Tag Archives: Out of Band

Responding to the Meltdown and Spectre Vulnerabilities

Earlier in January updates for Linux, Apple and Windows were made available to work towards addressing the 3 security vulnerabilities collectively known as Meltdown and Spectre.

Why should these vulnerabilities be considered important?
I’ll provide a brief summary of the two categories of vulnerabilities:

Meltdown: This is the name of the vulnerability discovered that when exploited by an attacker could allow an application running with standard privileges (not root or elevated privileges) to read memory only intended for access by the kernel.

Spectre: This is a category of two known vulnerabilities that erode the security boundaries that are present between applications running on a system. Exploitation can allow the gathering of information from applications which could include privileged information e.g. usernames, password and encryption keys etc. This issue can be exploited using a web browser (e.g. Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge (or IE) by using it to record the current time at very short intervals. This would be used by an attacker to learn which memory addresses were cached (and which weren’t) allowing the attacker to read data from websites (violating the same-origin policy) or obtain data from the browser.

Browser vendors have responded by reducing the precision of JavaScript timing and making it more unpredictable while other aspects of JavaScript timing (using the SharedArrayBuffer feature) have been disabled.

More in-depth (while still being less technical) descriptions of these issues are available here , here and here.

How can I protect myself from these vulnerabilities?
Since these vulnerabilities are due to the fundamental architecture/design of modern CPUs; it is not possible to fully address them. Instead a combination of software fixes and microcode updates (defined) is more a viable alternative than re-designing the established architecture of modern CPUs.

In-depth lists of updates available from multiple vendors are available here and here. I would suggest glancing at the affected vendors and if you own a device/product from them; checking if you are affected by these vulnerabilities. A list of BIOS (defined) updates from multiple vendors are available here. Google Chrome has a Site Isolation mode that can mitigate these vulnerabilities which will be more comprehensively addressed in Chrome version 64 scheduled for release last this month.

At this time my systems required updates from Google, Mozilla, Microsoft, Apple, VMware, Asus, Lenovo and Nvidia. Many of many existing desktops are unlikely to receive microcode and BIOS updates due to be more than 3 years old. However my Windows 10 laptop has received a BIOS update from the manufacturer.

Are there disadvantages to installing these updates?
While these updates increase security against these vulnerabilities; performance issues and stability issues (Intel and AMD) after the installation of these updates have been reported. These vary in severity but according to Intel and Microsoft the updates will be refined/optimised over time.

Benchmarks made available by TechSpot show negligible impact on most tasks that would stress a CPU (defined). However any work that you perform which makes of large files e.g. databases may be significantly impacted by the performance impact these updates have when accessing files on disk (mechanical and solid state).

Details of the anticipated performance impact for Linux, Apple macOS (and iOS) and Windows are linked to. Further reports of reduced performance from Intel and Apple devices have also been recorded. Further details of a feature known as PCID (Process-Context Identifiers) within more recent CPUs which will help reduce the performance impact are provided here. For Intel CPUs, 4th generation Core CPUs and later should include it but any CPU manufactured after 2011 should have it (one of my CPUs; a Core i7 2600K has this feature, verified using Sysinternals Coreinfo). A full list of Intel CPUs affected by these vulnerabilities is here.

Conclusion:
With the widely reported stability and performance issues present it is your decision if you install the necessary updates now or wait until further refinements. If you experience issues, please report them to the manufacturers where possible and within online forums if not. More refined updates will only be created if a need to do so is established.

I’m in the process of updating my systems but will benchmark them before and after each updates to determine an impact and make a longer term decision to keep the updates or uninstall them until further versions become available. I’ll update this post as I gather more results.

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Update: 16th January 2018:
A newly released free utility from Gibson Research (the same website/author as the well-known ShieldsUp firewall tester) named InSpectre can check if your Windows system has been patched against Meltdown and Spectre and can give an indication of how much the performance of your system will be affected by installing and enabling the Windows and/or the BIOS updates.

Please note: I haven’t tried this utility yet but will this weekend (it will help with the tests I’m carrying out (mentioned above). I’ll update this post when I have tried out this utility.

Thanks again.
=======================

Thank you.

January 2018 Update Summary

Last Tuesday Microsoft released their routine security updates to address 56 vulnerabilities more formalised named CVEs (defined). Further details are provided within Microsoft’s Security Updates Guide.

This month there are 11 knowledge base articles detailing potential issues (many of which are pending resolutions) you may experience upon installing these updates. They are listed below for your reference:

4056890

4056891

4056892

4056893

4056888

4056895

4056898

4056894

4056897

4056896

4056899

====================

Separately Adobe released Flash Player v28.0.0.137 to address a single priority 2 CVE.

As always; 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 SoftwareSecurity 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.

====================
For January’s Microsoft updates, I will prioritize the order of installation below. I will discuss this month’s out of band (outside of the regular schedule) patches for Meltdown and Spectre in a separate blog post; the relevant CVEs are still listed below. A useful list of all CVEs for this month is present here:

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CVE-2017-5753 – Bounds check bypass (known as Spectre Variant 1)

CVE-2017-5715 – Branch target injection (known as Spectre Variant 2)

CVE-2017-5754 – Rogue data cache load (known as Meltdown Variant 3)

CVE-2018-0802: Microsoft Office zero day (similar to Novembers Office equation editor vulnerability)

Microsoft Office (18 further CVEs)

Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer (multiple versions of Edge and IE affected)

====================

Please install the remaining updates at your earliest convenience.

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.

For this month; please take extra care with your back up to ensure you can restore your systems should you wish to revert your systems prior to installing the Meltdown and Spectre patches should you wish to uninstall the Security only bundle of updates or the updates are causing your system to become unstable.

