Category Archives: Malware

Posts that discuss malware infections and how to avoid or recover from their effects.

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.

Responding to Wana Decrypt0r / WanaCrypt0r Infections

As I am sure you are aware earlier this week a new variant of ransomware named WanaCrypt0r began to infect many systems worldwide using the vulnerability patched in March 2017. The infections were especially severe in the UK (hospitals were affected), Spain (banks, the ISP Telefonica and gas/electricity providers) among many others. The infections were spreading in a worm (defined) like fashion.

The ransomware uses the vulnerability exploited by the “Eternal Blue” exploit patched by Microsoft in Mach by their MS17-010 update. This exploit uses the SMBv1 (defined) protocol to enter a vulnerable system over port 445 (when that port is accessible from the internet). In some instances the CERT of Spain have observed the exploit installing the DoublePulsar malware on the already infected system. A live map of this malware’s global infections is available here. Once the malware obtains access to your system it installs the WanaCrypt0r ransomware to encrypt your files. As detailed by BleepingComputer it also terminates active databases and email servers so that it can encrypt them also.

On the 12th of May, the spread of the malware was temporarily halted by the actions of the malware researcher known as MalwareTech. They registered a website domain the malware checks if it exists while installing itself on your system. If it exists, it halts its installation and doesn’t encrypt your data (acting like a “kill switch”). I use the word temporary above since as the researcher points out all the malware authors need to do is to choose a different domain and re-release the updated malware (or worse they could use a domain generation algorithm (DGA)(defined) to make registering the websites by researchers even harder). The purpose of the malware checking if this domain was registered is to check if it is running inside a malware sandbox (defined).

How can I protect myself from this threat?
If you have not already done so, please install the MS17-010 security update (released in March 2017) on your Windows based servers and workstations. Researchers are simply saying “patch your systems” and that is what they mean. Microsoft discusses this advice in more detail in their MSRC blog post.

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Note:
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A full list of the versions of Windows affected by vulnerabilities patched within MS17-010 is provided at the end of this post.

If you are not sure how to update your systems, the following links below will assist if you are consumer/small business. Larger corporations should check with their IT team/system administrators install this update. If you can, please install all other remaining security updates:

Windows Vista
http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-vista/Turn-automatic-updating-on-or-off

Windows 7
http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/products/features/windows-update

Windows 8.1
http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/windows-update-faq

Windows 10
http://pcsupport.about.com/od/keepingupwithupdates/f/windows-updates.htm

Microsoft have since released the MS17-010 update for all other remaining out of support Windows systems namely Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Windows 8.0. They are available as direct downloads from their MSRC blog post. I checked earlier today and these updates were not being offered by Windows Update and Automatic Updates for those older versions of Windows, please obtain the updates directly from their MSRC blog post.

While the “kill switch”for this malware was used (as mentioned above), it is very likely to return in the future. The steps below will better prepare you now and for the future.

I am aware Windows Vista is out of support at this time but it was supported when the MS17-010 update was released.

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Update: 15th May 2017:
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It is appears a new variant (Uiwix) of this threat is now circulating which does not have a kill switch. This variant does not appear to spread using a different vulnerability. Other variants are currently in-progress.

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Update: 18th May 2017:
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As mentioned above, newer variants of this malware are being made available. They exploit the same vulnerability as WannaCry but don’t spread in a worm like fashion.

I would suggest installing the MS17-010 as soon as possible since further ransomware is likely to capitalise on many devices (approximately 1 million still exposing the SMB protocol to the internet, with roughly 800k being Windows devices).

Moreover, the ShadowBrokers may release more exploits next month (and continue to do so on a regular basis) but this time we are unlikely to have security updates ready for them. My advice is to be prepared in June.

Thank you.
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Update: 21st May 2017:
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The Eternals Rocks worm is now also spreading by exploiting exposed systems over SMB. The advice below to block installation of WannaCrypt should prevent infection of your systems. At this time, the worm is not carrying out malicious actions with infected devices. Instead it is setting up a C&C (C2)(defined) infrastructure and may leverage this for malicious actions in the future.

