yet to migrate to Atlassian Cloud or Atlassian Data Center, time is of the essence. 

In this article, we’ll discuss why it’s essential you migrate from Atlassian Server as soon as possible. Then, we’ll outline strategies for making your migration seamless.

Understanding the security risks of outdated server products

While it’s not unusual for organizations to put off migration and continue using outdated server products, doing so comes with significant security risks, including:

  • XML External Entity (XXE) processing — XXE exploits vulnerabilities in XML parsers to include external entities or references in XML documents. It can lead to sensitive data disclosure, server-side request forgery (SSRF), or remote code execution (RCE). The result is compromised confidentiality, integrity, and availability of server resources.
  • Remote Code Execution (RCE) — RCE exploits vulnerabilities to execute arbitrary code remotely. It allows unauthorized access, malware installation, or data manipulation and can result in severe consequences like data breaches or service disruptions.
  • Request smuggling — Request smuggling manipulates HTTP requests to deceive servers into processing them differently. It enables malicious actions or unauthorized data access, leading to cache poisoning, session hijacking, or bypassing security controls.
  • Information disclosure — Information disclosure is the unintentional exposure of sensitive data to unauthorized parties. Bad actors can exploit this information to access usernames, passwords, or proprietary data.
  • Denial of service (DoS) — DoS allows attackers to overwhelm the server’s resources, such as CPU, memory, or network bandwidth, by flooding it with a massive volume of requests or malformed packets. Legitimate users can’t access the server’s resources, resulting in downtime and potential financial losses.

Atlassian’s security bulletins verify that similar vulnerabilities emerged in Atlassian Server as it trekked towards its end of life. Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs) listed in the January 16, 2024 bulletin include all of the vulnerabilities listed above, demonstrating that there are real, present dangers associated with using Atlassian Server beyond its support life. 

It’s important to note that CVEs are ranked in terms of the severity of their potential impact, with the most concerning items ranked 10. And when CVEs have a rank of close to 10 (typically 9.5-10.0), Atlassian lists the vulnerability as a security advisory. 

For example, the security advisory released January 16, 2024 concerns older versions of Confluence Data Center and Server. These versions are susceptible to template injection, permitting unauthorized individuals to execute arbitrary code and resulting in RCE without authentication. This poses a significant threat, as RCE can lead to unauthorized access, data theft, system compromise, and potential disruption of critical services.

Unfortunately, this vulnerability isn’t the only high-ranking CVE in the January 2024 bulletin. It also lists five vulnerabilities with an 8.0 or higher rating impacting Atlassian Server solutions.

Three RCE vulnerabilities in Confluence — introduced respectively in versions 2.1.0 and higher, with a rating of 8.3, in version 7.13.0, with a rating of 8.0, and in version 7.13.0, with a rating of 8.6 — all permit attackers to reveal vulnerable assets in your system. While the first exploit necessitates user interaction, the latter two do not. Additionally, the first two pose significant risks to confidentiality, integrity, and availability, while the third jeopardizes confidentiality.

Meanwhile, two RCE vulnerabilities in Bamboo each have a rating of 8.8. The first stems from the org.jvnet.hudson:xstream dependency and allows a remote attacker to execute unauthorized shell commands by manipulating the processed input stream. It impacts users who depend on blocklists. The second vulnerability, caused by the com.h2database:h2 dependency, allows for RCE because CREATE ALIAS can execute unrestricted Java code.

The escalating threat landscape

The threat landscape in cybersecurity is constantly evolving, with threats becoming increasingly sophisticated and frequent. Particularly alarming is the heightened focus on targeting systems known to be unsupported or outdated. These systems often lack the necessary security updates and patches, making them easy targets for cybercriminals seeking to exploit known vulnerabilities.

Strategies bad actors use to infiltrate these legacy and unsupported systems include:

  • Advanced persistent threats (APTs) — Attackers employ sophisticated, long-term strategies to compromise high-value targets. APT actors often exploit known vulnerabilities in outdated systems to gain initial access, establish persistence, and conduct stealthy, targeted attacks to extract sensitive data or disrupt operations.
  • Ransomware attacks — Malicious actors encrypt critical data or systems and demand ransom payments for decryption. Unsupported or outdated systems are particularly vulnerable to ransomware attacks due to their lack of security updates and patches, making them easy targets for exploitation.
  • Targeted exploitation using artificial intelligence (AI) — AI-driven attack tools can analyze publicly available information about unsupported systems, such as software versions and known vulnerabilities, to craft targeted exploitation techniques. By automating the process of identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities, attackers can target outdated systems more efficiently and with higher success rates.

