Category Archives: microsoft

You can upgrade Windows 7 for free! Why wouldn’t you?

“Doomsday is here! The sky is falling! Windows 7 is out of support and all hell will break loose!” – or, at least, that’s what some cybersecurity experts and press outlets want you to think. In this article, I will offer some advice to businesses of all sizes that may need to continue using Windows 7, while understanding the risk. This is my opinion and should be taken as advice only. Every company is different, … More

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Lessons from Microsoft’s 250 million data record exposure

Microsoft has one of the best security teams and capabilities of any organization in the technology industry, yet it accidentally exposed 250 million customer records in December 2019. The data was accessible to anyone with a browser, who knew the server location, for about a month in total before an external researcher detected the problem. The database held records of customer support engagements dating back to 2005. Once alerted, Microsoft quickly closed the hole, investigated … More

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250 Million Microsoft customer support records and PII exposed online

An expert discovered that over 250 million Microsoft customer support records might have been exposed along with some personally identifiable information.

The popular researcher Bob Diachenko found an unprotected database containing over 250 million customer support records along with some personally identifiable information. The unprotected archive was containing support requests submitted to the tech giant from 2005 to December 2019.

Diachenko reported his discovery to the company that after investigating the issue admitted the data leak.

“Today, we concluded an investigation into a misconfiguration of an internal customer support database used for Microsoft support case analytics.” reads the post published by Microsoft. “While the investigation found no malicious use, and although most customers did not have personally identifiable information exposed, we want to be transparent about this incident with all customers and reassure them that we are taking it very seriously and holding ourselves accountable.”

Microsoft confirmed that Customer Service and Support” (CSS) records were exposed online due to a misconfigured server containing logs of conversations between the support team and its customers.

Microsoft secured the database on December 31, 2019, it also added that it is not aware of malicious use of the data.

Microsoft explained that the database was redacted using automated tools to remove the personally identifiable information of its customers, but in some sporadic cases, this information was not removed because there was not a standard format.

Diachenko confirmed the presence of many records containing the following attributes:

  • Customer email addresses
  • IP addresses
  • Locations
  • Descriptions of CSS claims and cases
  • Microsoft support agent emails
  • Case numbers, resolutions, and remarks
  • Internal notes marked as “confidential”

The availability of detailed logs in the hand of crooks could expose Microsoft customers to the risk of Tech support scams

“Even though most personally identifiable information was redacted from the records, the dangers of this exposure should not be underestimated. The data could be valuable to tech support scammers, in particular.” explained Diachenko.

Tech support scams entail a scammer contacting users and pretending to be a Microsoft support representative. These types of scams are quite prevalent, and even when scammers don’t have any personal information about their targets, they often impersonate Microsoft staff. Microsoft Windows is, after all, the most popular operating system in the world.”

Technical support logs frequently expose VIP clients, their internal architectures, such kind of data could be used by cyber criminals to compromise the customers’ systems.

The company started notifying impacted customers, below the timeline of the data leak:

  • December 28, 2019 – The databases were indexed by search engine BinaryEdge
  • December 29, 2019 – Diachenko discovered the databases and immediately notified Microsoft.
  • December 30-31, 2019 – The tech giant secured the servers and data. Diachenko and Microsoft continued the investigation and remediation process.
  • Jan 21, 2020 – Microsoft disclosed additional details about the exposure as a result of the investigation.

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – data leak, hacking)

The post 250 Million Microsoft customer support records and PII exposed online appeared first on Security Affairs.

Intel processor constraint to continue in 2020, says HPE

Hewlett Packard Enterprise has warned the industry to brace for an Intel processor shortage throughout 2020, specifically the Intel Cascade Lake server processors. After issuing a statement to The Register earlier this week, HPE’s Canadian division provided IT World Canada with a similar message: “HPE is experiencing a constraint on certain processors. There are other processors…

250 Million Microsoft Customer Support Records Exposed Online

If you have ever contacted Microsoft for support in the past 14 years, your technical query, along with some personally identifiable information might have been compromised. Microsoft today admitted a security incident that exposed nearly 250 million "Customer Service and Support" (CSS) records on the Internet due to a misconfigured server containing logs of conversations between its support

Researchers find open Microsoft database with 250 million support records

Configuration mistakes by staff can be a huge embarrassment to organizations, defeating even the biggest IT security budget. Often these mistakes result in databases of sensitive information being left open on the internet for a lucky hacker to trip over.

The latest publicly-identified victim is Microsoft. Researchers at Comparitech, a U.K.-based site that reviews consumer IT security products said this morning they recently found five Elasticsearch servers belonging to the software giant with identical copies of nearly 250 million customer service and support exposed without password or other authentication needed for access.

The records contained logs of conversations between Microsoft support agents and customers from all over the world, spanning a 14-year period from 2005 to last December. All of the data was left accessible to anyone with a web browser, with no password or other authentication needed.

Microsoft quickly secured the data after being notified.

Independent researcher Bob Diachenko, who lead the team, was quoted as saying most of the personally identifiable information such as email aliases, contract numbers, and payment information was redacted in the data.

However, many records contained plain text data, including customer email addresses, IP addresses, locations, descriptions of claims and cases, Microsoft support agent emails, case numbers, resolutions, and remarks, and internal notes marked as “confidential”.

One can speculate that a Microsoft employee wanting to look for trends in the customer support data figured with the personally identifiable information redacted the database didn’t need to be password protected.

However, Comparitech argues that readable data could still be valuable to hackers, particularly to give credibility to those involved in Microsoft tech support scams. For example, knowing a customer’s email address would allow a scammer to craft an email starting “Following up on your recent support incident.”

Diachenko is one of several researchers who use the Shodan search engine to find and expose companies with unprotected databases, often sitting on Amazon AWS infrastructure. In 2018 he found a MongoDB server of data management company Veeam Software. Just over a year ago he and a team found an open database belonging to a Texas data processing company.

Other researchers are also finding easy pickings. In 2018 one found Canadian and British government staffers misconfigured some of their web-based Trello project management software and exposed details of software bugs and security plans, as well as passwords for servers and other sensitive information.

Many of these discoveries — as in the Microsoft case — are repositories of data held by Elasticsearch searches. Last summer, for example, Canadian security consultant Darryl Burke found two open Elasticsearch databases, one of which held sensitive personal information of Middle East residents looking to immigrate to Canada.

Elasticsearch is an open-source analytics search engine organizations use to hunt through their data. What many companies don’t realize, Burke said in an interview at the time, is that it keeps a cache of data it indexes. If the Elasticsearch server is open to the Internet but not secured with a username and password — and, ideally, two-factor authentication — then that data is open to discovery by an attacker.

To combat misconfigurations cloud storage providers like Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure are either making storage closed to the Internet by default or beefing up their security detection tools.

Micropatch simulates workaround for recent zero-day IE flaw, removes negative side effects

ACROS Security has released a micropatch that implements the workaround for a recently revealed actively exploited zero-day RCE flaw affecting Internet Explorer (CVE-2020-0674). Remote code execution vulnerability affecting IE Last Friday, Microsoft released an out-of-band security advisory notifying Internet Explorer users of a remote code execution vulnerability affecting IE 11, 10 and 9 on various versions od Windows and Windows Server, which they know is being exploited in “limited targeted attacks”. Flagged by researchers from … More

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Microsoft provides mitigation for actively exploited CVE-2020-0674 IE Zero-Day

Microsoft published a security advisory to warn of an Internet Explorer (IE) zero-day vulnerability (CVE-2020-0674) that is currently being exploited in the wild.

Microsoft has published a security advisory (ADV200001) that includes mitigations for a zero-day remote code execution (RCE) vulnerability, tracked as CVE-2020-0674, affecting Internet Explorer.

The tech giant confirmed that the CVE-2020-0674 zero-day vulnerability has been actively exploited in the wild.

“A remote code execution vulnerability exists in the way that the scripting engine handles objects in memory in Internet Explorer. The vulnerability could corrupt memory in such a way that an attacker could execute arbitrary code in the context of the current user.” reads the advisory published by Microsoft. “An attacker who successfully exploited the vulnerability could gain the same user rights as the current user. If the current user is logged on with administrative user rights, an attacker who successfully exploited the vulnerability could take control of an affected system. An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights.”

An attacker could exploit the flaw to can gain the same user permissions as the user logged into the compromised Windows device. If the user is logged on with administrative permissions, the attacker can exploit the flaw to take full control of the system.

The CVE-2020-0674 flaw could be triggered by tricking victims into visiting a website hosting a specially crafted content designed to exploit the issue through Internet Explorer.

Microsoft announced that it is currently working on a patch to address the vulnerability, the company will likely release an out-of-band update because attackers are already exploiting the flaw in the wild.

Microsoft suggests restricting access to JScript.dll using the following workaround to mitigate this zero-day flaw.

For 32-bit systems, enter the following command at an administrative command prompt:

    takeown /f %windir%\system32\jscript.dll
    cacls %windir%\system32\jscript.dll /E /P everyone:N

For 64-bit systems, enter the following command at an administrative command prompt:

    takeown /f %windir%\syswow64\jscript.dll
    cacls %windir%\syswow64\jscript.dll /E /P everyone:N
    takeown /f %windir%\system32\jscript.dll
    cacls %windir%\system32\jscript.dll /E /P everyone:N

The company warns that implementing these mitigation might impact the functionality for components or features that use the jscript.dll.

“Implementing these steps might result in reduced functionality for components or features that rely on jscript.dll. To be fully protected, Microsoft recommends the update be installed as soon as possible. Please revert the mitigation steps before installing the update to return to a full state.” continues the advisory.

To undo the workaround, use the following procedures.

For 32-bit systems, enter the following command at an administrative command prompt:

    cacls %windir%\system32\jscript.dll /E /R everyone    

For 64-bit systems, enter the following command at an administrative command prompt:

    cacls %windir%\system32\jscript.dll /E /R everyone    
    cacls %windir%\syswow64\jscript.dll /E /R everyone

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – CVE-2020-0674, hacking)

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Say hello to Microsoft’s new Chromium-based browser

Microsoft officially launched its new Edge Chromium browser across both Windows and macOS operating systems this week and is available for download now.

One of the biggest issues facing IT professionals is high costs and the complexity in managing enterprise companies that support two or more browsers for maximizing compatibility across legacy and modern websites. Microsoft is hoping to eliminate some of those frustrations by allowing enterprise users to access features like Internet Explorer mode, which lets businesses load legacy IE sites within Edge automatically. 

The new Edge browser also comes with Microsoft’s privacy promise and embraces new features such as tracking prevention in addition to offering three levels of control while employees are browsing. The tracking prevention feature will help businesses know who has access to their data and also give them the control to choose the information they share. Tracking prevention and SmartScreen features of the new Edge browser will also protect businesses from any type of malware, phishing scheme and malicious software. 

A study conducted by Ponemon Institute in 2019 says a data breach costs companies $3.2 million on average.

In addition, new features like Collections will let employees more easily collect and organize web content and research, and export that information into Word or Excel. 

Jimmy Tom, research director at Info-Tech, noted in a recent presentation shared with IT World that the Chromium-based browser opens up new opportunities for Microsoft.

“In effect, Microsoft can now compete in other races that it has never before considered,” he wrote, adding it could provide them with an advantage against AWS as the cloud race between the two tech giants intensifies.

Additional benefits for users giving the new browser a try, he added, include having a much more unified experience for end-users on a platform that IT can control, as well as having the ability to easily port existing Chrome apps into Edge.

The new Collections feature to allow employees more easily collect and organize web content and research.

Microsoft Search in Bing can be easily accessed on mobile phones, thereby enabling knowledge workers to search for corporate information on the go.  

Microsoft Search in Bing can be accessed on mobile phones.

Microsoft Search in Bing also offers new inPrivate mode so that online browsing and searches by employees are not attributed to them.

The new Microsoft Edge browser offers new inPrivate mode.

The new Microsoft Edge browser also comes with a new logo. 

The new Microsoft Edge browser has a new logo

In order to pilot the new Edge browser within the corporate environment, IT administrators will need to download an offline deployment package. The new Edge browser will not automatically deploy for enterprise or commercial customers, Microsoft says. Tools like Configuration Manager tools and Intune deployment, the company adds, can simplify deployment.

The new browser is supported by FastTrack and App Assure. FastTrack will allow businesses with an eligible subscription to Azure, Dynamics 365, and Microsoft 365 to deploy this new browser at no extra charge. Businesses having sites compatible with legacy Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, or Internet Explorer 8 and above, will also work on the new Microsoft Edge the same way.

The new Microsoft Edge is available in more than 90 languages, ready to be downloaded on all supported versions of Windows and MacOS. It is also available to download on android and iOS. 

 

 

Microsoft Application Inspector: Check open source components for unwanted features

Want to know what’s in an open source software component before you use it? Microsoft Application Inspector will tell you what it does and spots potentially unwanted features – or backdoors. About Microsoft Application Inspector “At Microsoft, our software engineers use open source software to provide our customers high-quality software and services. Recognizing the inherent risks in trusting open source software, we created a source code analyzer called Microsoft Application Inspector to identify ‘interesting’ features … More

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Microsoft commits to carbon negative by 2030, among other environmental commitments

The environmental crisis is by no means a new issue, but Microsoft is making a renewed effort to combat it, as it announced today that it is committing to becoming carbon negative by 2030, eliminating all past carbon emissions by 2050, and the creation of a $US1 billion fund for investment in carbon removal technologies.

Two PoC exploits for CVE-2020-0601 NSACrypto flaw released

Researchers published proof-of-concept (PoC) code exploits for a recently-patched CVE-2020-0601 flaw in the Windows operating system reported by NSA.

Security researchers have published two proof-of-concept (PoC) code exploits for the recently-patched CVE-2020-0601 vulnerability that has been reported to Microsoft by the US National Security Agency (NSA).

