Monthly Archives: August 2018

Adobe Issues Critical Photoshop CC Security Updates

On Wednesday Adobe made available an out of band (un-scheduled) emergency update available for Photoshop CC for both Apple macOS and Windows systems.

Photoshop CC 2018 (versions 19.1.5 and earlier) and Photoshop 2017 (versions 18.1.5 and earlier) are affected by two critical memory corruption vulnerabilities. If an attacker were to exploit these they could achieve remote code execution (defined: the ability for an attacker to remotely carry out any action of their choice on your device). The vulnerabilities were responsibly disclosed (defined) by Kushal Arvind Shah of Fortinet’s FortiGuard Labs to Adobe.

Please follow the steps within Adobe’s security bulletin to install the applicable updates as soon as possible if you use these products.

Thank you.

Apache Foundation Patches Critical Struts Vulnerability

Earlier this week the Apache Software Foundation made available patches for Apache Struts (a web application framework (defined)) bringing the applications active development branches to version 2.3.35 and 2.5.17. These versions addresses a remote code execution vulnerability (defined: the ability for an attacker to remotely carry out any action of their choice on your device) known as CVE-2018-11776. This vulnerability was responsibly disclosed (defined) by the security researcher; Man Yue Mo.

Why should this vulnerability be considered important?
A data breach at the credit rating agency Equifax last year occurred in part due to their lack of patching their affected web servers. The vulnerability resolved this week can be exploited by an attacker simply by visiting specifically crafted URL (defined) on the affected web server (defined). Once exploited the server can be completely under the attacker’s control.

Typically within days of a vulnerability being disclosed; attackers begin to target and exploit it. Compromised are web servers (which are already public facing and can be located using Shodan) can be used as an entry point into other areas of your corporate network. Any application making use of the Struts framework is vulnerable regardless if those applications use plugins.

How to tell if your installation of Apache Struts is vulnerable?
Your Apache Struts is vulnerable if both of the conditions listed below are true (my thanks to this Semmle blog post for this information):


  1. The alwaysSelectFullNamespace flag is set to true in the Struts configuration. Note that this is automatically the case if your application uses the popular Struts Convention plugin.
  2. Your application uses actions that are configured without specifying a namespace, or with a wildcard namespace (e.g. “/*”). This applies to actions and namespaces specified in the Struts configuration file (e.g. <action namespace=”main”>), but also to actions and namespaces specified in Java code if you are using the Struts Convention plugin.


How can I protect my web servers from this vulnerability?
Depending upon which version of Apache Struts your web server is using; please upgrade to version 2.3.35 or 2.5.17 as soon as possible.

Thank you.

Vendors Respond to Foreshadow (L1TF) Vulnerabilities

Yesterday, academic and security researchers publically disclosed (defined) 3 new vulnerabilities affecting Intel CPUs (AMD and ARM are not affected).

What are these new vulnerabilities and what can they allow an attacker to do?
The first vulnerability known as Foreshadow or CVE-2018-3615 is used to extract data from an Intel SGX (Software Guard Extensions)(defined) secure enclave (area) by creating a shadow copy of the SGX protected data but that copy does not have the protection of SGX and can be read/accessed by the attacker. The attacker can also re-direct speculative execution into copying further private/sensitive into the shadow copied area while at the same time making it appear that area is genuine and thus has the same protection as the real SGX protected data.

The second vulnerability (part of a wider Foreshadow Next Generation (NG) group of two variants) known as CVE-2018-3620 allows the reading of data copied into the level 1 cache (defined) of a CPU (defined) when that data is in use by a computer operating system e.g. Red Hat Linux, Apple macOS or Microsoft Windows.

The third vulnerability is the second and final variant of the Foreshadow NG group known as CVE-2018-3646.  This affects virtualised environments. If a CPU thread (defined) being directed by an attacker is able to read the level 1 cache of a CPU that is also shared by another thread by a victim user (within another virtualised environment but using the same physical CPU) while that request will be blocked; if the information the attacker is looking to steal is in the level 1 cache they may still get a glimpse of this information.

How can I protect myself from these new vulnerabilities?
For the first and second vulnerabilities; the microcode (defined)/firmware (defined) updates made available earlier this year coupled with the newly released updates for operating systems linked to below will mitigate these two issues.


