Posts Tagged: microsoft


10
Dec 13

Zero-Day Fixes From Adobe, Microsoft

Adobe and Microsoft today each separately released security updates to remedy zero-day bugs and other critical vulnerabilities in their software. Adobe issued fixes for its Flash and Shockwave players, while Microsoft pushed out 11 updates addressing at least two dozen flaws in Windows and other software.

crackedwinFive of today’s 11 update bundles earned Microsoft’s “critical” rating, meaning that the vulnerabilities those patches fix can be exploited remotely by malware or miscreants without any help from users. At the top of the priority list for Windows users should be MS13-096, a patch that plugs a critical zero-day security hole in certain versions of Windows and Office. Microsoft first warned about this flaw on Nov. 5.

Microsoft also is urging customers and system administrators to prioritize two other critical fixes:  MS13-097, a cumulative patch for Internet Explorer (all versions), and MS13-099, which fixes a dangerous scripting issue in Windows. All three of these patches fix bugs that Microsoft says are likely to be exploited by attackers in the near future.

Ross Barrett, senior manager of security engineering at Rapid7, points out a noteworthy patch (MS13-104) for users of Microsoft Office 2013’s “cloud” services, which apparently fixes another vulnerability that is actively being exploited. “This information disclosure issue affects the Office ‘client’ and could allow an attacker to hijack an authentication token and gain access to documents stored in cloud resources,” Barrett said.

For more information on today’s updates, see the roundups at Microsoft’s Technet Blog, the SANS Internet Storm Center Diary, and the Qualys blog.

 ADOBE FLASH AND SHOCKWAVE UPDATES

Adobe has issued a patch for its Flash Player software that addresses at least two security holes, including a vulnerability that is already under active attack. Adobe said it is aware of reports of an exploit designed to trick the user into opening a Microsoft Word document with malicious Flash (.swf) content. The company credits researcher Attila Suszter for reporting the flaw; more information about this bug is available at Suszter’s blog.

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5
Dec 13

ZeroAccess Botnet Down, But Not Out

Europol, Microsoft Kneecap Click-Fraud Botnet

Authorities in Europe joined Microsoft Corp. this week in disrupting “ZeroAccess,” a vast botnet that has enslaved more than two million PCs with malicious software in an elaborate and lucrative scheme to defraud online advertisers.

The action comes partly from Europol’s European Cybercrime Center (EC3), as well as law enforcement cybercrime units from Germany, Latvia, Switzerland and the Netherlands, countries that hosted many of the Internet servers used to control the ZeroAccess botnet.

In tandem with the law enforcement moves in Europe, Microsoft filed a civil lawsuit to unmask eight separate cybercriminals thought to be operating the giant botnet, and to block incoming and outgoing communications between infected PCs in the United States and those 18 control servers, according to a statement released by EC3.

The malware the powers the botnet, also known as “ZAccess” and “Sirefef,” is a complex threat that has evolved significantly since its inception in 2009. It began as a malware delivery platform that was used to spread other threats, such as fake antivirus software (a.k.a. “scareware”).

In recent years, however, the miscreants behind ZeroAccess rearchitected the botnet so that infected systems were forced to perpetrate a moneymaking scheme known as “click fraud” — the practice of fraudulently generating clicks on ads without any intention of fruitfully interacting with the advertiser’s site.

Maps of ZeroAccess infected PCs in Texas. Source: botnetlegalnotice.com

Maps of ZeroAccess infected PCs in Texas. Source: botnetlegalnotice.com

It remains unclear how much this coordinated action will impact the operations of ZeroAccess over the long term. Early versions of ZeroAccess relied on a series of control servers to receive updates, but recent versions of the botnet malware were designed to make the network as a whole more resilient and resistant to targeted takedowns such as the one executed this week.

