Vulnerabilities / Threats
11/8/2013
12:43 PM
50%
50%

Criminals Exploit Microsoft Office Zero-Day Flaw

At least two sets of attackers have been using malicious Office documents to exploit the graphics processing vulnerability.

Windows 8.1: A Visual Tour
Windows 8.1: Visual Tour
(click image for larger view)
Warning: Attacks against a zero-day vulnerability in Microsoft Office are more extensive than first believed. That finding further reinforces security experts' recommendation that businesses install an emergency mitigation technique released by Microsoft as quickly as possible.

At least two different criminal groups appear to have been successfully targeting the zero-day bug, using malicious Office documents. The flaw has been traced to a remote-code execution vulnerability in Microsoft graphics functionality that handles the TIFF file format.

What's the risk? "An attacker could exploit this vulnerability by convincing a user to preview or open a specially crafted email message, open a specially crafted file, or browse specially crafted Web content," according to a Microsoft security advisory. "An attacker who successfully exploited the vulnerability could gain the same user rights as the current user," and execute arbitrary code or install malware.

[ Do you still use Windows XP? Read Windows XP Security Apocalypse: Prepare To Be Pwned. ]

Pending a patch, Microsoft has released an emergency "Fix it" that fully mitigates the vulnerability. Given the lack of lead time, security experts don't expect a patch for the zero-day vulnerability -- discovered this week -- to be ready for inclusion in this month's regularly scheduled Microsoft patch release, which is due to happen Tuesday.

To date, related attacks have targeted users of Microsoft Office 2003, 2007 and 2010, and targeted organizations have reportedly received booby-trapped Office documents. The graphics vulnerability is being exploited in a novel way: "We found the DEP status was 'on' at the process start but 'off' during shellcode execution,'" said Vinay Karecha, a McAfee Labs researcher, in a teardown of exploit code that refers to the advanced attack mitigation attack known as data execution prevention, which together with address space layout randomization (ASLR) has made Windows much more difficult for malware-writers to exploit.

"Our analyzed exploit didn't bypass ASLR and DEP," said Karecha. "Instead, it leveraged a backward-compatibility feature in Office 2007 to disable DEP. Without DEP, ASLR is quite easy to bypass."

According to FireEye researcher Mike Scott, one of the two groups that's been exploiting this zero-day vulnerability appears to be operating from India. "Our analysis has revealed a connection between these attacks and those previously documented in Operation Hangover, which adds India and Pakistan into the mix of targets," he said in a blog post. "Information obtained from a command-and-control server (CnC) used in recent attacks leveraging this zero-day exploit revealed that the Hangover group, believed to operate from India, has compromised 78 computers, 47 percent of those in Pakistan."

Norwegian security software vendor Norman was the first to highlight Operation Hangover in May, saying the Hangover group had been launching advanced persistent threat (APT) attacks since at least 2010. Norman also found multiple references in the malware code to Indian information security software and "ethical hacking" vendor Appin. Some security experts alleged that was a smoking gun that tied the APT attacks to Appin, and that the Hangover group's list of government targets in Pakistan suggests the Indian government might have commissioned the attacks. But Appin has continued to vigorously deny that it had any role in the attacks.

A second group, meanwhile, has been using the Microsoft graphics vulnerability to infect targeted PCs with Citadel malware, which is designed to steal financial information. "This group, which we call the Arx group, may have had access to the exploit before the Hangover group did," said FireEye's Scott. "Information obtained from CnCs operated by the Arx group revealed that 619 targets (4,024 unique IP addresses) have been compromised. The majority of the targets are in India (63%) and Pakistan (19%)."

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest, Dec. 19, 2014
Software-defined networking can be a net plus for security. The key: Work with the network team to implement gradually, test as you go, and take the opportunity to overhaul your security strategy.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-1449
Published: 2014-12-25
The Maxthon Cloud Browser application before 4.1.6.2000 for Android allows remote attackers to spoof the address bar via crafted JavaScript code that uses the history API.

CVE-2014-2217
Published: 2014-12-25
Absolute path traversal vulnerability in the RadAsyncUpload control in the RadControls in Telerik UI for ASP.NET AJAX before Q3 2012 SP2 allows remote attackers to write to arbitrary files, and consequently execute arbitrary code, via a full pathname in the UploadID metadata value.

CVE-2014-3971
Published: 2014-12-25
The CmdAuthenticate::_authenticateX509 function in db/commands/authentication_commands.cpp in mongod in MongoDB 2.6.x before 2.6.2 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (daemon crash) by attempting authentication with an invalid X.509 client certificate.

CVE-2014-7193
Published: 2014-12-25
The Crumb plugin before 3.0.0 for Node.js does not properly restrict token access in situations where a hapi route handler has CORS enabled, which allows remote attackers to obtain sensitive information, and potentially obtain the ability to spoof requests to non-CORS routes, via a crafted web site ...

CVE-2014-7300
Published: 2014-12-25
GNOME Shell 3.14.x before 3.14.1, when the Screen Lock feature is used, does not limit the aggregate memory consumption of all active PrtSc requests, which allows physically proximate attackers to execute arbitrary commands on an unattended workstation by making many PrtSc requests and leveraging a ...

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join us Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to hear what employers are really looking for in a chief information security officer -- it may not be what you think.