July 2017 Security Updates Summary

Earlier today as expected Microsoft and Adobe made available their monthly scheduled security updates.

Microsoft resolved a relatively large number of vulnerabilities at 54 in total more formally known as CVEs (defined). However it’s less than last month at 94. These are detailed within Microsoft’s new Security Updates Guide.

After 2 months of updates being released for versions of Windows which were no longer supported, this month is a return to the usual expected patches.

At the time of writing there are no Known Issues for this month’s Microsoft updates. The IT Pro Patch Tuesday blog which I routinely referenced is no longer available.

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Adobe made available just two security bulletins for the following products:

Adobe Connect (priority 3, 2x important and 1x moderate CVE)

Adobe Flash (priority 1, 1x critical, 2x important CVEs)

The priority ratings are explained in this link. Depending on which version of Flash Player you have, please review the Adobe security bulletin or Microsoft bulletin (the link includes “April” in the URL but it is not a typo) as appropriate and apply the recommended updates. Google Chrome users should have the updated version installed automatically later this week (if not already available).

If you use any of the above-mentioned Adobe products, please review the security bulletins linked to above and apply the necessary updates. As per the established process the Flash update should be installed as soon as possible since exploit kits (defined) tend to take advantage of newly disclosed vulnerabilities very quickly.

 

You can monitor the availability of security updates for most your software from the following websites (among others) or use Secunia PSI:
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US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) (please see the “Information on Security Updates” heading of the “Protecting Your PC” page):

https://www.us-cert.gov/

A further useful source of update related information is the Calendar of Updates. News/announcements of updates in the categories of General SoftwareSecurity Software and Utilities are available on their website. The news/announcements are very timely and (almost always) contain useful direct download links as well as the changes/improvements made by those updates (where possible).

If you like and use it, please also consider supporting that entirely volunteer run website by donating.

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If you use any of the above software, please install the appropriate updates as soon as possible. Steps for installing updates for Windows are provided on the “Protecting Your PC” page.

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For this month’s Microsoft updates, I will prioritize the order of installation for you below:
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Critical severity:

Windows Search

Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer

NT LAN Manager Elevation of privilege (CVE-2017-8563)(Corporate users: please ensure to set a more secure LDAP setting as per this knowledge base article)

Windows Explorer (CVE-2017-8463)
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Please install the remaining updates at your earliest convenience.

As always you can find detailed information on the contents of each security bulletin within ComputerWorld’s Patch Tuesday Debugged column.

Another security pre-caution that you may wish to take if you have Microsoft EMET (please ensure your version of EMET is the most recent version 5.52) installed is to use it to protect you from Adobe Flash being used to exploit vulnerabilities when you open a Microsoft Office document or Adobe PDF file. I provide recommendations of how to do this at the end of the July 2015 Update Summary. Please note that Microsoft EMET will be out of support on the 31st of July 2018.

As noted in this new blog post, parts of EMET are to become available in the Creator’s Fall Update for Windows 10 set for release in September 2017.

As usual; I would recommend backing up the data on any device for which you are installing updates to prevent data loss in the rare event that any update causes unexpected issues.

Note: This post marks the 300th post on this blog. Thank you very much to my readers and here’s to the next 300!

Windows 10 Fall Creator’s update to include EMET features

Late last month Microsoft published two blogs (here and here) which announce forthcoming security features being added to the Windows 10 Fall Creator’s Update (intended to be released in September 2017).

Among the features such as enhancements to the Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) are features such as Windows Defender Application Guard (intended to block zero day (defined) threats by isolating the threat), improved Windows Defender Device Guard and Windows Defender Exploit Guard. The final feature here, Exploit Guard is noteworthy since it will incorporate some of the mitigations (defined) previously available from EMET and will provide the ability to harden legacy applications, just like EMET did namely 32 bit Windows applications.

The improvements to Windows Defender Exploit Guard don’t stop there; it introduces new mitigations and vulnerability prevention capabilities. Moreover a new class of mitigations leveraging intelligence from the Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph (ISG), will include intrusion rules to protect against more advanced threats e.g. zero days exploits. Exploit guard will act as “an extra layer of defense against malware attacks in-between the firewall and antivirus software.”

As a fan of Microsoft EMET, it’s great to see it’s return. However whether it will be available in all versions of Windows 10 or only corporate managed Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise is not yet clear.

