Today could be the day malware artists figure out how to do remote code execution on many millions of PCs and servers running Microsoft’s OS with RDP enabled. Microsoft has released a patch this patch Tuesday but who knows how many machines will be unpatched in the next few days?
Need we say more about the foolishness of leaving your IT as a monoculture of Microsoft’s stuff after decades of them demonstrating little or no concern for security?
Microsoft yesterday released updates to sew up at least seven vulnerabilities in Windows and other software. The sole “critical” update in the bunch patches a particularly dangerous flaw in all supported versions of Windows that allows attackers to seize control over vulnerable systems remotely without authentication.
In the company’s words, one of the vulnerabilities “could allow remote code execution if an attacker sends a sequence of specially crafted RDP packets to an affected system.” Only systems that have remote desktop actually enabled are vulnerable, but Microsoft recommends that everyone install the update, just in case. Affected operating systems include Windows XP, Vista, and 7, not to mention Windows Server 2003, 2008, and 2008 R2.
“Microsoft is urging organizations to apply the sole critical update in this month’s Patch Tuesday release as soon as possible. The critical bulletin – one of six security bulletins issued as part of Tuesday’s release – addresses two vulnerabilities in the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). Those IT admins who use RDP to manage their machines over the internet, which is essentially the default in cloud-based installations such as Amazon’s AWS, need to patch as quickly as possible, said Qualys CTO Wolfgang Kandek. Besides the RDP bugs, this month’s Patch Tuesday addressed five other vulnerabilities: two denial-of-service bugs and an escalation of privileges issue in Microsoft Windows; a remote code execution vulnerability in Microsoft Expression Design; and an escalation of privileges issue in Microsoft Visual Studio.”
The critical update plugs two security holes in Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), a service that is designed to let administrators access Windows systems remotely over a network. The saving grace for these vulnerabilities — which are present in Windows XP, Vista and 7, and Windows Server 2003, and 2008— is that RDP not enabled by default on standard Windows installations. That means it is far more likely to be a threat to businesses than to consumer systems.
“It needs to be configured and started by the system’s owner, which then makes the vulnerability accessible; consequently we expect that only a relatively small percentage of machines will have RDP up and running,” said Wolfgang Kandek, chief technology officer for vulnerability management firm Qualys.
Dave Marcus, director of advanced research and threat intelligence at McAfee Labs, said this bulletin should be considered a top priority, noting that Microsoft has rated its “exploitability index” as 1, meaning that Microsoft expects working exploits to be available in fewer than 30 days.
“An unauthenticated remote code execution is pretty much as bad as it gets,” Marcus said.
For users and organizations that need time to evaluate the RDP patch before installing it, Microsoft has developed and released a FixIt tool to enable “Network-Level Authentication,” which according to the company is an effective mitigation for this issue.
The remainder of today’s updates address three other Windows vulnerabilities, and problems in Microsoft Expression Design and Microsoft Visual Studio.For a breakdown of the patches, see Microsoft’s Security Bulletin Summary for March 2012. The fixes are available through Windows Update.
“A little about MS12-020…this bulletin addresses one Critical-class issue and one Moderate-class issue in Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP),” Angela Gunn, security response communications manager for Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing Group, explained in a blog post. “Both issues were cooperatively disclosed to Microsoft and we know of no active exploitation in the wild. The Critical-class issue applies to a fairly specific subset of systems – those running RDP – and is less problematic for those systems with Network Level Authentication (NLA) enabled.”
“That said, we strongly recommend that customers examine and prepare to apply this bulletin as soon as possible,” she added. “The Critical-class issue could allow a would-be attacker to achieve remote code execution on a machine running RDP (a non-default configuration); if the machine does not have NLA enabled, the attacker would not require authentication for RCE access.”
Ben Greenbaum, senior principle software engineer for Symantec’s Security Intelligence Group, agreed users should pay close attention to the RDP vulnerability.
“RDP’s purpose is to enable remote access from the Internet, but preferably to an authenticated user,” he said. “In this case, a malicious attacker can potentially take complete control of the computer. Failed exploit attempts of this issue will likely result in the user being confronted with the blue screen of death. If an attacker can bypass standard memory protection measures, however, they will have access at the kernel level.”
