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.

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)

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 up to and including 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.

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.

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

Windows 7

Windows 8.1

Windows 10

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.

Update: 15th May 2017:
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.

Update: 18th May 2017:
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.

Update: 21st May 2017:
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.

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


Smiths Medical


Johnson & Johnson

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 If this advisory is updated it will become Further updates will change the final letter to F, G and so on.

ICS CERT also issued an FAQ on WannaCry which you may find useful.

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.


Affected Windows versions:
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)

May 2017 Security Updates Summary

Today Microsoft and Adobe made available their expected monthly security updates.

Microsoft’s updates address 57 vulnerabilities more formally known as CVEs (defined). These are detailed within Microsoft’s new Security Updates Guide.

At the time of writing there are no Known Issues for this month’s Microsoft updates. The IT Pro Patch Tuesday blog while not updated since last month doesn’t contain this months updates yet.

Before continuing with this months updates I wanted to provide information on a critical out of band (un-scheduled) update made available by Microsoft yesterday to address a vulnerability responsibly disclosed (defined) by Google Project Zero researchers Natalie Silvanovich and Tavis Ormandy within Microsoft’s Malware Protection Engine. The full list of affected products is listed within their security advisory. The exploit code for this vulnerability was later published within a tweet (which will not exploit the vulnerability).

I recommend updating your version of the Malware Protection Engine as soon as possible to version 1.1.13704.0 (or later) since this vulnerability when exploited by an attacker will lead to them obtaining system level access (NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM)(defined)(namely the highest level of privilege within a Windows system) over an affected system.

Also today Adobe issued two security bulletins for the following products:

Adobe Experience Manager Forms (1x priority 2 CVE)
Adobe Flash Player (7x priority 1 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 as appropriate and apply the recommended updates. Google Chrome users will have the updated version installed automatically later this week.

If you use any of the above-mentioned Adobe products, please review the security bulletins linked to above and apply the necessary updates. As always 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:
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 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.

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.

For the Microsoft updates this month, I will prioritize the order of installation for you below:
Critical severity:
Microsoft Malware Protection Engine
Microsoft Office
Microsoft Edge
Internet Explorer
Microsoft SMB (CVE-2017-0277, CVE-2017-0278, CVE-2017-0279)

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.

Update: 10th May 2017:
I wish to provide information on other notable updates from May 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:

Mozilla Firefox:
Firefox 53.0.2

Mozilla Firefox ESR:
Firefox ESR 52.1.1

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.

Google Chrome:
Google Chrome: includes 1 security fix.

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.

Nvidia Geforce Drivers:
This update applies to Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris and Windows and resolves up to 15 security vulnerabilities. The steps to install the drivers are detailed here.

I detailed where Nvidia list their security advisories in a previous blog post.

This update to Malwarebytes 3.1 (specifically v3.1.2.1733) resolves more than 1 security vulnerability (exact numbers and further details are not available).

Malwarebytes typically roll out updates in waves meaning it may be sometime before you receive this update. If the update is not automatically downloaded and installed in a timely manner, it is available from this link. Manual installation and general troubleshooting steps are available here.

Apple security updates:
Updates were made available by Apple on the 15th of May for iTunes for Windows, Safari, macOS Sierra, El Capitan and Yosemite, iOS, watchOS, tvOS, and 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.

Further information on the content of these updates is available this blog post.

Hitman Pro:
As recommended on my Tools and Resources page, Hitman Pro (now part of Sophos Security) has been updated to version 3.7.20 (Build 286). This update resolves 3 important vulnerabilities relating to the driver the tool uses for scanning. Any previous version of the tool should update automatically when opened to the most recent version.

Update: 25th May 2017:
Yesterday VideoLAN released version 2.2.6 of VLC for Windows only. It resolves the security issues listed below (assuming at least 2 heap overflows (given their use of the plural form)). This list came from the NEWS.txt file after installing version 2.2.6 since the detailed release notes on VideoLAN’s website have not yet been updated (and may not be until 2.2.6 is officially made available for macOS and Linux systems).

The update is currently being distributed via their automatic updater (upon opening VLC) and manually from their website (unexpectedly that page also contains tarballs for Linux):

Changes between and 2.2.6:

Video output:
* Fix systematic green line on nvidia
* Fix direct3d SPU texture offsets handling

* Fix heap buffer overflows


It was not known at the time version was made available that the correction of “Fix potential out-of-band reads in subtitle decoders and demuxers” were actually security issues assigned to 4x CVEs discovered by CheckPoint security.

Late last week VideoLAN released version of VLC. This update is available for Linux, Apple Mac OS X and Windows. It addresses (at least) 13 security issues mentioned here (I’ll explain my numbering using the list below). This update is available for download for the above operating systems from this page.

If you use VLC, please update as soon as possible to address the above mentioned security vulnerabilities as well as the general software bugs that were resolved.

1. Security hardening for DLL hijacking environments
2. Fix potential out-of-band dereference in flac decoder
3. Fix potential out-of-band reads in mpeg packetizers
4. Fix incorrect memory free in ogg demuxer
5. Fix potential out-of-band reads in subtitle decoders and demuxers
6. Fix ADPCM heap corruption (FG-VD-16-067)
7. Fix DVD/LPCM heap corruption (FG-VD-16-090)
8. Fix possible ASF integer overflow
9. Fix MP4 heap buffer overflows
10. Fix Flac metadata integer overflow
11. Fix flac null-pointer dereference
12. Fix vorbis and opus comments integer overflows and leaks
13. The plugins loading will not load external DLLs by default. Plugins will need to LoadLibrary explicitly.

On the 14th of May, Notepad++ made available a new version updating it to version 7.4. While it is not a security update it includes a security related improvement namely: Improve certificate verifying method.

This version has since been updated to version 7.4.1 to resolve a number of non-security issues. If you use Notepad++, please consider updating to the most recent version to benefit from the security improvement and the bug fixes it includes.

Please note, the 64 bit version of Notepad++ became available in September 2016. It allows the opening of larger files and includes High Entropy ASLR (Address Space Layout Randomization (defined)) on a 64 bit version of Windows. I have discussed HEASLR on this blog before and it’s an excellent security measure/control/mitigation (defined). Further information on HEASLR can be found on Alex Ionescu’s blog.

GIMP (photo editor):
The open source ((the source code (human readable code) is free to view and edit by the wider IT community) photo editor GIMP has made available version 2.8.22 which resolves one security vulnerability. If you use this editor, please update it to this version (or later).

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.

Update: 19th May 2017:
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.