Microsoft Patch Tuesday updates for January 2020 address a total of 49 vulnerabilities in various products, including a serious flaw, tracked as CVE-2020-0601, in the core cryptographic component of Windows 10, Server 2016 and 2019 editions.

The CVE-2020-0601 flaw is different from any other previously addressed flaws because it was reported by the NSA and this is the first time that the US intelligence agency has reported a bug to the tech giant.

The flaw, dubbed ‘NSACrypt’ or ‘CurveBall,’ resides in the Crypt32.dll module that contains various ‘Certificate and Cryptographic Messaging functions’ used by the Windows Crypto API for data encryption.  

The flaw affects the way Crypt32.dll module validates Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) certificates.

In a press release published by the NSA, the agency explains “the certificate validation vulnerability allows an attacker to undermine how Windows verifies cryptographic trust and can enable remote code execution.”

“A spoofing vulnerability exists in the way Windows CryptoAPI (Crypt32.dll) validates Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) certificates.” reads the security advisory published by Microsoft.

“An attacker could exploit the vulnerability by using a spoofed code-signing certificate to sign a malicious executable, making it appear the file was from a trusted, legitimate source. The user would have no way of knowing the file was malicious, because the digital signature would appear to be from a trusted provider.”

An attacker could exploit the flaw to conduct man-in-the-middle attacks and decrypt confidential information on user connections to the affected software.

An attacker could also trigger the issue to spoof digital signatures on software tricking the system into believing that it is a legitimate application.

NSA pointed out that the CVE-2020-0601 vulnerability can allow an attacker to:

  • launch MitM (man-in-the-middle) attacks and intercept and fake HTTPS connections
  • fake signatures for files and emails
  • fake signed-executable code launched inside Windows

The researcher Tal Be’ery analyzed the flaw and explained that the issue stems from a flawed implementation of the Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) within Microsoft’s code.

According to a high-level technical analysis of the bug security researcher Tal Be’ery, “the root cause of this vulnerability is a flawed implementation of the Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) within Microsoft’s code.”

The US DHS CISA agency also issued an emergency directive urging government agencies to address the bug in their systems in ten days.

“CISA has determined that these vulnerabilities pose an unacceptable risk to the Federal enterprise and require an immediate and emergency action. This determination is based on the likelihood of the vulnerabilities being weaponized, combined with the widespread use of the affected software across the Executive Branch and high potential for a compromise of integrity and confidentiality of agency information.” reads the emergency directive.

Security expert Saleem Rashid first created a proof-of-concept code to fake TLS certificates and allows attackers to set up a site that look-like legitimate ones.

Rashid didn’t publish the exploit code to avoid miscreants using it in the wild. Unfortunately, other experts decided to publicly release the exploit code for the CVE-2020-0601 flaw. Swiss cybersecurity firm Kudelski Security published on GitHub a working exploit for the flaw. Danish security researcher Ollypwn also published an exploit for the CurveBall vulnerability.

The availability online of working exploits for the CVE-2020-0601 vulnerability ensures that threat actors will start exploiting it, for this reason it is essential to patch systems.

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – CVE-2020-0601, hacking)

The post Two PoC exploits for CVE-2020-0601 NSACrypto flaw released appeared first on Security Affairs.

I’m still on Windows 7 – what should I do?

Support for Windows 7 has ended, leaving Marcy wondering how they can protect themselves

I do a lot of work on a Windows 7 desktop PC that is about five years old. I’m a widow and can’t afford to run out and get a new PC at this time, or pay for Windows 10. If I do stay with Windows 7, what should I worry about, and how can I protect myself? I have been running Kaspersky Total Security for several years, which has worked well so far. Marcy

Microsoft Windows 7 – launched in 2009 – came to the end of its supported life on Tuesday. Despite Microsoft’s repeated warnings to Windows 7 users, there may still be a couple of hundred million users, many of them in businesses. What should people do next?

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Dynatrace, Google and Microsoft collaborate to help make OpenTelemetry enterprise-grade

Software intelligence company, Dynatrace, announced it is collaborating with Google and Microsoft on the OpenTelemetry project to shape the future of open standards-based observability. To further advance the industry and extend the reach of its Software Intelligence Platform, Dynatrace is contributing transaction tracing knowhow and manpower to the project. OpenTelemetry is focused on providing standardized transaction-level observability through the generation, collection, and description of telemetry data for distributed cloud-native systems. As OpenTelemetry becomes more widely … More

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Critical Windows Vulnerability Discovered by NSA

Yesterday's Microsoft Windows patches included a fix for a critical vulnerability in the system's crypto library.

A spoofing vulnerability exists in the way Windows CryptoAPI (Crypt32.dll) validates Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) certificates.

An attacker could exploit the vulnerability by using a spoofed code-signing certificate to sign a malicious executable, making it appear the file was from a trusted, legitimate source. The user would have no way of knowing the file was malicious, because the digital signature would appear to be from a trusted provider.

A successful exploit could also allow the attacker to conduct man-in-the-middle attacks and decrypt confidential information on user connections to the affected software.

That's really bad, and you should all patch your system right now, before you finish reading this blog post.

This is a zero-day vulnerability, meaning that it was not detected in the wild before the patch was released. It was discovered by security researchers. Interestingly, it was discovered by NSA security researchers, and the NSA security advisory gives a lot more information about it than the Microsoft advisory does.

Exploitation of the vulnerability allows attackers to defeat trusted network connections and deliver executable code while appearing as legitimately trusted entities. Examples where validation of trust may be impacted include:

  • HTTPS connections
  • Signed files and emails
  • Signed executable code launched as user-mode processes

The vulnerability places Windows endpoints at risk to a broad range of exploitation vectors. NSA assesses the vulnerability to be severe and that sophisticated cyber actors will understand the underlying flaw very quickly and, if exploited, would render the previously mentioned platforms as fundamentally vulnerable.The consequences of not patching the vulnerability are severe and widespread. Remote exploitation tools will likely be made quickly and widely available.Rapid adoption of the patch is the only known mitigation at this time and should be the primary focus for all network owners.

Early yesterday morning, NSA's Cybersecurity Directorate head Anne Neuberger hosted a media call where she talked about the vulnerability and -- to my shock -- took questions from the attendees. According to her, the NSA discovered this vulnerability as part of its security research. (If it found it in some other nation's cyberweapons stash -- my personal favorite theory -- she declined to say.) She did not answer when asked how long ago the NSA discovered the vulnerability. She said that this is not the first time the NSA sent Microsoft a vulnerability to fix, but it was the first time it has publicly taken credit for the discovery. The reason is that the NSA is trying to rebuild trust with the security community, and this disclosure is a result of its new initiative to share findings more quickly and more often.

Barring any other information, I would take the NSA at its word here. So, good for it.

And -- seriously -- patch your systems now: Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016/2019. Assume that this vulnerability has already been weaponized, probably by criminals and certainly by major governments. Even assume that the NSA is using this vulnerability -- why wouldn't it?

Ars Technica article. Wired article. CERT advisory.

EDITED TO ADD: Washington Post article.

EDITED TO ADD (1/16): The attack was demonstrated in less than 24 hours.

Brian Krebs blog post.

Microsoft addresses CVE-2020-0601 flaw, the first issue ever reported by NSA

Microsoft has released a security update to address “a broad cryptographic vulnerability” that is impacting its Windows operating system.

Microsoft Patch Tuesday updates for January 2020 address a total of 49 vulnerabilities in various products, including a serious flaw, tracked as CVE-2020-0601, in the core cryptographic component of Windows 10, Server 2016 and 2019 editions.

The CVE-2020-0601 vulnerability is different from any other previously addressed flaws because it was reported by the NSA and this is the first time that the US intelligence agency has reported a bug to the tech giant.

The flaw, dubbed ‘NSACrypt’ and tracked as CVE-2020-0601, resides in the Crypt32.dll module that contains various ‘Certificate and Cryptographic Messaging functions’ used by the Windows Crypto API for data encryption.  

The flaw affects the way Crypt32.dll module validates Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) certificates.

In a press release published by the NSA, the agency explains “the certificate validation vulnerability allows an attacker to undermine how Windows verifies cryptographic trust and can enable remote code execution.”

“A spoofing vulnerability exists in the way Windows CryptoAPI (Crypt32.dll) validates Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) certificates.” reads the security advisory published by Microsoft.

“An attacker could exploit the vulnerability by using a spoofed code-signing certificate to sign a malicious executable, making it appear the file was from a trusted, legitimate source. The user would have no way of knowing the file was malicious, because the digital signature would appear to be from a trusted provider.”

An attacker could exploit the flaw to conduct man-in-the-middle attacks and decrypt confidential information on user connections to the affected software.

An attacker could also trigger the issue to spoof digital signatures on software tricking the system into believing that it is a legitimate application.

Microsoft addressed the issue by ensuring that Windows CryptoAPI completely validates ECC certificates.

Microsoft did not release technical details of the vulnerability to avoid its public exploitation.

Microsoft confirmed that it is not aware of attacks in the wild exploiting the CVE-2020-0601 flaw.

“This month we addressed the vulnerability CVE-2020-0601 in the usermode cryptographic library, CRYPT32.DLL, that affects Windows 10 systems. This vulnerability is classed Important and we have not seen it used in active attacks.” reads a blog post published by Microsoft.

“This vulnerability is one example of our partnership with the security research community where a vulnerability was privately disclosed and an update released to ensure customers were not put at risk.”

The NSA has also released a security advisory that includes mitigation information.

“NSA has discovered a critical vulnerability (CVE-2020-0601) affecting Microsoft Windows®1 cryptographic functionality. The certificate validation vulnerability allows an attacker to undermine how Windows verifies cryptographic trust and can enable remote code execution.” reads the NSA’s advisory.

“The consequences of not patching the vulnerability are severe and widespread. Remote exploitation tools will likely be made quickly and widely available”.

Microsoft also addresses 48 other vulnerabilities, 8 of which are rated as critical and remaining are rated as important.

None of the issues addressed this month by Microsoft were being exploited in the wild.

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – CVE-2020-0601, hacking)

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Microsoft rolls out Windows 10 security fix after NSA warning

US agency revealed flaw that could be exploited by hackers to create malicious software

Microsoft is rolling out a security fix to Windows 10 after the US National Security Agency (NSA) warned the popular operating system contained a highly dangerous flaw that could be used by hackers. Reporting the vulnerability represents a departure for the NSA from its past strategy of keeping security flaws under wraps to exploit for its own intelligence needs.

The NSA revealed during a press conference on Tuesday that the “serious vulnerability” could be used to create malicious software that appeared to be legitimate. The flaw “makes trust vulnerable”, the NSA director of cybersecurity, Anne Neuberger, said in a briefing call to media on Tuesday.

Related: Skype audio graded by workers in China with 'no security measures'

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Infosec pros urged to quickly deploy today’s Windows 10 patch

Windows administrators are being urged to install today’s Patch Tuesday updates for Win10 as soon as they can after the Washington Post reported that it fixes a major flaw in the operating system.

The news service said the U.S. National Security Agency, which quietly hunts for and tries to leverage software flaws it finds for spying, recently alerted Microsoft of the problem in Win10’s ability to verify digital signatures used to confirm if updates are legitimate, as well as signed files and emails.

If attackers can infiltrate Windows by using this hole it would mean computers around the world could be at risk.

Affected versions are Windows 10, Windows Server 2016 and Windows Server 2019.

The federal government Canadian Centre for Cyber Security issued an alert saying an ‘improper certificate validation’ vulnerability, tracked as CVE-2020-0601, prevents Windows from accurately verifying cryptographic trust and may allow an actor to impersonate a trusted entity. “Exploitation of this vulnerability would defeat systems that rely on the use of valid certificates to ensure cryptographic trust, allowing full access to encrypted communications and for the ability to execute any code with permissions reserved for trusted software.”

The security update ensures that Windows CryptoAPI completely validates certificates.

After installing the update administrators will know if an attacker is trying to exploit the vulnerability if a system generates Event ID 1 in the Windows Event Viewer after each reboot under Windows Logs/Application.

The NSA also issued a rare alert, advising administrators that if enterprise-wide, automated patching is not possible priority for manual patching should go to endpoints that provide essential or broadly replied-upon services such as Windows-based web appliances, web servers, proxies that perform TLS validation, machines that host critical infrastructure (e.g. domain controllers, DNS servers, update servers, VPN servers, IPSec negotiation), machines directly exposed to the internet and those regularly used by privileged users

 

Also:

Time running out for support on these Microsoft products


Industry experts immediately praised the NSA for disclosing the flaw rather than exploiting it. The NSA has been widely criticized for apparently keeping secret a hacking tool for exploiting Windows bug in all versions dubbed EternalBlue. That vulnerability was unknown until the NSA was hacked and a number of exploits were stolen.

The NSA quietly told Microsoft of the bug and it issued a fix in March 2017.  Shortly afterward a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers released the EternalBlue code, which led to others exploiting it.

“For the U.S. government to share its discovery of a critical vulnerability with a vendor is exceptionally rare if not unprecedented,” said Amit Yoran, CEO of security vendor Tenable. “It underscores the criticality of the vulnerability and we urge all organizations to prioritize patching their systems quickly. The fact that Microsoft provided a fix in advance to the U.S. government and other customers that provide critical infrastructure is also highly unusual. These are clearly noteworthy shifts from regular practices and make this vulnerability worth paying attention to and also worth asking questions about. How long ago was the vulnerability discovered? How long did it take from discovery to reporting? Was it used by the NSA? Has it been observed being used by foreign intelligence services already? What triggered the vendor disclosure? None of these questions change what organizations need to do at this point to protect themselves, but their answers might tell us a lot more about the environment we operate in.”

On Monday there were early but unconfirmed reports of the problem.Security reporter Brian Krebs said unnamed sources told him the vulnerability is in a Windows component known as crypt32.dll, a Windows module that Microsoft says handles “certificate and cryptographic messaging functions in the CryptoAPI.”

The Microsoft CryptoAPI provides services that enable developers to secure Windows-based applications using cryptography and includes functionality for encrypting and decrypting data using digital certificates.