Those IT admins who use RDP to manage their machines over the internet, which is essentially the default in cloud-based installations such as Amazon’s AWS, need to patch as quickly as possible, Qualys CTO Wolfgang Kandek opined.
“If the patch cannot be applied that quickly or the necessary reboot cannot be scheduled, IT Admins should look into the available work-arounds that function immediately: protect the machine with restrictive firewalling, access RDP through a VPN service or switch to Microsoft’s NLA protocol that is supported in newer versions of Windows (Vista+) and is not vulnerable to the attack,” he said.
The final bulletin for the month was only rated moderate. A vulnerability in DirectWrite could result in a denial of service condition on receipt of a maliciously crafted sequence of Unicode characters.
This issue could be exploited via instant messenger clients. Windows 7, Vista and Server 2008 are affected.
Paul Henry, security and forensic analyst at Lumension, pointed out that the Internet Explorer 9 zero-day exploit used at the Pwn2own event was not addressed by Microsoft, but noted “To be fair, they received the details only yesterday.” more on that later.
He also observed that while the number of bulletins released this month represented a light load of patches, they “will be disruptive in terms of required reboots.”
This March 8th, the FBI is planning to unplug domain name servers (DNS) it set up to help eliminate malware from over half of Fortune 500 companies and government agencies still infected in early 2012. Those computers still infected with the Trojan, will not be able to access the Internet after the FBI shuts down their temporary servers.
…the feds replaced the criminals’ servers with clean ones that would push along traffic to its intended destination. Without the surrogate servers in place, infected PCs would have continued trying to send requests to aim at the now-unplugged rogue servers, resulting in DNS errors.
The malware, called DNSChanger Trojan, is said to illegally redirect traffic and prevent users from accessing the updates necessary to remove it. Without access to these critical patches, these large companies, government agencies, and home users are said to be more susceptible to hackers. (more…)
Microsoft is planning to release nine bulletins, addressing 21 vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows, Office, Internet Explorer, .NET framework and Silverlight. The patches are scheduled to be released Feb. 14.
The software giant said that four of the bulletins are listed as “critical,” and three of those, all of which affect Windows, will require a restart. The critical bulletins address errors in Windows, Internet Explorer and server-side software. They all are said to address vulnerabilities that would allow remote code execution. (more…)
It’s been twenty-five years since the first computer virus (Brain A) hit the net, and what was once an annoyance has become a sophisticated tool for crime and espionage. Computer security expert Mikko Hyppönen tells us how we can stop these new viruses from threatening the internet as we know it. This is a great video on whats going on today with computer security.
Now that 2012 is upon us, people always like to give predictions on what they think the year will turn out. I found this video recently and thought I would share it. Enjoy.
Patch up warmly this winter if you’re running Java, as Oracle’s software platform is the single biggest target for hackers. Java proved the single most popular target in the 12-month period to the end of June, according to Microsoft’s latest Security Intelligence Report has found here. Running Java as a Web-browser Plugin is much more dangerous than Flash, and you should disable the Java Applet Plugin.
Microsoft today issued software updates to patch at least 19 security holes in Windows XP, Vista, 2003 and 7 (no surprise there), including three flaws that earned the company’s most serious “critical” rating. Separately, Oracle released a security update that fixes several issues in its Java software. (more…)
According to a Security Intelligence Report from Microsoft, AutoRun—the feature in Windows that automatically executes files when you plug in a USB or connect to a network—accounts for almost half of all malware infections. These are infections that don’t require any user-input from you, so it’s kind of not your fault that your computer gets infected. By turning off AutoRun, you’ll add an extra step to certain tasks, but it’s worth it to cut down on malware 50%.
