Monthly Archives: September 2019

Researching the recent Windows CTF Vulnerabilities

There are no known mitigations for these vulnerabilities. Please see below for a more in-depth explanation.

With the release of a security updates by Microsoft in September and August to resolve vulnerabilities in the Windows ALPC and Windows Text Service Framework I wish to provide details on these vulnerabilities.

Why should these vulnerabilities be considered important?
If an attacker were to have ALREADY compromised a vulnerable Windows system, they can then use the exploits made available by Google’s Tavis Ormandy to fully compromise your system. They can obtain the highest level of privilege on it namely NT Authority\System (equivalent to root on a Linux system).

Ormandy found that the running ctfmon.exe of Windows allowed a standard user of Windows to hijack any Windows process even if that process was sandboxed within an AppContainer (a means of isolating sensitive/important processes making them harder to attack). When an attacker does so they can obtain administrative and under some circumstances NT Authority\System level access.

How I can protect my organization and myself from these vulnerabilities?
Apart from installing the above linked to updates, I’m afraid no other mitigations are available. You will need to exercise standard vigilance/caution with opening links. Don’t open attachments you weren’t expecting even from trusted contacts.

This advice is an unfortunate outcome. I had a hypothesis that disabling the ctfmon.exe process (Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7) or the Touch Keyboard and Handwriting Panel service in Windows 8.1 and 10 would mitigate this class of vulnerabilities. This was not the case, Ormandy’s tool worked regardless of whether the ctfmon.exe process was running or not, which now makes sense given how his tool exploits a deeply integrated feature of Windows with a scope much larger than that of the above mentioned process and service.

Proof of Concept
As a proof of concept on an un-patched version of Windows 10 Version 1903, I can confirm Tavis Ormandy’s CTFTool successfully provides you with both System and Administrative (depending on the type of exploit you run). Only administrative access is available for Windows 7, the tool does not incorporate the System level exploit for Windows 7. Further details of this tool are available at the following links:

Thank you.

September 2019 Update Summary

Today is the 2nd Tuesday of the month, when both Adobe and Microsoft routinely release their scheduled security updates.

Similar to last month Microsoft have released many updates resolving 79 vulnerabilities more formally known as CVEs (defined). It was a light month for Adobe releasing 2 updates resolving 3 vulnerabilities.

Adobe Application Manager: 1x Priority 2 vulnerability resolved (Important severity)
Adobe Flash Player: 2x Priority 3 vulnerabilities resolved (Critical severity)

If you use either of these Adobe products, please install the necessary updates as soon as possible prioritising the Adobe Flash Player update.

This month’s list of Known Issues from Microsoft is available within their monthly summary page and applies to all currently supported operating systems. Almost all issues have workarounds at this time and none appear to be serious issues. The up to date list is available from their summary 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 Windows LNK Remote Code Execution Vulnerability: CVE-2019-1280

Microsoft Scripting Engine: CVE-2019-1298

Microsoft Scripting Engine: CVE-2019-1300

Microsoft Scripting Engine: CVE-2019-1217

Microsoft Scripting Engine: CVE-2019-1208

Microsoft Scripting Engine: CVE-2019-1221

Microsoft Scripting Engine: CVE-2019-1237

Windows RDP: CVE-2019-1291

Windows RDP: CVE-2019-1290

Windows RDP: CVE-2019-0788

Windows RDP: CVE-2019-0787

Team Foundation Server/Azure DevOps: CVE-2019-1306

Microsoft Office SharePoint: CVE-2019-1295

Microsoft Office SharePoint: CVE-2019-1257

Microsoft Office SharePoint: CVE-2019-1296

Common Log File System Driver (defined): CVE-2019-1214

Microsoft Windows Elevation of Privilege Vulnerability (defined): CVE-2019-1215


Please install the remaining updates at your earliest convenience.

As per standard best practice; 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.

Thank you.

Mozilla Firefox
On September the 3rd Mozilla released Firefox 69.0 to address the following vulnerabilities and to introduce new privacy features:

Firefox 69.0: Resolves 1x critical CVE (defined), 11x high CVEs, 4x moderate and 3x low CVEs

Firefox ESR 68.1 (Extended Support Release): Resolves 1x critical, 9x high, 4x moderate and 2x low CVEs

Firefox 60.9 ESR : Resolves 1x critical CVE, 7x high CVEs and 1x moderate CVE

Highlights from version 69 of Firefox include:
Blocks 3rd party cookies and cryptominers (using Enhanced Tracking Protection) by default (blocking of fingerprinting scripts will be the default in a future release)

Adobe Flash disabled by default (must be re-enabled if needed)

Separately Mozilla is facing criticism over their plans to gradually roll-out DNS over HTTPS (DoH) later this month since all DNS traffic would go to only one provider, Cloudflare. Google Chrome will implement a similar feature soon (further details are available in the above link also regarding Mozilla).

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 benefit from the above changes.

Thank you.