Specifically, ZeroAccess employs a peer-to-peer (P2P) architecture in which new instructions and payloads are distributed from one infected host to another. P2P-based botnets are designed to eliminate a single point of failure, so that if one node used to control the botnet is knocked offline, the remainder of the botnet can still function.

The actions this week appear to have targeted the servers that deliver a specific component of ZeroAccess that gives infected systems new instructions on how to defraud various online advertisers — including Microsoft. While this effort will not disable the ZeroAccess botnet (the infected systems will likely remain infected), it should allow Microsoft to determine which online affiliates and publishers are associated with the miscreants behind ZeroAccess, since those publishers will have stopped sending traffic directly after the takedown occurred.

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5
Dec 13

How Many Zero-Days Hit You Today?

On any given day, nation-states and criminal hackers have access to an entire arsenal of zero-day vulnerabilities  — undocumented and unpatched software flaws that can be used to silently slip past most organizations’ digital defenses, new research suggests.  That sobering conclusion comes amid mounting evidence that thieves and cyberspies are ramping up spending to acquire and stockpile these digital armaments.

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Security experts have long suspected that governments and cybercriminals alike are stockpiling zero-day bugs: After all, the thinking goes, if the goal is to exploit these weaknesses in future offensive online attacks, you’d better have more than a few tricks up your sleeve because it’s never clear whether or when those bugs will be independently discovered by researchers or fixed by the vendor. Those suspicions were confirmed very publicly in 2010 with the discovery of Stuxnet, a weapon apparently designed to delay Iran’s nuclear ambitions and one that relied upon at least four zero-day vulnerabilities.

Documents recently leaked by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden indicate that the NSA spent more than $25 million this year alone to acquire software vulnerabilities from vendors. But just how many software exploits does that buy, and what does that say about the number of zero-day flaws in private circulation on any given day?

These are some of the questions posed by Stefan Frei, research director for Austin, Texas-based NSS Labs. Frei pored over reports from and about some of those private vendors — including boutique exploit providers like Endgame Systems, Exodus Intelligence, Netragard, ReVuln and VUPEN — and concluded that jointly these firms alone have the capacity to sell more than 100 zero-day exploits per year.

According to Frei, if we accept that the average zero-day exploit persists for about 312 days before it is detected (an estimate made by researchers at Symantec Research Labs), this means that these firms probably provide access to at least 85 zero-day exploits on any given day of the year. These companies all say they reserve the right to restrict which organizations, individuals and nation states may purchase their products, but they all expressly do not share information about exploits and flaws with the affected software vendors.

Frei's minimum estimate of exploits offered by boutique exploit providers each year.

Frei’s minimum estimate of exploits offered by boutique exploit providers each year.

KNOWN UNKNOWNS

That approach stands apart from the likes of HP TippingPoint‘s Zero-Day Initiative (ZDI) and Verisign‘s iDefense Vulnerability Contributor Program (VCP), which pay researchers in exchange for the rights to their vulnerability research. Both ZDI and iDefense also manage the communication with the affected vendors, ship stopgap protection for the vulnerabilities to their customers, and otherwise keep mum on the flaws until the vendor ships an update to fix the bugs.

Frei also took stock of the software vulnerabilities collected by these two companies, and found that between 2010 and 2012, the ZDI and VCP programs together published 1,026 flaws, of which 425 (44 percent) targeted flaws in Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, Sun and Adobe products. The average time from purchase to publication was 187 days.

“On any given day during these three years, the VCP and ZDI programs possessed 58 unpublished vulnerabilities affecting five vendors, or 152 vulnerabilities total,” Frei wrote in a research paper released today.

vcp-zdi

Frei notes that the VCP and ZDI programs use the information they purchase only for the purpose of building better protection for their customers, and since they share the information with the software vendors in order to develop and release patches, the overall risk is comparatively low. Also, the vulnerabilities collected and reported by VCP and ZDI are not technically zero-days, since one important quality of a zero-day is that it is used in-the-wild to attack targets before the responsible vendor can ship a patch to fix the problem.

