Tag Archives: Cisco Talos

December 2019 Update Summary

As scheduled, on the 10th of December Adobe and Microsoft made available their monthly security updates.

Adobe resolved 25 CVEs this month with Microsoft separately patching 36 CVEs (defined).
Adobe Brackets (an open source (the source code (human readable code) is free to view and edit by the wider IT community) application development editor focused on web development): 1x Priority 3 CVE resolved (1x Critical severity)

Adobe ColdFusion: 1x Priority 2 CVE resolved (1x Important severity)

Adobe Photoshop CC: 2x Priority 3 CVEs resolved (2x Critical severity)

Adobe Acrobat and Reader: 21x Priority 2 CVEs resolved (14x Critical severity and 7x Important severity)

If you use the above Adobe products, please install these updates (especially in the case of the above critical vulnerabilities in all but ColdFusion).

Within Microsoft’s monthly summary; there are Known Issues for 17 Microsoft products but all have workarounds (some workarounds will be replaced by revised or further updates) or updates already available to resolve them.

US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) (please see the “Information on Security Updates” heading of the “Protecting Your PC” page):


For this month’s Microsoft updates, I will prioritize the order of installation below:
Microsoft Graphics Component (Win32k Graphics): CVE-2019-1468

Microsoft Windows Kernel (defined): CVE-2019-1458

Windows Hyper-V: CVE-2019-1471

Microsoft Visual Studio: CVE-2019-1349 , CVE-2019-1350 , CVE-2019-1352 , CVE-2019-1354 , CVE-2019-1387

Microsoft Guidance for cleaning up orphaned keys generated on vulnerable TPMs (defined) and used for Windows Hello for Business: Security Advisory

Please install the remaining less severe updates at your earliest convenience.

As per standard best practice; I would recommend backing up the data on any device for which you are installing updates to prevent data loss in the rare event that any update causes unexpected issues.

I have provided further details of updates available for other commonly used applications below.

Thank you.

Mozilla Firefox
Mozilla released new versions of Firefox to address the following vulnerabilities and to introduce new privacy features:

Firefox 71.0: Resolves 6x high severity CVEs (defined) and 5x moderate CVEs

Firefox ESR 68.3 (Extended Support Release): Resolves 4x high severity CVEs and 4x moderate CVEs

Highlights from version 71 of Firefox include:
An improved password manager which has the ability to recognise subdomains and to provide password breach notifications from Firefox Monitor for users with screen readers. Native MP3 decoding, kiosk mode and picture in picture support were also added.

The tracking protection enabled by default from Firefox 69 has been enhanced to add 3 different levels (similar to high, medium and custom) of protection and to provide a summary of the number of tracking preventative actions Firefox takes on your behalf. An in-depth description of this feature is available in this Softpedia article. My thanks as always to its author Bogdan Popa for this really well gathered information.

Details of how to install updates for Firefox are here. If Firefox is your web browser of choice, if you have not already done so, please update it as soon as possible to benefit from the above changes.

Google Chrome
Google made available two security updates during November; the first resolves 4 vulnerabilities while the second resolves  5 vulnerabilities.

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.

In early December AMD issued a security advisory for its GPU and APU (defined) drivers (defined). It resolves 2 vulnerabilities CVE-2019-5049 and CVE-2019-5098. The steps to install the drivers on Windows are located here with a guide for Linux available here. Please make certain the drivers are version 20.1.1 or later (as per multiple recommendations from Talos, 1 , 2 and 3). As per those same recommendations if you use VMware Player or Workstation Pro, please make certain it is version 15.5.1 or later. If you use the affected AMD graphics cards, please consider updating your drivers to the most recent available.

In late December Nvidia released a security update for Nvidia Geforce Experience to resolve a vulnerability that may lead to a denial of service (defined) issue or an escalation of privilege (defined) issue. This vulnerability is a local vulnerability rather than remote meaning that an attacker would first need to compromise your system before exploiting this vulnerability to elevate their privileges. To resolve this local vulnerability within Geforce Experience  apply the necessary update by opening Geforce Experience which will automatically update it or the update can be obtained from here.

