Microsoft Patch Tuesday, August 2020 Edition

Microsoft today released updates to plug at least 120 security holes in its Windows operating systems and supported software, including two newly discovered vulnerabilities that are actively being exploited. Yes, good people of the Windows world, it’s time once again to backup and patch up!

At least 17 of the bugs squashed in August’s patch batch address vulnerabilities Microsoft rates as “critical,” meaning they can be exploited by miscreants or malware to gain complete, remote control over an affected system with little or no help from users. This is the sixth month in a row Microsoft has shipped fixes for more than 100 flaws in its products.

The most concerning of these appears to be CVE-2020-1380, which is a weaknesses in Internet Explorer that could result in system compromise just by browsing with IE to a hacked or malicious website. Microsoft’s advisory says this flaw is currently being exploited in active attacks.

The other flaw enjoying active exploitation is CVE-2020-1464, which is a “spoofing” bug in virtually supported version of Windows that allows an attacker to bypass Windows security features and load improperly signed files.

Trend Micro’s Zero Day Initiative points to another fix — CVE-2020-1472 — which involves a critical issue in Windows Server versions that could let an unauthenticated attacker gain administrative access to a Windows domain controller and run an application of their choosing. A domain controller is a server that responds to security authentication requests in a Windows environment, and a compromised domain controller can give attackers the keys to the kingdom inside a corporate network.

“It’s rare to see a Critical-rated elevation of privilege bug, but this one deserves it,” said ZDI’S Dustin Childs. “What’s worse is that there is not a full fix available.”

Perhaps the most “elite” vulnerability addressed this month earned the distinction of being named CVE-2020-1337, and refers to a security hole in the Windows Print Spooler service that could allow an attacker or malware to escalate their privileges on a system if they were already logged on as a regular (non-administrator) user.

Satnam Narang at Tenable notes that CVE-2020-1337 is a patch bypass for CVE-2020-1048, another Windows Print Spooler vulnerability that was patched in May 2020. Narang said researchers found that the patch for CVE-2020-1048 was incomplete and presented their findings for CVE-2020-1337 at the Black Hat security conference earlier this month. More information on CVE-2020-1337, including a video demonstration of a proof-of-concept exploit, is available here.

Adobe has graciously given us another month’s respite from patching Flash Player flaws, but it did release critical security updates for its Acrobat and PDF Reader products. More information on those updates is available here.

Keep in mind that while staying up-to-date on Windows patches is a must, it’s important to make sure you’re updating only after you’ve backed up your important data and files. A reliable backup means you’re less likely to pull your hair out when the odd buggy patch causes problems booting the system.

So do yourself a favor and backup your files before installing any patches. Windows 10 even has some built-in tools to help you do that, either on a per-file/folder basis or by making a complete and bootable copy of your hard drive all at once.

And as ever, if you experience glitches or problems installing any of these patches this month, please consider leaving a comment about it below; there’s a better-than-even chance other readers have experienced the same and may chime in here with some helpful tips.

Most malware in Q1 2020 was delivered via encrypted HTTPS connections

67% of all malware in Q1 2020 was delivered via encrypted HTTPS connections and 72% of encrypted malware was classified as zero day, so would have evaded signature-based antivirus protection, according to WatchGuard.

encrypted malware

These findings show that without HTTPS inspection of encrypted traffic and advanced behavior-based threat detection and response, organizations are missing up to two-thirds of incoming threats. The report also highlights that the UK was a top target for cyber criminals in Q1, earning a spot in the top three countries for the five most widespread network attacks.

“Some organizations are reluctant to set up HTTPS inspection due to the extra work involved, but our threat data clearly shows that a majority of malware is delivered through encrypted connections and that letting traffic go uninspected is simply no longer an option,” said Corey Nachreiner, CTO at WatchGuard.

“As malware continues to become more advanced and evasive, the only reliable approach to defense is implementing a set of layered security services, including advanced threat detection methods and HTTPS inspection.”

Monero cryptominers surge in popularity

Five of the top ten domains distributing malware in Q1 either hosted or controlled Monero cryptominers. This sudden jump in cryptominer popularity could simply be due to its utility; adding a cryptomining module to malware is an easy way for online criminals to generate passive income.

Flawed-Ammyy and Cryxos malware variants join top lists

The Cryxos trojan was third on a top-five encrypted malware list and also third on its top-five most widespread malware detections list, primarily targeting Hong Kong. It is delivered as an email attachment disguised as an invoice and will ask the user to enter their email and password, which it then stores.

