Tag Archives: Public Disclosure

When vulnerability disclosure goes wrong

4 weeks ago saw the report of a new critical vulnerability in the widely used VideoLAN VLC Media Player. At the time no fix was available.

Earlier today; key developers from VideoLAN analysed the bug report and found that the exploit simply causes a memory leak which does not always crash the player. At no time was this behaviour exploitable by an attacker; it was simply a non-security code issue.

After further analysis it was determined the issue lay within a 3rd party library, libebml. Version 1.3.6 resolves the issue reported and was shipped with VLC version 3.0.3 (in May 2018). The release notes from that time state “Numerous 3rd party libraries updated, fixing security issues”

The above bug report was interesting since numerous technology news websites and even CERTs had incorrectly warned of the vulnerability and that a fix was 60% complete (unknown how that figure was obtained).

It demonstrates how quickly the report of an issue can spread long before anyone has worked on it and verified its legitimacy. After analysis by key VLC developers; there wasn’t an issue at all in updated versions of VLC.

This is really unfair to VideoLAN. They received a lot of negative press for an issue that wasn’t their fault. The truth of the matter is; nobody checked the claims of the person disclosing it before going to the media and the original reporter of the vulnerability disclosed it on a public forum rather than a private disclosure to VideoLAN.

Today demonstrates how NOT to disclose a vulnerability.

Please find the link to the bug report below and the full details provided by VideoLAN on their Twitter account as well further background information:




Thank you.

February 2019 Update Summary

Earlier today Microsoft made available 13 bulletins and 3 advisories resolving 74 vulnerabilities (more formally known as CVEs (defined)) respectively. As always more details are available from Microsoft’s monthly summary page.

Also today Adobe released scheduled updates for the products listed below addressing 75 CVEs in total:

Adobe Acrobat and Reader: 71x priority 2 CVEs resolved (43 of the 75 are Critical, the remainder are Important severity)

Adobe ColdFusion: 2x priority 2 CVEs resolved

Adobe Creative Cloud Desktop Application: 1x priority 3 CVE resolved

Adobe Flash Player: 1x priority 2 CVE resolved

If you use the affected Adobe products; due to the public disclosure (defined) of CVE-2019-7089 as a zero day (defined) vulnerability, please install the Adobe Acrobat and Reader updates first followed by Flash Player and the remaining updates. I provide more detail on the zero day vulnerability in a separate post.

As we are accustomed to Microsoft’s updates come with a long list of Known Issues that will be resolved in future updates or for which workarounds are provided. They are listed below for your reference:


You can monitor the availability of security updates for most your software from the following websites (among others) or use one of the utilities presented on this page:

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


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 this month’s Microsoft updates, I will prioritize the order of installation below:
Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer (multiple versions of Edge and IE affected)

Microsoft GDI+

Scripting Engine (CVE-2019-0590 , CVE-2019-0591 , CVE-2019-0593 , CVE-2019-0640  ,
, CVE-2019-0648 , CVE-2019-0649  , CVE-2019-0651 , CVE-2019-0652 , CVE-2019-0655 , CVE-2019-0658)

Windows DHCP

Microsoft Exchange

Microsoft SharePoint and CVE-2019-0604

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

Thank you.

Nvidia Graphics Drivers:
8 security vulnerabilities with the most severe having a CVSS V3 (defined) base score of 8.8 have been resolved within Nvidia’s graphics card drivers (defined) in February. These vulnerabilities affect Linux FreeBSD, Solaris and Windows. The steps to install the drivers are detailed here (and here) for Ubuntu and here for Linux Mint. Windows install steps are located here. If you use affected Nvidia graphics card, please consider updating your drivers to the most recent available.

In the 3rd week of February; 7-Zip version 19.00 was released. While it is not designated as a security update; the changes it contains appear to be security related. While 7-Zip is extremely popular as a standalone application; other software such as Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, VMware Workstation and Directory Opus (among many others) all make use of 7-Zip. Directory Opus version 12.2.2 Beta includes version 19.00 of the 7-Zip DLL.

