IE Zero-Day Vulnerability

Microsoft Security Advisory 2963983 – Vulnerability in Internet Explorer Could Allow Remote Code Execution – TechNet

General Information

Executive Summary

Microsoft is aware of limited, targeted attacks that attempt to exploit a vulnerability in Internet Explorer 6, Internet Explorer 7, Internet Explorer 8, Internet Explorer 9, Internet Explorer 10, and Internet Explorer 11.

The vulnerability is a remote code execution vulnerability. The vulnerability exists in the way that Internet Explorer accesses an object in memory that has been deleted or has not been properly allocated. The vulnerability may corrupt memory in a way that could allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code in the context of the current user within Internet Explorer. An attacker could host a specially crafted website that is designed to exploit this vulnerability through Internet Explorer and then convince a user to view the website.

On completion of this investigation, Microsoft will take the appropriate action to protect our customers, which may include providing a solution through our monthly security update release process, or an out-of-cycle security update, depending on customer needs.

We are actively working with partners in our Microsoft Active Protections Program (MAPP) to provide information that they can use to provide broader protections to customers. For information about protections released by MAPP partners, see MAPP Partners with Updated Protections.

Microsoft continues to encourage customers to follow the guidance in the Microsoft Safety & Security Center of enabling a firewall, applying all software updates, and installing antimalware software.

Mitigating Factors:

  • By default, Internet Explorer on Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, and Windows Server 2012 R2 runs in a restricted mode that is known as Enhanced Security Configuration. This mode mitigates this vulnerability.

  • By default, all supported versions of Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Outlook Express, and Windows Mail open HTML email messages in the Restricted sites zone. The Restricted sites zone, which disables script and ActiveX controls, helps reduce the risk of an attacker being able to use this vulnerability to execute malicious code. If a user clicks a link in an email message, the user could still be vulnerable to exploitation of this vulnerability through the web-based attack scenario.

  • An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could gain the same user rights as the current user. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than users who operate with administrative user rights.

  • In a web-based attack scenario, an attacker could host a website that contains a webpage that is used to exploit this vulnerability. In addition, compromised websites and websites that accept or host user-provided content or advertisements could contain specially crafted content that could exploit this vulnerability. In all cases, however, an attacker would have no way to force users to visit these websites. Instead, an attacker would have to convince users to visit the website, typically by getting them to click a link in an email message or Instant Messenger message that takes users to the attacker’s website.

More information in the full article. There is no patch. But Microsoft has given some recommendations which are easier to understand at Security Garden’s posting:

Recommendations

As illustrated in the “Security Research and Defense Blog” reference below, users of IE 10 and 11 should ensure they haven’t disabled Enhanced Protection Mode.

Another option is to install the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET). The recommended setting for EMET 4.1, available from KB Article 2458544, is automatically configured to help protect Internet Explorer. No additional steps are required.

See the Tech Net Advisory for instructions on changing the following settings to help protect against exploitation of this vulnerability:

  • Change your settings for the Internet security zone to high to block ActiveX controls and Active Scripting

  • Change your settings to prompt before running Active Scripting or to disable Active Scripting in the Internet and Local intranet security zone.

 

Those still using Windows XP on the Internet, please be aware:

VERY IMPORTANT FOR ANY HOLD OUT WINDOWS XP USERS

This is the first of the security vulnerabilities that DOES NOT include workarounds  for Windows XP. The oldest Windows noted as being affected are: Windows Server 2003 SP2 and Vista SP2.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Once a Microsoft product’s support has expired — as is true now about Windows XP SP3 since April 8, 2014 — Microsoft no longer lists it as affected by the vulnerabilities being patched. Microsoft only list Windows versions which are still under Mainstream Support or Extended Support. This has always been the case.

If anyone is still using Windows XP on the Internet (UNWISE!!), it would be strongly recommended to disallow IE (Internet Explorer) access to the Internet through your software firewall*, and use another browser like Firefox and Google Chrome which will still be getting updates for a time.

* Any Windows XP users still on the Internet should at least have:

  • a hardware router with Stateful Packet Firewall
  • should be using a ‘real’ software firewall as well as a good AV program. Just one good choice that will continue to support Windows XP is ESET’s Smart Security which is a very good antivirus and firewall. It is the one I use. It is not free. There are several free antivirus programs but not many free security suites.
  • block Internet Explorer through the ESET or other software firewall.
  • should be using a 3rd party browser like Mozilla Firefox with NoScript, Adblock Plus and WOT to help sort out safer search results on search engines, or Google Chrome with ScriptSafe, Adblock Plus and WOT Extension.
  • uninstall Java entirely, keep Adobe Flash religiously updated for Firefox as long as Adobe continues to provide them. Google Chrome updates Flash within itself. Might want to switch from Adobe Reader to Sumatra PDF reader which is a simple PDF viewer.
  • need to be even more careful than ever before about where you go. The bad guys will be looking with great anticipation for computers with expired Windows XP.
  • no risky behavior
  • no banking … note very soon banks will be disallowing expired Windows XP entirely anyway.