GCHQ Urges People to No Longer Use Windows 7 PCs for Banking, Email

The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is urging people to no longer use computers with Windows 7 installed for banking or email. A spokesperson for the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a part of GCHQ, encouraged consumers to upgrade their Windows 7 devices. As quoted in a report by Telegraph: We would urge those using the […]… Read More

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Cryptic Rumblings Ahead of First 2020 Patch Tuesday

Sources tell KrebsOnSecurity that Microsoft Corp. is slated to release a software update on Tuesday to fix an extraordinarily serious security vulnerability in a core cryptographic component present in all versions of Windows. Those sources say Microsoft has quietly shipped a patch for the bug to branches of the U.S. military and to other high-value customers/targets that manage key Internet infrastructure, and that those organizations have been asked to sign agreements preventing them from disclosing details of the flaw prior to Jan. 14, the first Patch Tuesday of 2020.

According to sources, the vulnerability in question resides in a Windows component known as crypt32.dll, a Windows module that Microsoft says handles “certificate and cryptographic messaging functions in the CryptoAPI.” The Microsoft CryptoAPI provides services that enable developers to secure Windows-based applications using cryptography, and includes functionality for encrypting and decrypting data using digital certificates.

A critical vulnerability in this Windows component could have wide-ranging security implications for a number of important Windows functions, including authentication on Windows desktops and servers, the protection of sensitive data handled by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer/Edge browsers, as well as a number of third-party applications and tools.

Equally concerning, a flaw in crypt32.dll might also be abused to spoof the digital signature tied to a specific piece of software. Such a weakness could be exploited by attackers to make malware appear to be a benign program that was produced and signed by a legitimate software company.

This component was introduced into Windows more than 20 years ago — back in Windows NT 4.0. Consequently, all versions of Windows are likely affected (including Windows XP, which is no longer being supported with patches from Microsoft).

Microsoft has not yet responded to requests for comment. However, KrebsOnSecurity has heard rumblings from several sources over the past 48 hours that this Patch Tuesday (tomorrow) will include a doozy of an update that will need to be addressed immediately by all organizations running Windows.

Update 7:49 p.m. ET: Microsoft responded, saying that it does not discuss the details of reported vulnerabilities before an update is available. The company also said it does “not release production-ready updates ahead of regular Update Tuesday schedule. “Through our Security Update Validation Program (SUVP), we release advance versions of our updates for the purpose of validation and interoperability testing in lab environments,” Microsoft said in a written statement. “Participants in this program are contractually disallowed from applying the fix to any system outside of this purpose and may not apply it to production infrastructure.”

Original story:

Will Dormann, a security researcher who authors many of the vulnerability reports for the CERT Coordination Center (CERT-CC), tweeted today that “people should perhaps pay very close attention to installing tomorrow’s Microsoft Patch Tuesday updates in a timely manner. Even more so than others. I don’t know…just call it a hunch?” Dormann declined to elaborate on that teaser.

It could be that the timing and topic here (cryptography) is nothing more than a coincidence, but KrebsOnSecurity today received a heads up from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) stating that NSA’s Director of Cybersecurity Anne Neuberger is slated to host a call on Jan. 14 with the news media that “will provide advanced notification of a current NSA cybersecurity issue.”

The NSA’s public affairs folks did not respond to requests for more information on the nature or purpose of the discussion. The invitation from the agency said only that the call “reflects NSA’s efforts to enhance dialogue with industry partners regarding its work in the cybersecurity domain.”

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s coverage of Patch Tuesday and possibly more information on this particular vulnerability.

Update, Jan. 14, 9:20 a.m. ET: The NSA’s Neuberger said in a media call this morning that the agency did indeed report this vulnerability to Microsoft, and that this was the first time Microsoft will have credited NSA for reporting a security flaw. Neuberger said NSA researchers discovered the bug in their own research, and that Microsoft’s advisory later today will state that Microsoft has seen no active exploitation of it yet.

According to the NSA, the problem exists in Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016. Asked why the NSA was focusing on this particular vulnerability, Neuberger said the concern was that it “makes trust vulnerable.” The agency declined to say when it discovered the flaw, and that it would wait until Microsoft releases a patch for it later today before discussing further details of the vulnerability.

Update, 1:47 p.m. ET: Microsoft has released updates for this flaw (CVE-2020-0601). Their advisory is here. The NSA’s writeup (PDF) includes quite a bit more detail, as does the advisory from CERT.

Skype audio graded by workers in China with ‘no security measures’

Exclusive: former Microsoft contractor says he was emailed login after minimal vetting

A Microsoft programme to transcribe and vet audio from Skype and Cortana, its voice assistant, ran for years with “no security measures”, according to a former contractor who says he reviewed thousands of potentially sensitive recordings on his personal laptop from his home in Beijing over the two years he worked for the company.

The recordings, both deliberate and accidentally invoked activations of the voice assistant, as well as some Skype phone calls, were simply accessed by Microsoft workers through a web app running in Google’s Chrome browser, on their personal laptops, over the Chinese internet, according to the contractor.

Continue reading...

Microsoft announces Canadian Azure Availability Zone, and Azure ExpressRoute in Vancouver

TORONTO — Microsoft is ringing in the new decade with some significant announcements for the Canadian market.

At its Envision event in Toronto, which is targeted at business leaders seeking insights from Microsoft experts – the event is also wrapped into its Ignite event which provides technical training led by Microsoft experts – Microsoft announced its first Canadian Azure Availability Zone and an Azure ExpressRoute in Vancouver.

Azure ExpressRoutes, a service that provides a private connection between an organization’s on-premises infrastructure and Microsoft Azure data centre, already exist in Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City, but it was important the west coast had this offering as well, indicated Corey Sanders, corporate vice-president for Microsoft Solutions.

“It’s pretty critical for organizations working out of Vancouver to be able to have a secure network connection into Azure without having to cross the country,” he explained.

The new ExpressRoute service is set to go live in March.

From left, Corey Sanders, corporate vice-president for Microsoft Solutions. and Henrik Gütle, general manager of Microsoft Azure. Photo by Alex Coop.

Availability Zone consists of one or more data centres equipped with independent power, cooling, and networking. Microsoft says it’s the only hyperscale cloud provider in Canada to offer Availability Zones and disaster recovery with in-country data residency.

The new Azure Availability Zone will go live by the end of March, and according to Microsoft, it’s the largest increase in compute capacity since the original launch of Microsoft’s first data centre in Canada in 2016, at 1,300 per cent.

This is good news for the startups and enterprises that are increasingly taking advantage of cloud computing, indicated Henrik Gütle, the general manager of Azure for Microsoft Canada.

“We’re seeing rapid adoption of cloud services in Canada,” he told the publication. “We’re seeing tremendous interest from startups especially those in later stages of seed funding.”

The more than 9,000 channel partners in Canada, said Gütle, will experience a “natural extension” of their capabilities.

And while the seasoned veterans of the channel such as Softchoice and Long View Systems, which have leaned on the Microsoft ecosystem to not only modernize themselves but also their customers and are critical to Microsoft’s ongoing growth in Canada, there’s a noticeable rise in the number of cloud-native partners that have very specific capabilities, he added.

These capabilities were recently on display at the Ingram Micro Cloud Comet Competition in Toronto, where 15 finalists pitched their offerings to the competition’s judges. Some of those judges were from Microsoft, and many of the finalists were pitching cloud-based productivity tools supporting the Microsoft ecosystem.

“We’re seeing more of these born-in-the-cloud companies making great strides in the marketplace,” noted Gütle.
The public sector’s adoption of cloud computing, and increasingly public cloud offerings, is equally impressive, added Sanders.

The City of Ottawa has 110 lines of businesses and its general manager of innovative client services is focused on ensuring citizens can access them however they want.

“We want residents to choose the way we deliver services to them,” explained Valerie Turner in a fireside chat with Microsoft’s Alysa Taylor, the company’s corporate vice-president of business applications and global industry. “The array of services we have is staggering. Currently, we have some capabilities that allow you to access them online, but those requests keep growing as the size of the city grows.”

In November, The City of Ottawa announced a plan to pilot Microsoft’s Power Virtual Agent to increase the accessibility of its 311 services.

Users will be able to enter questions about the city’s services and receive immediate answers in a conversational format. Ottawa will begin piloting its new 311 AI chatbot in the first quarter of 2020.

Sanders also said the city is experimenting with computer vision, which would, for example, allow someone to take a picture of a paint can and get an immediate response about how it should be disposed of.

Microsoft’s latest news comes a couple of months after its biggest competitor announced a third AWS Availability Zone in the country’s central region near Montreal, bringing the total number of computing power hubs to 22.

Smashing Security #160: SNAFUs! MS Word, Amazon Ring, and TikTok

We discuss how Microsoft Word helped trap a multi-million dollar fraudster, how Amazon Ring may be recording more than you’re comfortable with, and how teens are flocking to TikTok (and why that might be a problem).

All this and much more is covered in the latest edition of the award-winning “Smashing Security” podcast by computer security veterans Graham Cluley and Carole Theriault, joined this week by Maria Varmazis.

Who Needs WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) Today ?

Folks,

Today, yet again, I'd like to share with you a simple Trillion $ question, one that I had originally asked more that 10 years ago, and recently asked again just about two years ago. Today it continues to be exponentially more relevant to the whole world.

In fact, it is more relevant today than ever given the paramount role that cyber security plays in business and national security.


So without further adieu, here it is - Who needs WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) Today?


Ans: Only those who don't know that we live in a digital world, one wherein virtually everything runs on (networked) computers.


Why would an entity bother trying to acquire or use a WMD (or for that matter even a conventional weapon) when (if you're smart) you could metaphorically stop the motor of entire organizations (or nations) with just a few lines of code designed to exploit arcane but highly potent misconfigured security settings (ACLs) in the underlying systems on which governments, militaries and thousands of business organizations of the world operate?

Today, all you need is two WDs in the same (pl)ACE and its Game Over.


Puzzled? Allow me to give you a HINT:.

Here’s a simple question: What does the following non-default string represent and why should it be a great cause of concern?
(A;;RP;;;WD)(OA;;CR;1131f6aa-9c07-11d1-f79f-00c04fc2dcd2;;ED)(OA;;CR;1131f6ab-9c07-11d1-f79f-00c04fc2dcd2;;ED)(OA;;CR;1131f6ac-9c07-11d1-f79f-00c04fc2dcd2;;ED)(OA;;CR;1131f6aa-9c07-11d1-f79f-00c04fc2dcd2;;BA)(OA;;CR;1131f6ab-9c07-11d1-f79f-00c04fc2dcd2;;BA)(OA;;CR;1131f6ac-9c07-11d1-f79f-00c04fc2dcd2;;BA)(A;;RPLCLORC;;;AU)(A;;RPWPCRLCLOCCRCWDWOSW;;;DA)(A;CI;RPWPCRLCLOCCRCWDWOSDSW;;;BA)(A;;RPWPCRLCLOCCDCRCWDWOSDDTSW;;;SY)(A;CI;RPWPCRLCLOCCDCRCWDWOSDDTSW;;;EA)(A;CI;LC;;;RU)(OA;CIIO;RP;037088f8-0ae1-11d2-b422-00a0c968f939;bf967aba-0de6-11d0-a285-00aa003049e2;RU)(OA;CIIO;RP;59ba2f42-79a2-11d0-9020-00c04fc2d3cf;bf967aba-0de6-11d0-a285-00aa003049e2;RU)(OA;CIIO;RP;bc0ac240-79a9-11d0-9020-00c04fc2d4cf;bf967aba-0de6-11d0-a285-00aa003049e2;RU) (A;CI;RPWDLCLO;;;WD)(OA;CIIO;RP;4c164200-20c0-11d0-a768-00aa006e0529;bf967aba-0de6-11d0-a285-00aa003049e2;RU) (OA;CIIO;RP;5f202010-79a5-11d0-9020-00c04fc2d4cf;bf967aba-0de6-11d0-a285-00aa003049e2;RU)(OA;CIIO;RPLCLORC;;bf967a9c-0de6-11d0-a285-00aa003049e2;RU)(A;;RC;;;RU)(OA;CIIO;RPLCLORC;;bf967aba-0de6-11d0-a285-00aa003049e2;RU)

Today, this one little question and the technicality I have shared above directly impacts the cyber security of the entire world.


If you read my words very carefully, as you always should, then you'll find that it shouldn't take an astute cyber security professional more than a minute to figure it out, given that I’ve actually already provided the answer above.


Today, the CISO of every organization in the world, whether it be a government, a military or a billion dollar company (of which there are dime a dozen, and in fact thousands worldwide) or a trillion dollar company MUST know the answer to this question.


They must know the answer because it directly impacts and threatens the foundational cyber security of their organizations.

If they don't, (in my opinion) they likely shouldn't be the organization's CISO because what I have shared above could possibly be the single biggest threat to 85% of organizations worldwide, and it could be used to completely compromise them within minutes (and any organization that would like a demo in their real-world environment may feel free to request one.)

Some of you will have figured it out. For the others, I'll finally shed light on the answer soon.

Best wishes,
Sanjay


PS: If you need to know right away, perhaps you should give your Microsoft contact a call and ask them. If they too need some help (they likely will ;-)), tell them it has to do with a certain security descriptor in Active Directory. (There, now that's a HINT the size of a domain, and it could get an intruder who's been able to breach an organization's network perimeter to root in seconds.)

PS2: If this intrigues you, and you wish to learn more, you may want to read this - Hello World :-)

What is Active Directory? (Cyber Security 101 for the Entire World)

Folks,

Today is January 06, 2020, and as promised, here I am getting back to sharing perspectives on cyber security.


Cyber Security 101

Perhaps a good topic to kick off the year is by seeking to ask and answer a simple yet vital question - What is Active Directory?

You see, while this question may seem simple to some (and it is,) its one of the most important questions to answer adequately, because in an adequate answer to this most simple question lies the key to organizational cyber security worldwide.