Flawed-Ammyy is a support scam where the attacker uses the Ammyy Admin support software to gain remote access to the victim’s computer.

Three-year-old Adobe vulnerability appears in top network attacks

An Adobe Acrobat Reader exploit that was patched in August 2017 appeared in a top network attacks list for the first time in Q1. This vulnerability resurfacing several years after being discovered and resolved illustrates the importance of regularly patching and updating systems.

Mapp Engage, AT&T and Bet365 targeted with spear phishing campaigns

Three new domains hosting phishing campaigns appeared on a top-ten list in Q1 2020. They impersonated digital marketing and analytics product Mapp Engage, online betting platform Bet365 (this campaign was in Chinese) and an AT&T login page (this campaign is no longer active at the time of the report’s publication).

COVID-19 impact

Q1 2020 was only the start of the massive changes to the cyber threat landscape brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even in these first three months of 2020, we still saw a massive rise in remote workers and attacks targeting individuals.

Malware hits and network attacks decline. Overall, there were 6.9% fewer malware hits and 11.6% fewer network attacks in Q1, despite a 9% increase in the number of Fireboxes contributing data. This could be attributed to fewer potential targets operating within the traditional network perimeter with worldwide work-from-home policies in full force during the pandemic.

Adobe releases more security updates, equips Adobe Acrobat DC with a sandbox

A week after the June 2020 Patch Tuesday, Adobe has plugged more critical security holes in some of its well known graphic design and video and audio editing software. The company has also announced that it will be adding the Protected Mode feature (i.e., a sandbox) to the Windows version of Adobe Acrobat DC.

Protected Mode Adobe Acrobat

The security updates

Both the Adobe Illustrator and the Adobe After Effects updates fix five flaws that can lead to code execution. The Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Premiere Rush updates fix three of them, and the Adobe Audition update resolves two.

Finally, the update for Adobe Campaign, a software application for coordinating the creation of conversational marketing campaigns, fixes just one “important” vulnerability that ultimately could lead to information disclosure.

The priority rating for all of these updates is not high, because they resolve vulnerabilities in products that have historically not been a target for attackers. Also, none of the vulnerabilities are actively exploited by attackers. Nevertheless, admins should not take long to install the updates.

Protected Mode for Adobe Acrobat DC

Adobe Acrobat DC is the subscription versions of Acrobat combined with Document Cloud services, and allows users to create PDFs, export them, edit them, sign them, share them, etc.

“Enabling Protected Mode in Acrobat DC provides additional layers of protection that help you better protect desktop environments from potentially malicious code. Documents and application code are isolated within a ‘Sandbox’ (i.e. a confined execution environment). This offers additional protections should users inadvertently open malicious PDFs,” the company shared.

Protected mode is still in preview, and can be enabled through Acrobat’s security preferences (see image above) or by setting a specific registry key.

The move comes nearly ten years after Adobe added the feature to Acrobat Reader DC, its widely used (free) PDF reader.

Microsoft Patch Tuesday, May 2020 Edition

Microsoft today issued software updates to plug at least 111 security holes in Windows and Windows-based programs. None of the vulnerabilities were labeled as being publicly exploited or detailed prior to today, but as always if you’re running Windows on any of your machines it’s time once again to prepare to get your patches on.

May marks the third month in a row that Microsoft has pushed out fixes for more than 110 security flaws in its operating system and related software. At least 16 of the bugs are labeled “Critical,” meaning ne’er-do-wells can exploit them to install malware or seize remote control over vulnerable systems with little or no help from users.

But focusing solely on Microsoft’s severity ratings may obscure the seriousness of the flaws being addressed this month. Todd Schell, senior product manager at security vendor Ivanti, notes that if one looks at the “exploitability assessment” tied to each patch — i.e., how likely Microsoft considers each can and will be exploited for nefarious purposes — it makes sense to pay just as much attention to the vulnerabilities Microsoft has labeled with the lesser severity rating of “Important.”

Virtually all of the non-critical flaws in this month’s batch earned Microsoft’s “Important” rating.

“What is interesting and often overlooked is seven of the ten [fixes] at higher risk of exploit are only rated as Important,” Schell said. “It is not uncommon to look to the critical vulnerabilities as the most concerning, but many of the vulnerabilities that end up being exploited are rated as Important vs Critical.”

For example, Satnam Narang from Tenable notes that two remote code execution flaws in Microsoft Color Management (CVE-2020-1117) and Windows Media Foundation (CVE-2020-1126) could be exploited by tricking a user into opening a malicious email attachment or visiting a website that contains code designed to exploit the vulnerabilities. However, Microsoft rates these vulnerabilities as “Exploitation Less Likely,” according to their Exploitability Index.