Intel Security Advisories
Intel have released a series of security advisories this month. The high priority advisories are the following:

Linux Administrative Tools for Intel Network Adapters Advisory

Intel NUC Firmware Advisory

The remaining advisories are of medium and low priority:

Intel Quartus Prime Pro Edition Advisory

Intel RST Advisory (see also my separate post on this vulnerability)

Control Center-I Advisory

Intel SCS Platform Discovery Utility Advisory

Unexpected Page Fault in Virtualized Environment Advisory

Intel FPGA SDK for OpenCL Advisory

Intel Ethernet I218 Adapter Driver for Windows Advisory

Intel Dynamic Platform and Thermal Framework Advisory

Similar to last month, VMware released 2 further security advisories, the first is of critical severity with the second being of moderate severity relating to the products:

Critical Severity Advisory:

VMware ESXi
VMware Horizon DaaS appliances

Moderate Severity Advisory:
VMware Workstation Pro / Player for Linux
VMware Horizon View Agent

If you use the above VMware products, please review the advisories and apply the necessary updates.

On the 6th December; the OpenSSL Foundation issued 1 update for OpenSSL to address a single low severity security vulnerability as detailed in this security advisory. To resolve this issue please update your OpenSSL installations to 1.1.1e-dev or 1.0.2u (as appropriate). Please note that OpenSSL 1.0.2 will be unsupported and thus will not receive any security updates after 31st December 2019. Please upgrade to version 1.1.1 or later.

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.

Apple Security Updates
Throughout December Apple has released security updates for the following products:

Apple iOS v12.4.4 and 13.3 / iPad OS 13.3: Resolves 1 CVE (defined) and 14 CVEs (respectively)

Apple Safari 13.0.4: Resolves 2 CVEs

Apple macOS Catalina and macOS High Sierra: Resolves 52 CVEs

Apple tvOS 13.3: Resolves 11 CVEs

Apple watchOS 5.3.4 and 6.1.1: Resolves 1 CVE and 10 CVEs (respectively)

Apple Xcode 11.3: Resolves 1 CVE

Apple iTunes 12.10.3 for Windows: Resolves 4 CVEs

Apple iCloud for Windows 7.16 (includes AAS 8.2): Resolves 4 CVEs

Apple iCloud for Windows 10.9: Resolves 4 CVEs


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).

In early December the following Wireshark updates were released:

v3.0.7: 1 security advisory

v2.6.13: 1 security advisory

The above v3.0.7 version was later super seceded by v3.2 on the 18th of December. While it does not address security issues, it will be the version being updated going forward. Version 3.2 will also be the last version to support Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7.

As per standard process Linux distributions can obtain this update using the operating systems standard package manager (if the latest version is not installed automatically using the package manager you can instead compile the source code (v3.0.7 or v2.6.13). This forum thread and this forum thread may also be helpful to you with installing Wireshark on your Linux based system.

For Mac OS X and Windows, the update is available within the downloads section of the Wireshark website. In addition, a detailed FAQ for Wireshark is available here.

Attackers Turn to OpenDocument Files Attempting to Bypass Attachment Scanning

Earlier last week Cisco Talos researchers discovered 3 OpenDocument files that were being used in an attempt to deliver malware to their intended targets.

For any email attachment you receive, if you weren’t expecting it, don’t open it. Be cautious of clicking unknown or potentially suspicious links received within emails or via social media. If you use alternatives to Microsoft Office e.g. OpenOffice, LibreOffice or StarOffice within your organisation, small business or home office consider scanning files you receive from others with your anti-malware software before opening them. Keep your office/productivity software up to date.

Why should these files be considered a potential risk?
Since OpenXML Microsoft Office files are compressed archives they are commonly treated as such by anti-malware software and scanned. However, this is not always the case for OpenDocuments (ODT) and they are not always opened within malware sandboxes (defined) or by anti-malware software meaning they can be used to deliver malware that would otherwise be detected and blocked. This is despite the fact that While these documents are also Zip archives with XML files.

Description of the 3 files found and analysed are as follows:

File 1:
The file contained an embedded OLE object (defined) which the person opening the files must accept a prompt in order for that embedded object to be executed targeting Microsoft Office. When accepted the object executes an HTA file (defined) which in turn downloads 2 scripts which are used to download a remote access trojan (RAT)(defined) in one instance the NJRAT and the other the RevengeRAT malware.

File 2:
Once again targeting Microsoft, this file also contained an OLE object but this time it downloaded a fake Spotify.exe. This file downloads another file which is packed to disguise its true purpose from anti-malware software. This packed file actually contains the AZORult information stealer.

