Tag Archives: Elevation of Privilege

Protecting Against the Windows 10 Task Scheduler Zero Day Vulnerability

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Update: 5th September 2018:
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As previously advised; exercising caution when receiving emails with attachments will keep you safe from the following malware now exploiting this vulnerability.

Your anti-malware software will likely also protect you from this exploit since the majority of vendors are detecting (verified using VirusTotal) the file hashes listed in the security firm Eset’s blog post:

Eset have detected attackers delivering an exploit for this vulnerability via email. The exploit targets victims in the following countries:

  • Chile
  • Germany
  • India
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Russia
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

The attackers have made small changes of their own to the published proof of concept code. They have chosen to replace the Google Updater (GoogleUpdate.exe)(which runs with admin privileges (high level of integrity)) usually located at:

C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Update\GoogleUpdate.exe

They replace the updater with a backdoor application of their own that is run with the highest privilege namely System level integrity. This is a stage one of their attack. If the attackers find anything of interest on the infected system a second stage is downloaded allowing them to carry out any commands they choose, upload and download files, shutting down an application or parts of Windows of their choice and listing the contents of the data stored on the system.

The attackers also use the following tools to move from system to system across (laterally) a network: PowerDump, PowerSploit, SMBExec, Quarks PwDump, and FireMaster.

Thank you.

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Original Post:
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With the disclosure early last week of zero day vulnerability (defined) I wanted to provide some advice on staying safe while a patch from Microsoft is being developed.

What systems are affected and how can an attacker use this vulnerability to compromise systems?
Once this pre-developed working exploit is delivered to a 64 bit Windows 10 system it can be used to provide an attacker with the highest level of privilege (System level access) on that system allowing them to carry out any action they choose. They can achieve this by changing permissions on any file stored on a system thus giving them the ability to replace/change any file. When a system service executes what it believes to be a legitimate file but is instead the attacker substituted file; the attacker obtains the privileged access of that service.

The effectiveness of this exploit has been verified by Will Dorman from the CERT/CC. 32 bit versions of Windows are also affected. For Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 systems; the exploit would require minor changes before it can result in the same level of effectiveness (but may be inconsistent on Windows 7 due to the hardcoded XPS printer driver (defined) name within the exploit).

An attacker must already have local access to the systems they wish to compromise but could obtain this using an email containing an attachment or another means of having a user click on a link to open a file. The base CVSS score of this vulnerability is 6.8 making it make of medium severity for the above reasons.

How can I protect myself from this vulnerability?
Standard best practice/caution regarding the opening of email attachments or clicking links within suspicious or unexpected email messages or links from unknown sources will keep you safe from the initial compromise this exploit code requires to work correctly.

The advisory from the CERT/CC has also been updated to add additional mitigations. BEFORE deploying these mitigations please test them thoroughly since they can “reportedly break things created by the legacy task scheduler interface. This can include things like SCCM and the associated SCEP updates”.

A further option you may wish to consider is the deployment of the following micropatch from 0Patch. This patch will automatically cease functioning when the relevant update from Microsoft is made available. As with the above mitigations; if you wish to deploy this micropatch please test how well it works in your environment thoroughly BEFORE deployment.

Further advice on detecting and mitigating this exploit is available from Kevin Beaumont’s post.

Thank you.

Adobe Issues Further Security Updates

Early last week Adobe made available a further un-scheduled emergency security update available for download affecting Creative Cloud Desktop Application version 4.6.0 and earlier. This vulnerability impacts both Apple macOS and Windows systems.

If an attacker were to exploit this they could elevate their privileges (defined). As with the previous security update the vulnerability was responsibly disclosed (defined) to Adobe by Chi Chou of AntFinancial LightYear Labs.

Please follow the steps within this security bulletin to check if the version of Creative Cloud Desktop Application you are using is impacted and if so; follow the steps to install the relevant update.

Thank you.

FTP Handling Vulnerabilities Disclosed in Java and Python

Last month security researchers Alexander Klink and Blindspot Security Researcher Timothy Morgan publicly disclosed information disclosure and low-privilege code execution vulnerabilities affecting Oracle Java and Oracle Java/Python respectively. Alexander Klink’s vulnerability relates to XXE (XML External Entity) processing specifically crafted XML files leading to information disclosure. Timothy Morgan’s vulnerabilities involve adding Carriage Return (CR) and Line Feed (LF) characters to the TCP stream (a structured sequence of data) to the FTP processing code within Java and Python. The researchers notified the affected vendors over a year ago but the vendors did not address these issues. Timothy Morgan’s vulnerability also causes firewalls to open a port to temporarily allow an FTP connection.

How can I protect myself from these vulnerabilities?
Fortunately exploitation of these vulnerabilities is not trivial since the first FTP vulnerability requires an attacker to already have already compromised an organizations internal email server. The second vulnerability requires an attacker to know the victims internal IP address and for the FTP packets to be in alignment.

System administrators responsible for network infrastructure should monitor communications to email servers for suspicious activity and ensure internal computer systems are not accessible from the external internet (for example using Shodan). Apply vendor software updates when made available for these issues. The blog posts from the researchers here and here provide further detailed recommendations to mitigate these vulnerabilities.