I will update this post when new information becomes available. Thank you.

June 2017 Security Updates Summary

Yesterday Microsoft and Adobe made available their monthly scheduled security updates.

Microsoft’s addressed a large number of vulnerabilities, 94 in total more formally known as CVEs (defined). These are detailed within Microsoft’s new Security Updates Guide.

At the time of writing there are three Known Issues for this month’s Microsoft updates (although all three knowledge base articles (4022717, 4022726, 4022715) describe the same iSCSI availability issue which is currently awaiting a resolution). The IT Pro Patch Tuesday blog hasn’t been updated since April and isn’t of assistance this time (and for that reason is becoming increasingly irrelevant).

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This month again breaks the usual trend with these updates to offer a collection of updates for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 which address the remaining vulnerabilities disclosed by the ShadowBrokers hacking team back in April this year. The majority of these updates were already released for more modern versions of Windows after the end of support dates for Windows XP (April 2014) and Windows Server 2003 (July 2015) respectively. Please review the detailed security advisory to download the appropriate updates for your systems. Further information is available in Microsoft’s blog posts here and here.

As with the update made available in May, these updates will not be available via Microsoft Updates or Automatic Updates. The availability of these updates provides mixed meanings; namely that while they were made available is positive. However for those corporations, organisations and individuals sing out dated versions of Windows, it provides them less reasons to migrate since it hints at an attitude that Microsoft will patch those system if the situation get very bad. While Microsoft worked to dispel this point, not everyone will be aware of their statement on this matter.

In a further break from the routine of Update Tuesday, I wanted to mention a further set of vulnerabilities found in Windows Defender which Microsoft patched last month. Please ensure your version of Windows is using the patched version of Windows Defender as detailed in this news article to address these issues.

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Separately Adobe made available four security bulletins to updates for the following products:

Adobe Captivate (1x priority 3 CVE)

Adobe Digital Editions (9x priority 3 CVEs)

Adobe Flash (9x priority 1 CVEs)

Adobe Shockwave Player (1x priority 2 CVE)

The priority ratings are explained in this link. Depending on which version of Flash Player you have, please review the Adobe security bulletin or Microsoft bulletin (the link includes “April” in the URL but it is not a typo) as appropriate and apply the recommended updates. Google Chrome users should have the updated version installed automatically later this week (if not already available).

If you use any of the above-mentioned Adobe products, please review the security bulletins linked to above and apply the necessary updates. As per the established process the Flash update should be installed as soon as possible since exploit kits (defined) tend to take advantage of newly disclosed vulnerabilities very quickly.

 

You can monitor the availability of security updates for most your software from the following websites (among others) or use Secunia PSI:
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US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) (please see the “Information on Security Updates” heading of the “Protecting Your PC” page):

https://www.us-cert.gov/

A further useful source of update related information is the Calendar of Updates. News/announcements of updates in the categories of General SoftwareSecurity Software and Utilities are available on their website. The news/announcements are very timely and (almost always) contain useful direct download links as well as the changes/improvements made by those updates (where possible).

If you like and use it, please also consider supporting that entirely volunteer run website by donating.

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If you use any of the above software, please install the appropriate updates as soon as possible. Steps for installing updates for Windows are provided on the “Protecting Your PC” page.

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For the Microsoft updates this month, I will prioritize the order of installation for you below:
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Critical severity:

Windows Search

Windows Lnk

Windows Graphics

Microsoft Edge (CVE-2017-8498CVE-2017-8530 and CVE-2017-8523) and Internet Explorer

Microsoft Office  (CVE-2017-0260 and CVE-2017-8506)

Microsoft Outlook
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Install the remaining updates at your earliest convenience.

As always you can find detailed information on the contents of each security bulletin within ComputerWorld’s Patch Tuesday Debugged column.

Another security pre-caution that you may wish to take if you have Microsoft EMET (please ensure your version of EMET is the most recent version 5.52) installed is to use it to protect you from Adobe Flash being used to exploit vulnerabilities when you open a Microsoft Office document or Adobe PDF file. I provide recommendations of how to do this at the end of the July 2015 Update Summary. Please note that Microsoft EMET will be out of support on the 31st of July 2018.

As usual; I would recommend backing up the data on any device for which you are installing updates to prevent data loss in the rare event that any update causes unexpected issues.