IMPORTANT: You can not block a program from getting out to the Internet with the Windows XP Firewall. It is only a one way firewall. It only monitors incoming Internet requests, instead of both ways as any real firewall including Windows 7 and Windows 8 built-in software firewalls do.

Here’s a quote from a ZDNet article:

To those planning to stick resolutely with the aged Windows XP operating system even after Microsoft ends support next year, the advice from experts is simple: Don’t do it.

Again: I would strongly suggest you get a new computer, upgrade your computer if it can be upgraded to a modern/still supported Windows such as Windows 7 or Windows 8, or get a Mac, or you could  convert/upgrade the computer to Linux or use a Linux LiveCD to visit the Internet and still use Windows XP as a standalone NOT CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET computer.

If you need help with any of this, please contact your computer guru, join a forums like Scot’s Newsletter Forums – BATL (Bruno’s All Things Linux) to ask questions, or you can use the contact info on my website  to contact me for some help.

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Race Conditions aka TOCTOU and now KHOBE

[tweetmeme source=”franscomputerservices” only_single=false]There is a ‘supposedly new’ threat on the horizon for Windows XP users, and more so on multi-core systems called KHOBE (Kernel HOok Bypassing Engine).

Although this is a threat, it is not a new threat — in fact, this type of thing has been a threat to computing since 1998 when it was written about in PDF format: RaceConditions.pdf, and in 1996 in this PDF: racecond.pdf and many times since then in articles online about TOCTOU (noted below in this posting).

It definitely sounds pretty bad when it is reported that this ‘new’ KHOBE can bypass EVERY Windows security product in an article by the respected Adrian Kingsley-Hughes at ZDNet Blogs and as reported and tested by MATOUSEC here. And it certainly isn’t a non-issue…

However, let’s look at this objectively. First this is not the first, last or only situation that has or will arise. Race Conditions as noted above have been created by TOCTOU (Time of check to time of use) situations since the dawn of computing and yes, they are not easy to test for in all situations/hardware prior to release of software/Operating Systems, but these types of conditions have been a potential threat for a very long time in all kinds of software.

A time-of-check-to-time-of-use bug (TOCTTOU − pronounced “TOCK too”) is a software bug caused by changes in a system between the checking of a condition (such as a security credential) and the use of the results of that check. It is a kind of race condition.

Before Windows was capable of true multi-tasking/multi-threading, it was possible to create these conditions on UNIX machines as noted in this 2001 article at InformationWorld.

So, why the fuss now? Windows 7 is basically claimed to be immune — by its omission in the ‘affected Windows Operating Systems’ list. Apparently only Windows XP (ONLY about 60% of Windows users –eeek! — per Adrian Kingsley-Hughes article above), or earlier Windows OSes are affected and in this particular case, and then only by security software that use the KHOBE (Kernel HOok Bypassing Engine).

Graham Cluely at his Sophos Blog notes,

Because KHOBE is not really a way that hackers can avoid detection and get their malware installed on your computer. What Matousec describes is a way of “doing something extra” if the bad guys’ malicious code manages to get past your anti-virus software in the first place.

In other words, KHOBE is only an issue if anti-virus products such as Sophos (and many others) miss the malware. And that’s one of the reasons, of course, why we – and to their credit other vendors – offer a layered approach using a variety of protection technologies.

In addition, Paul Ducklin’s Sophos blog notes,

The security panic of the week is the widely-reported story of a “vulnerability” called KHOBE. One news headline goes so far as to announce that this “new attack bypasses virtually all AV protection”.

I disagree.

The sample “attack”, which claims to be an 8.0 earthquake for desktop security software, describes a way in which the tamper protection implemented by some anti-malware products might potentially be bypassed. Assuming you can get your malicious code past the anti-malware product in the first place, of course.

Much more in his blog entry. All of these links are must read if you wish to understand as much as is possible what the real threat is.

So, given all this, is the game over on security software because this is now disclosed to be possible (READ: it was always possible) — at least till they figure out how to prevent Race Conditions in security software?