If you use these software applications or 7-Zip by itself, please update these installed applications to benefit from these improvements.

– Encryption strength for 7z archives was increased:
the size of random initialization vector was increased from 64-bit to 128-bit, and the pseudo-random number generator was improved.
– Some bugs were fixed.

If you are using the standalone version and it’s older than version 19, please consider updating it.

Mozilla Firefox
In mid-February Mozilla issued updates for Firefox 65 and Firefox ESR (Extended Support Release) 60.5:

Firefox 65.0.1: Resolves 3x high CVEs (defined)

Firefox 60.5.1: Resolves 3x high CVEs

As always; 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 changes such as improvements to Netflix playback, color management on Apple macOS and resolving audio/video delays during WebRTC calls etc.

Wireshark 3.0.0, 2.6.7 and 2.4.13
v3.0.0: 0 security advisories (new features and benefits discussed here and here)

v2.6.7: 3 security advisories

v2.4.13: 3 security advisories

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 (v3.0.0, v2.6.6 or v2.4.12). 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.

Note: from this post onwards, I will only report on the most recent (v3.0) and previous branches (v2.6) of Wireshark.

Thank you.

Adobe Reader Vulnerability Disclosed

Updated: 26th February 2019
After the update was issued by Adobe; the original researcher who disclosed it found a bypass and again reported it to Adobe. The bypass was assigned another CVE number; CVE-2019-7815

It has now been addressed by a further update made available by Adobe last Thursday. If you use Adobe Acrobat or Reader, please ensure it is up to date:

Thank you.

Original Post
Yesterday; the security firm 0patch released a micropatch for a vulnerability that was publicly disclosed (defined) in late January.

Why should this vulnerability be considered important?
The vulnerability allows for the extraction/disclosure of the NTLMv2 hashes (defined) associated with your Windows login account to be sent to an attacker when you open a specifically modified PDF document, The information is sent via the SMB protocol (defined) to the attacker essentially allowing the document “to phone home” to them.

Adobe Reader DC (2019.010.20069 and earlier) are affected. This vulnerability is similar to a now patched vulnerability from last year namely; CVE-2018-4993, The new vulnerability is caused by the fact that while a user is warned via a dialog box when opening an XML style sheet via the HTTP protocol; when using the SMB protocol and while following a UNC (defined) link; no such warning appears.

How can you protect your organisation and yourself from this vulnerability?
Please apply the update made available by Adobe earlier today. If for any  reason you cannot update right now, please consider the micropatch from 0patch. A YouTube video of the micropatch in action is available from the following link:

The micropatch does not require a reboot. The patch does not need to be uninstalled once you later install the update from Adobe.

Thank you.

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.

Oracle VirtualBox Zero Day Disclosed

In early November a security researcher publicly disclosed (defined) a zero day (defined) vulnerability within Oracle’s VirtualBox virtualisation software.

How severe is this vulnerability?
In summary; this vulnerability is serious but it could have been worse. In order to exploit it, an attacker would first need to have obtained elevated privileges on your system; root (defined) in the case of Linux and administrator (defined) in the case of Windows. Using this privilege the attacker can leverage the exploit to escape from the confines of the virtual machine (VM)(defined) into the system which hosts the virtual machine (in other words; the system which houses the virtual machine within its physical infrastructure). Once outside of the virtual machine the attacker must then elevate their privileges again since breaking out of the VM only gives them user level/standard privileges and not elevated privileges in the physical system. Thus the attacker would then need to use a separate exploit for another vulnerability (not related to this VirtualBox flaw) to elevate their privileges again to become root/admin within the physical system.

Obviously; the consequences of exploiting this vulnerability on a shared service/cloud infrastructure system would be more serious since multiple users would be affected all at once and the further exploitation of the resulting host systems could potentially provide the attacker with control over all the virtual machines.

