Posts Tagged: XML Core Services

Jan 13

Adobe, Microsoft Ship Critical Security Updates

Adobe and Microsoft today separately issued updates to fix critical security vulnerabilities in their products. Adobe pushed out fixes for security issues in Acrobat, Adobe Reader and its Flash Player plugin. Microsoft released seven patches addressing at least a dozen security holes in Windows and other software, although it failed to issue an official patch for a dangerous flaw in its Internet Explorer Web browser that attackers are now actively exploiting.

Two of the patches that Microsoft issued today earned a “critical” rating, signifying that these vulnerabilities could be exploited to fully compromise vulnerable Windows systems without any help from users. Microsoft called special attention to two critical bugs in its XML Core Services component; the company said it is likely that malware or miscreants will figure out a way to exploit these flaws in active attacks sometime within the next 30 days.

Unfortunately, Microsoft did not offer an official fix for a critical Windows flaw that malware and miscreants are already exploiting. In late December, Microsoft acknowledged that attackers were using a previously undocumented security hole in Internet Explorer versions 6 through 8 to break into Windows PCs. Microsoft later issued a stopgap “FixIt” tool to help lessen the vulnerability on affected systems, but researchers last week demonstrated that the FixIt tool only blocked some methods of attacking the flaw, leaving other ways unguarded. Meanwhile, a working copy of the exploit has been folded into Metasploit, a free penetration testing tool.

Wolfgang Kandek, chief technology officer at vulnerability management firm Qualys, said the zero-day IE vulnerability affects 90% of the IE install base at this time.

“Microsoft is not providing a patch today, though they have provided a Fix-It for the issue,” Kandek wrote in a blog post. “The vulnerability should be tracked closely, as a large percentage of enterprises still run the affected versions.”

Users who wish to continue browsing the Web with IE should upgrade to IE9 if possible (IE10 on Windows 8 also is not vulnerable). Users still on Windows XP will not be able to update to IE9, but may be able to derive some protection from the FixIt tool and by using Microsoft’s EMET tool. XP users may be better off, however, browsing with Firefox or Chrome with some type of script blocking and/or sandbox in place. More information on how to use EMET and script blocking options is available in my Tools for a Safer PC primer. More details about today’s updates from Microsoft can be found at the Microsoft Security Response Center blog and in the security bulletin summaries for each patch.

The Adobe Flash patch fixes at least one critical vulnerability in the media player plugin. Updates are available for all supported versions of Flash, including for Windows, Mac, Linux and Android. See the chart below for the latest version number broken down by operating system.

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Sep 12

Espionage Hackers Target ‘Watering Hole’ Sites

Security experts are accustomed to direct attacks, but some of today’s more insidious incursions succeed in a roundabout way — by planting malware at sites deemed most likely to be visited by the targets of interest. New research suggests these so-called “watering hole” tactics recently have been used as stepping stones to conduct espionage attacks against a host of targets across a variety of industries, including the defense, government, academia, financial services, healthcare and utilities sectors.

Espionage attackers increasingly are setting traps at “watering hole” sites, those frequented by individuals and organizations being targeted.

Some of the earliest details of this trend came in late July 2012 from RSA FirstWatch, which warned of an increasingly common attack technique involving the compromise of legitimate websites specific to a geographic area which the attacker believes will be visited by end users who belong to the organization they wish to penetrate.

At the time, RSA declined to individually name the Web sites used in the attack. But the company shifted course somewhat after researchers from Symantec this month published their own report on the trend (see The Elderwood Project). Taken together, the body of evidence supports multiple, strong connections between these recent watering hole attacks and the Aurora intrusions perpetrated in late 2009 against Google and a number of other high-profile targets.

In a report released today, RSA’s experts hint at — but don’t explicitly name — some of the watering hole sites. Rather, the report redacts the full URLs of the hacked sites that were redirecting to exploit sites in this campaign. However, through  Google and its propensity to cache content, we can see firsthand the names of the sites that were compromised in this campaign.

According to RSA, one of the key watering hole sites was “a website of enthusiasts of a lesser known sport,” hxxp:// Later in the paper, RSA lists some of the individual pages at this mystery sporting domain that were involved in the attack (e..g, As it happens, running a search on any of these pages turns up a number recent visitor logs for this site — Google cached several of the access logs from this site during the time of the compromise cited in RSA’s paper, and those logs help to fill in the blanks intentionally left by RSA’s research team, or more likely, the lawyers at RSA parent EMC Corp. (those access logs also contain interesting clues about potential victims of this attack as well).

From cached copies of dozens of access logs, we can see the full URLs of some of the watering hole sites used in this campaign:

  • (Massachusetts Bank)
  • (National Democratic Institute)
  • (Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty)

According to RSA, the sites in question were hacked between June and July 2012  and were silently redirecting visitors to exploit pages on Among the exploits served by the latter include a then-unpatched zero-day vulnerability in Microsoft Windows (XML Core Services/CVE-2012-1889). In that attack, the hacked sites foisted a Trojan horse program named “VPTray.exe” (made to disguise itself as an update from Symantec, which uses the same name for one of its program components). Continue reading →