The simple reason for this is that if you were to ask most CISOs or IT professionals, they'll likely tell you that Active Directory is the "phone book" of an organization's IT infrastructure, and while its true that at its simplest, it is a directory of all organizational accounts and computers, it is this shallow view that leads organizations to greatly diminish the real value of Active Directory to the point of sheer irresponsible cyber negligence because  "Who really cares about just a phone book?"

In fact, for two decades now, this has been the predominant view held by most CISOs and IT personnel worldwide, and sadly it is the negligence resulting from such a simplistic view of Active Directory that are likely the reason that the Active Directory deployments of most organizations remain substantially insecure and vastly vulnerable to compromise today.

Again, after all, who cares about a phone book?!




Active Directory - The Very Foundation of Organizational Cyber Security Worldwide

If as they say, a "A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words", perhaps I should paint you a very simple Trillion $ picture -


An organization's Active Directory deployment is its single most valuable IT and corporate asset, worthy of the highest protection at all times, because it is the very foundation of an organization's cyber security.

The entirety of an organization's very building blocks of cyber security i.e. all the organizational user accounts and passwords used to authenticate their people, all the security groups used to aggregate and authorize access to all their IT resources, all their privileged user accounts, all the accounts of all their computers, including all laptops, desktops and servers are all stored, managed and secured in (i.e. inside) the organization's foundational Active Directory, and all actions on them audited in it.

In other words, should an organization's foundational Active Directory, or a single Active Directory privileged user account, be compromised, the entirety of the organization could be exposed to the  risk of complete, swift and colossal compromise.



Active Directory Security Must Be Organizational Cyber Security Priority #1

Today, ensuring the highest protection of an organization's foundational Active Directory deployment must undoubtedly be the #1 priority of every organization that cares about cyber security, protecting shareholder value and business continuity.


Here's why - A deeper, detailed look into What is Active Directory ?


For anyone to whom this may still not be clear, I'll spell it out - just about everything in organizational Cyber Security, whether it be Identity and Access Management, Privileged Access Management, Network Security, Endpoint Security, Data Security, Intrusion Detection, Cloud Security, Zero Trust etc. ultimately relies and depends on Active Directory (and its security.)



In essence, today every organization in the world is only as secure as is its foundational Active Directory deployment, and from the CEO to the CISO to an organization's shareholders, employees and customers, everyone should know this cardinal fact.

Best wishes,
Sanjay.

Celebrating Decades of Success with Microsoft at the Security 20/20 Awards

Effective collaboration is key to the success of any organization. But perhaps none more so than those working towards the common goal of securing our connected world. That’s why Trend Micro has always been keen to reach out to industry partners in the security ecosystem, to help us collectively build a safer world and improve the level of protection we can offer our customers. As part of these efforts, we’ve worked closely with Microsoft for decades.

Trend Micro is therefore doubly honored to be at the Microsoft Security 20/20 awards event in February, with nominations for two of the night’s most prestigious prizes.

Better together

No organization exists in a vacuum. The hi-tech, connectivity-rich nature of modern business is the source of its greatest power, but also one of its biggest weaknesses. Trend Micro’s mission from day one has been to make this environment as safe as possible for our customers. But we learned early on that to deliver on this vision, we had to collaborate. That’s why we work closely with the world’s top platform and technology providers — to offer protection that is seamless and optimized for these environments.

As a Gold Application Development Partner we’ve worked for years with Microsoft to ensure our security is tightly integrated into its products, to offer protection for Azure, Windows and Office 365 customers — at the endpoint, on servers, for email and in the cloud. It’s all about simplified, optimized security designed to support business agility and growth.

Innovating our way to success

This is a vision that comes from the very top. For over three decades, our CEO and co-founder Eva Chen has been at the forefront of industry leading technology innovation and collaborative success at Trend Micro. Among other things during that time, we’ve released:

  • The world’s first hardware-based system lockdown technology (StationLock)
  • Innovative internet gateway virus protection (InterScan VirusWall)
  • The industry’s first two-hour virus response service-level agreement
  • The first integrated physical-virtual security offering, with agentless threat protection for virtualized desktops (VDI) and data centers (Deep Security)
  • The first ever mobile app reputation service (MARS)
  • AI-based writing-style analysis for protection from Business Email Compromise (Writing Style DNA)
  • Cross-layer detection and response for endpoint, email, servers, & network combined (XDR)
  • Broadest cloud security platform as a service (Cloud One)

Two awards

We’re delighted to have been singled out for two prestigious awards at the Microsoft Security 20/20 event, which will kick off RSA Conference this year:

Customer Impact

At Trend Micro, the customer is at the heart of everything we do. It’s the reason we have hundreds of researchers across 15 threat centers around the globe leading the fight against emerging black hat tools and techniques. It’s why we partner with leading technology providers like Microsoft. And it’s why the channel is so important for us.

Industry Changemaker: Eva Chen

It goes without saying that our CEO and co-founder is an inspirational figure within Trend Micro. Her vision and strong belief that our only real competition as cybersecurity vendors are the bad guys and that the industry needs to stand united against them to make the digital world a safer place, guides the over 6000 employees every day. But she’s also had a major impact on the industry at large, working tirelessly over the years to promote initiatives that have ultimately made our connected world more secure. It’s not an exaggeration to say that without Eva’s foresight and dedication, the cybersecurity industry would be a much poorer place.

We’re all looking forward to the event, and for the start of 2020. As we enter a new decade, Trend Micro’s innovation and passion to make the digital world a safer place has never been more important.

 

The post Celebrating Decades of Success with Microsoft at the Security 20/20 Awards appeared first on .

Cyber Security Roundup for January 2020

A roundup of UK focused cyber and information security news stories, blog posts, reports and threat intelligence from the previous calendar month, December 2019.

Happy New Year!  The final month of the decade was a pretty quiet one as major security news and data breaches go, given cybers attack have become the norm in the past decade. The biggest UK media security story was saved for the very end of 2019, with the freshly elected UK government apologising after it had accidentally published online the addresses of the 1,097 New Year Honour recipients.  Among the addresses posted were those of Sir Elton John, cricketer and BBC 'Sports Personality of the Year' Ben Stokes, former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith, 'Great British Bakeoff Winner' Nadiya Hussain, and former Ofcom boss Sharon White. The Cabinet Office said it was "looking into how this happened", probably come down to a 'user error' in my view.

An investigation by The Times found Hedge funds had been eavesdropping on the Bank of England’s press conferences before their official broadcast after its internal systems were compromised. Hedge funds were said to have gained a significant advantage over rivals by purchasing access to an audio feed of Bank of England news conferences. The Bank said it was "wholly unacceptable" and it was investigating further. The Times claimed those paying for the audio feed, via the third party, would receive details of the Bank's news conferences up to eight seconds before those using the television feed - potentially making them money. It is alleged the supplier charged each client a subscription fee and up to £5,000 per use. The system, which had been misused by the supplier since earlier this year, was installed in case the Bloomberg-managed television feed failed.

A video showing a hacker talking to a young girl in her bedroom via her family's Ring camera was shared on social media. The hacker tells the young girl: "It's Santa. It's your best friend." The Motherboard website reported hackers were offering software making it easier to break into such devices. Ring owner Amazon said the incident was not related to a security breach, but compromised was due to password stuffing, stating "Due to the fact that customers often use the same username and password for their various accounts and subscriptions, bad actors often re-use credentials stolen or leaked from one service on other services."


Ransomware continues to plague multiple industries and it has throughout 2019, even security companies aren't immune, with Spanish security company Prosegur reported to have been taken down by the Ryuk ransomware.

Finally, a Microsoft Security Intelligence Report concluded what all security professionals know well, is that implementing Multi-Factor Authenication (MFA) would have thwarted the vast majority of identity attacks. The Microsoft study found reusing passwords across multiple account-based services is still common, of nearly 30 million users and their passwords, password reuse and modifications were common for 52% of users. The same study also found that 30% of the modified passwords and all the reused passwords can be cracked within just 10 guesses. This behaviour puts users at risk of being victims of a breach replay attack. Once a threat actor gets hold of spilled credentials or credentials in the wild, they can try to execute a breach replay attack. In this attack, the actor tries out the same credentials on different service accounts to see if there is a match.

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Cyber Security Roundup for November 2019

In recent years political motivated cyber-attacks during elections has become an expected norm, so it was no real surprise when the Labour Party reported it was hit with two DDoS cyber-attacks in the run up to the UK general election, which was well publicised by the media. However, what wasn't well publicised was both the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats Party were also hit with cyber attacks. These weren't nation-state orchestrated cyberattacks either, black hat hacking group Lizard Squad, well known for their high profile DDoS attacks, are believed to be the culprits.

The launch of Disney Plus didn’t go exactly to plan, without hours of the streaming service going live, compromised Disney Plus user accounts credentials were being sold on the black market for as little as £2.30 a pop. Disney suggested hackers had obtained customer credentials from previously leaked identical credentials, as used by their customers on other compromised or insecure websites, and from keylogging malware. It's worth noting Disney Plus doesn’t use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), implementing MFA to protect their customer's accounts would have prevented the vast majority of Disney Plus account compromises in my view.

Trend Micro reported an insider stolen around 100,000 customer accounts details, with the data used by cyber con artists to make convincing scam phone calls impersonating their company to a number of their customers. In a statement, Trend Micro said it determined the attack was an inside job, an employee used fraudulent methods to access its customer support databases, retrieved the data and then sold it on. “Our open investigation has confirmed that this was not an external hack, but rather the work of a malicious internal source that engaged in a premeditated infiltration scheme to bypass our sophisticated controls,” the company said. The employee behind it was identified and fired, Trend Micro said it is working with law enforcement in an on-going investigation.

Security researchers found 4 billion records from 1.2 billion people on an unsecured Elasticsearch server. The personal information includes names, home and mobile phone numbers and email addresses and what may be information scraped from LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media sources.

T-Mobile reported a data breach of some their prepaid account customers. A T-Mobile spokesman said “Our cybersecurity team discovered and shut down malicious, unauthorized access to some information related to your T-Mobile prepaid wireless account. We promptly reported this to authorities”.

A French hospital was hit hard by a ransomware attack which has caused "very long delays in care". According to a spokesman, medical staff at Rouen University Hospital Centre (CHU) abandon PCs as ransomware had made them unusable, instead, staff returned to the "old-fashioned method of paper and pencil". No details about the strain of the ransomware have been released.

Microsoft released patches for 74 vulnerabilities in November, including 13 which are rated as critical. One of which was for a vulnerability with Internet Explorer (CVE-2019-1429), an ActiveX vulnerability known to be actively exploited by visiting malicious websites.

It was a busy month for blog articles and threat intelligence news, all are linked below.

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A Simple Trillion$ Cyber Security Question for the Entire RSA Conference

Folks,

This week, the famous RSA Conference 2019 is underway, where supposedly "The World Talks Security" -



If that's the case, let's talk -  I'd like to respectfully ask the entire RSA Conference just 1 simple cyber security question -

Question: What lies at the very foundation of cyber security and privileged access of not just the RSAs, EMCs, Dells, CyberArks, Gartners, Googles, Amazons, Facebooks and Microsofts of the world, but also at the foundation of virtually all cyber security and cloud companies and at the foundation of over 85% of organizations worldwide?

For those who may not know the answer to this ONE simple cyber security question, the answer's in line 1 here.



For those who may know the answer, and I sincerely hope that most of the world's CIOs, CISOs, Domain Admins, Cyber Security Analysts, Penetration Testers and Ethical Hackers know the answer, here are 4 simple follow-up questions -


  • Q 1.  Should your organization's foundational Active Directory be compromised, what could be its impact?
  • Q 2.  Would you agree that the (unintentional, intentional or coerced) compromise of a single Active Directory privileged user could result in the compromise of your organization's entire foundational Active Directory?
  • Q 3.  If so, then do you know that there is only one correct way to accurately identify/audit privileged users in your organization's foundational Active Directory, and do you possess the capability to correctly be able to do so?
  • Q 4.  If you don't, then how could you possibly know exactly how many privileged users there are in your organization's foundational Active Directory deployment today, and if you don't know so, ...OMG... ?!

You see, if even the world's top cyber security and cloud computing companies themselves don't know the answers to such simple, fundamental Kindergarten-level cyber security questions, how can we expect 85% of the world's organizations to know the answer, AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, what's the point of all this fancy peripheral cyber security talk at such conferences when organizations don't even know how many (hundreds if not thousands of) people have the Keys to their Kingdom(s) ?!


Today Active Directory is at the very heart of Cyber Security and Privileged Access at over 85% of organizations worldwide, and if you can find me even ONE company at the prestigious RSA Conference 2019 that can help organizations accurately identify privileged users/access in 1000s of foundational Active Directory deployments worldwide, you'll have impressed me.


Those who truly understand Windows Security know that organizations can neither adequately secure their foundational Active Directory deployments nor accomplish any of these recent buzzword initiatives like Privileged Access Management, Privileged Account Discovery, Zero-Trust etc. without first being able to accurately identify privileged users in Active Directory.

Best wishes,
Sanjay


PS: Pardon the delay. I've been busy and haven't much time to blog since my last post on Cyber Security 101 for the C-Suite.

PS2: Microsoft, when were you planning to start educating the world about what's actually paramount to their cyber security?

A Trillion $ Cyber Security Question for Microsoft and CISOs Worldwide

Folks,

Today, to give a hint for the answer to this 1 question, I asked possibly the most important cyber security question in the world, one that directly impacts the foundational security of 1000s of organizations worldwide, and thus one that impacts the financial security of billions of people worldwide -


What's the World's Most Important Active Directory Security Capability?




Those who don't know why this is the world's most important cyber security question may want to connect one, two and three

I sincerely hope that someone (anyone) at Microsoft, or that some CISO (any ONE) out there, will answer this ONE question.

Best wishes,
Sanjay.

