Tag Archives: apple

Highlights from Pwn2Own 2020


The following products were successfully exploited, please install the necessary updates for them when they become available: Apple Safari, Apple macOS, Ubuntu Desktop, Windows, Oracle VirtualBox and Adobe Reader
As long-time readers of this blog will know, the Pwn2Own security conference with its white hacking contest is my favourite event of the year. Sophisticated vulnerability exploitation is showcased, the contestants receive large sums of money and we as consumers receive safer products to use on a day to day basis. It took place late last week virtually due to the Coronavirus. The results from both days of competition can be found here. The total prize was USD $270,000.

The winners of the competition were Richard Zhu and Amat Cama of Team Fluoroacetate winning the Master of Pwn title and USD $90,000 in prize money.

Returning to the trend of previous years, exploits against the Apple macOS kernel (defined) and Windows kernel were common again. These are high severity vulnerabilities but when addressed will make our systems safer.

The vendors have up to 90 days to resolve the vulnerabilities before public disclosure. Please expect and apply the necessary security updates to the affected as they become available

Thank you.

March 2020 Update Summary

Update: 28th March 2020
I have added the details of the security updates released by Apple on the 24th March near the end of this post. Thank you.

Update: 25th March 2020
Adobe has released a further update for Creative Cloud Desktop. I have added the details below to the Adobe updates list.

VMware have also released VMware Fusion 11.5.3 to more completely address a previously patched vulnerability. Details are below in the VMware updates list.

Thank you.

Update: 23rd March 2020

Since originally writing this post, Adobe published their security updates a week later than usual. Further details are listed below.

Thank you.

Adobe Acrobat and Reader: 13x Priority 2 CVEs (defined)resolved (9x Critical and 4x Important severity)
Adobe Bridge: 2x Priority 3 CVEs resolved (2x Critical severity)
Adobe ColdFusion:  2x Priority 2 CVEs resolved (2x Critical severity)
Adobe Creative Cloud Desktop: 1x Priority 2 CVE resolved (1x Critical severity)
Adobe Experience Manager: 1x Priority 2 CVE resolved (1x Important severity)
Adobe Genuine Integrity Service: 1x Priority 3 CVE resolved (1x Important severity)
Adobe Photoshop: 21x Priority 3 CVEs resolved (15x Critical and 6x Important severity)

Update: 15th March 2020:
Security researcher Kevin Beaumont has provided further details of the critical SMBv3.1 vulnerability affecting Windows 10 Version 1903 and 1909. In summary the vulnerability is not trivial to exploit and the number of systems at the time of writing (13th March) vulnerability to the exploit had already dropped by 25%.

Update: 12th March 2020:
Microsoft have released an update to resolve the SMBv3 vulnerability now designated CVE-2020-0796, (EternalDarkness or SMBGhost) please apply it to any Windows 10 Server or Windows 10 workstation system running Windows 10 Version 1903 or 1909 as soon as possible. Please also make certain that such systems are not exposing port 445 to the internet (please seethe FAQ in their information on the relevant update).

An internet scan by security researchers of vulnerable estimates that there are 48,000 vulnerable Windows 10 systems. You can use the ollypwn scan (created by a Danish security researcher) can be used to check if a system is vulnerable.

I wish to add the following useful clarification (which was written before the Microsoft security update became available) from Richard Melick, senior technical product manager at Automox in relation to this SMBv3 vulnerability:

“Considering that SMBv3 is not as widely used as SMBv1, the potential immediate impact of this threat is most likely lower than past vulnerabilities. But that does not mean organizations should be disregarding any endpoint hardening that can happen now while Microsoft works on a patch…it’s better to respond today and disable SMBv3 and block TCP port 445. Respond now and vulnerabilities end today”.

To all of my readers, please stay safe during these challenging times. Thank you.

Update: 11th March 2020
As expected, yesterday Microsoft  released their scheduled updates to resolve 115 CVEs (defined). Unusually for this month, Adobe has not released any updates.

Microsoft’s monthly summary; lists Known Issues for 14 Microsoft products but all have workarounds or resolution steps listed just as the previous month’s did.

A further useful source of update related information is the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) (please see the “Information on Security Updates” heading of the “Protecting Your PC” page):


As always for this month’s Microsoft updates, I will prioritize the order of installation below:
For Windows or Windows Server system (Version 1903 and 1909) systems that uses SMBv3, please follow Microsoft’s guidance in the following security advisory while an update is not yet available. Please apply the update as soon as it is made available:

ADV200005 | Microsoft Guidance for Disabling SMBv3 Compression

Please also make certain that TCP port 445 is blocked at the enterprise perimeter firewall to prevent exploitation.

