Time to Patch


9
Oct 19

Patch Tuesday Lowdown, October 2019 Edition

On Tuesday Microsoft issued software updates to fix almost five dozen security problems in Windows and software designed to run on top of it. By most accounts, it’s a relatively light patch batch this month. Here’s a look at the highlights.

Happily, only about 15 percent of the bugs patched this week earned Microsoft’s most dire “critical” rating. Microsoft labels flaws critical when they could be exploited by miscreants or malware to seize control over a vulnerable system without any help from the user.

Also, Adobe has kindly granted us another month’s respite from patching security holes in its Flash Player browser plugin.

Included in this month’s roundup is something Microsoft actually first started shipping in the third week of September, when it released an emergency update to fix a critical Internet Explorer zero-day flaw (CVE-2019-1367) that was being exploited in the wild. Continue reading →


10
Sep 19

Patch Tuesday, September 2019 Edition

Microsoft today issued security updates to plug some 80 security holes in various flavors of its Windows operating systems and related software. The software giant assigned a “critical” rating to almost a quarter of those vulnerabilities, meaning they could be used by malware or miscreants to hijack vulnerable systems with little or no interaction on the part of the user.

Two of the bugs quashed in this month’s patch batch (CVE-2019-1214 and CVE-2019-1215) involve vulnerabilities in all supported versions of Windows that have already been exploited in the wild. Both are known as “privilege escalation” flaws in that they allow an attacker to assume the all-powerful administrator status on a targeted system. Exploits for these types of weaknesses are often deployed along with other attacks that don’t require administrative rights.

September also marks the fourth time this year Microsoft has fixed critical bugs in its Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) feature, with four critical flaws being patched in the service. According to security vendor Qualys, these Remote Desktop flaws were discovered in a code review by Microsoft, and in order to exploit them an attacker would have to trick a user into connecting to a malicious or hacked RDP server.

Microsoft also fixed another critical vulnerability in the way Windows handles link files ending in “.lnk” that could be used to launch malware on a vulnerable system if a user were to open a removable drive or access a shared folder with a booby-trapped .lnk file on it.

Shortcut files — or those ending in the “.lnk” extension — are Windows files that link easy-to-recognize icons to specific executable programs, and are typically placed on the user’s Desktop or Start Menu. It’s perhaps worth noting that poisoned .lnk files were one of the four known exploits bundled with Stuxnet, a multi-million dollar cyber weapon that American and Israeli intelligence services used to derail Iran’s nuclear enrichment plans roughly a decade ago.

In last month’s Microsoft patch dispatch, I ruefully lamented the utter hose job inflicted on my Windows 10 system by the July round of security updates from Redmond. Many readers responded by saying one or another updates released by Microsoft in August similarly caused reboot loops or issues with Windows repeatedly crashing.

As there do not appear to be any patch-now-or-be-compromised-tomorrow flaws in the September patch rollup, it’s probably safe to say most Windows end-users would benefit from waiting a few days to apply these fixes.  Continue reading →


13
Aug 19

Patch Tuesday, August 2019 Edition

Most Microsoft Windows (ab)users probably welcome the monthly ritual of applying security updates about as much as they look forward to going to the dentist: It always seems like you were there just yesterday, and you never quite know how it’s all going to turn out. Fortunately, this month’s patch batch from Redmond is mercifully light, at least compared to last month.

Okay, maybe a trip to the dentist’s office is still preferable. In any case, today is the second Tuesday of the month, which means it’s once again Patch Tuesday (or — depending on your setup and when you’re reading this post — Reboot Wednesday). Microsoft today released patches to fix some 93 vulnerabilities in Windows and related software, 35 of which affect various Server versions of Windows, and another 70 that apply to the Windows 10 operating system.

Although there don’t appear to be any zero-day vulnerabilities fixed this month — i.e. those that get exploited by cybercriminals before an official patch is available — there are several issues that merit attention.

Chief among those are patches to address four moderately terrifying flaws in Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Service, a feature which allows users to remotely access and administer a Windows computer as if they were actually seated in front of the remote computer. Security vendor Qualys says two of these weaknesses can be exploited remotely without any authentication or user interaction.

“According to Microsoft, at least two of these vulnerabilities (CVE-2019-1181 and CVE-2019-1182) can be considered ‘wormable’ and [can be equated] to BlueKeep,” referring to a dangerous bug patched earlier this year that Microsoft warned could be used to spread another WannaCry-like ransomware outbreak. “It is highly likely that at least one of these vulnerabilities will be quickly weaponized, and patching should be prioritized for all Windows systems.”

Fortunately, Remote Desktop is disabled by default in Windows 10, and as such these flaws are more likely to be a threat for enterprises that have enabled the application for various purposes. For those keeping score, this is the fourth time in 2019 Microsoft has had to fix critical security issues with its Remote Desktop service.

