Microsoft has issued security updates to fix at least 23 distinct vulnerabilities in its Windows operating systems and other software. Three of the patch bundles released today address flaws rated “critical,” meaning that malware or miscreants can use them to break into Windows PCs without any help from users.
The unceasing barrage of targeted email attacks that leverage zero-day software flaws to steal sensitive information from companies and the U.S. government often are characterized as ultra-sophisticated, almost ninja-like in their stealth and anonymity. But according to expert analysis of several recent zero-day attacks – including the much publicized break-in at security giant RSA — the apparent Chinese developers of those attack tools left clues aplenty about their identities and locations, with one actor even Tweeting about his newly discovered vulnerability days in advance of its use in the wild.
RSA and others have labeled recent zero-day attacks as the epitome of an “advanced persistent threat” (APT), a controversial term describing the daily onslaught of digital assaults launched by attackers that are considered to be highly-skilled, determined and have a long-term perspective on their mission. Because these attacks often result in the theft of sensitive and proprietary information from the government and private industry, the details surrounding them usually become shrouded in secrecy as law enforcement and national security officials swoop in to investigate.
But an investigation of some of the open source information available on the tools used in recent attacks labeled APT indicates that some of the actors involved are doing little to cover their tracks, and that not only are they identifiable, but that they’re not particularly concerned about suffering any consequences from their actions.