In any case, Frei says his analysis clearly demonstrates that critical vulnerability information is available in significant quantities for private groups, for extended periods and at a relatively low cost.

“So everybody knows there are zero days, but when we talk to C-Level executives, very often we find that these guys don’t have a clue, because they tell us, ‘Yeah, but we’ve never been compromised’,” Frei said in an interview.  “And we always ask them, ‘How do you know?'”

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25
Nov 13

Spam-Friendly Registrar ‘Dynamic Dolphin’ Shuttered

The organization that oversees the Internet domain name registration industry last week revoked the charter of Dynamic Dolphin, a registrar that has long been closely associated with spam and cybercrime.

Scott Richter. Image: 4law.co.il

Scott Richter. Image: 4law.co.il

The move came almost five years after this reporter asked the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to investigate whether the man at the helm of this registrar was none other than Scottie Richter, an avowed spammer who has settled multi-million-dollar spam lawsuits with Facebook, Microsoft and MySpace over the past decade.

According to the contracts that ICANN requires all registrars to sign, registrars may not have anyone as an officer of the company who has been convicted of a criminal offense involving financial activities. While Richter’s spam offenses all involve civil matters, this reporter discovered several years ago that Richter had actually pleaded guilty in 2003 to a felony grand larceny charge.

Richter’s felony rap was detailed in a January 2004 story in the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News; a cached copy of that story is here. It explains that Denver police were investigating a suspected fencing operation involving the purchase and sale of stolen goods by Richter and his associates. Richter, then 32, was busted for conspiring to deal in stolen goods, including a Bobcat, a generator, laptop computers, cigarettes and tools. He later pleaded guilty to one count of grand larceny, and was ordered to pay nearly $38,000 in restitution to cover costs linked to the case.

After reading this story, I registered with the Colorado state courts Website and purchased a copy of the court record detailing Richter’s conviction — available at this link (PDF) — and shared it with ICANN. I also filed an official request with ICANN (PDF) to determine whether Richter was in fact listed as a principal in Dynamic Dolphin. ICANN responded in 2008 that it wasn’t clear whether he was in fact listed as an officer of the company.

But in a ruling issued last week, ICANN said that analysis changed after it had an opportunity to review information regarding Dynamic Dolphin’s voting shares.

“Prior to this review, ICANN had no knowledge that Scott Richter was the 100% beneficial owner of Dynamic Dolphin,” ICANN wrote. “In light of this review, ICANN initiates a review of the application for accreditation from 2011. Based on Section II. B. of the Statement of Registrar Accreditation Policy, Dynamic Dolphin did not disclose in its application for accreditation that Scott Richter was the 100% beneficial owner of Dynamic Dolphin or that Scott Richter was convicted in 2003 for a felony relating to financial activities.”

ICANN has ordered that Dynamic Dolphin be stripped of its accreditation as a registrar, and that all domains registered with Dynamic Dolphin be transferred to another registrar within 28 days. Neither Richter nor a representative for Dynamic Dolphin could be immediately reached for comment.

ICANN’s action is long overdue. Writing for The Washington Post in May 2008, this author called attention to statistics gathered by anti-spam outfit Knujon (“NOJUNK” spelled backwards), which found that more than three quarters of all Web sites advertised through spam at the time were clustered at just 10 domain name registrars. Near the top of that list was Dynamic Dolphin, a registrar owned by an entity called CPA Empire, which in turn is owned by Media Breakaway LLC – Richter’s company. Another story published around that same time by The Washington Post showed that Media Breakaway was behind the wholesale hijacking of some 65,586 Internet addresses from a San Francisco, Calif. organization that was among the early pioneers of the Internet.

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17
Sep 13

Microsoft: IE Zero Day Flaw Affects All Versions

Microsoft said today that attackers are exploiting a previously unknown, unpatched vulnerability in all supported versions of its Internet Explorer Web browser. The company said it is working on an official patch to plug the security hole, but in the meantime it has released a stopgap fix to help protect affected customers.