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Bayer healthcare equipment was confirmed affected by WannaCry but service was restored in less than 24 hours. Other manufacturers have also issued security advisories:

Siemens

Smiths Medical

Medtronic

Johnson & Johnson

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The US ICS CERT have issued an alert with recommendations for critical infrastructure devices. Affected vendors include those mentioned above and GE, Philips, Tridium, Emerson Automaton Solutions, Schneider Electric (among others).

Please note the above link for the ICS CERT advisory is https://ics-cert.us-cert.gov/alerts/ICS-ALERT-17-135-01D If this advisory is updated it will become https://ics-cert.us-cert.gov/alerts/ICS-ALERT-17-135-01E Further updates will change the final letter to F, G and so on.

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ICS CERT also issued an FAQ on WannaCry which you may find useful.
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Additional advice/considerations:
At this time there is no known way to decrypt your files if you have been effected by the WanaCrypt0r ransomware. If you have the option of restoring your files from a backup, please do so. Your only other option is discussed by BleepingComputer at the end of this article.

If you followed the advice earlier in the week and turned off your systems before they were infected, that was a wise precaution. However when you power them back on you will need to avoid them becoming infected before you can secure them. A French security researcher had a honeypot (defined) of theirs infected 6 times in 90 minutes.

If you can segregate your vulnerable devices (including devices within your network perimeter) so they don’t expose the following ports:

  • TCP port 445 with related protocols on UDP ports 137-138
  • TCP port 139
  • Also disable SMBv1 (it’s a deprecated protocol)
  • Please also block the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) port 3389 (defined) at the entry point to your corporate to prevent the spread of this malware as recommended by the US CERT.

Once you have updated your Windows devices against this vulnerability, please by all means resume normal operations but follow the advice of the US CERT and avoid having the SMB port exposed to the internet going forward as a defense in-depth measure (defined)(PDF).

Other recommendations are as follows:

  • It’s important to understand, installing the update mentioned in this post will protect your Windows systems from spreading the ransomware to other systems. If you click on a link in a suspicious email (or another source) the ransomware may still be downloaded but will only encrypt/effect your system.
  • For any critical systems, ask if they really need to be connected to the internet or not? Avoid unnecessarily connecting them.
  • Provide your staff with security awareness training (defined)(PDF). This will prevent this malware infecting your systems by means of phishing (defined) (which can still encrypt your data even if you have installed the above recommended security update, that update only blocks the spreading of the infection). According to the US CERT and HelpNetSecurity this advice isn’t confirmed but it will not reduce your protection.
  • Verify your organization can recover from a ransomware attack like this as part of your Business continuity process (BCP)(defined)(PDF).
  • If you have an incident response team, verify their standard response process against a ransomware attack like this to ensure it is fit for purpose.

Thank you.

 

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Affected Windows versions:
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While the MS17-010 security bulletin lists which versions of Windows are vulnerable to this ransomware, I have listed them all below (this applies to all 32 and 64 bit versions of Windows listed below):

Windows XP (with Service Pack 3)

Windows Server 2003 (with Service Pack 2)

Windows Vista (with Service Pack 2)

Windows Server 2008 (with Service Pack 2)

Windows Server 2008 (with Service Pack 2)(Server Core installation)(defined)

Windows 7 (with Service Pack 1)

Windows Server 2008 R2 (with Service Pack 1)

Windows Server 2008 R2 (with Service Pack 1)(Server Core installation)

Windows 8.0

Windows 8.1 (with 8.1 Update (April 2014))

Windows Server 2012

Windows Server 2012 (Server Core installation)

Windows Server 2012 R2

Windows Server 2012 R2 (Server Core installation)

Windows RT 8.1

Windows 10 Version 1507

Windows 10 Version 1511

Windows 10 Version 1607

Windows Server 2016

Windows Server 2016 (Server Core installation)

DoublePulsar exploit: victim devices are widespread

Last month the hacking group known as the Shadow Brokers made available a set of exploits (this appears to be their last remaining set). These exploits allegedly came from the NSA. A full list of the exploits is available here. Microsoft’s analysis of the exploits made which applies to their products and which security updates resolve them are available here.