File 3:
The final files targets OpenOffice and LibreOffice. The attackers used their equivalents of Microsoft Office macros (defined) to download and run a file called “plink” which sets up SSH connections. However, Talos found that the connection being set up when intended for an internal address rather than an external address located on the internet. They assume this was either for use within a commercial penetration testing programme (due to it attempting to download Metasploit (defined) payloads to be executed with WMI scripts (defined) ) or may be used for lateral movement within the network.

How can I protect my organisation or myself from these threats?
Exercise standard caution when receiving email attachments. If you weren’t expecting the file, don’t open it even if it comes from someone you know/trust. Be cautious of links within emails or received by social media or another means. Consider scanning files intended for OpenOffice, LibreOffice or StarOffice before opening them. If those files begin asking confirmation to carry out actions, DON’T provide your consent.

Since such attachments may contain personal information, please pause and think before you upload them to online scanning services e.g. VirusTotal.

Thank you.

VPNFilter: Overview and removal

Update: 24th October 2018:
Researchers from Cisco’s Talos team have discovered further capabilities of this malware. As detailed below the 3rd stage of the malware features:

Provides plugins for the RAT (defined below in the original post) to extend its functionality.

However, the team was able to determine the following extra capabilities:

  1. Packet sniffing (obtain information from passing data packets (defined) on a network connection)
  2. JavaScript (defined) injection used to deliver exploit (a small piece of software used to trigger a known vulnerability to the advantage of an attacker) to a compromised device (most likely a router).
  3. Encrypted tunnelling (defined) to hide data the malware steals as well as the existing command and control data traffic.
  4. Creating network maps (defined)
  5. Remote connection/administration via SSH (Secure Shell)(defined)
  6. Port forwarding (defined)
  7. Create SOCK5 (defined) proxies (defined)
  8. DDoS (defined)

The good news about this malware is that from the Talos team’s research it does not appear that any malware samples remain active. However; they caution it is not possible to assume that this malware has finished its malicious actions and the possibility of its return remains.

Thank you.

Update: 20th June 2018:
If you would prefer a video or a podcast of how to remove this malware from your router, this Sophos blog post provides links to both. The video is hosted on Facebook but a Facebook account isn’t required to view it. Sophos also provide an archive of previous videos on the same Facebook page.

Thank you.

Update: 6th June 2018:
The Cisco Talos team have provided an updated list of known affected routers. I have added these to the list below with “(new)” indicating a new device on the existing list. I have also updated the malware removal advice to provide easier to follow steps.

Thank you.

Original Post:
In late May; a strain of malware known as VPNFilter affecting routers from the vendors listed below was publicly disclosed by the Cisco Talos team:

Affected vendors:
Asus RT-AC66U (new)
Asus RT-N10 (new)
Asus RT-N10E (new)
Asus RT-N10U (new)
Asus RT-N56U (new)
Asus RT-N66U (new)
D-Link DES-1210-08P (new)
D-Link DIR-300 (new)
D-Link DIR-300A (new)
D-Link DSR-250N (new)
D-Link DSR-500N (new)
D-Link DSR-1000 (new)
D-Link DSR-1000N (new)
Huawei HG8245 (new)
Linksys E1200
Linksys E2500
Linksys E3000 (new)
Linksys E3200 (new)
Linksys E4200 (new)
Linksys RV082 (new)
Linksys WRVS4400N
Mikrotik CCR1009 (new)
Mikrotik Cloud Core Router (CCR) CCR1016
Mikrotik CCR1036
Mikrotik CCR1072
Mikrotik CRS109 (new)
Mikrotik CRS112 (new)
Mikrotik CRS125 (new)
Mikrotik RB411 (new)
Mikrotik RB450 (new)
Mikrotik RB750 (new)
Mikrotik RB911 (new)
Mikrotik RB921 (new)
Mikrotik RB941 (new)
Mikrotik RB951 (new)
Mikrotik RB952 (new)
Mikrotik RB960 (new)
Mikrotik RB962 (new)
Mikrotik RB1100 (new)
Mikrotik RB1200 (new)
Mikrotik RB2011 (new)
Mikrotik RB3011 (new)
Mikrotik RB Groove (new)
Mikrotik RB Omnitik (new)
Mikrotik STX5 (new)
Netgear DG834 (new)
Netgear DGN1000 (new)
Netgear DGN2200
Netgear DGN3500 (new)
Netgear FVS318N (new)
Netgear MBRN3000 (new)
Netgear R6400
Netgear R7000
Netgear R8000
Netgear WNR1000
Netgear WNR2000
Netgear WNR2200 (new)
Netgear WNR4000 (new)
Netgear WNDR3700 (new)
Netgear WNDR4000 (new)
Netgear WNDR4300 (new)
Netgear WNDR4300-TN (new)
Netgear UTM50 (new)
QNAP TS439 Pro
Other QNAP NAS devices running QTS software
TP-Link R600VPN
TP-Link TL-WR741ND (new)
TP-Link TL-WR841N (new)
Ubiquiti NSM2 (new)
Ubiquiti PBE M5 (new)
UPVEL Unknown Models* (new)
ZTE ZXHN H108N (new)

