Tag Archives: security mitigations

Adobe Releases Out of Band Zero Day Update

Earlier today Adobe released an out of band (un-scheduled) update for Flash Player to resolve 2x critical CVEs (defined) and 2x Important CVEs. One of these designated CVE-2018-5002 is a zero day (defined) vulnerability under active attack which originate from Microsoft Office documents with embedded Flash content. The exploits are said to trigger with little to no user interaction.

While Adobe confirmed the attacks are limited and targeted in nature, they are thought to target users in the Middle East.

This Flash Player update also adds a dialog box which prompts user when viewing an Office document if they wish to load Flash Player content.

If you use Adobe Flash Player, please install the update as soon as possible using the steps provided within Adobe’s security bulletin. Google and Microsoft will make available updates for their browsers very shortly.

Thank you.

April 2018 Update Summary

Update: 5th April 2018:
On the 3rd of April, Microsoft released an out of band security update for the Microsoft Malware Protection Engine. Further details are available in this separate blog post.

Other updates made available by Microsoft for the Spectre Variant 2 vulnerability are:



If any of the above updates apply for your version of Windows, please install them. If the updates are already present or are not required; the installation will not proceed when you manually attempt it.

Separately Microsoft have since issued an update, KB4099950 to resolve the issue detailed below affecting the network adapter on Windows 7.

The new update KB4099950 must be installed before KB4088875 and KB4088878 (I assume if this is not the case that KB4088875 and KB4088878 could be uninstalled first?)

If you were experiencing any of the following issues on Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2, please install the above update to resolve them:

A new Ethernet Network Interface Card (NIC) that has default settings may replace the previous NIC and cause network issues.

Static IP address setting are lost.

These symptoms may occur on both physical computers and virtual machine that are running VMware.

Thank you.

Update: 1st April 2018:
Microsoft have issued an out of band update for Windows 7 SP1 64 bit and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 64 bit to resolve a regression (an un-intentional coding error resulting in a previously working software feature no longer working, alternative definition here) which introduced an additional elevation of privilege (defined) security vulnerability in the kernel (defined) of these Windows version, please see my new post for further details.

This post has also been updated with further software releases (please see below).

If you have already checked for updates and are not seeing any being offered for your Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 system, please ensure your anti-malware software is up to date. This article explains why this change was implemented by Microsoft. It also provides recommendations of how to resolve the issue of no updates being available. Windows 10 is not affected by this issue.

A known issue of a second network adapter appearing within Windows 7 has also been documented. If this occurs for you with March’s updates, this news article may be of assistance in resolving it. It is anticipated that Microsoft will resolve this issue in this month’s upcoming security updates.

Thank you.

Original post:
On Tuesday, 10th April Microsoft made available their scheduled security updates to resolve 63 vulnerabilities assigned to the same number of CVEs (defined). Microsoft have provided further details are provided within their Security Updates Guide.

There are 3 knowledge base articles detailing potential issues (some of which are pending resolutions) you may experience upon installing these updates. They are listed below for your reference:





Alongside these updates; Adobe released updates for the following products:

Adobe ColdFusion (priority 2, 5x CVEs)

Adobe Digital Editions (priority 3, 2x CVEs)

Adobe Experience Manager (priority 3, 3x CVEs)

Adobe Flash Player v29.0.0.140 (priority 2, 6x CVEs)

Adobe InDesign CC (priority 3, 2x CVEs)

Adobe PhoneGap Push Plugin (priority 3, 1x CVE)

Non-Microsoft browsers should update automatically e.g. Google Chrome should release a browser update in the coming days or will use their component update feature. Microsoft issued a security advisory containing details of their updates

As always; 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 (since Secunia PSI will be phased out on the 20th of April):
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. A useful list of all CVEs for this month is present here:

Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer (similar to last month multiple versions of Edge and IE affected with many of the CVEs affecting the Microsoft Scripting Engine))

Microsoft Graphics Component consisting of the following 6 CVEs:







Microsoft Wireless Keyboard 850 Security Feature Bypass Vulnerability : described in more detail here.


Separately AMD have issued microcode (defined) updates for Windows 10 Version 1709 to enhance the protection of their customer’s against variant 2 (CVE-2017-5715) of the Spectre vulnerability. Further details of these updates are available within these KB articles: KB4093112 and KB3073119

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.


Apple Security Updates:
In late April Apple released updates for Safari, macOS and iOS:

Apple iOS v11.3.1

Apple Safari v11.1

Apple macOS High Sierra v10.13.4


Please see these links from Apple for advice on backing up your iPhone and iPad.