How can an attacker exploit this vulnerability?
VirtualBox makes use of the Intel Pro/1000 MT Desktop (82540EM) network adapter to provide an internet connection to the virtual machines it manages. The attacker must first turn off this adapter in the guest (virtualised) operating system. Once complete they can then load a custom Linux kernel module (LKM)(defined) (this does not require a reboot of the system). That custom LKM contains the exploit derived from the technical write up provided. That new LKM loads its own custom version of the Intel network adapter. Next the LKM exploits a buffer overflow (defined) vulnerability within the virtualised adapter to escape the guest operating system. The attack must then unload the custom LKM to re-enable the real Intel adapter to resume their access to the internet.

How can I protect myself from this vulnerability?
While this is a complex vulnerability to exploit (an attacker would need to chain exploits together in order to elevate their privilege on the host system after escaping the VM), the source code needed to do so is available in full from the researcher’s disclosure; increasing the risk of it being used by attackers.

At the time of writing; this vulnerability has not yet been patched by VirtualBox. It affects versions 5.2.20 and earlier when installed on Ubuntu version 16.04 and 18.04 x86-64 guests (Windows is believed to be affected too). While a patch is pending; you can change the network card type to PCnet or Para virtualised Network. If this isn’t an option available or convenient for you; you can an alternative to the NAT mode of operation for the network card.

Thank you.

WD Releases My Cloud NAS Firmware Updates

In the first half of 2017 I posted about vulnerabilities being publically (defined) within Western Digital (WD) My Cloud NAS devices. This vulnerability was designated as CVE-2018-17153 (defined).

Why should this vulnerability be considered important?
The vulnerability is relativity easy for an attacker to exploit without them needing to authenticate/login to the device. They need only to set the username=admin’ cookie to obtain admin/privileged access to the device due to a network CGI (defined) module containing a command that begins an administrative session tied to the IP address of the device but the attacker must first set bind the admin session to the IP address. They only then need to call the remote system and authenticate using the cookie with the value set (as detailed above).

Of even more concern than above; an attacker could leverage this vulnerability using a CSRF (CSRF, defined here and here)) attack within a malvertising (malicious adverts) (defined) campaign allowing them to compromise WD devices which are not connected to the internet. Separately; there was more than security researcher who discovered this vulnerability; I previously mentioned a researcher by the name of Zenofex; who not only contacted WD but the company refused to acknowledge r fix the issues raised. The group Zenofex is part of disclosed the vulnerability (along with other security concerns) during the Def Con security conference in 2017 and created a Metasploit module (defined). In mid-September it was estimated that there were more than 1,800 vulnerable WD devices visible online.

How can I protect myself from this vulnerability (and the other security concerns raised)?
If you own any of the devices listed below; please follow the links below to download and install updated firmware using the steps that WD provides:

Many thanks to BleepingComputer.com for these convenient links.


The firmware updates resolve many than the vulnerability discussed above (the updated OpenSSL, OpenSSH, jQuery and libupnp will also have significant security improvements). For example, please find below the list for the “My Cloud FW 2.31.149”:

Security Fixes

  • Resolved multiple command injection vulnerabilities including CVE-2016-10108 and CVE 2016-10107.
  • Resolved multiple cross site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerabilities.
  • Resolved a Linux kernel Dirty Cow vulnerability (CVE-2016-5195).
  • Resolved multiple denial-of-service vulnerabilities.
  • Improved security by disabling SSH shadow information.
  • Resolved a buffer overflow issue that could lead to unauthenticated access.
  • Resolved a click-jacking vulnerability in the web interface.
  • Resolved multiple security issues in the Webfile viewer on-device app.
  • Improved the security of volume mount options.
  • Resolved leakage of debug messages in the web interface.
  • Improved credential handling for the remote MyCloud-to-MyCloud backup feature.
  • Improved credential handling for upload-logs-to-support option.