Why should this malware be considered important?
The authors (thought to be a group funded by a nation state) of this malware are using it to hijack vulnerable routers (500,000 are known to have been compromised across 54 countries) for possible use in cyberattacks against the Ukraine. Indeed, the malware more recently began seeking out Ukrainian routers specifically. The Ukrainian Secret Service issued a security alert on this on the 23rd of May.

The malware has the ability to do so by utilising previously publicly disclosed (defined) vulnerabilities to gain access and persistence (namely remaining present after the router is powered off and back on) within these routers. Last week the FBI took control of this botnet and are now working to clean up the affected devices.

The malware is very sophisticated and can persist within a router even if the router is powered off and back on (becoming the second malware to have this ability, the first being the Hide and Seek botnet). The malware is made up of 3 stages:

Stage 1: Is responsible for the persistence (mentioned above).
Stage 2: Providing the capabilities of a remote access Trojan (RAT)(defined)
Stage 3: Provides plugins for the RAT to extend it’s functionality.

The malware also has the capability to do the following:

  1. Wipe the firmware (see Aside below for a definition) of routers rendering them useless
  2. Inspect the data traffic passing through the router (with the possible intention of obtaining credentials passing over the wire to gain access to sensitive networks)
  3. Attempt to locate ICS/SCADA devices (defined) on the same network as the router by seeking out port 502 traffic, namely the Modbus protocol (defined) with the option of deploying further malware
  4. Communicate via the Tor network (definition in the Aside below).

How can I protect my devices from this malware?
The FBI are asking anyone who suspects their internet router to be infected to first reboot it (turn on and off the router). This will cause an infected device to check-in with the now under FBI control C&C (command and control, C2 (defined) server to provide them with a better overview of the numbers of infected devices.

To completely remove the malware; reset the device to factory defaults (this won’t harm a non-infected either but please ensure you have the necessary settings to hand to re-input them into the router, your internet service provider (ISP) will be able to help with this). This will remove stage 1 of the malware (stage 2 and 3 are removed by turning the router on an off).

To prevent re-infection: Cisco Talos’ team recommendations are available from this link. Moreover the US CERT provide recommendations here and here. Symantec’s recommendations are provided here (especially for Mikrotik and QNAP devices).

Further advisories from router manufacturers are as follows (their advice should supersede any other advice for your router model since they know their own devices the best):


Further recommendations from Sophos are:

  • Check with your vendor or ISP to find out how to get your router to do a firmware update.
  • Turn off remote administration unless you really need it
  • Choose strong password(s) for your router
  • Use HTTPS website where you can

A very useful and easy to follow step by step walk through of removing this malware by BleepingComputer is available from this link with useful guidance for multiple router models.

Thank you.

New VPNFilter malware targets at least 500K networking devices worldwide : Cisco Talos team

What is firmware?
Firmware is semi-permanent embedded software code that allows a device to carry out its function by having the low-level hardware carry out useful sequences of events.

What is The Onion Router (Tor)?
The Onion Router (Tor) is an open source (defined) project with the goal of protecting your privacy by passing your web browsing activity through a series of anonymous relies spread across the internet. These relays act like proxy servers which encrypt and randomly pass the traffic they receive from relay to relay.

This web of proxies is sometimes referred to as the Dark web (a portion of the internet only accessible using the Tor network). This makes tracing the source of the source almost impossible.