In contrast, three elevation of privilege vulnerabilities that received a rating of “Exploitation More Likely” were also patched, Narang notes. These include a pair of “Important” flaws in Win32k (CVE-2020-1054, CVE-2020-1143) and one in the Windows Graphics Component (CVE-2020-1135). Elevation of Privilege vulnerabilities are used by attackers once they’ve managed to gain access to a system in order to execute code on their target systems with elevated privileges. There are at least 56 of these types of fixes in the May release.

Schell says if your organization’s plan for prioritizing the deployment of this month’s patches stops at vendor severity or even CVSS scores above a certain level you may want to reassess your metrics.

“Look to other risk metrics like Publicly Disclosed, Exploited (obviously), and Exploitability Assessment (Microsoft specific) to expand your prioritization process,” he advised.

As it usually does each month on Patch Tuesday, Adobe also has issued updates for some of its products. An update for Adobe Acrobat and Reader covers two dozen critical and important vulnerabilities. There are no security fixes for Adobe’s Flash Player in this month’s release.

Just a friendly reminder that while many of the vulnerabilities fixed in today’s Microsoft patch batch affect Windows 7 operating systems — including all three of the zero-day flaws — this OS is no longer being supported with security updates (unless you’re an enterprise taking advantage of Microsoft’s paid extended security updates program, which is available to Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 enterprise users).

If you rely on Windows 7 for day-to-day use, it’s time to think about upgrading to something newer. That something might be a PC with Windows 10. Or maybe you have always wanted that shiny MacOS computer.

If cost is a primary motivator and the user you have in mind doesn’t do much with the system other than browsing the Web, perhaps a Chromebook or an older machine with a recent version of Linux is the answer (Ubuntu may be easiest for non-Linux natives). Whichever system you choose, it’s important to pick one that fits the owner’s needs and provides security updates on an ongoing basis.

Keep in mind that while staying up-to-date on Windows patches is a must, it’s important to make sure you’re updating only after you’ve backed up your important data and files. A reliable backup means you’re not losing your mind when the odd buggy patch causes problems booting the system.

So backup your files before installing any patches. Windows 10 even has some built-in tools to help you do that, either on a per-file/folder basis or by making a complete and bootable copy of your hard drive all at once.

And if you wish to ensure Windows has been set to pause updating so you can back up your files and/or system before the operating system decides to reboot and install patches on its own schedule, see this guide.

As always, if you experience glitches or problems installing any of these patches this month, please consider leaving a comment about it below; there’s a better-than-even chance other readers have experienced the same and may chime in here with some helpful tips. Also, keep an eye on the AskWoody blog from Woody Leonhard, who keeps a reliable lookout for buggy Microsoft updates each month.

Further reading:

SANS Internet Storm Center breakdown by vulnerability and severity

Microsoft’s Security Update catalog

BleepingComputer on May 2020 Patch Tuesday

A week after Patch Tuesday, Adobe drops security fixes for six offerings

Adobe failed to release security updates on March 2020 Patch Tuesday, but has pushed them out this Tuesday, for Acrobat and Reader, Photoshop, ColdFusion, Experience Manager, Bridge, and Genuine Integrity Service.

Adobe security fixes march 2020

41 vulnerabilities in all have been patched, 29 of which are considered critical and 11 important. None of them are under active exploitation.

The heftiest updates are those for Photoshop (CC 2019 and 2020) and Acrobat and Reader (DC, 2017 and 2015) for Windows and macOS.

The Photoshop updates fix 16 vulnerabilities that could be exploited for arbitrary code execution in the context of the current user and 6 that could lead to disclosure of information.

The Acrobat and Reader updates contain fixes for 8 flaws that could be exploited for code execution, 3 for information disclosure and 1 for escalating privileges on compromised systems.

Users of the ColdFusion web-application development platform should also update as soon as possible to plug two holes: one that could allow an arbitrary file read from the Coldfusion install directory and another that could lead to arbitrary code execution of files located in the webroot or its subdirectory.

ColdFusion versions 2016 and 2018 for all platforms are affected, but ColdFusion servers deployed with the recommended lockdown installer are not impacted by these flaws.

Adobe Bridge updates for Windows and macOS fix 2 two critical flaws, the Adobe Genuine Integrity Service update for Windows one insecure file permissions vulnerability that could be used for privilege escalation, and the Adobe Experience Manager updates (available for all platforms) plug a Server-side request forgery (SSRF) flaw that could lead to sensitive information disclosure.