Tag Archives: Exploit Kit

February 2017 Security Updates Summary

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Update: 28th February 2017
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Apologies for not updating this post sooner.

On the 21st of February Microsoft made available their re-packaged update of Adobe Flash Player kb4010250 for Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 systems.

The Adobe Flash Player within Google Chrome should have automatically updated earlier this month. If this link shows the version installed older than v24.0.0.221, you can use the steps within this article to quickly update Google Chrome Flash Player using it’s component updater to the latest version.

An alternative which I have not tried is to use this download from Softpedia to take the place of the Microsoft update (mentioned above) but this shouldn’t be necessary since month long postponements of security updates should be extremely rare.

It’s very likely next month’s Update Tuesday will be busy. There were very few updates in January and no Microsoft updates in February. On the 23rd of February Google’s Project Zero team publically disclosed a second unpatched security vulnerability in Microsoft Internet Explorer and Edge. They also recently disclosed a vulnerability in Windows GDI. Combine this with an existing zero day (defined) Windows Server Message Block (SMB) vulnerability, a Firefox update expected on the 6th of March and Pwn2Own on the 15th to 17th of March; this will be a busy month!

As always, I will be here to guide you through it. Thank you.

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Original Post:
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As I am sure you are aware the release of Microsoft’s security updates were delayed as per their blog post. I will detail Adobe’s scheduled updates below and update this post when they are available.

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Adobe made 3 security bulletins available for Adobe Flash , Adobe Digital Editions and Adobe Campaign. The Flash Player bulletin resolves 12x priority 1 vulnerabilities. The Digital Editions and Campaign updates addressing 9 and 2 vulnerabilities respectively (both sets are priority 3). Adobe’s priority rating are explained in this link.

Depending on which version of Flash Player you have, please review the Adobe security bulletin or Microsoft bulletin (link to be added when available) as appropriate and apply the recommended updates. Google Chrome users will have the updated installed automatically alongside the updated version of Google Chrome which will most likely be made available by Google either later today or in the next 1 to 2 days.

If you use any of the above Adobe products, please review the security bulletins linked to above and apply the necessary updates. The Flash update should be installed as soon as possible since exploit kits (defined) tend to take advantage of newly disclosed vulnerabilities very quickly.

You can monitor the availability of security updates for most your software from the following websites (among others) or use Secunia PSI:
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US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) (please see the “Information on Security Updates” heading of the “Protecting Your PC” page):

https://www.us-cert.gov/

A further useful source of update related information is the Calendar of Updates.

News/announcements of updates in the categories of General Software, Security Software and Utilities are available on their website. The news/announcements are very timely and (almost always) contain useful direct download links as well as the changes/improvements made by those updates (where possible).

If you like and use it, please also consider supporting that entirely volunteer run website by donating.
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If you use any of the above software, please install the appropriate updates as soon as possible. Steps for installing updates for Windows are provided on the “Protecting Your PC” page.

While there may only be 3 Microsoft bulletins this month, I will prioritise the order of updates for you below:

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 5.51) 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 is in the process of being retired with the end of support scheduled for the 31st of July 2018.

As always, 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.

January 2017 Security Updates Summary

Earlier today Microsoft and Adobe released their scheduled monthly security updates.

Microsoft only made 4 bulletins available. These updates address 3 vulnerabilities listed within Microsoft’s security bulletin summary (as before excluding the Adobe bulletin). These are more formally known as CVEs (defined).

Once again; there are no Known Issues listed within the above summary page. At the time of writing the IT Pro Patch Tuesday blog does not list any Known Issues. However, please check it before deploying your security updates just to be sure. As always, if any issues do arise, those pages should be your first places to check for solutions.

Next month Microsoft will only be publishing it’s security bulletins and release notes within their Security Updates Guide; rather than distributing this information across several pages. This post from WinSuperSite explains the changes in full.

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Adobe made a pair of security bulletins available for Adobe Flash and Adobe Acrobat/Adobe Reader. The Flash Player bulletin resolves 13x priority 1 vulnerabilities. The Adobe Acrobat/Adobe Reader resolves 29x priority 2 vulnerabilities. Adobe’s priority rating are explained in the previous link.

Depending on which version of Flash Player you have, please review the Adobe security bulletin or Microsoft bulletin as appropriate and apply the recommended updates. Google Chrome users will have the updated installed automatically alongside the updated version of Google Chrome which will most likely be made available by Google either later today or in the next 1 to 2 days.

If you use Flash or Adobe Acrobat/Adobe Reader any of the above products, please review the security bulletins linked to above and apply the necessary updates. The Flash update should be installed as soon as possible since exploit kits (defined) tend to take advantage of newly disclosed vulnerabilities very quickly.