What is DoublePulsar and how does it affect a system?
The exploit from this recently released collection which targets the Windows SMB Server component of Windows is known as DoublePulsar. It is a kernel mode (or ring zero (defined)) exploit which provides an attacker with full control over an affected system as well as providing a backdoor (defined).

It is also allows the execution of shellcode (defined) and the downloading of further malware. A complete list of it’s capabilities is available from Symantec’s analysis.

This threat is being called similar to the MS08-067 vulnerability from October 2008 which lead to widespread installation of the Conficker malware (which still persists today). That article estimates this vulnerability will be with us for many years to come. In my professional career I still see large numbers of servers and workstations not patched against the MS08-067 vulnerability even after all these years. The exploits made available by the Shadow Brokers have been made easy to use by others posting YouTube videos and documentation of how to use them. Security researchers are tracking the spread of this malware here , here and here.

How can I protect myself from this threat?
Preventing a compromise by this threat:

If your servers or workstations have Windows Server 2008 or Windows Vista (respectively) or newer installed, please install Microsoft’s security update MS17-010 as soon as possible. As a defense in-depth measure (defined)(PDF), please also consider blocking port 445 from being accessed externally (since this is unlikely to be the last SMB exploit we see).

Please note, Windows Vista systems are also no longer supported and you should consider upgrading (if you are not already in the process of doing so). Windows Server 2008 will be supported until the 13th of January 2020.

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Update: 19th May 2017:
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With the rapid propagation of the WannaCry ransomware, Microsoft made available the MS17-010 update for Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Windows 8.0. The updates for these out of support operating systems are available from Microsoft’s blog post.

Once the update is installed, if your servers or workstations have Window Server 2003 or Windows XP (respectively) installed, please block port 445 (the Windows SMB protocol port) from being accessed from an external network (as previously recommended by US-CERT and mentioned in a past blog post of mine).

In addition to blocking port 445 as mentioned above, I would also suggest the following:

If you can, segregate your vulnerable devices (including devices within your network perimeter) so they don’t expose the following ports:

  • TCP port 445 with related protocols on UDP ports 137-138
  • TCP port 139
  • Also disable SMBv1 (it’s a deprecated protocol)
  • Please also block the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) port 3389 (defined) at the entry point to your corporate to prevent the spread of this malware as recommended by the US CERT.

To check if your system has been compromised by Double Pulsar, you can use this tool.

Removing the threat from a compromised system:
You can remove the infection simply by shutting the system down since the malware does not persist after a reboot. You can then patch the vulnerability and block access to port 445 to prevent the malware from returning (both as mentioned above).

Thank you.

Internet of Things malware destroys devices

In early April embedded devices powered by Google Android, Linux and FreeBSD (specifically the BusyBox distribution) mainly used as media players and routers came under attack from a previously unseen form of malware.

How does this malware affect compromised devices?
Once compromised the device will cease functioning within seconds; an attack being called a PDoS (Permanent Denial of Service). This occurs since the malware corrupts the devices internal storage and reduces the number of kernel (defined) threads (sequences of independent in progress tasks) from several thousand to just one, causing the devices in progress tasks/work load to halt. Security firm Radware demonstrated this result with a webcam.

How does this malware initially compromise a device?
Since early April four unique versions of this malware (dubbed BrickerBot) have emerged. The first version attempted to compromise Radware’s test device almost 2,000 times within four days with the attacks originating from all over the world. The second and more advanced version uses Tor (The Onion Router) to enable attacks to take place from the Dark web (a portion of the internet only accessible using the Tor network). This makes tracing the source of the attacks almost impossible.

Versions 3 targets further devices while version 4 was active during a very briefly and ceased its activity after 90 attempted attacks. Radware provide more details in their analysis.

The malwares authors seek to gain control of vulnerable devices by attempting to access them over the internet via the Telnet protocol (defined, which uses TCP and UDP ports 23) by entering commonly used usernames and passwords until successful. If your network contains routers or music/media devices using the BusyBox distribution they are potentially vulnerable to this malware. Attackers can use tools such as Shodan (defined) to locate vulnerable devices over the internet and begin an attack.