Thank you.

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Update: 14th June 2017:
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I wish to provide information on other notable updates from June 2017 which I would recommend you install if you use these software products. I only choose a small number of products to list here since it can easily become too many and I wish to highlight the security benefits of installing the latest version of applications many of us use everyday:

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Mozilla Firefox:
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Firefox 54.0

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Mozilla Firefox ESR:
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Firefox ESR 52.2

Details of how to install updates for Firefox are here. If Firefox is your web browser of choice, please update it as soon as possible to resolve these security issues.

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Google Chrome:
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Google Chrome: includes 30 security fixes.

Google Chrome updates automatically and will apply the update the next time Chrome is closed and then re-opened. Chrome can also be updated immediately by clicking the Options button (it looks like 3 stacked small horizontal lines, sometimes called a “hamburger” button) in the upper right corner of the window and choosing “About Google Chrome” from the menu. Follow the prompt to Re-launch Chrome for the update to take effect.
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Wireshark 2.2.7 and 2.0.13
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As per standard process Linux distributions can obtain this update using the operating systems standard package manager (if the latest version is not installed automatically using the package manager you can instead compile the source code (v2.2.6) or v2.0.13). This forum thread and this forum thread may also be helpful to you with installing Wireshark on your Linux based system.

For Mac OS X and Windows, the update is available within the downloads section of the Wireshark website. In addition, a detailed FAQ for Wireshark is available here.
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Attackers intercept SMS/text messages to drain bank accounts

In early May this year a German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung detailed the first documented case where cybercriminals exploited known SS7 (Signalling System version 7)(defined)(PDF) vulnerabilities for their own profit (the attack took place in January 2017).

How did this incident take place?

According to the German newspaper, the attackers first obtained the victim’s credentials for their bank account (by phishing (defined) emails), then used the SS7 flaws to hijack their phone number and receive the transaction confirmation code (within a text message (an SMS (defined) message)) on a mobile phone in use by the attackers. This exploit allowed the attackers to steal users’ mobile transaction authentication numbers (mTAN) and thereby withdraw money from their victim’s accounts.

Currently, carrying out such attacks requires specialized hardware and special codes to interact with other telephony providers. Buying such equipment and the codes isn’t as hard as you believe, and an SS7 hacking rig could cost an attacker a few hundred to a thousand dollars, well below the money they stand to make.

Why should this vulnerability be considered important?

The SS7 (Signalling System No. 7) protocol was developed in the 1980s and is a so-called telephony signalling protocol, used to route calls between different telephony providers.

The protocol has no security features, and its flaws became widely known after talks at the Chaos Communication Congress meetings held in 2010 and 2014. In these two talks, German security researcher Tobias Engel (with Karsten Nohl in 2014) showed how a determined actor could locate and track any person on the planet via SS7, and even manipulate their communications by taking over their phone number.

Moreover in April 2016; the issues surrounding SS7 came back again into the limelight when a CBS reporter with the help of the above mentioned German security researcher (Karsten Nohl) used the same flaws to track US House of Representative’s member Ted Lieu’s whereabouts (with his consent). Indeed; both US Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Lieu have previously called for the FCC to at least look into strengthening the security of SS7. They also wrote an open letter (PDF) to the Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

Just one month later (May 2016) security firm Positive Technologies showed how using another technique an attacker could hijack a person’s phone number and receive messages intended for other WhatsApp and Telegram accounts.

How can I protect myself from these vulnerabilities?

Before focusing on the vulnerabilities within SS7, let us first review how the attackers emptied victim’s bank accounts:

They first obtained their victims banking details via phishing emails. Tips to avoid being effected by such emails are provided here.

Following this incident, the affected German mobile network operator made it impossible for call forwarding to be effected by other organizations that have access to the mobile operator’s network. Other German mobile network operators have implemented this change. This should mitigate a similar attack occurring in the future for these mobile operators. All other mobile operators should deploy similar mitigations. Further recommendations to mobile operators e.g. the use of a signalling firewall are provided in this news article. As this article mentions, the successor of SS7, namely Diameter will take time to migrate to and unfortunately suffers from some of the same vulnerabilities.