With support terminated, Atlassian Server is unfortunately subject to this attacker approach. And while vulnerabilities may be identified and disclosed through CVE bulletins, they’ll remain unaddressed and unpatched. This significantly increases the risk of cyberattacks. Hackers can exploit known vulnerabilities in Atlassian Server products to gain unauthorized access, compromise sensitive data, or launch other malicious activities. 

With this in mind, one thing is clear: Migrating away from Atlassian Server is a must.

Why migrate to Atlassian Cloud?

Migrating from Atlassian Server to Atlassian Cloud offers numerous benefits, including enhanced security features, regular updates, and ongoing support to address vulnerabilities. Atlassian Cloud aligns with modern security best practices, providing a more resilient and secure infrastructure for IT service management (ITSM) and other applications.

Let’s take a closer look. First, Atlassian Cloud offers enhanced security features, including encryption at rest and in transit, multi-factor authentication, and granular access controls. These features help protect sensitive data from unauthorized access and ensure compliance with various security standards and regulations.

Regular updates and patches are another significant advantage of Atlassian Cloud. With cloud-based solutions, updates apply automatically, reducing the burden on IT teams to install patches and upgrades manually. This ensures the direct implementation of the latest security fixes, minimizing the risk of security breaches and vulnerabilities.

Furthermore, Atlassian Cloud provides ongoing support to address vulnerabilities and security concerns. The Atlassian security team actively monitors for potential threats and vulnerabilities, quickly releasing patches and updates to mitigate any risks. A proactive approach to security helps organizations stay ahead of emerging threats and protects their data and systems.

In addition to these security benefits, migrating to Atlassian Cloud can also improve scalability, flexibility, and collaboration within the organization. Cloud-based solutions support easier integration with other tools and services — meaning Atlassian Cloud helps teams to work more efficiently and collaboratively.

Preparing for the migration journey

Migrating from Atlassian Server to Atlassian Cloud is a significant undertaking that requires careful planning and execution. One of the most important steps is planning out the migration timeline. 

Planning ahead allows organizations to avoid disruptions and smooths out the transition to Atlassian Cloud. Breaking down the migration process into clear, scheduled steps or increments helps you manage the complexity of the transition. Teams can prioritize tasks, allocate resources effectively, and mitigate potential risks along the way.

Organizations also need to prepare and secure data for migration. This includes ensuring data integrity, performing backups, and addressing any customizations or integrations to be migrated or reconfigured for compatibility with Atlassian Cloud.

A successful migration isn’t just about the technological shift; it’s also about how teams deploy the new technology. Users within your organization need training on how to navigate and best use the new platform and its product suite.

Partnering with Blue Ridge Consultants

With so much to do and consider, navigating the migration to Atlassian Cloud solo can be daunting. There’s not much room for error and organizations want to make sure their investment in Atlassian Cloud has a high return. Enter Blue Ridge Consultants, an experienced Atlassian Solution Partner. We’re here to support you throughout the migration journey.

We’re specialists in all things Atlassian, with expertise across the stages of migration, from initial assessment and planning to execution and post-migration support.

We work closely with you to understand your unique requirements and develop tailored migration strategies that suit your schedule, technical stack, and team capacity. We also help evaluate your current systems and processes to identify potential challenges and design a roadmap for successful migration.

Then, during the execution phase, we provide hands-on support to implement migration plans. We help you address any technical issues you encounter, supporting a smooth transition with minimal disruption to operations.

Growing pains are normal as teams adapt to new tooling and processes. That’s why we also offer post-migration support. We assist you through any challenges you may encounter and guide your organization in optimizing its Atlassian Cloud environment.

Next steps

Migration from Atlassian Server to Atlassian Cloud is imperative to tackle escalating security vulnerabilities. With the evolving threat landscape, Atlassian Server’s end of life leaves systems exposed to potential breaches. Transitioning to Atlassian Cloud ensures continuous security enhancements and comprehensive protection against these emerging threats.

Leveraging the expertise of an Atlassian Solution Partner like Blue Ridge Consultants can significantly enhance the success of your migration and ensure that your Atlassian Cloud implementation is tailored to your organization’s needs. And with our expertise, your organization can confidently navigate the migration process.

Start your migration journey and reach out to Blue Ridge Consultants to learn more about creating an effective migration plan.