You can monitor the availability of security updates for most your software from the following websites (among others) or use Secunia PSI:

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

https://www.us-cert.gov/

A further useful source of update related information is the Calendar of Updates.

News/announcements of updates in the categories of General Software, Security Software and Utilities are available on their website. The news/announcements are very timely and (almost always) contain useful direct download links as well as the changes/improvements made by those updates (where possible).

If you like and use it, please also consider supporting that entirely volunteer run website by donating.
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If you use any of the above software, please install the appropriate updates as soon as possible. Steps for installing updates for Windows are provided on the “Protecting Your PC” page.

While there may only be 3 Microsoft bulletins this month, I will prioritise the order of updates for you below:

The update for Microsoft Office should be installed first due to it’s criticality. This should be followed by the update for Microsoft Edge and finally by the LSASS update. The update for Edge is important due to exploit kits relying on such patches not to be installed in order to spread further malware (defined).

As always you can find detailed information on the contents of each security bulletin is published each month within ComputerWorld’s Patch Tuesday Debugged column.

Another security pre-caution that you may wish to take if you have Microsoft EMET (please ensure your version of EMET is the most recent version 5.51) 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 is in the process of being retired with the end of support scheduled for the 31st of July 2018.

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

Thank you.

Adobe Flash Player 2017 Update Tracker

In a similar manner to the 2015 and 2016 tracker that was incredibly popular on this blog; I am providing the same information below for the year 2017.

I have created a new post to make the timeline easier to follow. It will be updated throughout the year with any details of the Flash vulnerabilities being exploited.

Thank you.

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10th January: Adobe releases Flash Player v24.0.0.194 resolving 13 CVEs.

14th February: Adobe releases Flash Player v24.0.0.221 again resolving 12 CVEs.

14th March: Adobe releases Flash Player v25.0.0.127 resolving 8 CVEs.

11th April: Adobe releases v25.0.0.148 resolving 7 CVEs (including some from Pwn2Own 2017).

9th May: Adobe releases Flash Player v25.0.0.171 resolving 7 CVEs.

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Update: 10th January 2017: The timeline was updated to add the Adobe Flash Player update for January 2017. At the time of writing no exploits for the issues fixed by this update are known to be taking place.

Update: 14th February 2017: The timeline was updated to add the Adobe Flash Player update for February 2017. At this time no exploits for the issues fixed by this update are known to be taking place.

Update: 14th March 2017: The timeline was updated to add the Adobe Flash Player update for March 2017. At this time no exploits for the issues fixed by this update are known to be taking place. With Pwn2Own 2017 due to take this place this month expect more updates soon.

Update: 11th April 2017: The timeline was updated to add the Adobe Flash Player update for April 2017. As before, at the time of writing no exploits for the issues fixed by this update are known to be taking place.

Update: 8th May 2017: I have corrected the number of vulnerabilities addressed in the February and March updates mentioned adove. While the numbers I originally listed were correct at the time of writing, Adobe subsequently revised them. The end of the February and March bulletins highlight the revisions made by Adobe. I will endeavor to updates these entries sooner in future.

Update: 9th May 2017: The timeline was updated to add the Adobe Flash Player update for May 2017. At this time, no exploits for the issues fixed by this update are known to be taking place.

WordPress Releases Security Update (February 2016)

On the 3rd of February WordPress released a security update to their popular self-hosted blogging tool/content management system (CMS, defined) bringing it to version 4.4.2.

This is a critical security update that resolves 2 security issues. One is a server-side request forgery (SSRF) attack that could allow information disclosure since it has the potential to bypass normal access controls. The remaining issue was present on the login page of WordPress which could have been used to cause a redirect for a user trying to login.

Due to the severity of these issues, WordPress is advising it’s users to update immediately.

Separately a ransomware (defined) campaign is compromising very large numbers of WordPress websites by adding obfuscated (defined within this post) JavaScript (defined) to the websites that results in visitors to those sites being redirected to a website of the attacker’s choice. The JavaScript can deliver the ransomware to a victim system if it is using outdated versions of Adobe Flash Player/Reader, Microsoft Internet Explorer or Silverlight since it makes uses of the Nuclear exploit kit (defined). At this time there is very little detection of the exploit code using VirusTotal.com

A shortlist of recommendations to protect your WordPress website against this ransomware campaign is shown below (for your convenience). This list including further details of this threat is available from Heimdal Security’s blog post (I wish to express my sincere thanks to them for making such detailed information available to protect against this threat):

  • Keep software and your operating system updated at all times
  • Backup your data, do it often and in multiple locations
  • Use a security tool that can filter your web traffic and protect you against ransomware, which traditional antivirus cannot detect or block.