As always; further details of these updates are available on Apple’s dedicated security updates page.

For advice on how to install updates for Apple devices, please see the steps detailed at the end of this Sophos blog post as well as this link (from my “Protecting Your PC” page).

7-Zip 18.05
In late April; version 18.05 of 7-Zip was made available resolving one security vulnerability in it’s RAR packing code. Further details are provided in this linked to blog post.

Other highlights include the inclusion of ASLR on the 32 bit version and high entropy (HE)(defined here and here) ASLR (defined) on the 64 bit version. While the above blog post mentions HEASLR is not enabled, when I tested it with Process Explorer it was showing HEASLR as enabled. That blog post also describes how to add Arbitrary Code Guard (ACG) (defined) protection for 7-Zip on Windows 10. Version 18.01 and later also come with Data Execution Prevention (DEP)(defined here and here).

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. If you use these software applications or 7-Zip by itself, please update these installed applications to benefit from the resolved vulnerability and the new mitigations.

Wireshark 2.4.6 and 2.2.14
v2.4.6: 10 security advisories

v2.2.14: 8 security advisories

The security advisory wnpa-sec-2018-24 applicable to both of the above versions resolves 10 memory leaks (defined).

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 (v2.4.6) or v2.2.14). 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.

Wireshark 2.6.0
While this update is not listed as a security update; it is the latest version of Wireshark within the Stable release channel. The older 2.4.x version did not receive a further update. It is very likely version 2.6 will be required to receive future security updates. Further details are available in the release notes of version 2.6. If possible, please consider upgrading to this version in the near future.

Further installation tips are provided above (as per version 2.4.6 and 2.2.14).

Oracle issued updates to resolve 254 vulnerabilities. Further details and installation steps are available here. 14 vulnerabilities affect the Java runtime. 12 of these are remotely exploitable without an attacker needing to obtain a user’s username and password (their credentials).

If you use any of the Oracle products listed here, please install the appropriate security updates as soon as possible.

A Closer Look at CVE-2018-0950
While Microsoft have addressed the vulnerability designated as CVE-2018-0950 (defined) this month; Will Dormann, a security researcher with the CERT Coordination Center has demonstrated further mitigations (defined) you may wish to take. These mitigations (listed at the end of his in-depth discussion) will better defend your system(s) against a variant of this vulnerability which still remains relatively easy for an attacker to exploit.

Thank you.

Windows 10 Fall Creator’s update to include EMET features

Late last month Microsoft published two blogs (here and here) which announce forthcoming security features being added to the Windows 10 Fall Creator’s Update (intended to be released in September 2017).

Among the features such as enhancements to the Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) are features such as Windows Defender Application Guard (intended to block zero day (defined) threats by isolating the threat), improved Windows Defender Device Guard and Windows Defender Exploit Guard. The final feature here, Exploit Guard is noteworthy since it will incorporate some of the mitigations (defined) previously available from EMET and will provide the ability to harden legacy applications, just like EMET did namely 32 bit Windows applications.

The improvements to Windows Defender Exploit Guard don’t stop there; it introduces new mitigations and vulnerability prevention capabilities. Moreover a new class of mitigations leveraging intelligence from the Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph (ISG), will include intrusion rules to protect against more advanced threats e.g. zero days exploits. Exploit guard will act as “an extra layer of defense against malware attacks in-between the firewall and antivirus software.”

As a fan of Microsoft EMET, it’s great to see it’s return. However whether it will be available in all versions of Windows 10 or only corporate managed Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise is not yet clear.

I will update this post when new information becomes available. 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)

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.

Microsoft Announces End of Support for EMET

Update: 12th September 2017:
Versions 1703 and 1709 of Windows 10 will block the installation of EMET. This makes sense for version 1709 since it includes a replacement for EMET while 1703 (to the best of my knowledge does not).

Thank you.

Update: 11th July 2017:
As noted in a new blog post, an upcoming update to Windows 10 will contain some features of EMET. Further details are available in the above mentioned blog post.

Thank you.

Update: 13th December 2016:
Shortly after publishing this blog post, I received a response (apologies for not posting this update sooner) from the Microsoft EMET team to some questions that I had asked with regard to how to harden applications that do not incorporate security mitigations be default on Windows 10 once EMET has reached it’s end of support. These can be used with any applications, not just legacy applications.

They suggested using the Process Mitigation Options GPO which is described in the link provided by them below. This can be used to apply mitigations such as DEP, SEHOP, Mandatory/Force ASLR, and Bottom-up ASLR to a process without using EMET. They also mentioned this GPO should be receiving further usability improvements in the future.