For all you Microsoft Edge and Internet Exploiter Explorer users, Microsoft has issued the usual panoply of updates for flaws that could be exploited to install malware after a user merely visits a hacked or booby-trapped Web site. Other equally serious flaws patched in Windows this month could be used to compromise the operating system just by convincing the user to open a malicious file (regardless of which browser the user is running). Continue reading →


9
Jul 19

Patch Tuesday Lowdown, July 2019 Edition

Microsoft today released software updates to plug almost 80 security holes in its Windows operating systems and related software. Among them are fixes for two zero-day flaws that are actively being exploited in the wild, and patches to quash four other bugs that were publicly detailed prior to today, potentially giving attackers a head start in working out how to use them for nefarious purposes.

Zero-days and publicly disclosed flaws aside for the moment, probably the single most severe vulnerability addressed in this month’s patch batch (at least for enterprises) once again resides in the component of Windows responsible for automatically assigning Internet addresses to host computers — a function called the “Windows DHCP server.”

The DHCP weakness (CVE-2019-0785) exists in most supported versions of Windows server, from Windows Server 2012 through Server 2019.

Microsoft said an unauthenticated attacker could use the DHCP flaw to seize total, remote control over vulnerable systems simply by sending a specially crafted data packet to a Windows computer. For those keeping count, this is the fifth time this year that Redmond has addressed such a critical flaw in the Windows DHCP client.

All told, only 15 of the 77 flaws fixed today earned Microsoft’s most dire “critical” rating, a label assigned to flaws that malware or miscreants could exploit to commandeer computers with little or no help from users. It should be noted that 11 of the 15 critical flaws are present in or are a key component of the browsers built into Windows — namely, Edge and Internet Exploder Explorer. Continue reading →


12
Jun 19

Microsoft Patch Tuesday, June 2019 Edition

Microsoft on Tuesday released updates to fix 88 security vulnerabilities in its Windows operating systems and related software. The most dangerous of these include four flaws for which there is already exploit code available. There’s also a scary bug affecting all versions of Microsoft Office that can be triggered by a malicious link or attachment. And of course Adobe has its customary monthly security update for Flash Player.

Microsoft says it has so far seen no exploitation against any of the four flaws that were disclosed publicly prior to their patching this week — nor against any of the 88 bugs quashed in this month’s release. All four are privilege escalation flaws: CVE-2019-1064 and CVE-2019-1069 affect Windows 10 and later; CVE-2019-1053 and CVE-2019-0973 both affect all currently supported versions of Windows.

Most of the critical vulnerabilities — those that can be exploited by malware or miscreants to infect systems without any action on the part of the user — are present in Microsoft’s browsers Internet Explorer and Edge.

According to Allan Liska, senior solutions architect at Recorded Future, serious vulnerabilities in this month’s patch batch reside in Microsoft Word (CVE-2019-1034 and CVE-2019-1035).

“This is another memory corruption vulnerability that requires an attacker to send a specially crafted Microsoft Word document for a victim to open, alternatively an attacker could convince a victim to click on a link to a website hosting a malicious Microsoft Word document,” Liska wrote. “This vulnerability affects all versions of Microsoft Word on Windows and Mac as well as Office 365. Given that Microsoft Word Documents are a favorite exploitation tool of cybercriminals, if this vulnerability is reverse engineered it could be widely exploited.” Continue reading →


14
May 19

Microsoft Patches ‘Wormable’ Flaw in Windows XP, 7 and Windows 2003

Microsoft today is taking the unusual step of releasing security updates for unsupported but still widely-used Windows operating systems like XP and Windows 2003, citing the discovery of a “wormable” flaw that the company says could be used to fuel a fast-moving malware threat like the WannaCry ransomware attacks of 2017.

The May 2017 global malware epidemic WannaCry affected some 200,000 Windows systems in 150 countries. Source: Wikipedia.

The vulnerability (CVE-2019-0708) resides in the “remote desktop services” component built into supported versions of Windows, including Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, and Windows Server 2008. It also is present in computers powered by Windows XP and Windows 2003, operating systems for which Microsoft long ago stopped shipping security updates.

Microsoft said the company has not yet observed any evidence of attacks against the dangerous security flaw, but that it is trying to head off a serious and imminent threat.

“While we have observed no exploitation of this vulnerability, it is highly likely that malicious actors will write an exploit for this vulnerability and incorporate it into their malware,” wrote Simon Pope, director of incident response for the Microsoft Security Response Center.

“This vulnerability is pre-authentication and requires no user interaction,” Pope said. “In other words, the vulnerability is ‘wormable,’ meaning that any future malware that exploits this vulnerability could propagate from vulnerable computer to vulnerable computer in a similar way as the WannaCry malware spread across the globe in 2017. It is important that affected systems are patched as quickly as possible to prevent such a scenario from happening.”

The WannaCry ransomware threat spread quickly across the world in May 2017 using a vulnerability that was particularly prevalent among systems running Windows XP and older versions of Windows. Microsoft had already released a patch for the flaw, but many older and vulnerable OSes were never updated. Europol estimated at the time that WannaCry spread to some 200,000 computers across 150 countries. Continue reading →


9
Apr 19

Patch Tuesday Lowdown, April 2019 Edition

Microsoft today released fifteen software updates to fix more than 70 unique security vulnerabilities in various flavors of its Windows operating systems and supported software, including at least two zero-day bugs. These patches apply to Windows, Internet Explorer (IE) and Edge browsers, Office, Sharepoint and Exchange. Separately, Adobe has issued security updates for Acrobat/Reader and Flash Player.