For the third vulnerability; affecting virtualised (defined) environments there are operating system updates and microcode/firmware updates available that will occasionally clear the contents of the level 1 cache meaning that when the attacker attempts to read it they will not receive any benefit from doing so. Partially removing the usefulness of the cache will have a performance impact from a few percent up to 15 percent in the worst case scenario.

However to completely mitigate this third vulnerability a capability known as Core Scheduling needs to be leveraged. This ensures that only trusted/non attacker controlled virtual machines have access to the same thread (this capability is already available in some virtual machine (hypervisor)(defined) environments).

However in some environments if it cannot be guaranteed that all virtual machines are trustworthy the disabling of Intel Hyper Threading (this means that only 1 thread will work per CPU core)(otherwise known as simultaneous multi-threading (SMT)(defined)) may be necessary and will more significantly impact performance than just the level 1 cache clearing.

In summary for this third vulnerability; depending upon the virtualised environment you are using and the trustworthiness of the virtual machines you are using will determine how many of the these extra security measure you will need to take.

To be clear I am NOT advocating that Intel Hyper Threading/SMT be disabled EN MASSE for security reasons. As per the advice in the linked to advisories (below)(specifically Intel and VMware) ; you MAY wish to disable Intel Hyper Threading/SMT to mitigate the third vulnerability (CVE-2018-3646) depending upon the environment your virtualised machines are operating.

This Ars Technica article explains it very well: “if two virtual machines share a physical core, then the virtual machine using one logical core can potentially spy on the virtual machine using the other logical core. One option here is to disable hyperthreading on virtual-machine hosts. The other alternative is to ensure that virtual machines are bound to physical cores such that they don’t share.”


Please find below links to vendor responses on these vulnerabilities as well as videos that can help in understanding these vulnerabilities:

Thank you.


Foreshadow Vulnerability Official Website:

Intel’s Blog Post:

Intel’s FAQ Page:

Intel’s Security Advisory:

Intel’s Software Developer Guidance:

Red Hat’s Security Advisory:

Linux Kernel Patch:

Oracle’s Security Advisory:

Amazon Web Services’ Security Advisory:

Google Cloud Security’s Blog Post:

Microsoft Windows Azure’s Guidance:

Microsoft’s Windows Security Advisory (high level details):

Microsoft’s Technical Analysis of the Foreshadow Vulnerabilities:

VMware Security Advisories:

Foreshadow Video (explains the first vulnerability very well):

Intel’s Video (explains all 3 vulnerabilities):

Demonstration of the Foreshadow attack:

Red Hat’s Video (explains all 3 vulnerabilities):

Red Hat’s In-depth video of the 3 vulnerabilities:


August 2018 Update Summary

Today Microsoft released updates to resolve 63 vulnerabilities (more formally known as CVEs (defined)).

This month also brings a new set of vulnerabilities affecting only Intel CPUs. I detail these more thoroughly in a separate post. However high level details are provided below.

Compared to previous months updates these have a smaller list of known issues (most of which have workarounds). Links to the relevant knowledge base (KB) articles are provided below:









Adobe also released update for the following products:

Adobe Acrobat and Reader DC (priority 2, 2x CVEs)

Adobe Creative Cloud Desktop (priority 3, 1x CVE)

Adobe Experience Manager (priority 2, 3x CVEs)

Adobe Flash (priority 2, 5x CVEs)

As always if you use any of the above Adobe software, please update it as soon as possible especially in the case of Flash and Acrobat DC/Reader DC. Updates for Google Chrome will be available shortly either via a browser update or their component updater.

Please also review the out of band updates for Photoshop CC and Creative Cloud Desktop and apply them if you use these products.

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

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.

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


Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer (multiple versions of Edge and IE affected)

Windows Font Library

Malicious LNK File

Microsoft Exchange

Foreshadow (L1TF) Vulnerabilities: Allow information disclosure via speculative execution; are only locally executable (rather than remotely). This vulnerability may allow one virtual machine to improperly access information from another. More details in my dedicated blog post.

Please install the remaining updates at your earliest convenience.

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. I have provided further details of updates available for other commonly used applications below.

Please find below summaries of other notable updates released this month.

Thank you.

Nvidia Geforce Experience Software:
In late August, Nvidia released a security advisory for their Geforce Experience software for Windows. This update resolves 3 high severity vulnerabilities (as per their CVSS base scores). The necessary updates can be obtained from here.