Components Updated

  • Apache – v2.4.34
  • PHP – v5.4.45
  • OpenSSH – v7.5p1
  • OpenSSL – v1.0.1u
  • libupnp – v1.6.25 (CVE-2012-5958)
  • jQuery – v3.3.1 (CVE-2010-5312)


If firmware is not yet present for your WD My Cloud NAS device, please follow the recommended steps from my previous post on WD My Cloud devices. Protecting these devices is especially important since NAS devices are often used for backups and to store precious/valuable data. Please also contact WD Customer Service to enquire about an update becoming available for your device.

Thank you.

SpectreRSB and NetSpectre Vulnerabilities Explained

In late July; security researchers publicly disclosed (defined) a new set of vulnerabilities within Intel CPUs (defined) (and possibly AMD and ARM; which the researchers also notified). These vulnerabilities are collectively referred to as SpectreRSB (Return Stack Buffer). The purpose of an RSB is explained in this document (PDF) but in summary it is a buffer (defined) that stores multiple return addresses while attempting to predict function (a set of instructions that carries out a specific action within a program) return addresses.

A very short time later nearing the end of July; a separate set of researchers released details of another vulnerability known as NetSpectre. This is an evict and reload cache attack that targets systems remotely to extract data.

How could an attacker exploit these vulnerabilities and what is the result?
For SpectreRSB; an attacker could recover data from the speculative execution feature of the CPU by targeting the Return Stack Buffer and predicting the return address which it stores. By manipulating the data it contains by predicting the return address the CPU will access when it completes a task the attacker can influence the address CPU will jump to and thus jump to an address of the attacker’s choosing. Unfortunately; this buffer is shared among the threads (defined) on the same virtual process thus affecting multiple running processes and virtual machines.

The attacker could alter the RSB to expose and gather data from applications running within the CPU. Another form of manipulation by the researchers resulted in them being able to expose data contained within Intel’s Software Guard Extensions (defined)(PDF).


Separately for the NetSpectre vulnerability; if attackers can send specifically crafted packets (defined) to a vulnerable system they can use the responses they receive to infer data from that systems memory. Currently this can only take place at a very low rate; 15 bits per hour. This means 15 times a zero or a one; in other words true or false (I’m not referring to Boolean logic here; just trying to convey a concept) or even simpler on for 1 and off for zero. This increased to 60 bits per hour for an Intel CPU equipped with AVX2 instructions.

With such a low throughput at this time (although I realise an attack can usually be refined and significantly improved within a short time); this attack is not a practical threat but more a theoretical weakness.

How can I protect myself from these vulnerabilities?
The good news for this SpectreRSB subclass of vulnerabilities is that Intel has already created an update but not for all of it’s CPU (Intel Core i7 Skylake (6th Generation Core models) and later CPUs). The researchers are aware of this patch and are recommending it’s use. When I use the word subclass above; my meaning is that SpectreRSB is a subclass of the original Spectre vulnerabilities from January this year. Red Hat also announced they are reviewing these vulnerabilities.

Intel however have stated that existing mitigations from the vulnerabilities disclosed in January will protect against this new subclass. However this is unconfirmed at this time.


While an APT (defined) could leverage the NetSpectre vulnerability over a period of weeks or months to extract useful data; existing mitigations for Spectre variant 1 and variant 2 mitigate this new vulnerability reinforcing my statement above of being a theoretical weakness.

In summary; to protect against both classes of these vulnerabilities; please continue to roll-out the mitigations for the Spectre vulnerabilities from January 2018 (if you have not already completed them).

For any system which cannot be updated (due to performance or end of life constraints e.g. Intel not providing updates for some CPUs); seek to migrate the responsibilities/roles/duties of these systems to newer CPUs which have received updates. A list of patched and un-patched Intel CPUs is available here (PDF).

Thank you.