This vulnerability is “wormable” meaning that similar to the WannaCry malware and the BlueKeep vulnerability if exploited it may lead to a very large malware outbreak in a very short time.


Windows LNK: CVE-2020-0684
Windows Media Foundation: CVE-2020-0801 , CVE-2020-0807 , CVE-2020-0809,  CVE-2020-0869
Microsoft Internet Explorer: CVE-2020-0824
Microsoft Browsers: CVE-2020-0768

Microsoft Scripting Engine: CVE-2020-0830 , CVE-2020-0847, CVE-2020-0833 , CVE-2020-0832, CVE-2020-0829 , CVE-2020-0813 , CVE-2020-0826, CVE-2020-0827 , CVE-2020-0825 , CVE-2020-0831, CVE-2020-0811, CVE-2020-0828, CVE-2020-0848, CVE-2020-0823, CVE-2020-0812

Microsoft GDI+: CVE-2020-0881, CVE-2020-0883
Microsoft Word: CVE-2020-0852
Microsoft Dynamics: CVE-2020-0905
Microsoft Edge: CVE-2020-0816


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 also provided further details of updates available for other commonly used applications and devices below.

To all of my readers, please stay safe during these challenging times. Thank you.

On the 3rd of March, Netgear released 25 security advisories for its modem-router gateways, approximately 40 routers and a range extender. The vulnerability range up to critical in severity.

If you own a Netgear router, range extender or modem-router gateway, please use the guidance within this article (many thanks to Tom’s Guide for this advice and the appropriate how to check for updates steps) to locate your Netgear device model e.g. R6400 and to match it against the available security bulletins to check if your device requires a firmware (defined) update sometimes called a software update. Please install the update if one is available. The above linked to article also describes the varied methods to update your Netgear device.

Intel Security Advisories
Intel have released a series of security advisories this month. The advisories are prioritised below. If you use any of these products, software or devices, please update them as soon as possible especially in the case of the high severity advisories.

Intel Smart Sound Technology Advisory
BlueZ Advisory
Intel NUC Firmware Advisory

Intel MAX 10 FPGA Advisory
Intel Processors Load Value Injection Advisory
Snoop Assisted L1D Sampling Advisory
Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory Module Management Software Advisory
Intel FPGA Programmable Acceleration Card N3000 Advisory
Intel Graphics Drivers Advisory

Mozilla Firefox
Yesterday, Mozilla released Firefox 74 and Firefox ESR (Extended Support Release) 68.6 to resolve the following vulnerabilities:

Firefox 74.0: Addresses 6x high severity CVEs, 6x medium severity CVEs and 1x low CVE

Firefox 68.6 ESR: Addresses 5x high severity CVEs and 3x medium severity CVEs

Firefox 74 also removes support TLS 1.0 (what is TLS, defined) and 1.1 as per Mozilla’s previous timelime, adds a Facebook Container add-in to limit how much the social tracks you across other sites and blocks the ability for other applications to install Firefox add-ons without your knowledge or consent. Further details of these features and other features added can be found within this article (my thanks to Lawrence Abrams of Bleepingcomputer.com for this information).

Google Chrome
Early last week, Google released Chrome version 80.0.3987.132 for Linux, Mac and Windows to resolve 4 security vulnerabilities with the most severe being of high severity.

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 vertically stacked dots) 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.

Apple Security Updates:
On the 24th of March Apple made available the following updates. Notable fixes affect the kernels of macOS, iOS and iPadOS, WebKit (the renderer of Safari), Bluetooth and Safari.

These updates bring Safari to version 13.1 and add updates to its Intelligence Tracking Prevention (ITP) privacy feature while also introducing a block on all 3rd party cookies (defined) by default.

Further details for these updates are as follows:
Apple iOS v13.4 and iPadOS 13.4 (resolves 35x CVEs (defined))
Apple tvOS 13.4: Resolves 20x CVEs.
Apple watchOS 6.2: Resolves 17x CVEs
Apple watchOS 5.3.6 (no CVEs resolved)
Apple iTunes version 12.10.5 for Windows: Resolves 13x CVEs
macOS Catalina 10.15.4, Security Update 2020-002 Mojave, Security Update 2020-002 High Sierra: Resolves 27x CVEs.
Safari 13.1: Resolves 11 CVEs
Apple iCloud for Windows 10.9.3: Resolves 13 CVEs
Apple iCloud for Windows 7.18: Resolves 13 CVEs
Xcode 11.4: Resolves 1 CVE (?: Apple’s post provides little details)


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

As always; further details of these updates are available on Apple’s dedicated security updates page.