While the above mitigations don’t provide the same level of protection that EMET offered, they offer an improvement over not using them. From their message there appears to be a possibility that further mitigations will be available in later updates to Windows 10.

I have provided the text of their message below.

Thank you for your support and for providing this helpful feedback! We will consider these suggestions as we develop our documentation and continue to evolve our security and mitigation features in future releases of Windows 10.

Today, the Process Mitigation Options GPO documented below can be used to configure certain in-box Windows 10 mitigations for particular processes.


These mitigations include DEP, SEHOP, Mandatory/Force ASLR, and Bottom-up ASLR. Though we’re aware that this GPO presents some UX challenges, we’re actively working to improve our mitigation management experience for future releases.

Once again shortly after publishing this post, I came across this blog post from the CERT/CC team of Carnegie-Mellon University. They recommend using EMET on Windows 10 after the end of support deadline in July 2018 to protect applications that do not incorporate security mitigations.

This is of course assuming that future builds/versions of Windows 10 allow EMET to continue to function. If this is not the case, the alternatives discussed above could be considered.

The CERT blog post also provides the steps to enable system-wide DEP an ASLR if EMET (or the alternatives) cannot be used. That post also provides a comparison table of Windows 7 and Windows 10 with and without EMET to better display the benefits EMET offers.

How the CERT/CC team align to the US CERT team is mentioned in this Sophos blog post.

I hope that you find this additional information useful. Thank you.

Original Post:
Early last week Microsoft extended the support deadline of their exploit mitigation tool, Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET). The final support deadline is now the 31st of July 2018 (originally 27th January 2017).

Why Should This Announcement Be Considered Important?
At this time there are known bypasses for EMET e.g. this and this. While a competitor to EMET, SurfRight HitmanPro.Alert mitigated the WoW64 bypass, Microsoft never incorporated such changes (or at least never documented such improvements). In addition in their most recent blog post concerning EMET; Microsoft states that EMET’s effectiveness against modern exploit kits (defined) has not been proven and were not designed to be a long term solution just a “stop gap” to add extra protection to older versions of Windows without necessitating upgrading to a newer version of Windows.

In addition, Microsoft mentioned that EMET can reduce the performance of the applications that it protects. Moreover it can impact their reliability since it hooks into the operating system at a low level in order to add its protection to the applications chosen by a system administrator or individual user.

You recommend EMET a lot on this blog; is that going to change?

In the short term, no. In the long-term, yes. While EMET is still supported I will recommend its use but will note that its end of support date is approaching.

I still believe that EMET can provide value by adding mitigations to commonly used applications both for enterprise/business users and individual user applications when those applications don’t include mitigations such as DEP or ASLR etc. by default after installing them. I don’t agree with Microsoft’s decision to end support for EMET for this reason.

I believe that they were overly critical of EMET in their most recent blog post. Yes it can cause performance issues (usually disabling one or both EAF and EAF+ mitigations resolves this) and can cause compatibility issues. In general, this depended on the set up of your individual applications. E.g. if you don’t install add-ons into Microsoft Word, Excel etc. they are far more likely to work with EMET without any changes. In many business and enterprise environments I realise this isn’t an option.

In my experience, accepting the defaults of the EMET configuration and adding all but EAF and EAF+ to custom applications would almost always work. Adding EAF and/or EAF+ was appropriate if they didn’t cause performance issues. A further reference regarding EMETs mitigations and another application compatibility list is available here.

I always believed that if you were going to deploy EMET across an organisation that you had to extensively test it. This could possibly involve testing it on hardware and software that mostly (or exactly if possible) emulates each type of server and workstation in use across each team in your organisation. Using just one configuration across your organisation would not work or if it did, it would be sub-optimal since you would likely have to disable many more mitigations to make it work smoothly across all systems in use.

How secure non-best practice applications (namely that they don’t include mitigations such as DEP or ASLR) are when installed on Windows 10 is uncertain. However given the continuing work that Microsoft is doing with Windows 10 and their recent publishing of details concerning the new mitigations available in Windows 10 (the original security benefits are discussed in a previous blog post) Windows 10 in the long term is the way forward. Overall however the Windows 10 without any additions is more secure by default than Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. Just one example would be the disabling of LDR Hotpatching which mitigates the issues caused by abusing its functionality discussed here and here.

If I can’t upgrade to Windows Server 2016 or Windows 10 before the support for EMET ends, what would you recommend?

If your business applications already include security mitigations such as DEP and ASLR, you may not need EMET and can simply ignore it. EMET and indeed the competitors to EMET are only necessary if the applications you use need hardening.