On the final day of August, VideoLAN made available VLC 3.0.4. This appears to be a security update for Apple macOS due to the following entries within the releases notes (however it is unclear if this overflow is exploitable by an attacker):

Text renderer:
* Fix head buffer overflow on macOS with some fonts

For Linux and Windows this version provides fixes numerous non-security issues. Please update to version 3.0.4 to benefit from these improvements.

Wireshark 2.4.9 and 2.6.3
v2.4.9: 3 security advisories

v2.6.3: 3 security advisories

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 (v2.6.3) or v2.4.9). 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.

In late August; WinSCP version 5.13.1 was released upgrading it’s embedded OpenSSL version to 1.0.2p (which addresses 2x low severity CVEs (Link1 and Link2).

On the 12 June and 16th April 2018; the OpenSSL Foundation issued 2 updates for OpenSSL to address 2x low severity security vulnerabilities as detailed in these security advisories (Link1 and Link2). To resolve these issues please update your OpenSSL installations to 1.1.0i (released 14th August) or 1.0.2o (released 14th August) (as appropriate).

FTP mirrors to obtain the necessary downloads are available from here.

Downloadable Tarballs (compressed/packaged code made for distribution) are available from here.

It should also be possible to use the package manager of a Linux/Unix operating system to update your OpenSSL installation as mentioned within the section titled “Installing updates for Linux distributions” on the “Protecting Your PC” page of this blog.

VMWare issued two security advisories for the following products during August:

Security advisory 1 (addresses 1 vulnerability of Important severity):

  • VMware Horizon 6
  • VMware Horizon 7
  • VMware Horizon Client for Windows
  • VMware Horizon View Agent
  • VMware Horizon Agents Installer (HAI)

Security advisory 2 (addresses 1 vulnerability of Critical severity):

  • VMware Workstation Pro / Player (Workstation)
  • VMware Fusion Pro, Fusion (Fusion)

If you use the above VMware products, please review the security advisories and apply the necessary updates.

WPA2 Cracking Simplified By New Research

It has only been approximately nine months since the last vulnerability disclosure regarding WPA2 wireless encryption and we have another disclosure. The developer of the well known password cracking application; Hashcat, Jens “atom” Steube has detailed how to more easily retrieve and crack the Pairwise Master Key Identifier (PMKID)(defined).

Why should this vulnerability be considered important?
Previous vulnerability disclosures required the attacker to capture wireless traffic and wait until they recorded a full authentication handshake. This newer disclosure requires only a single frame (defined) which the attacker can obtain on demand by attempting to access the WiFi network. The PMKID is then cracked (using a brute force attack (defined) to obtain the wireless encryption key (the Pre-Shared Key (PSK)). This vulnerability allows the attacker to begin a brute force attack much easier than before,

To confirm that both the router and the client device know the PSK a PMK is used and is thus a normal part of the 4 way handshake used with WPA2. This new vulnerability will work against routers using 802.11i/p/q/r while roaming is enabled according to Jens Steube.

Further Technical Details of this vulnerability are as follows:
The PMKID is contained within the RSN IE ((Robust Security Network Information Element) field of an EAPOL (defined) frame . How the PMKID is generated is described in more detail in Steube’s post.

The MAC address (defined) of the wireless access point can be determined by the attacker allowing them to know the manufacturer of the device they are attacking. This allows them to pre-generate patterns and pass them into the Hashcat tool speeding up the attack. A PSK of 10 characters in length will take about 8 days to crack using a 4 GPU (defined) system.

How can I protect myself from this vulnerability?
Steube recommends using a password manager to generate a PSK of 20 to 30 characters in length. For your information; the PSK used by my router has been for many years 64 characters long. While it makes entering this into a device a real pain (however I don’t do this often). Moreover I use shorter temporary guest passwords for friends devices (it also prevents them accessing my true intranet); it makes the router more secure against an attack such as this.

You can also make the attackers work harder by employing WPA2-Enterprise (rather than the more regular WPA2-AES). WPA3 is not thought to be vulnerable to this method of attack.

Thank you.

SpectreRSB and NetSpectre Vulnerabilities Explained

In late July; security researchers publicly disclosed (defined) a new set of vulnerabilities within Intel CPUs (defined) (and possibly AMD and ARM; which the researchers also notified). These vulnerabilities are collectively referred to as SpectreRSB (Return Stack Buffer). The purpose of an RSB is explained in this document (PDF) but in summary it is a buffer (defined) that stores multiple return addresses while attempting to predict function (a set of instructions that carries out a specific action within a program) return addresses.

