In late March a security vulnerability was disclosed by the Israeli security firm Cybellum. However this was no ordinary public disclosure as I will explain below. Apologies for the untimely nature of this blog post due to other commitments:
What made this disclosure different?
At first glance this disclosure appeared very serious. It discussed the use of the Microsoft Application Verifier present within Windows XP up to and including Windows 10. They detail the leveraging of this tool to add a customised verifier DLL (defined) to hijack any legitimate process (defined) within Windows.
They demonstrated this attack against anti-malware software specifically Norton Security (by Symantec) resulting in a rogue DLL being injected (defined here and here) into the Norton process (ns.exe as demonstrated within their YouTube video). Despite claims by Cybellum security firms such as Avira and Comodo have reported this attack cannot bypass the self-protection features within their products. The full list of capabilities this attack provides is within this news article.
Windows Internals expert; Alex Ionescu later revealed the researchers from Cybellum used his work concerning protected processes to create this exploit and this was already a known issue. As was pointed out in the Twitter timelines linked to below once an attacker has administrative control over your system they could simply uninstall your security software rather than trying to bypass rendering the threat of this exploit far less important/relevant.
Does this disclosure only affect security software?
It’s important to note this attack potential affects all software on Windows rather than just security software. In addition the proof of concept (PoC) exploit requires no changes for any application you choose to attack. Security software was chosen since almost all systems have anti-malware software installed and their process names are trusted (and allowed within application white listed (defined) environments).
How can I protect myself from this exploit?
Since this attack requires administrative privileges (defined) on Windows to have the intended effect, using a standard user account for everyday use will mitigate this attack.
From the various statements issued by the affected anti-malware vendors (listed below) please ensure your anti-malware software is the latest version available to ensure this attack is ineffective.
Traditional defences such patching your operating system, your web browser and being cautious of the attachments you open will also reduce the risk posed by this attack.