IEwarningMicrosoft said it is aware of targeted attacks that attempt to exploit the vulnerability (CVE-2013-3893) in IE 8 and IE 9 versions of the default Windows browser. According to an advisory issued today, the flaw is a remote code bug, which means malware or miscreants could use it install malware just by coaxing IE users to browse a hacked or malicious Web site.

The Fix It solution is available from this link. To apply it, click the Fix It icon above the Fix This Problem link. Applying this solution may limit some functionalities of IE, so if you run into problems after applying this interim patch, you can click the Fix It icon to the right of that “enable” button to reverse the update.

Update: As several readers have already noted in the comments, this Fix It solution is for 32-bit versions of IE only. In 64-bit Windows, you can tell whether the browser you’re using is a 32-bit or 64-bit version by opening the Windows Task Manager (Ctrl+Shift+Esc) and clicking the Processes tab. The number that appears after the process name (in this case, iexplore.exe) indicates the version in use.


10
Sep 13

Adobe, Microsoft Push Critical Security Fixes

Adobe and Microsoft each separately released a raft of updates to fix critical security holes in their software. Adobe pushed patches to plug holes in Adobe Acrobat/Reader and its Flash and Shockwave media players. Microsoft released 14 13 patch bundles to fix at least 47 security vulnerabilities in Windows, Office, Internet Explorer and Sharepoint.

crackedwinFour of the 13 bulletins Microsoft released today earned the company’s “critical” rating, meaning that on balance they address vulnerabilities that can be exploited by miscreants or malware to break into vulnerable systems without any help from users.

For enterprises and those who need to prioritize the installation of updates, Microsoft recommends installing the Outlook, Internet Explorer and SharePoint Server fixes as soon as possible. The Sharepoint update addresses some ten vulnerabilities, including one that Microsoft says was publicly disclosed prior to today’s patch batch.

Adobe’s Flash update fixes at least four flaws in the widely-installed media player, and brings the player to version 11.8.800.168 for Mac and Windows users (users of other OSes please see the chart below). Google Chrome should auto-update itself to the latest version for Chrome (11.8.800.170 for Windows, Mac and Linux); Google says it is in the process of rolling out the update, although my test version of Chrome is still stuck at v. 11.8.800.97, even after installing updates for Chrome and restarting. Likewise, Internet Explorer 10 should auto-update to the latest version. To find out which version of Flash you have installed, see this page.

The most recent versions of Flash are available from the Adobe download center, but beware potentially unwanted add-ons, like McAfee Security Scan). To avoid this, uncheck the pre-checked box before downloading, or grab your OS-specific Flash download from here. Windows users who browse the Web with anything other than Internet Explorer will need to apply this patch twice, once with IE and again using the alternative browser (FirefoxOpera, e.g.).

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9
Jul 13

Adobe, Microsoft Release Critical Updates

Patch Tuesday is upon us once again. Adobe today pushed out security fixes for its Flash and Shockwave media players. Separately, Microsoft released seven patch bundles addressing at least 34 vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows and other software. At least one of the Windows flaws is already being exploited in active attacks.

crackedwinSix of the seven Microsoft patches released today earned the company’s most dire “critical” rating, meaning the patches plug security holes that could be exploited by malware or miscreants with no help from PC users, save for visiting a hacked site or opening a specially crafted document.

Microsoft and security experts are calling special attention to MS13-053, which fixes at least eight flaws in Windows’ implementation of TrueType font files. These critical TrueType vulnerabilities exist on nearly every supported version of Windows, including XP, Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, and can be exploited to gain complete control over a vulnerable Windows system, just by having the user visit a Web page that contains malicious TrueType content. To make matters worse, Microsoft says one component of this vulnerability (CVE-2013-3660) is already being exploited in the wild.