Hardly. But due to the release of the information, this situation may make life interesting security-wise for Windows XP users (earlier Windows OSes like Win2K, Win98, WinME, WinNT shouldn’t even be on the net at this point for many reasons, the least of which is this situation).

So, if you are a Windows user what can you do in the meantime?

  • Keep your systems up to date
  • Make sure you have a hardware NAT or SPI Firewall/Router on your local network, and a software firewall in place and working properly and updated (if it’s a third party firewall – Windows Firewall is updated with your Windows Updates)
  • Keep your browsers up to date
  • Keep your browser plugins (Adobe products, Apple products, Java, etc.) and extensions (like Firefox’s AdBlock Plus, etc.) up to date
  • Keep all Internet facing programs (Adobe, Microsoft, etc.) up to date
  • Run your CCleaner (or other Temporary Files/Temporary Internet Files cleaner program) frequently (I actually run mine several times a day) – Fully close any browsers before running your ‘cleaner’ and then re-open it as needed after you run the ‘cleaner’
  • Make sure your antivirus software is updating as it should and doing its scheduled scans
  • Update and Run any cleaner software and secondary anti-malware programs (like Malwarebytes Anti-malware) at least once a week or more often and immediately if something seems odd on your computer
  • Don’t open suspicious emails, even from known senders
  • Be careful where you go on the Internet. Even some legitimate sites have been hacked
  • Be careful about links and friends on Facebook (if you haven’t deactivated your account yet), Twitter, LinkedIn, and other Web 2.0/dynamic Social Networking sites.

In short, do what you should always be doing to keep yourself safe. Because this isn’t over. It was always a possibility whether we were aware or not, and it will likely be a possibility for a long time to come.

You might also consider installing a preventative program like BillP’s WinPatrol on your system to make you aware of potential changes to your system. *See EDIT below for a note from BillP about WinPatrol and kernel hooks.

And as I noted earlier, the focus of this issue, at this time, is apparently Windows XP, but any operating system is vulnerable to this type of attack and always has been — and that is not likely going to change any time soon.

EDIT: Added the following comment from BillP who developed WinPatrol:

* Thanks! I’m honored by the mention.
It’s a great topic and mentioning WinPatrol is appropriate since I don’t use any kernel hooking to detect changes. Thumbs Up!

Bill

Unpatch Java Exploit Spotted in-the-wild

[tweetmeme source=”franscomputerservices” only_single=false]Unpatch Java Exploit Spotted in-the-wild (Krebs on Security):

Last week, a Google security researcher detailed a little-known feature built into Java that can be used to launch third-party applications. Today, security experts unearthed evidence that a popular song lyrics Web site was compromised and seeded with code that leverages this Java feature to install malicious software.

As I mentioned last time, it is sad that Java is needed to help keep your systems safer through Secunia’s OSI (Online Software Inspector) by helping you keep your Internet facing programs up to date.

For now, if you are not sure if you have Java on your system, you can look in Add/Remove Programs (Windows XP) or Programs, Uninstall Programs (Vista and Windows 7) to see if it is installed. The best option at this point is to probably uninstall Java entirely on Windows computers until Oracle realizes the dangers this problem poses to Windows users.

Of course if you would prefer, you could use the link to SANS Internet Storm Center (New bug/exploit for javaws) to review your options.

Another option would be to use Firefox with the NoScript Extension and only allow scripting on trusted sites. NOTE: Even though java is not javascript, most plugins use some sort of scripting to wrap their plugins in to work in a browser so using NoScript would go a long way to protecting users and still be able to use Secunia’s OSI noted earlier in this article.

However, note that there is still the possibility that the malware cocktail could still potentially gain access through Internet Explorer even if you are not using Internet Explorer. To prevent this, Windows users might consider installing BillP Studios’ WinPatrol so they are alerted to any changes to their system before it happens and be given an opportunity to prevent it – You can try it out for free, but it is one of the best $19.99 you ever spent ($10 off right now, normal price $29.99). BillP Studios used to have a free version which can still be found on sites like FileHippo.com (note, however that it is not the new version which is apparently only offered in Trial/Buy).

According to the article, popular lyrics site: songlyrics dot com (I did not create a link to it and I would NOT recommend going there if you have Java installed!) the “Crimepack” exploit kit is being used to foist a cocktail of malware on Windows users’ computers.

I mentioned this Java vulnerability in my last posting. If you want more information, please see my earlier post and Brian Kreb’s Krebs on Security article above.