A very short time later nearing the end of July; a separate set of researchers released details of another vulnerability known as NetSpectre. This is an evict and reload cache attack that targets systems remotely to extract data.

How could an attacker exploit these vulnerabilities and what is the result?
For SpectreRSB; an attacker could recover data from the speculative execution feature of the CPU by targeting the Return Stack Buffer and predicting the return address which it stores. By manipulating the data it contains by predicting the return address the CPU will access when it completes a task the attacker can influence the address CPU will jump to and thus jump to an address of the attacker’s choosing. Unfortunately; this buffer is shared among the threads (defined) on the same virtual process thus affecting multiple running processes and virtual machines.

The attacker could alter the RSB to expose and gather data from applications running within the CPU. Another form of manipulation by the researchers resulted in them being able to expose data contained within Intel’s Software Guard Extensions (defined)(PDF).


Separately for the NetSpectre vulnerability; if attackers can send specifically crafted packets (defined) to a vulnerable system they can use the responses they receive to infer data from that systems memory. Currently this can only take place at a very low rate; 15 bits per hour. This means 15 times a zero or a one; in other words true or false (I’m not referring to Boolean logic here; just trying to convey a concept) or even simpler on for 1 and off for zero. This increased to 60 bits per hour for an Intel CPU equipped with AVX2 instructions.

With such a low throughput at this time (although I realise an attack can usually be refined and significantly improved within a short time); this attack is not a practical threat but more a theoretical weakness.

How can I protect myself from these vulnerabilities?
The good news for this SpectreRSB subclass of vulnerabilities is that Intel has already created an update but not for all of it’s CPU (Intel Core i7 Skylake (6th Generation Core models) and later CPUs). The researchers are aware of this patch and are recommending it’s use. When I use the word subclass above; my meaning is that SpectreRSB is a subclass of the original Spectre vulnerabilities from January this year. Red Hat also announced they are reviewing these vulnerabilities.

Intel however have stated that existing mitigations from the vulnerabilities disclosed in January will protect against this new subclass. However this is unconfirmed at this time.


While an APT (defined) could leverage the NetSpectre vulnerability over a period of weeks or months to extract useful data; existing mitigations for Spectre variant 1 and variant 2 mitigate this new vulnerability reinforcing my statement above of being a theoretical weakness.

In summary; to protect against both classes of these vulnerabilities; please continue to roll-out the mitigations for the Spectre vulnerabilities from January 2018 (if you have not already completed them).

For any system which cannot be updated (due to performance or end of life constraints e.g. Intel not providing updates for some CPUs); seek to migrate the responsibilities/roles/duties of these systems to newer CPUs which have received updates. A list of patched and un-patched Intel CPUs is available here (PDF).

Thank you.

MikroTik Routers Exploited to Generate Cryptocurrency

In early August security researchers discovered a large malware campaign under way taking advantage of a now patched vulnerability within MikroTik routers.

Why should this threat be considered important?
This attack is underway since while a patch for an exploit for the Winbox component of the RouterOS being open was patched in one day (on the 23rd of April); there are many users who have not installed this update. The number is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands including internet service provider (ISP) routers). Once exploited the vulnerability allows an attacker to gain remote administrative (high privilege) access to an affected router. Initially this attack originated in Brazil but has since been extended to over 200k devices worldwide (with a second attack). It’s unclear if its by the same perpetrator as the first attack.

Proof of concept (defined) code made available on GitHub has been modified by unknown attackers to add to all traffic passing through a vulnerable MikroTik router a copy of the Coinhive library along with the relevant Coinhive key to benefit a single attacker by means of cryptocurrency mining (an excellent introduction article to BitCoin and cryptocurrency). This attack isn’t just affecting MikroTik routers; Simon Kenin from Trustwave’s SpiderLabs division found that traffic going to and from a MikroTik router was affected e.g. if a website was hosted behind an affected router it would also be impacted.

More recently the attacker has altered his/her approach to adding the Coinhive script to the error pages of the routers rather than the more noticeable approach described above. That altered approach affects more than 170k routers. These error pages can potentially be accessed millions of time per day earning the attacker funds for each page served. With approximately 1.7 million of these routers online around the world there is the potential for this to get worse.

How can I protect myself from this vulnerability?
If you own/administer a MikroTik router or know someone who does, please ensure that any such devices are using the most recent firmware available from this link. Further advice after upgrading the firmware is also provided by MikroTik at the above link.

Thank you.