In 2016 the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) began recommending not to use SMS messages for two-factor or two-step verification (differences between 2FA and 2SV). Instead they are suggesting the use of tokens (most likely hardware tokens) and cryptographic authenticators (and perhaps at a later time biometric authentication (defined)).  They also encourage software vendors to check for the presence of a VoIP connection (Voice over IP, defined). This is due to some VoIP services allowing the hijacking of SMS messages.

At this time, the use of software authenticators such as the Google and Microsoft authenticators and RSA’s SecurID app are increasing and it favours the eventual phase out of SMS messages. The use of biometrics (perhaps making use of Windows Hello) or USB tokens such as the YubiKey.

Advice for consumers/end-users:

The previously linked to article (above) also contains advice (in the final three paragraphs) which you may find useful.

Thank you.

Intel works with system vendors to address AMT vulnerability

In early May, Intel began the process of making available updates to resolve 2 critical security vulnerabilities within the hardware of corporate Intel systems. Security researchers located vulnerabilities within the co-processor which has the role of a management engine and to provide further features as part of Intel’s vPro technology. vPro allows IT teams to remotely administer systems (e.g. determine a systems status regardless of its condition, power on/power off, restart etc.) and provides capabilities including secure wiping of data should the device be lost or stolen.

Why should these vulnerabilities be considered important?
As documented within Intel’s advisory: The first vulnerability allows a remote attacker to gain system level privileges (the highest privileges available)(defined) thus allowing them to make any changes they wish to the affected system. This applies to systems with Intel Active Management Technology (AMT) or Intel® Standard Manageability (ISM) enabled.

The second vulnerability allows an attacker already located within your internal/corporate network to gain network or local system privileges on affected systems. This vulnerability affects AMT and systems with Intel Small Business Technology (SBT) enabled. Definitions for AMT, ISM and SBT are available from Intel. A useful FAQ on the vulnerabilities is available here.

Vulnerable systems are very likely to be in use by many corporate organisations and small businesses. The version numbers of the affected Intel technologies are listed within US-CERTs advisory. All Intel systems which have Intel Active Management Technology (AMT), Intel® Standard Manageability (ISM), and Intel® Small Business Technology enabled are vulnerable. Such systems have been in production for more than nine years.

It should be noted that only business configured devices have such enablement capabilities, the same vulnerabilities do not exist on consumer devices.  However, given the increasingly blurry distinction between user and business devices, especially with concepts such as Bring your own device (BYOD)(defined) these issues can easily be widespread and will take time to address. Intel has published steps which will help to identify affected systems.  A tool is also available from Intel’s download center.

For this vulnerability to be successfully exploited the Active Management Technology (AMT) must be configured to support remote administration.  This tool is not configured by default.

Moreover while the above mentioned three management technologies are vulnerable, the first vulnerability can only be exploited if Active Management Technology (AMT) is provisioned. If not provisioned, the second vulnerability applies.

These vulnerabilities are particularly severe since the management engine co-processor (mentioned above) can access any memory region within an affected system without the primary Intel processor (CPU)(defined) being aware of it. The co-processor can send, receive, read/write data travelling on your network below the level at which firewalls operate thus bypassing them. The management engine can also read and write to the systems storage device (a hard drive) upon the successful authorisation of a user. The co-processor also has read and write access to the devices screen (your monitor) all while remaining undetected and unlogged (events are not captured within the logs of your operating systems making detection by SIEMs (defined) unviable).

How can I protect myself from these vulnerabilities?
Intel has created a list of affected vendors which links to their respective websites including the status of the availability of updates as well as already completed/available updates.

While the preparation of updates is in progress, the following mitigation options are available:

  1. Un-provisioning Intel manageability SKU (stock keeping unit) clients to mitigate unprivileged network attacker from gaining system privileges (Unprovisioning Tool v1.0)
  2. Disabling or removing the Local Manageability Service (LMS) to mitigate unprivileged local attacker from gaining system privileges
  3. Optionally configuring local manageability configuration restrictions

Unfortunately it will take time for vendors to issue updates for all affected systems. If you are in any doubt if your systems are affected, please contact them. In addition, please continue to access the list of vendor websites (provided above) to monitor when the updates to your systems become available. If due dates are instead present at this time, you can schedule a downtime window for these systems to be updated.

Thank you.

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Aside:
What is a stock keeping unit (SKU)?