Mimikatz DCSync Mitigation

Folks,

A few days ago I asked a (seemingly) very simple question ; no I'm not referring to this one, I'm referring to this one here  -

Can Anyone (i.e. any Cyber Security Company or Expert) Help Thousands of Microsoft's Customers MITIGATE the Risk Posed by Mimikatz DCSync?

Here's why I did so - While there's a lot of info out there on the WWW about how to use Mimikatz DCSync, and/or how to detect its use, there isn't one other* single correct piece of guidance out there on how to mitigate the risk posed by Mimkatz DCSync.

So, as promised, today I am (literally) going to show you exactly how thousands of organizations worldwide can now easily and demonstrably actually mitigate the very serious cyber security risk posed to their foundational security by Mimikatz DCSync.


In light of what I've shared below, organizations worldwide can now easily mitigate the serious risk posed by Mimikatz DCSync.




First, A Quick Overview

For those who may not know, and there are millions who don't, there are three quick things to know about Mimikatz DCSync.


Mimikatz DCSync, a Windows security tool, is the creation of the brilliant technical expertise of Mr. Benjamin Delpy, whose work over the years has very likely (caused Microsoft a lot of pain ;-) but/and) helped substantially enhance Windows Security.

Mimikatz DCSync targets an organization's foundational Active Directory domains, and instantly gives any attacker who has sufficient privileges to be able to replicate sensitive content from Active Directory, access to literally everyone's credentials!

Thus far, the only guidance out there is on how to DETECT its use, but this is one of those situations wherein if you're having to rely on detection as a security measure, then its unfortunately already TOO late, because the damage has already been done.



Detection Is Hardly Sufficient

They say a picture's worth a thousand words, so perhaps I'll paint a picture for you. Relying on detection as a security measure against Mimikatz DCSync is akin to this -

Castle romeo2

Lets say a nuclear weapon just detonated in a city, and the moment it did, detection sensors alerted the city officials about the detonation. Well, within the few seconds in which they received the alert, the whole city would've already been obliterated i.e. by the time you get the alert, literally everyone's credentials (including of all privileged users) would've already been compromised!

Make not mistake about it - a single successful use of Mimikatz DCSync against an organization's foundational Active Directory domain is tantamount to a complete forest-wide compromise, and should be considered a massive organizational cyber security breach, the only way to recover from which is to completely rebuild the entire Active Directory forest from the ground up!

This is why detection is grossly insufficient as a security measure, and what organizations need is the ability to prevent the use of Mimikatz DCSync's against their foundational Active Directory domains & thus the ability to mitigate this risk is paramount.



How to Mitigate Mimikatz DCSync

The key to mitigating this risk lies in identifying what it technically takes to be able to successfully use Mimikatz DCSync.

Specifically, if you know exactly what privileges an attacker needs to be able to successfully use Mimikatz DCSync against your Active Directory domain, then by ensuring that only highly-trustworthy, authorized individuals (and not a single other individual) actually currently possess those required privileges in your IT infrastructure, you can easily mitigate this risk.


Technically speaking, all that an attacker needs to successfully use Mimikatz DCSync is sufficient Get Replication Changes All effective permissions on the domain root object of an Active Directory domain, so all that organizations need to do is accurately identify exactly who has these effective permissions on the domain root object of each of their Active Directory domains.

While by default only the default administrative Active Directory security groups are granted this permission, since most Active Directory deployments have been around for years, and have likely gone through a substantial amount of access provisioning, in most Active Directory, a lot many more individuals than merely the members of the default AD admin groups may likely have this highly sensitive effective permission granted to them, either directly or via group membership, some of which may be direct, whilst others may be via nested group memberships, resulting in a potentially large and unknown attack surface today.

Now, it is paramount to understand ONE subtle but profound difference here - it is NOT who has what permissions on the domain root that matters, but who has what effective permissions on the domain root that matters, and this difference could be the difference between a $100 B organization being completely compromised or being completely protected from compromise.



The Key - Active Directory Effective Permissions

If you've followed what I've shared above, then you'll agree and understand that the key to being able to successfully mitigate the serious risk posed by Mimikatz DCSync lies in being able to accurately determine effective permissions in Active Directory.



In fact Effective Permissions are so important, essential and fundamental to Windows and Active Directory Security, that of the four tabs in all of Microsoft's Active Directory Management Tooling, one entire tab is dedicated to Effective Permissions.

Unfortunately, it turns out that not only is Microsoft's native Effective Permissions Tab not always accurate, it is substantially inadequate, and while I could elaborate on that, I'd rather let you come to the same conclusion yourself, and this ONE glaring inadequacy will be self-evident the moment you attempt to use it to try and find out exactly whom amongst the thousands of domain user account holders in your Active Directory domain(s), actually has the required effective permissions. In fact, the same is true of all tools/scripts that involve the use of Microsoft's APIs to do so, such as this dangerously inaccurate free tool.

Fortunately, in a world whose population is 7,000,000,000+ today, thanks to one (1) inconsequential individual, there's hope...



Finally, How to Easily and Reliably Mitigate the Risk Posed by Mimikatz DCSync

Here's a very short (and perhaps boring but insightful) video on how organizations worldwide can reliably mitigate this risk -


Note: This is NOT intended to demonstrate our unique tooling. It is solely intended to show what it takes to mitigate this serious risk. We have no particular interest in licensing our unique tooling to anyone. As such, over the years, we have NEVER, not once pitched our tooling to anyone; we've had almost 10,000 organizations worldwide knock at our doors completely unsolicited, so I hope that makes this point unequivocally.

Thus, as seen in the short video above, with the right guidance (knowledge) and capability (tooling), organizations worldwide can now easily and reliably mitigate the serious cyber security risk posed by Mimikatz DCSync to their foundational security.

Complete, illustrated, step-by-step details on how to easily and correctly mitigate Mimikatz DCSync can now be found here.


I'll say this one last time - a single successful use of Mimikatz DCSync against an organization's foundational Active Directory is tantamount to a forest-wide compromise and constitutes a massive cyber security breach, which is why mitigation is paramount.

Best wishes,
Sanjay


PS: *Here are 4 posts I've previously penned on Mimikatz DCSync - a summary, technical details, a scenario and the question.

PS2: In days to come, I'll answer this question too.

WHAT is the ONE Essential Cyber Security Capability WITHOUT which NOT a single Active Directory object or domain can be adequately secured?


Folks,

Hello again. Today onwards, as I had promised, it is finally TIME for us to help SAFEGUARD Microsoft's Global Ecosystem.


Before I share how we uniquely do so, or answer this paramount question, or ask more such ones, I thought I'd ask likely the most important question that today DIRECTLY impacts the foundational cyber security of 1000s of organizations worldwide.



Here It Is -
What Is the 1 Essential Cyber Security Capability Without Which NOT a single Active Directory object, domain, forest or deployment can be adequately secured?



A Hint

I'll give you a hint. It controls exactly who is denied and who is granted access to literally everything within Active Directory.


In fact, it comes into play every time anyone accesses anything in any Active Directory domain in any organization worldwide.




Make No Mistake

Make no mistake about it - one simply CANNOT adequately protect anything in any Active Directory WITHOUT possessing this ONE capability, and thus one simply cannot protect the very foundation of an organization's cyber security without possessing this ONE paramount cyber security capability. It unequivocally is as remarkably simple, elemental and fundamental as this.



Only 2 Kinds of Organizations

Thus, today there are only two kinds of organizations worldwide - those that possess this paramount cyber security capability, and those that don't. Those that don't possess this essential capability do not have the means to, and thus cannot adequately protect, their foundational Active Directory deployments, and thus by logic are provably and demonstrably insecure.


If you know the answer, feel free to leave a comment below.
I'll answer this question right here, likely on July 04, 2018.

Best,
Sanjay

Alarming! : Windows Update Automatically Downloaded and Installed an Untrusted Self-Signed Kernel-mode Lenovo Driver on New Surface Device

Folks,

Given what it is I do, I don't squander a minute of precious time, unless something is very important, and this is very important.


Let me explain why this is so alarming, concerning and so important to cyber security, and why at many organizations (e.g. U.S. Govt., Paramount Defenses etc.), this could've either possibly resulted in, or in itself, be considered a cyber security breach.

Disclaimer: I'm not making any value judgment about Lenovo ; I'm merely basing this on what's already been said.


As you know, Microsoft's been brazenly leaving billions of people and thousands of organizations worldwide with no real choice but to upgrade to their latest operating system, Windows 10, which albeit is far from perfect, is much better than Windows Vista, Windows 8 etc., even though Windows 10's default settings could be considered an egregious affront to Privacy.

Consequently, at Paramount Defenses, we too felt that perhaps it was time to consider moving on to Windows 10, so we too figured we'd refresh our workforce's PCs. Now, of the major choices available from amongst several reputable PC vendors out there, Microsoft's Surface was one of the top trustworthy contenders, considering that the entirety of the hardware and software was from the same vendor (, and one that was decently trustworthy (considering that most of the world is running their operating system,)) and that there seemed to be no* pre-installed drivers or software that may have been written in China, Russia etc.

Side-note: Based on information available in the public domain, in all likelihood, software written in / maintained from within Russia, may still likely be running as System on Domain Controllers within the U.S. Government.

In particular, regardless of its respected heritage, for us, Lenovo wasn't  an option, since it is partly owned by the Chinese Govt.

So we decided to consider evaluating Microsoft Surface devices and thus purchased a couple of brand-new Microsoft Surface devices from our local Microsoft Store for an initial PoC, and I decided to personally test-drive one of them -

Microsoft Surface



The very first thing we did after unsealing them, walking through the initial setup and locking down Windows 10's unacceptable default privacy settings, was to connect it to the Internet over a secure channel, and perform a Windows Update.

I should mention that there was no other device attached to this Microsoft Surface, except for a Microsoft Signature Type Cover, and in particular there were no mice of any kind, attached to this new Microsoft surface device, whether via USB or Bluetooth.


Now, you're not going to believe what happened within minutes of having clicked the Check for Updates button!



Windows Update
Downloaded and Installed an Untrusted
Self-Signed Lenovo Device Driver on Microsoft Surface! -

Within minutes, Windows Update automatically downloaded and had installed, amongst other packages (notably Surface Firmware,) an untrusted self-signed Kernel-mode device-driver, purportedly Lenovo - Keyboard, Other hardware - Lenovo Optical Mouse (HID), on this brand-new Microsoft Surface device, i.e. one signed with an untrusted WDK Test Certificate!

Here's a snapshot of Windows Update indicating that it had successfully downloaded and installed a Lenovo driver on this Surface device, and it specifically states "Lenovo - Keyboard, Other hardware - Lenovo Optical Mouse (HID)" -


We couldn't quite believe this.

How could this be possible? i.e. how could a Lenovo driver have been installed on a Microsoft  Surface device?

So we checked the Windows Update Log, and sure enough, as seen in the snapshot below, the Windows Update Log too confirmed that Windows Update had just downloaded and installed a Lenovo driver -


We wondered if there might have been any Lenovo hardware components installed on the Surface so we checked the Device Manager, and we could not find a single device that seemed to indicate the presence of any Lenovo hardware. (Later, we even took it back to the Microsoft Store, and their skilled tech personnel confirmed the same finding i.e. no Lenovo hardware on it.)

Specifically, as you can see below, we again checked the Device Manager, this time to see if it might indicate the presence of any Lenovo HID, such as a Lenovo Optical Mouse, and as you can see in the snapshot below, the only two Mice and other pointing devices installed on the system were from Microsoft - i.e. no Lenovo mouse presence indicated by Device Manager -



Next, we performed a keyword search of the Registry, and came across a suspicious Driver Package, as seen below -


It seemed suspicious to us because as can be seen in the snapshot above, all of the other legitimate driver package keys in the Registry had (as they should) three child sub-keys i.e. Configurations, Descriptors and Strings, but this specific one only had one subkey titled Properties, and when we tried to open it, we received an Access Denied message!

As you can see above, it seemed to indicate that the provider was Lenovo and that the INF file name was phidmou.inf, and the OEM path was "C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\Download\Install", so we looked at the file system but this path didn't seem to exist on the file-system. So we performed a simple file-system search "dir /s phidmou.*" and as seen in the snapshot below, we found one instance of such a file, located in C:\Windows\System32\DriverStore\FileRepository\.

Here's that exact location on the file-system, and as evidenced by the Created date and time for that folder, one can see that this folder (and thus all of its contents), were created on April 01, 2018 at around 1:50 am, which is just around the time the Windows Update log too confirmed that it had installed the Lenovo Driver -



When we opened that location, we found thirteen items, including six drivers -


Next, we checked the Digital Signature on one of the drivers, PELMOUSE.SYS, and we found that it was signed using a self-signed test Windows Driver certificate, i.e. the .sys files were SELF-SIGNED by a WDKTestCert and their digital signatures were NOT OK, in that they terminated in a root certificate that is not trusted by the trust provider -


Finally, when we clicked on the View Certificate button, as can be seen below, we could see that this driver was in fact merely signed by a test certificate, which is only supposed to be used for testing purposes during the creation and development of Kernel-mode drivers. Quoting from Microsoft's documentation on Driver Testing "However, eventually it will become necessary to test-sign your driver during its development, and ultimately release-sign your driver before publishing it to users." -


Clearly, the certificate seen above is NOT one that is intended to be used for release signing, yet, here we have a Kernel-mode driver downloaded by Windows Update and installed on a brand new Microsoft surface, and all its signed by is a test certificate, and who knows who wrote this driver!

Again, per Microsoft's guidelines on driver signing, which can also be found here, "After completing test signing and verifying that the driver is ready for release, the driver package has to be release signed", and AFAIK, release signing not only requires the signer to obtain and use a code-signing certificate from a code-signing CA, it also requires a cross cert issued by Microsoft.

If that is indeed the case, then a Kernel-mode driver that is not signed with a valid code-signing certificate, and one whose digital signature does not contain Microsoft's cross cert, should not even be accepted into the Windows Update catalog.