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11
Jun 13

Adobe, Microsoft Patch Flash, Windows

Patch Tuesday is again upon us: Adobe today issued updates for Flash Player and AIR, fixing the same critical vulnerability in both products. Microsoft‘s patch bundle of five updates addresses 23 vulnerabilities in Windows, Internet Explorer, and Office, including one bug that is already being actively exploited.

crackedwinA majority of the vulnerabilities fixed in Microsoft’s June patch batch — 19 of them — are addressed in a cumulative update for Internet Explorer (MS13-047). The other fix that Microsoft called specific attention to is MS13-051, which tackles a flaw in Office that “could allow remote code execution if a user opens a specially crafted Office document..or previews or opens a specially crafted email message in Outlook while using Microsoft Word as the email reader.”

This Office flaw, which is present in the latest versions of Office 2003 and Microsoft Office for Mac 2011, is already being exploited in targeted attacks, Microsoft said. According to the company’s advisory, this vulnerability was reported by Google. These attacks fit the profile of previous zer0-day incidents, which use targeted email lures and previously unknown vulnerabilities to break into high-value targets.

“When Google encounters flaws that exploit users’ computers, even when the flaws are in other companies’ software, we take strong action to mitigate those attacks,” a Google spokesperson said in response to a request for comment. “Based on the exploit and the way it has been utilized by attackers, we strongly believe the attacks to be associated with a nation-state organization.”

Adobe’s Flash and AIR updates also fix a critical bug that was reported by Google’s security team, although Adobe says it is not aware of any exploits or attacks in the wild against the vulnerability address in its update. The latest Flash version is 11.7.700.224 for Windows and 11.7.700.225 for Mac OS X.  This link will tell you which version of Flash your browser has installed. IE10 and Chrome should auto-update their versions of Flash. If your version of Chrome is not yet updated to v. 11.7.700.225, you may just need to restart the browser.

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24
May 13

Skype Beta Plugs IP Resolver Privacy Leak

A few months ago, I warned readers that a glaring privacy weakness in voice-over-IP telephony service Skype allows anyone using the network to quickly learn the Internet address of any other Skype user. A new beta version of the popular Microsoft program appears to have nixed that privacy leak with a setting that restricts this capability to connections in your Skype contacts only.

A new privacy feature in Skype Beta 6.5 for Windows and Mac 6.4

A new privacy feature in Skype Beta 6.5 for Windows and Mac 6.4

As I wrote on March 21, 2013,  number of services have emerged to help snoops and ne’er-do-wells exploit this vulnerability to track and harass others online. For example, an online search for “skype resolver” returns dozens of results that point to services (of variable reliability) that allow users to look up the Internet address of any Skype user, just by supplying the target’s Skype account name.

The resolvers can look up the IP address of any Skype user — whether or not that user is in your contacts list or even online at the time of the lookup. What’s more, resolver services frequently are offered in tandem with “booter” or “stresser” services, essentially sites that will launch denial-of-service attacks against a target of your choosing.

Apparently in response to this problem, Microsoft has added a new option to its Skype 6.5 Beta, released April 30, that allows users to allow direct connections to your contacts only. The information tab on this option, found under Skype->Options->Connection, says “When you call someone who isn’t a contact, we’ll keep your IP address hidden.”

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8
May 13

A Stopgap Fix for the IE8 Zero-Day Flaw

Microsoft has released an stopgap solution to help Internet Explorer 8 users blunt the threat from attacks against a zero-day flaw in the browser that is actively being exploited in the wild.

IEwarningMicrosoft is working on an official fix for the IE8 bug. In the meantime affected users should take advantage of the interim fix that the company released today. It is a one-click fix-it tool that does not require a system restart to take effect.

To do that, visit this link with IE8 and click the fix-it icon under the “Enable” heading. If you need to remove this workaround for any reason, just head back to that page and click the fix-it image beneath the “Disable” heading.