This report states that Windows XP SP3 systems get infected about ten times as much as Windows 7 SP1 64-bit systems, and six times as much vs. 32-bit Windows 7 systems. That alone is one reason why you might want to upgrade your parents’ machines to Linux. bear in mind that Windows XP should have been mostly fixed back in February of 2011. See Microsoft Security Advisory 967940. The update does not disable auto-play for CD nor DVD media, but only USB drives, external hard drives and network shares. (more…)
Wi-Fi gives us freedom from wires, but it’s not secure by default. Data is transmitted through the air, and anyone nearby can easily capture it with the right tools. As discussed below, whether you have your own Wi-Fi network or use someone else’s, employing security measures is necessary to protect company files, online accounts, and user privacy.
Why Protect Your Wi-Fi Network?
By default, Wi-Fi routers and access points aren’t secure when you purchase them. Unless you enable encryption, people nearby can easily connect to your network. At best, they just use the free wireless Internet for browsing and downloading, possibly slowing down your connections. However, if they wanted to, they could possibly access your PCs and files. They also could easily capture your passwords or hijack your accounts for websites and services that don’t use SSL encryption, such as some Web-based email clients, Facebook, and Twitter. (more…)
This trend has been brought about through advances in network protection and tighter regulation both of which have conspired to make it more difficult for hackers to compromise systems and create widespread disruption.
Traditional techniques such as SQL injection, web app hijacking and unauthorised server access are now being bypassed in favour of more rewarding social engineering practices which yield the data necessary to carry out highly organised systematic attacks.
Five influential security trends to watch in 2012 are: (more…)
It is that time again! Adobe, Apple, Microsoft and Mozilla all released updates on Tuesday to fix critical security flaws in their products. Adobe issued a patch that corrects four vulnerabilities in Shockwave Player, while Redmond pushed updates to address four Windows flaws. Apple slipped out an update that mends at least 17 security holes in its version of Java, and Mozilla issued yet another major Firefox release, Firefox 8. If there have been 17 security holes in Java just since the last release If that doesn’t convince a person to uninstall Java, I’m not sure what will.
The only “critical” patch from Microsoft this month is a dangerous Windows flaw that could be triggered remotely to install malicious software just by sending the target system specially crafted packets of data. Microsoft says this vulnerability may be difficult to reliably exploit, but it should be patched immediately. Information on the other three flaws fixed this week is here. The fixes are available via Windows Updates for most supported versions of the operating system, including XP, Vista and Windows 7.
Adobe’s Shockwave update also fixes critical flaws, but users should check to see if they have this program installed before trying to update it. To test whether you have Shockwave installed, visit this page; if you see an animation, it’s time to update. If you see a prompt to install Shockwave, there is no need to install it. Mozilla Firefox users without Shockwave Player installed may still see “Shockwave Flash” listed in the “Plugins” directory of the browser; this merely indicates that the user has Adobe’s Flash Player installed.
The vulnerabilities fixed by this update exist in versions ofShockwave 126.96.36.1999 and earlier. The latest version, v. 188.8.131.523, is available here. I’m sure it has its uses, but to me Shockwave is just another Adobe program that requires constant care and feeding. What’s more, like Adobe’s Flash Player, Shockwave demands two separate installation procedures for IE and non-IE browsers.
Hat tip to the SANS Internet Storm Center for the heads up on the Java fix from Apple. This update, available via Software Update or Apple Downloads, essentially brings Snow Leopard and Lion up to date with the Oracle patches released last month in Java 6 Update 29 (Apple maintains its own version of Java).
If you use Mozilla Firefox or Thunderbird, you may have noticed that Mozilla is pushing out another major upgrade that includes critical fixes to these programs; both have now been updated to version 8. If you’re still running Firefox version 3.6.x, Mozilla has updated that to3.6.24. Perhaps I’m becoming a curmudgeon, but I’m growing weary of the incessant update prompts from Firefox. It seems that almost every time I start it up it’s asking to restart the browser or to remove plugins that no longer work with the latest version. I’ve been gradually transitioning more of my work over to Google Chrome, which seems faster and updates the browser and any installed plugins silently (and frequently patches oft-targeted plugins like Flash Player even before Adobe officially releases the update).
I switched to Google Chrome when it first came out ago. I love it. It’s faster and makes updating easy and effortless. I still have Firefox, but Chrome is my default browser now on all my computers.