It refers to a specific item stored to a specific location. The SKU is intended as the most disaggregated level when dealing with inventory (Source)
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HP audio driver contained keylogger

Late last week it was announced the security firm Swiss security firm ModZero had responsibly disclosed (defined) to HP back in early April 2017 their discovery of an audio driver (Conexant HD Audio) containing a keylogger. The driver is known to be present on 28 HP devices (listed here).

Conexant also creates drivers to Asus, Lenovo and Dell, at this time it is not clear if they use the same driver (security analysts have been unable to discover any other devices using the affected driver).

How can I tell if my HP (or other device) is affected by this vulnerability?
This BleepingComputer article explains how to check for this vulnerability.

Why should this vulnerability be considered important?
The affected audio driver (versions 1.0.0.31 up to and including 1.0.0.46) contained the issue with the issue first being created in December 2015. Thus it has the potential to have gathered a vast quantity of information since this time.

Not only does the driver record key presses (using a low-level keyboard input hook (defined)) but the driver exposes the OutputDebugString and MapViewOfFile APIs (API, defined). The OutputDebugString API enables any running application to capture keystrokes while MapViewOfFile enables any framework or application with access to MapViewOfFile API to do the same.

Since the unencrypted keystrokes are stored in a text file, forensic investigators with access to the log file (stored at C:\Users\Public\MicTray.log) could potentially recover previously saved sensitive data (a reboot or power of the device clears the file). When backups of the affected systems are performed previous versions of this file would contain further captured (and potentially sensitive) information.

Since our keyboards are used to enter all kinds of sensitive information,  emails, chat/instant message conversations, social media posts, credit card numbers etc., this vulnerability could have serious consequences If the log contents were to be obtained by cyber criminals. The file might also contain credentials (usernames/passwords for the above mentioned activities.

From the information disclosed about this vulnerability, there is evidence to suggest the driver uploads/sends the information it gathers within that log to HP, Conexant or anyone else. However if you are creating unencrypted backups within a corporate, small business or consumer environment this file over time will contain more and more information gathered over time. If someone knew you create these backups and knew where to look within them (assuming they are not encrypted), they could gather significant volumes of sensitive information.

How can I protect myself from this vulnerability?
After ModZero disclosed this information to HP, HP made available a driver update (version 10.0.931.90) which removes the keylogging behavior. Moreover, the driver update will be made available via Windows Update for both 2016 and 2015 HP devices. HP Vice President Mike Nash clarified the logging feature of the driver was simply debugging code (defined) inadvertently left within the driver.

If you followed the steps above to check if your device was vulnerable but there is no driver update available, the same BleepingComputer article describes how to mitigate the vulnerability.

Thank you.

Google offers financial and technical support to open source projects

Early last week Google shared their results after beginning a project to fuzz (defined) test open source software (defined). Their project is currently processing 10 trillion test cases per day. Open source projects involved in this initiative include GNUTLS, BoringSSL, FFMpeg, JSON, Libpng, LibreOffice, LibSSH, OpenSSL and Wireshark (among many well-known others).

What is the purpose of their project?
The purpose of fuzzing is to repeatedly and thoroughly test how robust/secure the code of the enrolled open source projects is. More than 1000 bugs have found so far (approximately264 of which were potential security vulnerabilities).

As Google points out, this also helps to increase the reliability of the software being created since regressions (defined) are fixed within hours before they ever affect a user. Another aspect of this is other software bugs e.g. logic errors can be detected and corrected sooner.

In return for a project signing up to this initiative, Google have pledged to provide extra funding:

$1,000 USD for initial integration of the OSS-Fuzz tests into their development process

Up to $20,000 USD for ideal integration (an itemised list of how this figure is obtained is detailed here).

How this project become to be developed?
I have mentioned the Core Infrastructure Initiative (CII). on this blog before. This fuzzing project was created with assistance from the CII to benefit projects critical to the global IT infrastructure. This project is in progress alongside Project Wycheproof (with its objective to strengthen cryptographic implementations by having new implementations pass a series of tests to verify they are not affected by these particular implementation issues being checked for).

How does this project help the wider industry/community?
With projects such as those mentioned above used by large corporations, small business and consumers alike; the regular feature/security updates we all receive make these projects more stable and secure than they otherwise would be. The outcomes will be very similar to that of Pwn2Own.

With these benefits for the projects as well as all of their users, I hope projects such as this continue and expand in scope as time progresses.

Thank you.