For business, enterprises and individuals Alternatives to EMET are Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit (Business and Personal editions) and HitmanPro.Alert. Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit can be used to protect custom applications and thus can take that role over from EMET. I am currently testing Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit and HitmanPro.Alert and will comment on their resource usage and any drawbacks they may have. I will update this post when I have completed this testing.

Alternatively try to contact the developers of the custom business applications that you are using and request that they enable some security mitigations e.g. DEP and ASLR. Visual Studio 2015 is required for adding CFG but DEP and ASLR can be added using compilers like Mono and mingw (example 2 and example 3).

I contacted the developer of a 64 bit open source tool and he mentioned that since he still supports Windows XP migrating to a newer version of Visual Studio is not an option right now but would consider it for the future. Another small but commercial application developer (a 64 bit utility for Windows) was very enthusiastic about a new version of Visual Studio offering extra mitigations and promised to add these to the next major release of his product which is currently in beta and moving towards a release candidate.

Thank you.

VideoLAN Releases VLC Version 2.2.4

In early June the open source media player VLC created by the VideoLAN non-profit organization was updated to version 2.2.4.

This update is available for Linux, Apple Mac OS X and Windows. It addresses 2 security issues mentioned here (1x VLC issue and a 3rd party library issue detailed in this security advisory). This update is available for download for the above operating systems from this page.

One other noteworthy addition is that when VLC 3.0 is released it will feature High Entropy ASLR (Address Space Layout Randomization (defined)). I have discussed HEASLR on this blog before and it’s an excellent security measure/control/mitigation (defined). Further information on HEASLR can be found on Alex Ionescu’s blog. I will be very pleased to see it present in this upcoming version.

If you use VLC, please update as soon as possible to address the above mentioned security vulnerabilities as well as the general software bugs that were resolved.

Thank you.

Google Chrome Benefits From Windows 10 Security Mitigations

Earlier this year in February, Google added several new security mitigations (defined within this post) to Google Chrome that work in partnership with lesser known changes within the Windows 10 update (known as Build 10586 or Version 1511) made available by Microsoft in November last year.

How Do These New Techniques Work?
In total 3 new mitigations were added:

    1. Block un-trusted fonts
    On numerous occasions over the last year Microsoft have released security updates that address vulnerabilities related to Windows handling of fonts (examples here, here and here (among others)). Such vulnerabilities are of interest to attackers since when successfully exploited they provide the attacker with kernel mode privileges (defined). The concept of a kernel is defined here. A mitigation designed to make exploiting such vulnerabilities more difficult is present in the most recent version of Microsoft EMET version 5.5 and is discussed in more detail on page 11 of the EMET user guide as well as this TechNet article.

    Windows 10 features a system wide means of blocking the use of fonts to only the Windows Font directory (folder) by default located at: C:\Windows\Fonts However due to the application compatibility issues that this feature can cause it is turned off by default. While the ability to enable this security feature for running applications on a per process (defined) basis is available this is unsuitable for Chrome since it creates multiple processes with different security permissions applied. However, the November 2015 Windows 10 added the ability to enable the blocking of fonts for individual processes of which Chrome can now take advantage of.

    2. Block the creation of child processes
    This mitigation is intended to block an attacker’s exploit from creating new running processes without any restrictions of the Google Chrome sandbox (discussed below) on a Windows device if they are successful at exploiting Google Chrome. Google Chrome has always incorporated a protective sandbox (defined) that prevents malicious code from being able to make changes to the computer upon which Google Chrome is installed.

    To address a vulnerability reported by Google to Microsoft in late 2014; the Windows 10 November update provides the ability to applications (if they choose to use it) to block the ability to create child processes including console processes (disused further in the Google bug report linked to above). This new capability is now utilized by Google Chrome.

    3. Block the loading of DLLs (defined) from network drives
    While Windows provides the ability for an application to load a DLL from a network location (e.g. a mapped network drive); this can be used by an attacker to insert malicious code into a legitimate application (e.g. if they substitute a legitimate DLL in a network location with a malicious DLL of the same name).

    This ability has been disabled within Google Chrome when it’s installed on Windows 10 with the November 2015 update further hardening it against this type of attack. This capability is similar to the defences of Microsoft Edge against DLL injection.

    All of the above new mitigations provide defence-in-depth (defined)(PDF) security against possible future vulnerabilities and provide further incentive for Windows users to migrate to Windows 10. Please do not misunderstand me I am not trying to advocate that users do so, I am simply pointing out the additional security features that are available if you choose to use Windows 10 (with the November update) and Google Chrome in combination.

    Thank you.