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).

On the 17th March the OpenSSL Foundation issued OpenSSL 1.1.1e (download/installation links included) which includes a low severity security fix.

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 have so far released 2 security advisories this month to resolve vulnerabilities within the following products:

Advisory 1: Severity: Critical:
VMware Workstation Pro / Player (Workstation)
VMware Fusion Pro / Fusion (Fusion)
VMware Horizon Client for Windows
VMware Remote Console for Windows (VMRC for Windows)
Advisory 2: Severity: Important:
VMware Workstation Pro / Player (Workstation)
VMware Fusion Pro / Fusion (Fusion)
VMware Remote Console for Mac (VMRC for Mac)
VMware Horizon Client for Mac
VMware Horizon Client for Windows

Advisory 2 (above) has been updated by VMware to state VMware Fusion has been updated to version 11.5.3 to more comprehensively resolve the vulnerability designated CVE-2020-3950. Please make certain if you use VMwre Fusion that it is the latest version available.

If you use any of the above products, please review the above advisories and install the applicable security updates as soon as possible.

Responding to the WPA-2 Kr00k Vulnerability

While this vulnerability degrades the security offered by WPA2 and WPA2-Enterprise the use of HTTPS / TLS on your network will keep your web browsing traffic secure. An attacker would need to be in close proximity to the in-use Wi-Fi to exploit it and could only gather small amounts of information (if it not already secured by TLS) over time. Please check if software or firmware updates are available for your Wi-Fi devices.

Yesterday at the RSA conference ESET Security researchers disclosed details of a vulnerability affecting very large numbers (more than 1 billion) of Wi-Fi devices. They named the vulnerability Kr00k.

How serious is this vulnerability?
Cisco has classified this vulnerability as medium severity with Apple further adding that “an attacker in Wi-Fi range may be able to view a small amount of network traffic”. It has received a CVSS base score of 3.1 (Low). While there is potential for an attacker to eavesdrop on your Wi-Fi it does not mean your Wi-Fi is completely open to attack. ESET clarifies this “eavesdropping on the communication of an unpatched device is simple enough for most black-hat actors”. In other words, an attacker would have to target your vulnerable network and be within Wi-Fi range to exploit it. With most traffic now secured by TLS (indicated by your web browser as HTTPS) an attacker could NOT view such traffic. An attacker could continuously trigger a disassociation between Wi-Fi devices and each time obtain several kilobytes of sensitive information (provided it isn’t already secured by TLS). Each disassociation could be used to gather a little more information.

How does this vulnerability work?
Affected Broadcom chips which are used in many of today’s Wi-Fi capable devices and Cypress chips used within many Internet of Things (IoT) devices. After disassociation between a device and a client device e.g. your laptop and your Wi-Fi access point, the session key used by the WPA2 encryption protocol to secure the connection which is stored within the Wireless Network Interface Controller’s (WNIC) is cleared (set to zero)(this is design). However, the data frames left within the transmit buffer of the chip are then sent and secured with an all zero key. This small amount of information could be captured by an adversary. If the information is not secured by TLS, the attacker may obtain sensitive information. They could then repeat this process over time.

How can you protect your organisation or yourself from this vulnerability?
This vulnerability was responsibly disclosed to Broadcom and Cypress who have released updates. ESET also worked with the Industry Consortium for Advancement of Security on the Internet (ICASI) to notify other possibly affected Wi-Fi chip manufacturers. For any Wi-Fi capable device, you own, please check if there are software or firmware updates available for it.

The ESET researchers did not test if the newer WPA-3 encryption protocol is vulnerable to this issue, however it is less likely to be.

Apples released updates for their iPod, iPad, iPhone, desktop and laptop systems in late October 2019 (please see the references below). The researchers confirmed the following devices are affected but this is not a definitive list.

