Monthly Archives: September 2018

Google Responds Positively to Privacy related Feedback

It’s been a while since I covered potential privacy concerns on this blog. Google Chrome is my browser of choice so I read with interest when a tweet from the cryptographer Matthew Green (who I have discussed before on this blog) early this week gained the attention of Google stating that it appeared the browser was violating your privacy by performing un-authorised authentication with Google via the Sign-in feature of Chrome even when you were simply accessing your Google account within a webpage e.g. signing into Gmail or YouTube.

Google were swift to confirm this was not the case but this clarification was not backed up by the user interface of Chrome.

Later this week, Chrome was in the headlines again for not clearing all of the cookies it stores even when you specifically asked it to. Some Google cookies were being left behind or being removed and then quickly replaced the next time you login into a Google service.

The above potentially negative headlines resulted in Google making changes to the upcoming Google Chrome version 70 to resolve/clarify these points for users e.g. by adding a “Allow Chrome-sing-in” setting. Clearer status indicators of when you are logged in and whether data syncing is enabled will also be present. All cookies will also be deleted.

At this time it’s unclear whether these changes will be enough to convince Matthew Green to return to using Google Chrome or not.

These changes are good for Chrome and help to increase it’s trust/transparency. I’m staying with it for this reason. I realise no browser is perfect but we should all try to use the browser most suited to our preferences.

The above privacy settings serve to remind us that we should be aware of the data our browsers are potentially sending about us and provide our feedback when we feel it’s not in our best interests / or if it’s too much privacy to give away simply to use your web browser. As you can see; vendors are sometimes compelled to improve the situation. Google has also requested that feedback continue to be provided to them.

Thank you.

Protecting Against the Microsoft JET Database Zero Day Vulnerability

Update: 9th January 2019:
Microsoft have now resolved the unpatched JET vulnerability. It has been designated as CVE-2019-0579. It appears it took extra time since binary differential analysis shows that larger sections of the file msrd3x40.dll have been re-designed to proactively mitigate future vulnerabilities.

Further details are located here. Thank you.

Update: 3rd January 2019:
As of the 19th of December; the firm 0patch have confirmed the incomplete patch for this vulnerability has not yet been revised by Microsoft.

Update: 24th October 2018:
According to Acros Security CEO Mitja Kolsek the fix for this vulnerability from Microsoft is incomplete and mitigates but does not resolve the vulnerability.

As before; my assessment of the difficulty an attacker would face in exploiting this vulnerability remains accurate. The attack first needs you to take an action you wouldn’t otherwise take; if you don’t they can’t compromise your system.

Details of the incomplete nature of the vulnerability are not being disclosed while the patch is re-evaluated. Acros Security has notified Microsoft of this incomplete fix and is awaiting a response. In the meantime; their micropatch completely mitigates the vulnerability.

I’ll keep this post updated as more details become available. Thank you.

Update: 9th October 2018:
Microsoft’s scheduled updates for October 2018 resolve this vulnerability. Thank you.

Original Post:
In the latter half of last week; Trend Micro’s Zero Day Initiative publically disclosed (defined) a zero day vulnerability (defined) within the Microsoft JET Database Engine (defined).

Why should this vulnerability be considered important?
This vulnerability should be considered high but not critical severity. When exploited it can allow an attacker to execute code (to carry out any action of their choice) but they cannot initiate this automatically/remotely. They must socially engineer a potential victim into opening an attachment ( most likely sent over email or via instant messaging etc.). This attachment would need to be a specific file containing data stored in the JET database format. Another means would be visiting a webpage but 0patch co-founder Mitja Kolsec could not successfully test this means of exploit.

This vulnerability exists on Windows 7 but is believed to also exist on all versions of Windows including the Server versions.

How can I protect my organization/myself from this vulnerability?
At this time; a patch/update from Microsoft is pending and is expected to be made available in October’s Update Tuesday (9th October).

In the meantime; please continue to exercise standard vigilance in particular when using email; e.g. don’t click on suspicious links received within emails, social media, via chat applications etc. Don’t open attachments you weren’t expecting within an email (even if you know the person; since their email account or device they access their email may have been compromised) and download updates for your software and devices from trusted sources e.g. the software/device vendors. This US-CERT advisory also provides advice for safely handling emails.

If you choose to; the firm 0patch has also issued micro-patch for this vulnerability as a group of two patches. This was the same firm who micro-patched the recent Windows Task Scheduler vulnerability. As with the above mitigations; if you wish to deploy this micropatch please test how well it works in your environment thoroughly BEFORE deployment.

Thank you.

September 2018 Update Summary

Update: 11th September 2018:
Earlier today Microsoft and Adobe made available their scheduled updates. Microsoft resolved 61 vulnerabilities more formally known as CVEs (defined).

At the time of writing; there are known issues but with only the now commonly occurring Windows 7 NIC being an issue this month:




Further details are available in Microsoft’s update summary for September.

Adobe issued 2 updates today:

Adobe ColdFusion (priority 2, resolves 6x critical CVEs)
Adobe Flash (priority 2, resoles 1x CVE)

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

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)

Microsoft Hyper-V (affects Windows 10 and Windows 8.1 (including Windows RT 8.1) and their Server equivalents)

Windows Task Scheduler (relating to a previous blog post)

Security advisory for “FragmentSmack” CVE-2018-5391

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.