How can I protect my devices from this malware?
Radware provide five steps you can take to better secure your internet of things (IoT , defined) devices from this malware. They also suggest the use of an IPS (defined) in this related blog post. The above recommendations are especially important since unlike other malware where you can re-format a hard disk and re-install the operating system (defined), this malware permanently damages the device and it will require a replacement.

Thank you.

Tampered NSIS installers contain ransomware

In a blog post earlier this month Microsoft provided an in-depth analysis of a new technique in use by ransomware authors to disguise their attempts to hold your data for ransom.

What has made these newly disguised ransomware installers so successful?
These attack involve tampering with a Nullsoft Scriptable Install System (NSIS) installer (used in paid, free and open-source software such as VideoLAN VLC, Wireshark (among others)). In contrast to previously altered installers the attackers have removed their randomly named DLL (defined) which dramatically reduces the chance of detection due to far less code being present. Inclusions of non-malicious plugins, an uninstallation component and a legitimate .bmp image file for use with the installer help to divert attention away from the installer’s real purpose.

The installer instead contains an installation script which would usually automate the installation of the application for you. In this case however an obfuscated (defined here and here) script which calls the Win32API (API, defined) allows an attacker to allocate (make ready for use) an area in the computer’s memory in order to activate a small code fragment to decrypt the ransomware.

As detailed by Deep Instinct’s security researcher Tom Nipravsky; the script is sophisticated since it operates only in memory in addition to being multi-staged. Moreover the shell code (defined) uses a technique known as Heaven’s Gate which allows 64 bit shell code to make use of a 32 bit process (defined) which makes the work of security researchers more difficult since debuggers (defined) cannot easily handle a transition from one architecture to another. This also has the benefit of bypassing API hooks (defined) which are monitored by anti-malware software and makes use of system calls (defined) as opposed to API calls.

Moreover this ransomware uses a technique known as “process hollowing.” This occurs when an attacker creates a process in a suspended state (defined) but replaces it’s in memory code with code the attacker wishes to hide. Finally the attackers use an encrypted installer within NSIS which currently security vendors are unable to trace and is only decrypted when it is about to be used.

How can I protect myself from these threats?
Since the tampered NSIS installers originate from emails you should follow the advice from SANS with regards to email:

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Use Caution Opening Email Attachments – A common method cyber criminals use to hack into people’s computers is to send them emails with infected attachments. People are tricked into opening these attachments because they appear to come from someone or something they know and trust. Only open email attachments that you were expecting. Not sure about an email? Call the person to confirm they sent it.
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Source: https://www.sans.org/tip-of-the-day (date: 1st March 2017)

Microsoft encourages enterprise/corporate users to upgrade to Windows 10 and make use of its security features to defend against this threat.

Full disclosure: I don’t work for or on behalf of Microsoft nor do I wish to promote their products/services. I have simply provided a link to their advice for corporate users who may already have Windows 10 (or are considering upgrading) in order for them to better protect themselves against this and other threats using the security protections it offers.

Thank you.

Proton Trojan targeting Apple macOS discovered

Earlier this month Sixgill, a cyber intelligence company provided information on a recently discovered trojan for Apple macOS systems. It is being sold on the underground Russian cybercrime forums and acts as a remote administration tool (RAT)(defined). It sells under the name of Proton for 100 Bitcoin (more than USD$100,000) but now allows unlimited installations for 40 Bitcoin or a single installation for 2 Bitcoin.

Since the trojan is a RAT (discussed above) it allows an attacker to have full control of a victim’s system which includes controlling file uploads and downloads, monitoring keyboard presses, taking screenshots and webcam surveillance.

Sixgill theorizes the trojans developers bypassed/worked around Apple’s Developer ID program allowing this “application” to appear harmless while possibly exploiting an unknown zero day vulnerability (defined) within macOS to root privileges (defined) over the victim system.