Thank you.

Mitigating the Increasing Risk Facing Critical Infrastructure and the Internet of Things

With attackers and malware authors extending their reach to more and more areas of our everyday lives, both companies and individuals need to take steps to improve the security of their equipment/devices. It’s not just devices such as thermometers (while important) in our homes at risk; devices that impact health and safety as well as entire communities and economies are being / or will be targeted.

For example, last month a cyber-attack took place in Ukraine that while it only lasted approximately 1 hour, served to cause a power outage in an entire district of Kiev. The on-going investigation into this attack believes it to be the same attackers responsible for the December 2015 attack (that attack affected approximately 250,000 people for up to 6 hours).

In a similar manner, a smaller energy company (at an undisclosed location) was a victim of the Samsam ransomware (defined). The attackers initially compromised the web server and used a privilege escalation vulnerability (defined) to install further malware and spread throughout the network. The attackers demanded 1 Bitcoin per infected system. The firm paid the ransom and received a decryption key that didn’t work.

Fortunately, this energy company had a working backup and was back online after 2 days. The root cause of infection? Their network not being separated by a DMZ (defined) from their industrial networks. This Dark Reading article also details 2 further examples of businesses affected who use industrial systems namely a manufacturing plant and a power plant. Both were located in Brazil.

Mark Stacey of RSA’s incident response team says that while nation states have not yet employed ransomware in industrial systems, it will certainly happen. He cites the example of a dam, where the disabling of equipment may not demand a large ransom compared to the act of encrypting the data required for its normal operation.

Former US National Security Official Richard Clarke is suggesting the use of a tried and tested means of increasing the security of all deployed industrial control systems. As it is very difficult convincing those on the Board of Directors to provide budget for something that has not happened/may not happen, he suggests employing an approach similar to that of the Y2K bug. This would require introducing regulations that require all devices after a given date be in a secured state against cyber-attack. He advocates electric power, connected cars and healthcare providers follow this approach and notes that without regulation “none of this is going to happen.” Since these regulations would apply to all ICS/SCADA (defined) vendors, they would also not loose competitiveness

With security analysts predicting further compromises of ICS/SCADA equipment this year, we need to better protect this infrastructure.

For enterprises and businesses, the regulations proposed above should assist with securing IoT and ICS/SCADA devices. However, this is just the beginning. This scanner from Beyond Trust is another great start. As that article mentions the FTC is offering $100,000 to “a company that can discover an innovative way of managing and patching IoT devices.” Securing IoT devices is not an easy problem to solve.

However, progress is happening with securing critical infrastructure and Internet of Things (IoT)(defined) devices. For example, please find below resources/recommendations, tools and products that can help protect these systems and devices.

How can we better secure ICS/SCADA devices?
These devices power our critical infrastructure e.g. power, gas, communications, water filtration etc. The US ICS-CERT has a detailed list of recommendations available from the following links:

ICS CERT Recommended Practices
ICS-CERT Secure Architecture Design
ICS Defense In-Depth (PDF)

An ICS-CERT overview of the types of vulnerabilities that these systems face.

Securing IoT devices in industry
Free IoT Vulnerability Scanner Hunts Enterprise Threats (Dark Reading.com)
Defending the Grid
Network and IoT to underpin Trend Micro’s 2017 strategy

Securing IoT in the medical sector/businesses
Hospitals are under attack in 2016 (Kaspersky SecureList)
Fooling the Smart City (Kaspersky SecureList)

Recommendations for consumer IoT devices are the following
My previous recommendations on securing IoT devices
Blog Post Shout Out: New Wireless Routers Enhance Internet of Things Protection
Securing Your Smart TV
8 tips to secure those IoT devices (Network World)
Who Makes the IoT Things Under Attack? (Krebs on Security)

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I hope that you find the above resources useful for securing ICS/SCADA as well as IoT devices that are very likely a target this year.

Thank you.

Encrypted Linux Systems Affected By Boot Process Vulnerability

Early last week a potentially serious vulnerability (assigned CVE-2016-4484 (defined)) within the Linux boot sequence was disclosed by security researchers at the DeepSec conference in Vienna.

Why Should This Issue Be Considered Important?
This is an elevation of privilege (defined) vulnerability that when exploited can result in an attacker obtaining root (defined) level access over your Linux system. It can be exploited by continually pressing the Enter key at the LUKS (Linux Unified Key Setup) password prompt. According to the researchers Hector Marco & Ismael Ripoll after approximately 70 seconds a new root shell (defined) will appear.

With this shell the attacker can delete all of information on the encrypted disks the LUKS prompt is designed to protect. This could also be used to copy the encrypted information to another location to attempt to brute force (defined) it. This also applies to any unencrypted information on the disk. Finally it could be used to elevate privileges from a standard user by storing an executable file with the SetUID bit enabled.

Interestingly this issue can only occur if the system partition is encrypted. At least Debian and Ubuntu distributions are vulnerable to this issue. Others may be too but the researchers have not exhaustively tested them.

Further details of this issue are provided within the researcher’s blog post.