Tavis Ormand tried to get through to Oracle about the danger, but they chose to rate it as not that important. They indicated that it could wait till the normal patch cycle. However, apparently, they didn’t fix it then either because when all the Oracle quarterly cycle patches came out this week it wasn’t in their list of fixed vulnerabilities — which means they apparently intend to wait till the NEXT cycle!

Roger Thompson, chief research officer at AVG says:

the site appears to use the very same code mentioned in Ormandy’s proof-of-concept to silently redirect songlyrics.com visitors to a site that loads the “Crimepack” exploit kit, a relatively new kit designed to throw a heap of software exploits at visiting browsers…

It is hard to say whether visiting sites like the lyrics site would hurt other OSes like Mac OS X (especially Tiger which hasn’t had a Java update in ages!), or Linux because Brian Krebs’ article was geared to Windows users.

Oracle, Java and Security

[tweetmeme source=”franscomputerservices” only_single=false]Oracle, Java and Security … oh my!

Java bug exposes users to serious code-execution risk – Researchers disclose because Oracle won’t!

This zero day bug, which is in the Java Web Start (this is automatically added as an ‘extension’ in Firefox – which I always disable) has become a real problem. Here’s a quote from the article regarding the Researchers’ attempt to make Oracle understand the severity of this issue:

Both researchers stressed the ease in which attackers can exploit the bug using a website that silently passes malicious commands to various Java components that jump-start applications in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and other browsers. Ormandy said he alerted Java handlers in Oracle’s recently-acquired Sun division to the threat but “they informed me they do not consider this vulnerability to be of high enough priority to break their quarterly patch cycle.

(bold emphasis in the quote mine)

Merely disabling ActiveX or Firefox plugins isn’t enough because the toolkit is installed separately from Java. That means the only temporary fixes are browser specific for IE and Firefox and involve setting killbits or employing file system access control list features. (More about that here).

Or we could always just uninstall Java entirely until Oracle decides to protect their users.

That is a sad option since Secunia makes use of Java for it’s OSI (Online Software Inspector) which has become a very handy free tool for folks to keep up on the myriad of “Internet-facing” programs, plugins, missing Windows Updates, etc.

And of course, Weather.gov (for animated maps) and NASA/JPL use Java for many online projects. I would think they would want Oracle to rethink their position on this problem!

Plus, this is not just a Microsoft Windows Issue. The article also notes that this could affect Linux.

And from the sound of it, also Apple’s Mac OS; particularly since Apple is slow to upgrade Java on their OS platform, and they haven’t done an update for Java in a while for OS X Tiger at all.

What a mess. This issue with Java vulnerabilities, and how Oracle is handling it, may well provide a backdrop that opens up other concerns about Oracle’s stance on security related to their flagship products … things that maybe Oracle wouldn’t want folks to start thinking about…

Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, Firefox, more

[tweetmeme source=”franscomputerservices” only_single=false]Finally getting back to this blog! Sheesh, time sure gets away from ya!

iPad

The iPad looks great! But…

Why couldn’t Apple have done a Mac OS X tablet! Mac OS X which really does just work but is still much more open than iPhone OS. I absolutely love my Mac, and I love my iPod Touch, but I wouldn’t want my iPod Touch’s iPhone OS on my Mac!

Apple’s new iPad coming soon and already introduced by Steve Jobs in the Keynote; but it is basically a tablet in the form of a larger iPod Touch. Including no Flash player still (but can you blame Apple for not including Flash – yes and no LOL!)? Also, apparently, including still only allowing single apps to run at a time?

Also playing games with eBooks and their customers and retailers, and basically saying that their fiddling will only mean that all eBooks will be the same price (albeit Apple’s higher pricing worked out by playing games with the publishers) — kinda a reversal of what they did with the music labels, by the way.

EDIT (added this paragraph): Speaking of single apps only at a time like the iPhone OS … I remember the Windows 7 Starter on netbooks which restricted users to 3 concurrent apps at a time and people were very upset about it. (Thanks to @Blair_42 for reminding me about it. We talked about this on the JimmyLee and Bambi Show Saturday night on CNIRadio, or JimmyLee and I talked about it before the show…will have to go back and listen to the show to be sure LOL!)

… all instead of a Mac OS X tablet that would be able to do so much more, and be more open than the TOTALLY closed environment of the iPhone OS.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my iPod Touch, but it is not the venue I would want for a tablet computer.

Microsoft

Security Garden reports;

Microsoft released thirteen security bulletins addressing twenty-six vulnerabilities. Windows is affected by eleven of the bulletins and older versions of Office by the remaining two bulletins. Of the bulletins, the following are rated as Critical: MS10-006, MS10-007, MS10-008, MS10-013, and MS10-015.