How can I protect myself from this malware?
Since the trojan allows full control of an over an infected system, this will complicate removal since the attackers could easily attempt to resist or undo removal actions. Malwarebytes state this trojan is not in widespread use and they have been unable so far to obtain a sample of it. Moreover, VirusTotal did not have a sample to provide to them.

Apple added detections for this trojan to their XProtect (defined) anti-malware security feature; however as detailed in this TechRepublic article the trojans creators can easily modify it to avoid Apple’s signatures.

Further information on this trojan is available in this Softpedia article. TechRepublic provides a detailed list of recommendations within their article to prevent infection by this threat.

Thank you.

March 2017 Security Updates Summary

As you know Microsoft and Adobe released their scheduled monthly security updates. For Microsoft this release was anticipated especially since last month’s set was delayed.

Within the above linked to post I predicted Microsoft would make a large number of updates and they did just that. 17 bulletins in total are now available. These updates address 138 vulnerabilities listed within Microsoft’s new Security Update Guide. These vulnerabilities are more formally known as CVEs (defined).

Once again; there are no Known Issues listed within their March summary page. At the time of writing the IT Pro Patch Tuesday blog does not list any Known Issues. However, please check it before deploying your security updates just to be sure. As always, if any issues do arise, those pages should be your first places to check for solutions.
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Adobe issued two security bulletins today. One affecting Adobe Flash and the other for Adobe Shockwave Player. The Flash Player bulletin resolves 8x priority 1 vulnerabilities. While the Shockwave bulletin resolves 1x priority 2 vulnerability. These priority rating are explained in the previous link.

Depending on which version of Flash Player you have, please review the Adobe security bulletin or Microsoft bulletin as appropriate and apply the recommended updates. Google Chrome users will have the updated installed automatically alongside the updated version of Google Chrome which was made available last week.

If you use Flash or Adobe Shockwave, please review the security bulletins linked to above and apply the necessary updates. 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 Software, Security 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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Update: 22nd March 2017:
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I wish to provide information on other notable updates from this month which I would recommend you install if you use these software products:

Notepad++ version 7.3.3

VideoLAN VLC Media version 2.2.5 (release currently in progress)

Malwarebytes Anti-malware version 3.0.6 CU3 (with Component package version: 1.0.75):
It is unknown how many vulnerabilities this addresses but this forum post mentions their resolution.

Malwarebytes Anti-malware version 3.0.6 CU4 addresses further vulnerabilities.

More details of the vulnerabilities resolved by Malwarebytes 3.0.6 CU3 have emerged. Researchers responsibly disclosed a technique which uses Microsoft’s Application Verifier to hijack an anti-malware application. More details of this vulnerability are available here and here.

Mozilla Firefox 52.0.1 (more details in this post on Pwn2Own 2017)

VMware Workstation 12.5.4 (relevant security advisories are here and here)

VMware ESXi, Fusion and VMware Workstation 12.5.5 (the relevant security advisory is here). This advisory resolves the vulnerabilities disclosed during Pwn2Own 2017 for the above listed products.

Wireshark 2.2.5 and 2.0.11

Putty 0.68 (while released in February; it contains important security changes)

Apple Security Updates: updates are available for iTunes, iTunes for Windows, Pages, Numbers, Keynote (for macOS and iOS), Safari, macOS Sierra, El Capitan and Yosemite, iOS, watchOS, tvOS, macOS Server, iCloud for Windows.

Please see these links from Apple for advice on backing up your iPhone and iPad. Advice for updating tvOS is available here.

For advice on how to install updates for Apple devices, please see the steps detailed at the end of this Sophos blog post as well as this link (from my “Protecting Your PC” page). This link details how to update your Apple Watch.

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For the 17 Microsoft bulletins this month, I will prioritize the order of updates for you below:

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Critical severity:
Windows Graphics Component

Windows SMB Server

Microsoft Edge

Internet Explorer

Windows Hyper-V

Windows PDF

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Important Severity
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The update for Microsoft Office should be installed next due to it’s criticality. With the follow updates after it:

Microsoft Exchange

Microsoft IIS

Active Directory Federation Server

As always you can find detailed information on the contents of each security bulletin is published each month 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 is my standard 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.

Thank you.