How Can I Protect Myself From This Issue?
The researchers have provided a workaround and have proposed a more permanent fix within their blog post. It involves editing the cryptroot file so that the computer simply reboots when the number of password guesses reaches the limit.

If you are a Linux system administrator or know someone who is, this issue and it’s fix may be of interest. Thank you.

Disclosed Microsoft Zero Day Under Attack By APT Group

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Update: 8th November:
The Microsoft zero day vulnerability discussed in this post has now been patched. Please refer to this post for the appropriate information and download links.

Thank you.

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Original Post:
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Earlier this week Google publicly disclosed (defined) details of a new zero day (defined) vulnerability affecting supported versions of Windows up to Windows 10. Fortunately, the disclosure only included minimal details.

Why Should These Issues Be Considered Important?
The vulnerability disclosed by Google could result with an attacker being able to elevate their privileges (defined) on an affected system. However, when used in combination with a previously patched Adobe Flash Player vulnerability (reference previous post) this could result in a Windows system under your responsibility or in your ownership to have a backdoor (defined) installed.

Some good news is that this new exploit primarily targets organisations that operate in the following sectors (thus all other organisations are at somewhat reduced risk): government, intelligence or military organisations.

The nature of the backdoor is the decision of the attacker but would usually include a means of remaining persistent on the system and allowing the attacker to remote access the infected system. This backdoor can then be used to move data of the attacker’s choice off the affected system. The APT group known as STRONTIUM by Microsoft (other aliases used in the wider cyber security industry are APT28, also aka Sofacy aka Fancy Bear aka TsarTeam aka Sednit aka PawnStorm). STRONTIUM is also known for moving laterally throughout the network which they compromise (where the pass the hash (PtH) (defined) technique is the method of choice to do so).

How Can I Protect Myself From This Issue?
While a patch from Microsoft is in progress (scheduled for release on the 8th of November): follow safe email guidelines namely don’t click on unexpected/unsolicited links or open potentially dangerous email attachments to prevent the execution (carrying out of) the exploits actions in the first instance.

If you use the Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome web browsers the exploit for the local elevation of privilege vulnerability will be mitigated. This is due to Chrome’s sandbox (defined) blocking the use of API (defined) calls to the win32k.sys driver (defined). This in addition to its existing mitigations when installed on Windows 10 which I previously discussed.

Microsoft Edge on the other hand implements Code Integrity to prevent the next steps of exploitation.

To protect endpoints within your organisation you could consider utilising the logging capabilities of Microsoft EMET and Systinternals’ Sysmon by processing their logs using a SIEM (defined) and taking action when that SIEM a alerts you to suspicion activity. This is especially true since this exploit can occur from within web browsers, the Java JRE, Microsoft Word and Microsoft PowerPoint (namely that these applications are used to open suspicious/untrusted files).

My thanks to a colleague (you know who you are!) for compiling very useful information for this blog post.

Thank you.

Google Releases Security Updates for Android (April 2016)

In the first week of April; Google made available a scheduled security update for their Android smartphone operating system. Android devices with a security patch level of April 2, 2016 include all of the fixes within Google’s most recent security advisory.

The April updates resolve 39 security vulnerabilities more formally known as CVEs (defined) of the following severities:

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15x critical severity CVEs
16x high severity CVEs
8x moderate severity CVEs
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Why Should These Issues Be Considered Important?
On the 18th of March Google released an out of band (unscheduled) security update to resolve a local elevation of privilege (defined) vulnerability.

This vulnerability was present in the Android kernel (defined). This issue was used in a public exploit against a Google Nexus 5 and was detected by security firm Zimperium who then reported it to Google on March 15th.

This issue was assigned a critical severity rating since it escalates privileges on a vulnerable Android device which can lead to arbitrary code execution (instructions of an attacker choice can be carried out) as well as permanently compromising the device (which can only be resolved by re-flashing the device as described in a previous blog post).

Other critical issues resolved by this update were present in the DHCP (defined) service known as DHCPCD. This could have been exploited by an installed malicious app allowing an attacker to run (carry out) arbitrary code execution. The remaining critical issues involved the Qualcomm Performance Module and RF driver (defined). Exploitation would have allowed an attacker to run code with the same privileges as the Android kernel. Both of these issues if exploited would require re-flashing an affected device since they lead to a permanent device compromise.

Finally, 13 issues (of critical and high severity) that are related to the previous Stagefright vulnerabilities were also resolved. These vulnerabilities continue to arise due to the increased attention towards the MediaServer component of Android from security researchers after last year’s disclosure of the original Stagefright issue.


How Can I Protect Myself From These Issues?

Updates to resolve these issues were made available by Google on 4th of April 2016. Manufacturers such as Samsung/LG etc. received these updates on the 16th of March.

As mentioned by Sophos you may need to ask your device manufacturer or mobile carrier when this update will be made available to you. As discussed in a previous post regarding Android updates, please ensure to only apply updates from your mobile carrier or device manufacturer.

In my previous post discussing Android security updates; I mentioned that a single update to my Sony smartphone was made available on the 8th of March. At the time of writing I still have not received this update. As before, I hope that you are more successful with your phone receiving the appropriate update as soon as possible.

Thank you.