Original Post:
In advance of further updates being released by Microsoft and Adobe this month I wish to provide details of notable updates made available so far. I will update this post as more updates are distributed.

Thank you.

Mozilla Firefox:
In early September Mozilla made available updated versions of Firefox:

Firefox 62: Resolves 1x critical CVE (defined), 3x high CVEs, 2x moderate CVEs, 3x low CVEs

Firefox ESR 60.2 (Extended Support Release): Resolves 1x critical CVE, 2x high CVEs, 2x moderate CVEs and 1x low CVE.

Further discussion of the other features introduced by Firefox 62 is available here. In the future Firefox will block multiple trackers which will boost privacy for it’s users. Future versions will implement these changes.

In-depth details of the security issues resolved by these updates are available in the links above. Details of how to install updates for Firefox are here. If Firefox is your web browser of choice, if you have not already done so, please update it as soon as possible to resolve these security issues.

Google Chrome:
Last week Google released version 69 (specifically version 69.0.3497.81) of Chrome celebrating Chrome’s 10th anniversary. This version not only incorporates fixes for 40 vulnerabilities but also includes many more improvements. Among them are an improved password manager/form filler and a change in how secured (encrypted) webpages are indicated.

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 updates to take effect.

VMWare has issued a single security advisory so far in September:

Security advisory 1 (addresses 2 vulnerabilities of Low severity):

  • AirWatch Agent for iOS (A/W Agent)
  • VMware Content Locker for iOS (A/W Locker)

If you use the above VMware product, please review the security advisory and apply the necessary updates.

Protecting Against the Windows 10 Task Scheduler Zero Day Vulnerability

Update: 5th September 2018:
As previously advised; exercising caution when receiving emails with attachments will keep you safe from the following malware now exploiting this vulnerability.

Your anti-malware software will likely also protect you from this exploit since the majority of vendors are detecting (verified using VirusTotal) the file hashes listed in the security firm Eset’s blog post:

Eset have detected attackers delivering an exploit for this vulnerability via email. The exploit targets victims in the following countries:

  • Chile
  • Germany
  • India
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Russia
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

The attackers have made small changes of their own to the published proof of concept code. They have chosen to replace the Google Updater (GoogleUpdate.exe)(which runs with admin privileges (high level of integrity)) usually located at:

C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Update\GoogleUpdate.exe

They replace the updater with a backdoor application of their own that is run with the highest privilege namely System level integrity. This is a stage one of their attack. If the attackers find anything of interest on the infected system a second stage is downloaded allowing them to carry out any commands they choose, upload and download files, shutting down an application or parts of Windows of their choice and listing the contents of the data stored on the system.

The attackers also use the following tools to move from system to system across (laterally) a network: PowerDump, PowerSploit, SMBExec, Quarks PwDump, and FireMaster.

Thank you.

Original Post:
With the disclosure early last week of zero day vulnerability (defined) I wanted to provide some advice on staying safe while a patch from Microsoft is being developed.

What systems are affected and how can an attacker use this vulnerability to compromise systems?
Once this pre-developed working exploit is delivered to a 64 bit Windows 10 system it can be used to provide an attacker with the highest level of privilege (System level access) on that system allowing them to carry out any action they choose. They can achieve this by changing permissions on any file stored on a system thus giving them the ability to replace/change any file. When a system service executes what it believes to be a legitimate file but is instead the attacker substituted file; the attacker obtains the privileged access of that service.

The effectiveness of this exploit has been verified by Will Dorman from the CERT/CC. 32 bit versions of Windows are also affected. For Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 systems; the exploit would require minor changes before it can result in the same level of effectiveness (but may be inconsistent on Windows 7 due to the hardcoded XPS printer driver (defined) name within the exploit).

An attacker must already have local access to the systems they wish to compromise but could obtain this using an email containing an attachment or another means of having a user click on a link to open a file. The base CVSS score of this vulnerability is 6.8 making it make of medium severity for the above reasons.

How can I protect myself from this vulnerability?
Standard best practice/caution regarding the opening of email attachments or clicking links within suspicious or unexpected email messages or links from unknown sources will keep you safe from the initial compromise this exploit code requires to work correctly.

The advisory from the CERT/CC has also been updated to add additional mitigations. BEFORE deploying these mitigations please test them thoroughly since they can “reportedly break things created by the legacy task scheduler interface. This can include things like SCCM and the associated SCEP updates”.

A further option you may wish to consider is the deployment of the following micropatch from 0Patch. This patch will automatically cease functioning when the relevant update from Microsoft is made available. As with the above mitigations; if you wish to deploy this micropatch please test how well it works in your environment thoroughly BEFORE deployment.

Further advice on detecting and mitigating this exploit is available from Kevin Beaumont’s post.

Thank you.

Adobe Issues Further Security Updates

Early last week Adobe made available a further un-scheduled emergency security update available for download affecting Creative Cloud Desktop Application version 4.6.0 and earlier. This vulnerability impacts both Apple macOS and Windows systems.

If an attacker were to exploit this they could elevate their privileges (defined). As with the previous security update the vulnerability was responsibly disclosed (defined) to Adobe by Chi Chou of AntFinancial LightYear Labs.

Please follow the steps within this security bulletin to check if the version of Creative Cloud Desktop Application you are using is impacted and if so; follow the steps to install the relevant update.

Thank you.