A list of vulnerable, under investigation and not vulnerable Cisco devices is also linked to below:

Amazon Echo 2nd gen

Amazon Kindle 8th gen

Apple iPad mini 2

Apple iPhone 6, 6S, 8, XR

Apple MacBook Air Retina 13-inch 2018

Google Nexus 5

Google Nexus 6

Google Nexus 6S

Raspberry Pi 3

Samsung Galaxy S4 GT-I9505

Samsung Galaxy S8

Xiaomi Redmi 3S

Wi-Fi Access Points:

Asus RT-N12 (this access point has been confirmed to date back to early 2010)

Huawei B612S-25d (July 2017)

Huawei EchoLife HG8245H (March 2018)

Huawei E5577Cs-321 (February 2015)

My thanks to the ESET researchers for providing the necessary information to write this post.











Pwn2Own 2019 Results

TL DR: With popular products such as the Tesla Model 3, Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Oracle VirtualBox, VMware Workstation Pro and Microsoft Edge being successfully exploited; please install the necessary updates when they become available.

The annual white hat hacking contest known as Pwn2Own took place last week. Detailed results from all 3 days are available from this link.

Day 3 saw initially two teams attempting to exploit a Tesla Model 3 before one withdrew. The team Fluoroacetate made up of both Richard Zhu and Amat Cama successfully exploited the infotainment system of the Tesla earning them a further $35,000 and the car itself. They earned $375k in total and became the Master of Pwn for 2019. The contest overall distributed $545k for 19 vulnerabilities.

In contrast to previous years the researchers have targeted vulnerabilities other than those within the operating system kernel (defined) to obtain a total system compromise. Only 3 times were exploits on the OS kernel used this year (one exploit was used in conjunction when exploiting each of the web browsers Apple Safari, Microsoft Edge and Mozilla Firefox).

We can expect updates for each of the exploited products over the coming weeks and months (the vendors have up to 120 days to resolve the vulnerabilities before public disclosure). Mozilla released Firefox 66.0.1 and 60.6.1 to resolve the 2 Firefox CVEs (defined) disclosed during the contest.

If you use the affected products, please keep current with the necessary updates. Thank you.

Blog Post Shout Out March 2019

TL DR: If a device that stores your personal information has reached the end of it’s life, please strongly consider erasing it correctly before recycling or disposing of it.

A security researcher from Rapid7 purchased 85 used pieces of technology to check them for data left behind by their previous owners. 80 of the devices had data still remaining on them.

He was able to uncover the following:

  • 214,019 images, 3,406 documents and 148,903 email messages
  • 611 email addresses, 50 dates of birth, 41 Social Security numbers, 19 credit-card numbers, six driver’s license numbers and two passport numbers.

For these reasons I wanted to provide a respectful shout out to the following blog post by Josh Frantz of Rapid7:


When our devices have reached the end of their useful life we need to become better at removing our data from them. Please find below recommended guides for Apple iPhones, Google Android device and hard disks (both RAID and simple disk set ups). My thanks to Mr. Josh Frantz for collecting these links within his post.

Thank you.

Apple iPhone:

Google Android:

Hard disks (typically how they are set up):

Hard disks (when used in a RAID configuration):

Apple KeyChain Vulnerability Disclosed

Last week a security researcher publicly disclosed a vulnerability within Apple macOS’ Keychain (Apple’s password management system). The exact proof of concept code has not been released.

TL DR:  This vulnerability is currently unpatched by Apple. Be cautious of the links you click on, email attachments and applications you download/open. Keep your system current with already released updates. Watch for updates from Apple in the near future.

Why should this vulnerability be considered important?
This vulnerability affects all versions of Apple macOS up to the most recent 10.14.3 (Mojave). Apple Keychain is used to store passwords for application, websites and servers. This information is encrypted by default blocking access via other means without your permission.

However; the exploit allows an attacker to access this information from a standard user account (thus not requiring root (defined)(privileged) access) without generating a password prompt. The keychain must first be unlocked but it is when you are logged into the system. The System keychain which contains (among other items) is not affected. Thus, if the attacker can persuade you to run an application of their choice (e.g. substituting an app that looks like an app you regularly download manually); they could obtain your passwords/sensitive information. A YouTube video demonstrating the custom application designed to exploit this is provided below:


How can I protect myself?
Please see the TL DR above. You should also consider manually locking your keychain or setting a keychain specific password (further details below).


Lock your Keychain:
Open Keychain Access in the Applications: Utilities folder. Select your keychain (usually your user name) in the drawer (click on Show Keychains in the toolbar if it’s not visible). Then choose Edit: Change Settings For Keychain keychain name. Select Lock After 5 Minutes Of Inactivity (or lower according to your preference).