It is thus hard to believe that a Windows Kernel-Mode Driver that is merely self-signed using a test certificate would even make it into the Windows Update catalog, and further it seems that in this case, not only did it make it in, it was downloaded, and in fact successfully installed onto a system, which clearly seems highly suspicious, and is fact alarming and deeply-concerning!

How could this be? How could Windows Update (a trusted system process of the operating system), which we all (have no choice but to) trust (and have to do so blindly and completely) have itself installed an untrusted self-signed Lenovo driver (i.e. code running in Kernel-Mode) on a Microsoft Surface device?

Frankly, since this piece of software was signed using a self-signed test cert, who's to say this was even a real Lenovo driver? It could very well be some malicious code purporting to be a Lenovo driver. Or, there is also the remote possibility that it could be a legitimate Lenovo driver, that is self-signed, but if that is the case, its installation should not have been allowed to succeed.



Unacceptable and Deeply Concerning

To us, this is unacceptable, alarming and deeply concerning, and here's why.


We just had, on a device we consider trustworthy (, and could possibly have engaged in business on,) procured from a vendor we consider trustworthy (considering that the entire world's cyber security ultimately depends on them), an unknown, unsigned piece of software of Chinese origin that is now running in Kernel-mode, installed on the device, by this device's vendor's (i.e. Microsoft's) own product (Windows operating system's) update program!

We have not had an opportunity to analyze this code, but if it is indeed malicious in any way, in effect, it would've, unbeknownst to us and for no fault of ours, granted System-level control over a trusted device within our perimeter, to some entity in China.

How much damage could that have caused? Well, suffice it to say that, for they who know Windows Security well, if this was indeed malicious, it would've been sufficient to potentially compromise any organization within which this potentially suspect and malicious package may have been auto-installed by Windows update. (I've elaborated a bit on this below.)

In the simplest scenario, if a company's Domain Admins had been using this device, it would've been Game Over right there!

This leads me to the next question - we can't help but wonder how many such identical Surface devices exist out there today, perhaps at 1000s of organizations, on which this suspicious unsigned Lenovo driver may have been downloaded and installed?

This also leads me to another very important question - Just how much trust can we, the world, impose in Windows Update?

In our case, it just so happened to be, that we happened to be in front of this device during this Windows update process, and that's how we noticed this, and by the way, after it was done, it gave the familiar Your device is upto date message.

Speaking which, here's another equally important question - For all organizations that are using Windows Surface, and may be using it for mission-critical or sensitive purposes (e.g. AD administration), what is the guarantee that this won't happen again?

I ask because if you understand cyber security, then you know, that it ONLY takes ONE instance of ONE malicious piece of software to be installed on a system, to compromise the security of that system, and if that system was a highly-trusted internal system (e.g. that machine's domain computer account had the "Trusted for Unconstrained Delegation" bit set), then this could very likely also aid perpetrators in ultimately gaining complete command and control of the entire IT infrastructure. As I have already alluded to above, if by chance the target/compromised computer was one that was being used by an Active Directory Privileged User, then, it would be tantamount to Game Over right then and there!

Think about it - this could have happened at any organization, from say the U.S. Government to the British Government, or from say a Goldman Sachs to a Palantir, or say from a stock-exchange to an airline, or say at a clandestine national security agency to say at a nuclear reactor, or even Microsoft itself. In short, for absolutely no fault of theirs, an organization could potentially have been breached by a likely malicious piece of software that the operating system's own update utility had downloaded and installed on the System, and in 99% of situations, because hardly anyone checks what gets installed by Windows Update (now that we have to download and install a whopping 600MB patch every Tuesday), this would likely have gone unnoticed!

Again, to be perfectly clear, I'm not saying that a provably malicious piece of software was in fact downloaded and installed on a Microsoft Surface device by Windows Update. What I'm saying is that a highly suspicious piece of software, one that was built and intended to run in Kernel-mode and yet was merely signed with a test certificate, somehow was automatically downloaded and installed on a Microsoft Surface device, and that to us is deeply concerning, because in essence, if this could happen, then even at organizations that may be spending millions on cyber security, a single such piece of software quietly making its way in through such a trusted channel, could possibly instantly render their entire multi-million dollar cyber security apparatus useless, and jeopardize the security of the entire organization, and this could happen at thousands of organizations worldwide.

With full respect to Microsoft and Mr. Nadella, this is deeply concerning and unacceptable, and I'd like some assurance, as I'm sure would 1000s of other CEOs and CISOs, that this will never happen again, on any Surface device, in any organization.

In our case, this was very important, because had we put that brand new Surface device that we procured from none other than the Microsoft Store, into operation (even it we had re-imaged it with an ultra-secure locked-down internal image), from minute one, post the initial Windows update, we would likely have had a potentially compromised device running within our internal network, and it could perhaps have led to us being breached.



If I Were Microsoft, I'd Send a Plane

Dear Microsoft, we immediately quarantined that Microsoft Surface device, and we have it in our possession.


If I were you, I'd send a plane to get it picked up ASAP, so you can thoroughly investigate every little aspect of this to figure out how this possibly happened, and get to the bottom of it! (Petty process note: The Microsoft Store let us keep the device for a bit longer, but will not let us return the device past June 24, and the only reason we've kept it, is in case you'd want to analyze it.)

Here's why. At the very least, if I were still at Microsoft, and in charge of Cyber Security -
  1. I'd want to know how an untrusted Kernel-mode device driver made it into the Windows Catalog
  2. I'd want to know why a Microsoft Surface device downloaded a purportedly Lenovo driver
  3. I'd want to know how Windows 10 permitted and in fact itself installed an untrusted driver
  4. I'd want to know exactly which SKUs of Microsoft Surface this may have happened on
  5. I'd want to know exactly how many such Microsoft Surface devices out there may have downloaded this package 

Further, and as such, considering that Microsoft Corp itself may easily have thousands of Surface devices being used within Microsoft itself, if I were still with Microsoft CorpSec, I'd certainly want to know how many of their own Surface devices may have automatically downloaded and installed this highly suspicious piece of untrusted self-signed software.


In short, Microsoft, if you care as deeply about cyber security as you say you do, and by that I'm referring to what Mr. Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, recently said (see video below: 0:40 - 0:44) and I quote "we spend over a billion dollars of R&D each year, in building security into our mainstream products", then you'll want to get to the bottom of this, because other than the Cloud, what else could be a more mainstream product for Microsoft today than, Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Surface ?! -



Also, speaking of Microsoft's ecosystem, it indeed is time to help safeguard Microsoft's global ecosystem. (But I digress,)



In Conclusion

Folks, the only reason I decided to publicly share this is because I care deeply about cyber security, and I believe that this could potentially have impacted the foundational cyber security of any, and potentially, of thousands of organizations worldwide.


Hopefully, as you'll agree, a trusted component (i.e. Windows Update) of an operating system that virtually the whole world will soon be running on (i.e. Windows 10), should not be downloading and installing a piece of software that runs in Kernel-mode, when that piece of software isn't even digitally signed by a valid digital certificate, because if that piece of software happened to be malicious, then in doing so, it could likely, automatically, and for no fault of its users, instantly compromise the cyber security of possibly thousands of organizations worldwide. This is really as simple, as fundamental and as concerning, as that. 

All in all, the Microsoft Surface is an incredible device, and because, like Apple's computers, the entire hardware and software is in control of a single vendor, Microsoft has a huge opportunity to deliver a trustworthy computing device to the world, and we'd love to embrace it. Thus, it is vital for Microsoft to ensure that its other components (e.g. Update) do not let the security of its mainstream products down, because per the Principle of Weakest Link, "a system is only as secure as is its weakest link."


By the way, I happen to be former Microsoft Program Manager for Active Directory Security, and I care deeply for Microsoft.

For those may not know what Active Directory Security is (i.e. most CEOs, a few CISOs, and most employees and citizens,) suffice it to say that global security may depend on Active Directory Security, and thus may be a matter of paramount defenses.

Most respectfully,
Sanjay


PS: Full Disclosure: I had also immediately brought this matter to the attention of the Microsoft Store. They escalated it to Tier-3 support (based out of New Delhi, India), who then asked me to use the Windows Feedback utility to share the relevant evidence with Microsoft, which I immediately and dutifully did, but/and I never heard back from anyone at Microsoft in this regard again.

PS2: Another small request to Microsoft - Dear Microsoft, while at it, could you please also educate your global customer base about the paramount importance of Active Directory Effective Permissions, which is the ONE capability without which not a single object in any Active Directory deployment can be adequately secured! Considering that Active Directory is the foundation of cyber security of over 85% of all organizations worldwide, this is important. Over the last few years, we've had almost 10,000 organizations from 150+ countries knock at our doors, and virtually none of them seem to know this most basic and cardinal fact of Windows Security. I couldn't begin to tell you how shocking it is for us to learn that most Domain Admins and many CISOs out there don't have a clue. Can you imagine just how insecure and vulnerable an organization whose Domain Admins don't even know what Active Directory Effective Permissions are, let alone possessing this paramount capability, could be today?

2017 – The Year The World Realized the Value of Active Directory Security

Folks,

As we get ready to bid farewell to 2017, it may be fitting to recap notable happenings in Active Directory Security this year.

This appears to have been the year in which the mainstream Cyber Security community finally seems to have realized just how important and in fact paramount Active Directory Security is to cyber security worldwide, in that it appears that they may have finally realized that Active Directory is the very heart and foundation of privileged access at 85% of organizations worldwide!


I say so only because it appears to have been in this year that the following terms seem to have become mainstream cyber security buzzwords worldwide - Privileged User, Privileged Access, Domain Admins, Enterprise Admins, Mimikatz DCSync, AdminSDHolder, Active Directory ACLs, Active Directory Privilege Escalation, Sneaky Persistence in Active Directory, Stealthy Admins in Active Directory, Shadow Admins in Active Directory, Domain Controllers, Active Directory Botnets, etc. etc.



Active Directory Security Goes Mainstream Cyber Security

Here are the 10 notable events in Active Directory Security that helped it get mainstream cyber security attention this year -


  1. Since the beginning on the year, i.e. January 01, 2017, Mimikatz DCSync, an incredibly and dangerously powerful tool built by Benjamin Delpy, that can be used to instantly compromise the credentials of all Active Directory domain user accounts in an organization, including those of all privileged user accounts, has been gaining immense popularity, and appears to have become a must-have tool in every hacker, perpetrator and cyber security penetration-tester's arsenal.

  2. On May 15, 2017, the developers of BloodHound introduced version 1.3, with the objective of enhancing its ability to find privilege escalation paths in Active Directory that could help find out "Who can become Domain Admin?"  From that point on, Bloodhound, which is massively inaccurate, seems to have started becoming very popular in the hacking community.

  3. On June 08, 2017, CyberArk a Billion+ $ cyber-security company, and the self-proclaimed leader in Privileged Account Security, introduced the concept of Shadow Admins in Active Directory, as well as released a (massively inaccurate) tool called ACLight to help organizations identify all such Shadow Admins in Active Directory deployments worldwide.

  4. On June 14, 2017, Sean Metcalf, an Active Directory security enthusiast penned an entry-level post "Scanning for Active Directory Privileges and Privileged Accounts" citing that Active Directory Recon is the new hotness since attackers, Red Teamers and penetration testers have realized that control of Active Directory provides power over the organization!

  5. On July 11, 2017, Preempt, a Cyber Security announced that they had found a vulnerability in Microsoft's implementation of LDAP-S that permits the enactment of an NTLM relay attack, and in effect could allow an individual to effectively impersonate a(n already) privileged user and enact certain LDAP operations to gain privileged access. 

  6. On July 26, 2017, the developers of (massively inaccurate) BloodHound gave a presentation titled An ACE Up the Sleeve - Designing Active Directory DACL Backdoors at the famed Black Hat Conference USA 2017. This presentation at Black Hat likely played a big role in bringing Active Directory Security to the forefront of mainstream Cyber Security.

  7. Also on July 26, 2017, a second presentation on Active Directory Security at the Black Hat Conference titled The Active Directory Botnet introduced the world to a new attack technique that exploits the default access granted to all Active Directory users, to setup command and control servers within organizations worldwide. This too made waves.

  8. On September 18, 2017, Microsoft's Advanced Threat Analytics (ATA) Team penned a detailed and insightful blog post titled Active Directory Access Control List - Attacks and Defense, citing that recently there has been a lot of attention regarding the use of Active Directory ACLs for privilege escalation in Active Directory environments. Unfortunately, in doing so Microsoft inadvertently ended up revealing just how little its ATA team seems to know about the subject.

  9. On December 12, 2017, Preempt, a Cyber Security announced that they had found a flaw in Microsoft's Azure Active Directory Connect software that could allow Stealthy Admins to gain full domain control. They also suggested that organizations worldwide use their (massively inaccurate) tooling to find these Stealthy Admins in Active Directory.

  10. From January 26, 2017 through December 27, 2017, Paramount Defenses' CEO conducted Active Directory Security School for Microsoft, so that in turn Microsoft could help not just every entity mentioned in points 1- 9 above, but the whole world realize that in fact the key and the only correct way to mitigate each one of the security risks and challenges identified in points 1 - 9  above, lies in Active Directory Effective Permissions and Active Directory Effective Access.





Helping Defend Microsoft's Global Customer Base
( i.e. 85% of  Organizations Worldwide )

Folks, since January 01, 2017, both, as former Microsoft Program Manager for Active Directory Security and as the CEO of Paramount Defenses, I've penned 50+ insightful blog posts to help educate thousands of organizations worldwide about...


...not just the paramount importance of Active Directory Security to their foundational security, but also about how to correctly secure and defend their foundational Active Directory from every cyber security risk/challenge covered in points 1- 9 above.

This year, I ( / we) ...

