The U.S. National Security Agency on Thursday issued an advisory alleging that hackers from Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) have been actively exploiting a remote code execution vulnerability in Exim Mail Transfer Agent (MTA) software, found in Unix-based systems.

Researchers and analysts reacting to the agency's warning say the announcement is an important reminder that organizations must vigilantly practice cyber hygiene by regularly patching their open-source software and securing their Secure Shell (SSH) capabilities.

Officially designated CVE-2019-10149 and patched on June 5, 2019, the critical flaw can be exploited to execute commands with root privileges, thereby enabling attackers to install programs, modify data and create new accounts, the NSA warns. Users of the popular email server software, which comes pre-installed on certain Linux distributions such as Debian and is designed to transfer emails between computers via the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), are urged to install Exim version 4.93 or later.

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