Much more in the Security Garden article.

But this is after next to nothing in January, mind you.

And Researchers warn of likely attacks against Windows, PowerPoint;

Hackers will jump on several of the bugs Microsoft patched today

And of course, there’s also The Windows 7 honeymoon is over as well.

Joy…Windows XP is long in the tooth, Vista is a total dud, and now the only contender for Windows is Windows 7. I personally love Windows 7, but it does have some oddities that are quite annoying.

Flash

Back to the part about no Flash on the iPad, as I say, who can blame Apple’s decision on Flash when you have things like Adobe screw-up leave Flash flaw unpatched for 16 months?

Firefox

Those that know me, know that I highly suggest that folks use Firefox due to the lack if Active-X and it’s related vulnerabilities, as well as the extension system which has been very helpful; NoScript, Adblock Plus, MyWOT, and so many more wonderful extensions.

But there is the recent concern about Firefox Add-ons Infected;

Perhaps you read the Mozilla blog at http://blog.mozilla.com/addons/2010/02/04/please-read-security-issue-on-amo/ where it was revealed that two add-ons for Firefox were infected with Trojans. In this case the distribution was very small, so not many users were infected, but this type of attack is likely to grow.

And then there is the outright annoyance of HTML 5 and NO H.264 support in Firefox 3.6

Just when HTML 5 is finally breaking ground…We have Firefox 3.6, which supports HTML 5, but which is also a step backward in compatibility with video sites?! Huh?!

What good is HTML 5 support in Firefox if they take away H.264 support?! I understand ADDING Ogg Theora support, but removing H.264 support?

I applaud YouTube, Vimeo, Blip.TV, etc. (hopefully Hulu too), for going to a more open standard like HTML 5 (instead of Flash) for their delivery method of their video content, but they are staying with the same H.264 codec for the videos themselves.

So, why would Firefox, at this particular juncture, remove the ability to play H.264 from Firefox so all their Firefox 3.6 users (even on a computer with the proper codecs installed) get greeted with this:

Firefox 3.6 and YouTube HTML 5 breakage

Or is Flash the ONLY way to get H.264 compatibility?! Which would really stink big time.

I predict, sadly that many will move from Firefox to other browsers as their main browser due to this major annoyance to browsers such as Google Chrome, or Safari who also support HTML 5 but also support H.264.

I am very disappointed about this. And the only way to get around this is what to stay with Firefox? Stay with Firefox 3.5.7? Brilliant move Mozilla. And this from a Firefox user who has been thrilled with Firefox all the way since before it was Firefox in the Beta days. *Sigh*

Me? I don’t know. For general surfing, Firefox with the security addons that I use and other addons that make life easier, I may stay with Firefox. But now I will have to look elsewhere for video rendering of H.264 on all the video sites?!

More…

Oh, and apparently there may be some malware that is currently corrupting DNS or redirecting results for any of the built-in or toolbar search engines in both Firefox and Internet Explorer.

I am not sure which combination appears to do it, but one client got hit by malware (and removed it with Malwarebytes Antimalware), and found that even after the malware was gone — and BTW the host file was clean — they would get misdirected to bogus sites if they used the built-in search engine for Google or use the Yahoo Toolbar in both Firefox or Internet Explorer. However, correct results would happen when going directly to the search engine website like google.com, ixquick.com or yahoo.com. Very interesting.

Buying a new computer? Here’s some great information from Bits from Bill Pytlovany (creator of WinPatrol — great program by the way!) and the article has nothing to do with buying or using WinPatrol. 😉

Here’s the lead in to his article over Bits from Bill blog:

Bits from Bill Pytlovany: Brand New Computer? Read Me First!

Did you think I was going to start out by telling you all to install WinPatrol as soon as you opened up your new computer? Guess again. I always try to write my articles from a different point of view and today may not be what you expect.

For the 2nd time I’ve had to return the Dell All-in-One Multi-Touch computer system that I’ve been dreaming about for months. The first unit had to go back because Dell shipped the wrong configuration. The 2nd system had to go back due to internal hardware failure. I should have known something was wrong when I could hear loose parts when I took the computer out of the box.

My point today is take a little time to insure your brand new computer is everything it should be or you may be sorry. Before you install your favorite software on your brand new system I have a few recommendations.

Great article.

The Bits from Bill blog also has some great posts. One in particular is Who Gets Your Personal Information on Facebook?

Well that’s enough for today, I think…

EDIT: Added inline edit about concurrent apps