Thank you.

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Wireshark 2.4.4 and 2.2.12
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v2.4.4: 3 CVEs (defined) resolved

v2.2.12: 4 CVEs resolved

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 (v2.4.4) or v2.2.11). 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.
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June 2017 Security Updates Summary

Yesterday Microsoft and Adobe made available their monthly scheduled security updates.

Microsoft’s addressed a large number of vulnerabilities, 94 in total more formally known as CVEs (defined). These are detailed within Microsoft’s new Security Updates Guide.

At the time of writing there are three Known Issues for this month’s Microsoft updates (although all three knowledge base articles (4022717, 4022726, 4022715) describe the same iSCSI availability issue which is currently awaiting a resolution). The IT Pro Patch Tuesday blog hasn’t been updated since April and isn’t of assistance this time (and for that reason is becoming increasingly irrelevant).

====================

This month again breaks the usual trend with these updates to offer a collection of updates for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 which address the remaining vulnerabilities disclosed by the ShadowBrokers hacking team back in April this year. The majority of these updates were already released for more modern versions of Windows after the end of support dates for Windows XP (April 2014) and Windows Server 2003 (July 2015) respectively. Please review the detailed security advisory to download the appropriate updates for your systems. Further information is available in Microsoft’s blog posts here and here.

As with the update made available in May, these updates will not be available via Microsoft Updates or Automatic Updates. The availability of these updates provides mixed meanings; namely that while they were made available is positive. However for those corporations, organisations and individuals sing out dated versions of Windows, it provides them less reasons to migrate since it hints at an attitude that Microsoft will patch those system if the situation get very bad. While Microsoft worked to dispel this point, not everyone will be aware of their statement on this matter.

In a further break from the routine of Update Tuesday, I wanted to mention a further set of vulnerabilities found in Windows Defender which Microsoft patched last month. Please ensure your version of Windows is using the patched version of Windows Defender as detailed in this news article to address these issues.

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Separately Adobe made available four security bulletins to updates for the following products:

Adobe Captivate (1x priority 3 CVE)

Adobe Digital Editions (9x priority 3 CVEs)

Adobe Flash (9x priority 1 CVEs)

Adobe Shockwave Player (1x priority 2 CVE)

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 (the link includes “April” in the URL but it is not a typo) as appropriate and apply the recommended updates. Google Chrome users should have the updated version installed automatically later this week (if not already available).

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

Windows Search

Windows Lnk

Windows Graphics

Microsoft Edge (CVE-2017-8498CVE-2017-8530 and CVE-2017-8523) and Internet Explorer

Microsoft Office  (CVE-2017-0260 and CVE-2017-8506)

Microsoft Outlook
====================

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.

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Update: 14th June 2017:
=======================
I wish to provide information on other notable updates from June 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:

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Mozilla Firefox:
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Firefox 54.0

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Mozilla Firefox ESR:
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Firefox ESR 52.2

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.

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Google Chrome:
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Google Chrome: includes 30 security fixes.

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.
=======================

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Wireshark 2.2.7 and 2.0.13
=======================
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 (v2.2.6) or v2.0.13). 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.
=======================

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.

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Note:
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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
http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-vista/Turn-automatic-updating-on-or-off

Windows 7
http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/products/features/windows-update

Windows 8.1
http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/windows-update-faq

Windows 10
http://pcsupport.about.com/od/keepingupwithupdates/f/windows-updates.htm

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.

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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.

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Update: 18th May 2017:
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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.
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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.

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

Siemens

Smiths Medical

Medtronic

Johnson & Johnson

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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 https://ics-cert.us-cert.gov/alerts/ICS-ALERT-17-135-01D If this advisory is updated it will become https://ics-cert.us-cert.gov/alerts/ICS-ALERT-17-135-01E Further updates will change the final letter to F, G and so on.

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

 

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Affected Windows versions:
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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)

Microsoft Releases Out of Band Internet Explorer Security Update

Yesterday Microsoft released an unscheduled security update for Internet Explorer to resolve 1 critical CVE. At this time, no Known Issues are listed for this update within the revised Security Bulletin Summary page. I have installed this update on multiple Windows 8.1 64 bit and Windows 7 64 bit systems with no issues. If Internet Explorer is not open/running, a restart should not be needed (after closing IE on my systems, no restart was needed to complete the installation of the update).

If you need more time to test and install the patch you can use Microsoft EMET to mitigate the exploitation of the memory corruption vulnerability that this security update resolves before later installing the update (no other workarounds are available).

Microsoft Edge included with Windows 10 is not affected by this security issue but the update will be offered to Windows 10 users since Internet Explorer is still part of Windows 10 (for compatibility reasons).

Users of Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows 8.1 may notice a second update (KB3089023) is being offered by Windows Update. This update is not a security update but an update of Adobe Flash Player to correct a possible error message that you may encounter under certain circumstances.

Please install the security update as soon as possible since it is addresses a zero day vulnerability (defined) and as mentioned in the security bulletin exploitation of this vulnerability is taking place.

Thank you.

Microsoft Releases Out of Band Security Update

Earlier today Microsoft released an out of band (i.e. un-scheduled) security update to resolve 1 CVE (defined) in the Microsoft OpenType Font Driver. At this time, no Known Issues are listed for this update within the revised Security Bulletin Summary page. I have installed this update on multiple Windows 8.1 64 bit and Windows 7 64 bit systems with no issues. The update does require a system restart.

Please install this update as soon as possible since it is a critical update and as mentioned in the security bulletin consistent exploitation of this vulnerability is possible. This security bulletin also lists workarounds should you not be able to apply the update at this time.

Thank you.