Moreover; a technical description of how this attack occurs against a WordPress website is available within this Sucuri blog post. Malwarebytes also provide advice and a further technical description in their blog post as they describe how the exploits have switched from the Nuclear exploit kit (defined) the to the Angler exploit kit.

As always; WordPress users can update their CMS manually (access your WordPress dashboard and choose Updates -> Update Now). Since version 3.7 of WordPress an automatic updater (thanks to Sophos for this useful piece of information) will install the above mentioned update in the background. WordPress.com hosted blogs such as the one you are reading now automatically receive such security updates.

For more information on installing updates to commonly used software, this blog can assist. Please see the “Protecting Your PC” page for how to keep software updated. Moreover; specific information on Adobe updates is available here with Microsoft updates discussed here.

Thank you.

Sophos Report on Angler Exploit Kit

Update: 7th September 2015:
A recent report from Cisco discussed further in this article describes the increasing prevalence and success of the Angler exploit kit due to it quickly integrating newly disclosed security vulnerabilities, it’s use of domain shadowing and a delay in Adobe Flash users installing security updates.
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Original Post:

With the recent disclosure of several Adobe Flash zero day (zero day, defined) security vulnerabilities which were quickly taken advantage of by attackers using malware exploit kits, it is becoming more important to know how to defend against these attacks.

This Sophos report provides a detailed analysis of how the exploit kits operate with a specific emphasis on the most prevalent exploit kit, the Angler exploit kit. At the end of the report, in the comments section Sophos describes the recommended actions to take to prevent such attacks occurring either by your website becoming compromised or the exploit kit attacking one of your computing devices. I have also highlighted these recommendations below (my thanks to Sophos for providing them):

  • Uninstall browser plugins such as Adobe Flash and/or Microsoft Silverlight if you don’t use them. However if you do make use of them, consider having more control over their usage (e.g. Click to Play, supported by all browsers except Internet Explorer).
  • Keep your operating system e.g. Linux, Apple Mac OS X or Windows and your most used programs up to date and install all security updates made available for them. I discuss updating/patching within the “Protecting Your PC” page.
  • Install anti-malware software. Both paid for and free versions are available (e.g. Malwarebytes, Avast, Microsoft Security Essentials etc.). Apple Mac OS X and Linux versions are also available (the provided links are examples of the many products available). Please choose a package that meets your needs in terms of functionality and price. Products which include heuristics (heuristics, defined) should have more success in preventing these attacks from infecting your devices.

Since the exploits delivered by these exploit kits seek to evade detection using obfuscation (further information on obfuscation techniques) and building unique exploits for each request received to access the exploit website makes the detection of these threats using anti-malware increasingly difficult. Anti-sandbox techniques (e.g. detecting virtual machines and tools such as Fiddler) are also used to make analysis of the exploit samples more difficult by malware researchers seeking to build detections against them.

In addition to the recommendation of using anti-malware software; for corporate environments the use of next-generation IPS (NGIPS) (Intrusion Prevention Systems, defined) can be used to detect these exploits as they attempt to attack your devices.

Within the Sophos report a technique is mentioned that was employed by the attackers using exploit kits to bring traffic to websites of their choice, this technique is known as DNS shadowing. This is a technique where a legitimate websites domain name (www-example.com) is used to create subdomains (e.g. random.malware.example.com or malware.example.com) that can then be used by the attackers. These subdomains have a very short life time (e.g. a matter of minutes) which makes them difficult to predict and block using blacklists (a list of IP addresses or domain names e.g. www-example.com that are blocked due to those addresses or domain sending spam or hosting malware (that is delivered to the visitors to such websites).

These subdomains can be created since the login credentials for the domain registration e.g. from companies such as GoDaddy have been compromised by the attackers. Since many website owners infrequently check these accounts it makes them more susceptible to being compromised without being noticed. These accounts initially become compromised by a phishing attack. As well as using the advice within the phishing article linked to above, as per Sophos’ advice the following would be recommendations to detect and prevent such occurrences of your domain registration account becoming compromised:

  1. Send email notifications after DNS changes: This will allow to take action to re-secure your account e.g. changing your password and/or enabling two-factor authentication.
  2. Implement two-factor authentication: This article explains how to enable this feature for GoDaddy accounts.

The above 3 suggestions from Sophos (in addition to the use of NGIPS for corporate environments) along with the advice concerning the protection of your domain registration accounts should you keep safe from this prevalent and sophisticated exploit kit.

Thank you.