According to security firm Rapid 7, two of the vulnerabilities — CVE-2019-0803 and CVE-2019-0859 — are already being exploited in the wild. They can result in unauthorized elevation of privilege, and affect all supported versions of Windows.

“An attacker must already have local access to an affected system to use these to gain kernel-level code execution capabilities,” Rapid7 researcher Greg Wiseman observed. “However, one of the 32 Remote Code Execution (RCE) vulnerabilities patched today could potentially be used with them in an exploit chain to obtain full control of a system.”

Aside from these zero-day privilege escalation flaws, Wiseman said, it’s a fairly standard Patch Tuesday.

“Which of course still means that there are bugs that should be patched as soon as possible, such as the eight vulnerabilities classified as critical in the scripting engine used by Microsoft browsers, and CVE-2019-0822 (an RCE in Microsoft Office that can be exploited by convincing a user to open a malicious file).”

Adobe’s Patch Tuesday includes security updates for its Flash Player and AIR software,  as well as Adobe Reader and Acrobat.

Flash updates are installed along with other monthly Windows patch rollups for consumers, and auto-installed by Google Chrome, but users may need to reboot the operating system (in the case of IE/Edge) or the browser (in Chrome) for the new updates to take effect.

Adobe’s actions also sound the death knell for Adobe Shockwave Player, which has at long last reached end-of-life.

That means no more security updates for Shockwave, which has always been something of an ugly stepchild to Flash. That is to say, Shockwave never really got the security attention Flash has received but nevertheless has been just as vulnerable and often lagging months or years behind Flash in terms of updates. Continue reading →


13
Mar 19

Patch Tuesday, March 2019 Edition

Microsoft on Tuesday pushed out software updates to fix more than five dozen security vulnerabilities in its Windows operating systems, Internet Explorer, Edge, Office and Sharepoint. If you (ab)use Microsoft products, it’s time once again to start thinking about getting your patches on. Malware or bad guys can remotely exploit roughly one-quarter of the flaws fixed in today’s patch batch without any help from users.

One interesting patch from Microsoft this week comes in response to a zero-day vulnerability (CVE-2019-0797) reported by researchers at Kaspersky Lab, who discovered the bug could be (and is being) exploited to install malicious software.

Microsoft also addressed a zero day flaw (CVE-2019-0808) in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 that’s been abused in conjunction with a previously unknown weakness (CVE-2019-5786) in Google’s Chrome browser. A security alert from Google last week said attackers were chaining the Windows and Chrome vulnerabilities to drop malicious code onto vulnerable systems.

If you use Chrome, take a moment to make sure you have this update and that there isn’t an arrow to the right of your Chrome address bar signifying the availability of new update. If there is, close out and restart the browser; it should restore whatever windows you have open on restart. Continue reading →


12
Feb 19

Patch Tuesday, February 2019 Edition

Microsoft on Tuesday issued a bevy of patches to correct at least 70 distinct security vulnerabilities in Windows and software designed to interact with various flavors of the operating system. This month’s patch batch tackles some notable threats to enterprises — including multiple flaws that were publicly disclosed prior to Patch Tuesday. It also bundles fixes to quash threats relevant to end users, including critical updates for Adobe Flash Player and Microsoft Office, as well as a zero-day bug in Internet Explorer.

Some 20 of the flaws addressed in February’s update bundle are weaknesses labeled “critical,” meaning Microsoft believes that attackers or malware could exploit them to fully compromise systems through little or no help from users — save from convincing a user to visit a malicious or hacked Web site.

Microsoft patched a bug in Internet Exploder Explorer (CVE-2019-0676) discovered by Google that attackers already are using to target vulnerable systems. This flaw could allow malware or miscreants to check for the presence of specific files on the target’s hard drive.

Another critical vulnerability that impacts both end users and enterprises is a weakness in the Windows component responsible for assigning Internet addresses to host computers (a.k.a. “Windows DHCP client”). That flaw, CVE-2019-0626, could let an attacker execute malcode of his choice just by sending the target a specially crafted DHCP request.

At the top of the list of patch concerns mainly for companies is a publicly disclosed issue with Microsoft Exchange services (CVE-2019-0686) that could allow an attacker on the same network as the target to access the inbox of other users. Microsoft said it has not seen active exploitation of this bug yet, but considers it likely to be exploited soon. Continue reading →


9
Jan 19

Patch Tuesday, January 2019 Edition

Microsoft on Tuesday released updates to fix roughly four dozen security issues with its Windows operating systems and related software. All things considered, this first Patch Tuesday of 2019 is fairly mild, bereft as it is of any new Adobe Flash updates or zero-day exploits. But there are a few spicy bits to keep in mind. Read on for the gory details. Continue reading →