In our weekly roundup of InfoSec happenings, we start, as has often been the case this year, with concerning Meltdown / Spectre news — this time involving Microsoft — and also touch on a password hack at Under Armour, a WannaCry infection at Boeing, and a severe Drupal vulnerability.
Microsoft patches its Meltdown patch, then patches it again
In an instance of the cure possibly being worse than the disease, a Microsoft patch for Meltdown released in January created a gaping security hole in certain systems in which it was installed.
It took Microsoft two tries to fix the issue, which affects Windows 7 (x64) and Windows Server 2008 R2 (x64) systems. The company thought it had solved the vulnerability (CVE-2018-1038) with a scheduled patch last Tuesday, but then had to rush out an emergency fix two days later.
Security researcher Ulf Frisk, who discovered the vulnerability, called it “way worse” than Meltdown because it “allowed any process to read the complete memory contents at gigabytes per second” and made it possible to write to arbitrary memory as well.
“No fancy exploits were needed. Windows 7 already did the hard work of mapping in the required memory into every running process,” Frisk wrote. “Exploitation was just a matter of read and write to already mapped in-process virtual memory. No fancy APIs or syscalls required — just standard read and write.”
In a perfect world, organizations would patch vulnerabilities immediately after they’re disclosed, preemptively blocking exploits and dodging most cyber attacks.
Of course, reality is far from that hypothetically ideal state. Organizations often leave critical vulnerabilities unpatched for months, even years. Hackers routinely feast on all that low-hanging fruit to hijack systems, steal data, deface websites and disrupt operations.
We all know it’s impossible to patch every single vulnerability. Thousands are disclosed every year, and patching systems can be complicated, time-consuming and inconvenient. But InfoSec teams agree that fixing the most dangerous bugs on a timely basis is not only doable but also necessary.
Unsurprisingly, recent Qualys data on patching behavior shows that remediation activity is directly related to the level of risk attached to specific vulnerabilities. And in some cases, specifically when it comes to the realm of IoT devices, patching is always slow, and often non-existent.
In today’s information security world, all assets everywhere must be detected, visible, protected and compliant — all the time. It’s no longer enough to rely on “point in time” security and compliance assessments, such as scheduled weekly or monthly scans on handpicked critical servers.
“You must transition to continuous security and compliance monitoring of all of your global IT assets,” Chris Carlson, a Vice President of Product Management at Qualys, said during a recent webcast.
The reasons for this shift are many and varied, and include these three key ones:
On Tuesday, a variant of the ransomware “Petya” began propagating in several countries across Europe. This new variant leverages the EternalBlue exploit used in WannaCry, and also takes advantage of misconfigured permissions to spread throughout the network.
EternalBlue is a leaked exploit developed by the NSA that leverages the vulnerability patched in MS17-010. All unpatched versions of Windows are vulnerable to EternalBlue, excluding recent versions of Windows 10. Microsoft has also chosen to release patches for some end-of-support versions of Windows.
The WannaCry ransomware attack spread so quickly and has been so disruptive that IT departments can’t get enough information about what caused it, how it can be remediated and what can be done to protect their organizations from similar threats. This thirst for insights, explanations and best practices was evident during the Q&A portion of our recent webcast “How to Rapidly Identify Assets at Risk to WannaCry Ransomware.”
Below is a transcript of 20 questions asked by participants, and the answers provided by security expert and Qualys Product Management Director Jimmy Graham.Continue reading …
That’s the simple yet profound lesson from WannaCry’s ransomware rampage that has infected 300,000-plus systems in more than 150 countries, disrupting critical operations across industries, including healthcare, government, transportation and finance.
If vulnerable systems had been patched and maintained as part of a proactive and comprehensive system configuration and vulnerability management program, the attack would have been a dud, barely registering on anyone’s InfoSec radar.
“WannaCry was totally preventable with the proper patching and the proper build configurations,” Qualys’ Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) said during a webcast this week. “That’s a reminder to all of us that you didn’t have to be a victim.”
There are various workarounds for mitigating the underlying WannaCry vulnerability, but those are stopgap measures. “The primary way to remediate this vulnerability is through disciplined and timely patching,” Qualys Product Management Director Jimmy Graham said during the webcast, titled “How to Rapidly Identify Assets at Risk to WannaCry Ransomware.”
In what may be the first public weaponizing of April’s Shadow Brokers dump of NSA exploits, a ransomware attack has crippled IT systems globally and disrupted operations at major organizations, including patient services at UK hospitals.
About 80,000 infections have been detected in about 100 countries at the time of this writing, and the attack, which uses the WannaCry (WanaCrypt0r 2.0) ransomware, continues to spread.