  1. conducted 30-days of advanced Active Directory Security School for the $ 650+ Billion Microsoft Corporation

  2. showed thousands of organizations worldwide How to Render Mimikatz DCSync Useless in their Active Directory

  3. helped millions of pros (like Mr. Metcalf) worldwide learn How to Correctly Identify Privileged Users in Active Directory

  4. helped the developers of BloodHound understand How to Easily Identify Sneaky Persistence in Active Directory

  5. helped Microsoft's ATA Team learn advanced stuff About Active Directory ACLs - Actual Attack and Defense

  6. showed CyberArk, trusted by 50% of Fortune 100 CISOs, How to Correctly Identify Shadow Admins in Active Directory

  7. helped cyber security startup Preempt's experts learn How to Correctly Identify Stealthy Admins in Active Directory

  8. helped the presenters of The Active Directory Botnet learn How to Easily Solve the Problem of Active Directory Botnets

  9. helped millions of cyber security folks worldwide understand and illustrate Active Directory Privilege Escalation

  10. Most importantly, I helped thousands of organizations worldwide, including Microsoft, understand the paramount importance of Active Directory Effective Permissions and Active Directory Effective Access to Active Directory Security


In fact, we're not just providing guidance, we're uniquely empowering organizations worldwide to easily solve these challenges.





Summary

All in all, its been quite an eventful year for Active Directory Security (, and one that I saw coming over ten years ago.)

In 2017, the mainstream cyber security community finally seem to have realized the importance of Active Directory Security.


Perhaps, in 2018, they'll realize that the key to Active Directory Security lies in being able to accurately determine this.

Best wishes,
Sanjay.

PS: Why I do, What I Do.

Why I Do, What I Do

Folks,

I trust you're well. Today, I just wanted to take a few minutes to answer a few questions that I've been asked so many times.


Here are the answers to the Top-5 questions I am frequently asked -

  1. You're the CEO of a company (Paramount Defenses), so why do you blog so often, and how do you have time to do so?

    Good question. This is a bit of a unique situation, in that whilst I am the CEO of a company, I am also a subject matter expert in Active Directory Security (simply by virtue of my background) and thus I feel that it is my civic duty to help organizations understand the paramount importance of securing their foundational Active Directory deployments.

    In fact, over the last 7+ years, I've penned 150+ blog posts on Active Directory Security (here) and Cyber Security (here) on various topics such as Active Directory Privilege Escalation, the OPM Breach, Kerberos Token Bloat, Eff Perms, AdminSDHolder, Mimikatz DCSync, Sneaky Persistence, How to Correctly Identify Stealthy Admins in Active Directory, How to Correctly Identify Shadow Admins in Active Directory etc. and most recently on Active Directory Botnets.

    As to how I have the time to do so, that's actually not that difficult. We have a world-class team at Paramount Defenses, and I've been able to delegate a substantial amount of my CEO-related work amongst our executive leadership team.




  2. Speaking of which, how big is Paramount Defenses?

    At Paramount Defenses, we believe that less is more, so our entire global team is less than a 100 people. For security reasons, 100% of our staff are U.S. Citizens, and to-date, the entirety of our R&D team are former Microsoft employees.

    If by how big we are, you meant how many organizations we impact, today our unique high-value cyber security solutions and insights help adequately secure and defend thousands of prominent organizations across six continents worldwide.




  3. Why is it just you (and why aren't your employees) on Social Media (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc.)?

    The simple answer to this question - For Security Reasons.

    At Paramount Defenses, we care deeply about cyber security, so we also strive to lead by example in every way.

    As it pertains to cyber security, we have found that the presence of an organization's employees on social-media almost always results in excessive information disclosure that could be very valuable for hackers and various other entities who may have malicious intent, so our corporate policies do not permit a social media presence.

    Also, we're not huge fans of Twitter, and we certainly don't care about being on Facebook. We do like and appreciate LinkedIn, and in fact, we lead the world's largest community of Active Directory Security Professionals on LinkedIn.




  4. What do you intend to accomplish by blogging?

    The intention is to help organizations worldwide understand just how profoundly important Active Directory Security is to organizational cyber security, and how paramount Active Directory Effective Permissions are to Active Directory Security.

    That's because this impacts global security today, and here's why -




    You see, the Crown Jewels of cyber security reside in Active Directory, and if they're compromised, its Game Over. By Crown Jewels, I'm referring to privileged access, or as commonly known, Domain Admin equivalent accounts.

    It is a fact that 100% of all major recent cyber security breaches (except Equifax) involved the compromise of a single Active Directory privileged user account. Such accounts are Target #1 for hackers, which is why it is so very important that organizations be able to exactly identify and minimize the number of such privileged accounts in Active Directory.

    Now, when it comes to identifying privileged user accounts in Active Directory, most organizations focus on enumerating the memberships of their default administrative groups in Active Directory, and that's it. Unfortunately, that's just the Tip of the Iceberg, and we have found that most of them do not even seem to know that in fact there are FAR many more accounts with varying levels of elevated admin/privileged access in Active Directory than they seem to know about.

    This isn't a secret; its something you know if you've ever heard about Active Directory's most powerful and capable cyber security feature - Delegation of Administration. The truth is that at most organizations, a substantial amount of delegation has been done over the years, yet no one seems to have a clue as to who has what privileged access. Here's why.

    In fact, Active Directory privileged access accounts have been getting a lot of attention lately, because so many cyber security experts and companies are starting to realize that there exists a treasure-trove of privileged access in Active Directory. Thus, recently many such cyber security expert and companies have started shedding light on them (for example, one, two, three etc.), and some have even started developing amateur tools to identify such accounts.

    What these experts and companies may not know is that their amateur tools are substantially inaccurate since they rely on finding out "Who has what Permissions in Active Directory" WHEREAS the ONLY way to correctly identify privileged user accounts in Active Directory is by accurately finding out "Who has what Effective Permissions in Active Directory?"

    On a lighter note, I find it rather amusing that for lack of knowing better, most cyber security experts and vendors that may be new to Active Directory Security have been referring to such accounts as Stealthy Admins, Shadow Admins etc.

    To make matters worse, there are many prominent vendors in the Active Directory space that merely offer basic Active Directory Permissions Analysis/Audit Tooling, yet they mislead organizations by claiming to help them "Find out who has what privileged access in Active Directory," and since so many IT personnel don't seem to know better, they get misled.

    Thus, there's an imperative need to help organizations learn how to correctly audit privileged users in Active Directory.

    Consequently, the intention of my blogging is to HELP thousands of organizations and cyber security experts worldwide UNDERSTAND that the ONLY correct way to identify privileged users in Active Directory is by accurately determining effective permissions / effective access in Active Directory. There is only ONE correct way to accomplish this objective.




  5. Why have you been a little hard on Microsoft lately?

    Let me begin by saying that I deeply love and care for Microsoft. It may appear that I may have been a tad hard on them, but that is all well-intentioned and only meant to help them realize that they have an obligation to their global customer base to adequately educate them about various aspects of cyber security in Windows, particularly the most vital aspects.

    In that regard, if you truly understand cyber security in Windows environments, you know that Active Directory Effective Permissions and Active Directory Effective Access play an absolutely paramount role in securing Windows deployments worldwide, and since Active Directory has been around for almost two decades by now, one would expect the world to unequivocally understand this by now. Unfortunately, we found that (as evidenced above) no one seems to have a clue.

    You may be surprised if I were to share with you that at most organizations worldwide, hardly anyone seems to even know about what Active Directory Effective Permissions are, let alone why they're paramount to their security, and this a highly concerning fact, because this means that most organizations worldwide are operating in the proverbial dark today.

    It is upon looking into the reason for this that we realized that in the last decade, it appears that (for whatever reason) Microsoft may not have educated its global customer based about Active Directory Effective Permissions at all - Proof.

    Thus, it is in the best interest of organizations worldwide that we felt a need to substantially raise awareness.

    As to how on earth Microsoft may have completely forgotten to educate the world about this, I can only guess that perhaps they must've gotten so involved in building their Cloud offering and dealing with the menace of local-machine credential-theft attack vectors that they completely seem to have missed this one paramount aspect of Windows security.

    Fortunately for them and the world, we've had our eye on this problem for a decade know and we've been laser-focused. Besides, actions speak louder than words, so once you understand what it is we do at Paramount Defenses, you'll see that we've done more to help secure Microsoft's global customer base than possibly any other company on the planet.

    Those who understand what we've built, know that we may be Microsoft's most strategic ally in the cyber security space.


Finally, the most important reason as to why I do, what I do is because I care deeply and passionately about cyber security.

Best wishes,

A Massive Cyber Breach at a Company Whilst it was Considering the ‘Cloud’

(A Must-Read for all CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, CISOs, Board Members & Shareholders Today)


Folks,

Today was supposed to be an exciting Friday morning at a Multi-Billion $ organization since the world's top Cloud Computing companies were going to make their final pitches to the company's C-Suite today, as it was considering moving to the "Cloud."

With Cloud Computing companies spending billions to market their latest Kool-Aid to organizations worldwide (even though much of this may actually not be ready for mission-critical stuff), how could this company too NOT be considering the Cloud?



The C-Suite Meeting

Today was a HUGE day for this multi-billion dollar company, for today after several months of researching and evaluating their choices and options, the company's leadership would finally be deciding as to which Cloud Computing provider to go with.


This meeting is being chaired by the Chairman of the Board and attended by the following organizational employees -

  1. Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

  2. Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
  1. Chief Information Officer (CIO)

  2. Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)

 Also in attendance are about a dozen Vice Presidents, representing Sales, Marketing, Research and Development etc.




Meeting In-Progress

After breakfast, the presentations began at 9:00 am. The organization's CIO kicked off the meeting, rattling off the numerous benefits that the company could enjoy by moving to the Cloud, and minutes later the Vice President of Cloud Computing from the first Cloud Computing company vying for their business started his presentation. His presentation lasted two hours.

The C-Suite then took a break for lunch.

The next presentation began at 1:00 pm and was expected to last till about 4:00 pm. The Vice President of Cloud Computing from the second Cloud Computing company had started her presentation and was almost an hour into it, when all of a sudden this happened...

... the CISO's assistant unexpectedly entered the room, went straight to the CISO and whispered something into his ear.

Everyone was surprised, and all eyes were on the CISO, who grimly asked his assistant - "Are you 100% sure?"  He said "Yes."





Houston, We Have a Problem

The CISO walked up to the CIO and whispered something into his ear. The CIO sat there in complete shock for a moment!


He then gathered himself and proceeded to request everyone except the C-Suite to immediately leave the conference room.

He told the Vice President of this Cloud Computing company - "Hopefully, we'll get back to you in a few weeks."

He then looked at the CEO and the Chairman of the Board, and he said - "Sir, we have a problem!"




Its Over

The CEO asked the CIO - "What's wrong? What happened?"

The CIO replied - "Sir, about 30 minutes ago, an intruder compromised the credentials of each one of our 20,000 employees!"


The CEO was almost in shock, and just couldn't believe what he had just heard, so he asked - "Everyone's credentials?!"

The CIO replied - "I'm afraid yes Sir, yours, mine, literally everyone's, including that of all our privileged users!"

The CEO could sense that there was more bad news, so he asked - "Is there something else I should know?"

The CIO replied - "Sir, 15 minutes ago, the intruder logged on as an Enterprise Admin, disabled the accounts of each one of our privileged users, and used Group Policy to deploy malicious software to each one of our 30,000 domain-joined computers! By now, he could have stolen, exfiltrated and destroyed the entirety of our digital assets! We may have lost literally everything!"

The CEO was shocked! They'd just been breached, and what a massive breach it was - "How could this have happened?"




Mimikatz DCSync 

The CIO turned to the CISO, who stepped in, and answered the question - "Sir, an intruder used a tool called Mimikatz DCSync to basically request and instantly obtain the credentials of every single user from our foundational Active Directory deployment."


The CEO asked - "What is Active Directory?"

The CISO replied - "Sir, simply put, it is the very foundation of our cyber security"

The CEO then asked - "Wait. Can just anyone request and extract credentials from Active Directory?"

The CISO replied - "Sir, not everyone can. Only those individuals whose have sufficient access to do so, and by that I mean, specifically only those who have Get-Replication-Changes-All effective-permissions on the domain root object, can do so."

The CEO then said - "This does not sound right to me. I'm no technical genius, but shouldn't we have known exactly who all have this, whatever you just said, er yes that Get-Replication-Changes-All effective permissions in our Active Directory?!"

The CISO replied - "Sir, it turns out that accurate determination of effective permissions in Active Directory is actually very difficult, and as a result it is almost impossible to figure out exactly who has this effective permissions on our domain root!"

The CEO figured it out - "So you're saying that the intruder had compromised the account of someone who was not on your radar and not supposed to have this access, but actually did, and the intruder used that access to steal everyone's credentials?"

The CISO replied - "That's right. It appears we did not know that this someone had sufficient access (i.e. effective permissions) to be able to replicate secrets from Active Directory, because it is very difficult to accurately figure this out in Active Directory."



The CEO was furious! - "You're kidding right?! Microsoft's spent billions on this new fad called the "Cloud", yet it doesn't even have a solution to help figure out something as vital as this in Active Directory? How long has Active Directory been around ?!

The CISO replied - "Seventeen years."

The CEO then said in disbelief - "Did you just 17 years, as in S-E-V-E-N-T-E-E-N years?!  Get Satya Nadella on the line now! Perhaps I should #REFRESH his memory that we're a customer, and that we may have just lost a few B-I-L-L-I-O-N dollars!"




This is for Real

Make NO mistake about it. As amusing as it might sound, the scenario shared above is very REAL, and in fact today, most business and government organizations worldwide that operate on Active Directory have no idea as to exactly who has sufficient effective permissions to be able to replicate secrets out of their Active Directory. None whatsoever!


We can demonstrate the enactment of this exact scenario, and its underlying cause, to any organizations that wishes to see it.




This Could've Been (and Can Be) Easily Prevented 

This situation could easily have been prevented, if this organization's IT personnel had only possessed the ability to adequately and accurately determine effective permissions in their foundational Active Directory deployments.