Password Protect Your Keychain:
Open the Keychain Access application, and select your keychain in the drawer. Select Edit: Change Password For Keychain keychain name, and then enter a new password.

With thanks to MacWorld:


Why did the researcher not disclose this to Apple privately?
The researcher, Linus Henze chose not to privately disclose this to Apple since while Apple have a bug bounty for iOS which is by invite only; they don’t have such a program for macOS. The researcher wishes to highlight this omission. A quote from the researcher is included below (my thanks to Sergiu Gatlan of BleepingComputer.com) for this:

“Please note that even if it looks like I’m doing this just for the money, this is not my motivation at all in this case. My motivation is to get Apple to create a bug bounty program. I think that this is the best for both Apple and Researchers. I really love Apple products and I want to make them more secure. And the best way to make them more secure would be, in my opinion, if Apple creates a bug bounty program (like other big companies already have)”

Separately he is not the only researcher to be criticising Apple’s approach to vulnerability remediation. Ian Beer of Google Project Zero publicly criticised Apple last August for simply fixing vulnerabilities rather than thinking of them in an exploit context namely “Why is this bug here? How is it being used? How did we miss it earlier? What process problems need to be addressed so we could have found [the bug] earlier? Who had access to this code and reviewed it and why, for whatever reason, didn’t they report it?”

Thank you.

Linux and Windows Address Page Cache Vulnerabilities

In early January security researchers located further vulnerabilities in how Windows and Linux operating systems use a memory page cache.

How severe are these vulnerabilities and what is their impact?
One of the co-authors of the academic paper disclosing these vulnerabilities described the work as mostly “a matter of academic interest” meaning that attackers are less likely to take advantage of these vulnerabilities.

Local attacks:
For the localised rather than remote variant of utilizing these vulnerabilities; the attacker must already have gained access to the victim system to read the target memory page. The attacker could do this by “[having a] malicious process on the operating system or when processes run in sandboxes that have shared files”.

Other actions an attacker could potentially carry out are:

• Cloning an open window and replacing the legitimate application window
• Gathering the root (Linux) or administrator (Windows) password

Remote attack:
To exploit the vulnerabilities remotely; the researchers leveraged “timing differences between memory and disk access, measured on a remote system, as a proxy for the required local information”. This was achieved by measuring the times when soft page faults (the page is erroneously mapped, with the help of a process that runs on a remote server) occurred. The researchers were successful in sending data covertly from an unprivileged malicious process within the victim system to a remote server fulfilling the role of a web server. They used a technique from previous research namely the NetSpectre attack to distinguish cache hits and misses over a network connection. This was successful on systems with mechanical hard drives (HDDs) and solid-state disks (SSDs). SSDs were more complex since the timing differences were smaller but the researchers compensated by using larger files to distinguish between cache hits and misses.

How can I protect my organization/myself from these vulnerabilities?
Since these vulnerabilities are more academic in nature; attackers are less likely to exploit them. Linus Torvalds has explained that the code to resolve this vulnerability has been checked in and is undergoing testing before being more widely rolled out. For Windows; Build 18305 of the upcoming Windows 19H1 (otherwise known as Version 1903) due for release in April 2019 contains fixes for these vulnerabilities. It is anticipated Microsoft will back-port this patch to earlier Windows versions.

In addition; the mitigations for the Spectre vulnerabilities from last year should address the remote attack vector using the NetSpectre attack method.

Why are there so many timing attacks being disclosed lately?
Since modern systems rely on timing for almost every component e.g. the CPU (internal caches and registers respond in nanoseconds (ns)), the memory/RAM (e.g. CAS latency), HDDs (measured in milliseconds (ms) e.g. 8.9 ms), SSDs (e.g. 0.05 ms , much faster) we are likely to continue to see further vulnerabilities disclosed as further scrutiny is applied to devices and architectures that have been in use for many years.

E.g. the affected code from Linux was timestamped in 2000 and stated that further revision should be carried out when more information was known. 19 years later we know more and are revising that code. It’s a similar situation with Windows where the revised code works to ensure low privilege processes can no longer access page cache information or shared cache information. As The Register points out; “something complex that’s just working can remain untouched for a very long time, lest someone breaks it” and is more likely to contain vulnerabilities since nobody has taken the time to look for what has been there for years.

Thank you.