Sadly, since Microsoft apparently never educated its customers about the importance of Active Directory effective permissions, most of them have no clue, and in fact have no idea as to exactly who can do what across their Active Directory deployments!

Unfortunately, Mimikatz DCSync is just the Tip of the Iceberg. Today most organizations are likely operating in the dark and have no idea about the actual attack surface, and thus about exactly who can create, delete and manage the entirety of their domain user accounts, domain computer accounts, domain security groups, GPOs, service connection points (SCPs), OUs etc. even though every insider and intruder could try and figure this out and misuse this insight to compromise their security.

Technically speaking, with even just minimal education and the right tooling, here is how easy it is for organizations to figure this out and lock this down today, i.e. to lock this down before an intruder can exploit it to inflict colossal damage - RIGHT HERE.


Oh, and you don't need to call Microsoft for this, although you certainly can and should. If you do, they'll likely have no answer, yet they might use even this to pitch you their latest toy, Microsoft ATA, and of course, their Cloud offering, Microsoft Azure.

Wait, weren't these C*O discussing the Cloud (and likely Microsoft Azure) just a few hours (and a few billion dollars) ago?!




Fast-Forward Six Months

Unfortunately, given the massive scale of this breach, the company did not survive the attack, and had to declare bankruptcy. The C*Os of this company are still looking for suitable employment, and its shareholders ended up losing billions of dollars.


All of this could've been prevented, if they only knew about something as elemental as this, and had the ability to determine this.





Summary

The moral of the story is that while its fine to fall for the latest fad, i.e. consider moving to the "Cloud" and all, but as AND while you consider and plan to do so, you just cannot let you on-prem cyber defenses down even for a moment, because if you do so, you may not have a company left to move to the Cloud. A single excessive effective permission in Active Directory is all it takes.


I'll say this one more time and one last time - what I've shared above could easily happen at almost any organization today.

Best wishes,

CEO, Paramount Defenses



PS: If this sounds too simple and high-level i.e. hardly technical, that is by intent, as it is written for a non-technical audience. This isn't to showcase our technical depth; examples of our technical depth can be found here, here, here, here, here  etc.  etc.



PS2: Note for Microsoft - This may be the simplest example of "Active Directory Access Control Lists - Attack and Defense."

Here's why - Mimikatz DCSync, which embodies the technical brilliance of a certain Mr. Benjamin Delpy, may be the simplest example of how someone could attack Active Directory ACLs to instantly and completely compromise Active Directory. On the other hand, Gold Finger, which embodies the technical expertise of a certain former Microsoft employee, may be the simplest example of how one could defend Active Directory ACLs by being able to instantly identify/audit effective permissions/access in/across Active Directory, and thus lockdown any and all unauthorized access in Active Directory ACLs, making it impossible for an(y) unauthorized user to use Mimikatz DCSync against Active Directory.



PS3: They say to the wise, a hint is enough. I just painted the whole picture out for you. (You may also want to read this & this.)

PS4: If you liked this, you may also like - How To Easily Identify & Thwart Sneaky Persistence in Active Directory

Some Help & Good News for Microsoft regarding Active Directory Security


Folks,

You'll want to read this short blog post very carefully because it not only impacts Microsoft, it likely impacts you, as well as the foundational security of 85% of all business and government organizations worldwide, and it does so in a positive way.



A Quick and Short Background

From the White House to the Fortune 1000, Microsoft Active Directory is the very foundation of cyber security at over 85% of organizations worldwide. In fact, it is also the foundation of cyber security of almost every cyber security company worldwide.


Active Directory is the Foundation of Cyber Security Worldwide

The entirety of an organization's building blocks of cyber security, including the user accounts used by the entirety its workforce, as well as the user accounts of all its privileged users, the computer accounts of the entirety of its computers, and the security groups used to provision access to the entirety of its IT resources, are stored, managed and protected in Active Directory.

During the past few years, credential-theft attacks aimed at the compromise of an organization's privileged users (e.g. Domain Admins) have resulted in a substantial number of reported and unreported breaches at numerous organizations worldwide. In response, to help organizations combat the menace of these credential-theft attacks, Microsoft has had to make substantial enhancements to its Windows Operating Systems as well as acquire and introduce a technology called Microsoft ATA.

These enhancements have made it harder for perpetrators to find success with traditional credential-theft attacks, so they've started focusing their efforts on trying to find ways to attack the Active Directory itself, as evidenced by the fact that in the last year alone, we've seen the introduction of Mimikatz DCSync, BloodHound and recently the advent of Active Directory Botnets.

Make no mistake about it. There's no dearth of opportunity to find ways to exploit weaknesses in Active Directory deployments because there exists an ocean of access within Active Directory, and sadly due to an almost total lack of awareness, education, understanding and tooling, organizations have no idea as to exactly what lies within their Active Directory, particularly in regards to privileged access entitlements, and thus today there likely are 1000s of privilege escalation paths in most Active Directory deployments, waiting to be identified and exploited. All that perpetrators seem to lack today is the know-how and the tooling.

Unfortunately, since the cat's out of the bag, perpetrators seem to be learning fast, and building rapidly, so unless organizations act swiftly and decisively to adequately lock-down vast amount of access that currently exists in their foundational Active Directory deployments, sadly the next big wave of cyber breaches could involve compromise of Active Directory deployments.





Clearly, Microsoft Has No Answers

It gives me absolutely no pleasure to share with you that unfortunately, and sadly as always, Microsoft yet again seems to be playing catch-up, and in fact, it has no clue or any real answers, ideas or solutions to help organizations in this vital regard.


Here's Proof - Last week, on September 18, 2017, Microsoft's Advanced Threat Analytics (ATA) Team posted this -



If and when you read it, it will likely be unequivocally clear to you as to just how little Microsoft understands about not just the sheer depth and breadth of this monumental challenge, but about the sheer impact it could have on organizations worldwide!

You see, if you understand the subject of Active Directory Security well enough, then you know that Active Directory access control lists (ACLs) today don't just impact organizational security worldwide, they likely impact national and global security!

That said, in that post, the best Microsoft could do is concede that this could be a problem, wonder why organizations might ever need to change AdminSDHolder, falsely assume that it may not impact privileged users, praise a massively inaccurate tool for shedding light on this attack vector, and end by saying - "if you find a path with no obstacles, it probably leads somewhere."

Oh, and the very last thing they tell you that is their nascent ATA technology can detect AD multiple recon methods.


In contrast, here's what they should have said - "We care deeply about cyber security and we understand that left unaddressed, this could pose a serious cyber security risk to our customers. Be rest assured that Microsoft Active Directory is a highly robust and securable technology, and here's exactly how organizations can adequately and reliably identify and lock-down privileged access in their Active Directory deployments, leaving no room for perpetrators to identify and exploit any weaknesses."

The reason I say that should've been the response is because if you know enough about this problem, then you also know that it can actually be completely and sufficiently addressed, and that you don't need to rely on detection as a security measure.

BTW, to appreciate how little Microsoft seems to understand about this huge cyber security challenge, you'll want a yardstick to compare Microsoft's response with, so here it is (; you'll want to read the posts) - Active Directory Security School for Microsoft.



Er, I'm really sorry but you are Microsoft, a US$ 550 Billion corporation, not a kid in college. If the best you can do concerning such a profoundly important cyber security challenge is show how little you seem to know about and understand this problem, and only have detection to offer as a solution, frankly, that's not just disappointing, that's deeply concerning, to say the least.

Further, if this is how little you seem to understand about such a profoundly important cyber security challenge concerning your own technology, I cannot help but wonder how well your customers might actually be protected in your recent Cloud offering.





Fortunately There's Help and Good News For Microsoft

I may appear to be critical of Microsoft, and I do still believe that they ought to at least have educated their customers about this and this huge cyber security challenge, but I also love Microsoft, because I've been (at) Microsoft, so I'm going to help them.


To my former colleagues at Microsoft I say - "Each one of us at Microsoft are passionate, care deeply and always strive to do and be the best we can, and even though I may no longer be at Microsoft, (and I still can't believe how you missed this one), luckily and fortunately for you, we've got this covered, and we're going to help you out."

So, over the next few days, not only am I going to help reduce the almost total lack of awareness, education and understanding that exists at organizations today concerning Active Directory Security, I am also going to help organizations worldwide learn just how they can adequately and swiftly address this massive cyber security challenge before it becomes a huge problem.

Specifically, in days to come, as a part of our 30-Day Active Directory Security School, you can expect the following posts -


  1. What Constitutes a Privileged User in Active Directory

  2. How to Correctly Audit Privileged Users/Access in Active Directory

  3. How to Render Mimikatz DCSync Useless in an Active Directory Environment

  4. How to Easily Identify and Thwart Sneaky Persistence in Active Directory

  5. How to Easily Solve The Difficult Problem of Active Directory Botnets

  6. The World's Top Active Directory Permissions Analysis Tools (and Why They're Mostly Useless)

  7. The Paramount Need to Lockdown Access Privileges in Active Directory

  8. How to Attain and Maintain Least Privileged Access (LPA) in Active Directory

  9. How to Securely Delegate and Correctly Audit Administrative Access in Active Directory

  10. How to Easily Secure Active Directory and Operate a Bulletproof Active Directory Deployment

You see, each one of these Active Directory security focused objectives can be easily accomplished, but and in order to do so, what is required is the capability to accurately audit effective access in Active Directory. Sadly, let alone possessing this paramount cyber security capability, Microsoft doesn't even seem to have a clue about it.

Each one of these posts is absolutely essential for organizational cyber security worldwide, and if you know of even one other entity (e.g. individual, company etc.) on the planet that can help the world address each one of these today, do let me know.

So, over the next few days, I'll pen the above, and you'll be able to access them at the Active Directory Security Blog.

Until then, you may want to go through each one of the 20 days of posts that I've already shared there, as well as review this.



In fact, this cannot wait, so let us begin with the "actual" insight on Active Directory ACLs that all organizations worldwide must have today -


Together, we can help adequately secure and defend organizations worldwide and deny perpetrators the opportunities and avenues they seek to compromise our foundational Active Directory deployments, because we must and because we can.


Best wishes,
Sanjay

CEO, Paramount Defenses

Formerly Program Manager,
Active Directory Security,
Microsoft Corporation


PS: Microsoft, you're welcome. Also, I don't need anything from you, except a Thank you note.

Teaching the $ 550 Billion Microsoft Corp about Active Directory Security

Folks,

As some of you may know, over the past few weeks, I have been publicly taking the $ 550 Billion Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) to Active Directory Security School (see PS3 below) because today global security literally depends on Active Directory Security.


In case you're wondering why, here's why -



The Importance of Active Directory Security

From the White House to the British Houses of Parliament, and from Microsoft to the Fortune 1000, at the very foundation of IT, identity and access management, and cyber security at over 85% of all organizations worldwide today lies Active Directory.


In other words, the foundational security of thousands of government and business organizations depends on Active Directory.

To paint a picture - Governments, Militaries, Law Enforcement Agencies, Banks, Stock Exchanges, Energy Suppliers, Defense Contractors, Hospitals, Airlines, Airports, Hotels, Oil and Gas Companies, Internet, Tech and Cyber Security Companies, Manufacturing Companies, Pharmaceutical Companies, Retail Giants ... <the list is long> all run on Active Directory.




Operating in the Dark

Given my background, experience and whatever little I know about the subject, I have reason to believe that most organizations worldwide that operate on Active Directory are operating in the dark today, and have absolutely no idea as to exactly who has what level of privileged access in their foundational Active Directory!


Further, because over the last decade, almost 10,000 organizations from across 150+ countries worldwide have knocked at our doors unsolicited, we know exactly how much these organizations know about Active Directory Security, and we're shocked to know that 99% of them don't even know what "Active Directory Effective Permissions" are, and upon giving this due thought, we have arrived at the conclusion that the world's complete ignorance on this most paramount aspect of organizational cyber security can be attributed to the fact that Microsoft has likely not even once educated its customers about its importance!




Let There Be Light

So, I made an executive decision that we need to educate the $ 550 Billion Microsoft Corp about the paramount importance of "Active Directory Effective Permissions", so that they can in turn educate the thousands of vital business and government organizations at whose very foundation lies Active Directory about its sheer and cardinal importance.


Make no mistake about it - no organization that operates on Microsoft Active Directory today can be adequately secured without possessing the ability to determine effective permissions on the thousands of building blocks of cyber security (i.e. thousands of domain user accounts, computer accounts, security groups and policies) that reside in its Active Directory. Its really that simple.




A 1000 Cyber Security Companies!

Speaking of which, although there are supposedly over a 1000 cyber security companies in the world (, and incidentally at their very foundation too lies Microsoft Active Directory)  not a single one of them has the ability, the expertise or even a single solution to help the world accurately determine "effective permissions"  in Active Directory. Not a single one of them!


Well, except ONE.

Best wishes,
Sanjay


PS: If you can find even ONE cyber security company in the world that can help the world do this, you let me know.

PS2: Microsoft, before you respond, please know this - I've conquered mountains, and I'm likely your best friend.




PS3: To help the world easily follow Active Directory Security School for Microsoft, here are each day's lessons -





June 2 6/12/2015 Consulting Thought Leadership “Proactively Engaged – Questions Executives Should Ask Their Security Teams ” “-Many breaches occur as a result of executive decisions made w/out full knowledge of the people/processes needed to prevent them; -Offers specific questions that execs should ask to understand and prevent a breach” Jim Aldridge Kyrk Content Finalized Global June 2 6/12/2015 Consulting Thought Leadership “Proactively Engaged – Questions Executives Should Ask Their Security Teams ” “-Many breaches occur as a result of executive decisions made w/out full knowledge of the people/processes needed to prevent them; -Offers specific questions that execs should ask to understand and prevent a breach” Jim Aldridge Kyrk Content Finalized GlobCaching Out: The Value of Shimcache for Investigators