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What to Patch Now: Actively Exploited Windows Zero-Day Threatens Domain Controllers

Microsoft's May 2022 Patch Tuesday contains several bugs in ubiquitous software that could affect millions of machines, researchers warn.

Microsoft squashed 74 security vulnerabilities with its May 2022 Patch Tuesday update, including an important-rated zero-day bug that's being actively exploited in the wild and several that are likely widely present across enterprises.

It also patched seven critical flaws, 65 other important-rated bugs, and one low-severity issue. The fixes run the gamut of the computing giant's portfolio, including: Windows and Windows Components, .NET and Visual Studio, Microsoft Edge (Chromium-based), Microsoft Exchange Server, Office and Office Components, Windows Hyper-V, Windows Authentication Methods, BitLocker, Windows Cluster Shared Volume (CSV), Remote Desktop Client, Windows Network File System, NTFS, and Windows Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol.

3 Zero-Days, 1 Actively Exploited
The actively exploited bug (CVE-2022-26925) is a Windows LSA-spoofing vulnerability that rates 8.1 out of 10 on the CVSS vulnerability-severity scale – however, Microsoft notes in its advisory that it should be bumped up to critical (CVSS 9.8) if used in Windows NT LAN Manager (NTLM) relay attacks.

"[A]n unauthenticated attacker could call a method on the LSARPC interface and coerce the domain controller to authenticate to the attacker using NTLM," Microsoft warns in its advisory – a concerning situation considering that domain controllers provide high-level access to privileges.

Now deprecated, NTLM uses a weak authentication protocol that can easily reveal credentials and session keys. In a relay attack, bad actors can capture an authentication and relay it to another server – which they can then use to authenticate to the remote server with the compromised user's privileges.

That said, the bug is tougher to exploit than most, explains Trend Micro Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) researcher Dustin Childs in a Tuesday blog. "The threat actor would need to be in the logical network path between the target and the resource requested (e.g., man-in-the-middle), but since this is listed as under active attack, someone must have figured out how to make that happen."

Tyler Reguly, manager of security R&D at Tripwire, tells Dark Reading that the bug could be related to a previously seen threat known as PetitPotam, which emerged in July to allow attackers to force remote Windows systems to reveal easily crackable password hashes.

"Based on Microsoft’s provided links, this looks to be related to the previous PetitPotam patch," he notes, adding that researchers will be guessing about that. "This is a prime example of where detailed executive summaries that explain what is happening were useful in the past. It would be great if Microsoft could return to providing those on a regular basis," he says.

Microsoft also patched two other zero-days, including a critical bug (CVE-2022-29972, CVSS not available) in Insight Software's Magnitude Simba Amazon Redshift ODBC Driver – "a third-party ODBC data connector used to connect to Amazon Redshift, in Integration Runtime (IR) in Azure Synapse Pipelines, and Azure Data Factory," as ZDI's Childs explains.

He adds, "This update is complicated enough for Microsoft to blog about the bug and how it affects multiple Microsoft services."

The final zero-day (CVE-2022-22713, CVSS 5.6) is an important-rated bug in Windows Hyper-V that could allow denial-of-service (DoS).

Leading Lights: Critical Microsoft Security Bugs to Patch Now
As far as other patches for admins to prioritize this month, some of the critical-rated issues are far-reaching across organizational infrastructure and could affect millions of companies, researchers warn.

"The big news is the critical vulnerabilities that need to be highlighted for immediate action," Chris Hass, director of security at Automox, tells Dark Reading. "This month features vulnerabilities in a number of applications that are prevalent in most enterprise organizations, including NSF, Remote Desktop Client, and Active Directory."

For instance, the critical bug affecting Windows Network File System, or NFS (CVE-2022-26937, CVSS 9.8) could allow unauthenticated remote code-execution (RCE) in the context of the highly privileged NFS service, according to Microsoft's advisory. To boot, its ubiquity is Log4j-like: It "is present in every Windows Server version from 2008 forward," Hass says, "which puts most organizations at risk if action isn't taken quickly."

Further, "these types of vulnerabilities will potentially appeal to ransomware operators as they could lead to the kind of exposure of critical data, often part of a ransom attempt," Kevin Breen, director of cyber threat research at Immersive Labs, tells Dark Reading.

In terms of who should especially prioritize the patch, "NFS isn't on by default, but it's prevalent in environment where Windows systems are mixed with other OSes such as Linux or Unix. If this describes your environment, you should definitely test and deploy this patch quickly," Childs warns.

As for other critical bugs to consider, Breen flags CVE-2022-22017 (CVSS 8.8), an RCE issue in the also-ubiquitous Remote Desktop (RDP) Client.

"With more remote workers than ever, enterprises need to put anything affecting RDP on the radar — especially given its popularity with ransomware actors and access brokers," he warns.

The Active Directory bug (CVE-2022-26923, CVSS 8.8) is found in Domain Services and could allow elevation of privilege thanks to an issue with the issuance of certificates. ZDI, which reported the bug, says that an attacker can gain access to a certificate to authenticate to a DC with a high level of privilege, allowing any domain-authenticated user to become a domain admin if Active Directory Certificate Services are running.

"This is a very common deployment," Childs says. "Considering the severity of this bug and the relative ease of exploit, it would not surprise me to see active attacks using this technique sooner rather than later."

Of less concern, Breen says, are a group of 10 RCE bugs in LDAP (the most severe, CVE-2022-22012, has a CVSS score of 9.8). These "appear particularly threatening; however, they have been marked by Microsoft as 'exploitation less likely' as they require a default configuration unlikely to exist in most environments," he notes. "It's not to say there is no need to patch these, rather a reminder that context is important when prioritizing patches."

The Worst of the Rest
A handful of other vulnerabilities that also stood out to researchers are worth noting here, starting with Windows Print Spooler, which has long presented an attractive bull's-eye for cyberattackers.

"There were several Windows Print Spooler vulnerabilities patched this month, including two information disclosure flaws (CVE-2022-29114, CVE-2022-29140) and two elevation of privilege flaws (CVE-2022-29104, CVE-2022-29132)," Satnam Narang, staff research engineer at Tenable, tells Dark Reading. "All of the flaws are rated as important, and two of the three are considered more likely to be exploited. Windows Print Spooler continues to remain a valuable target for attackers since PrintNightmare was disclosed nearly a year ago. Elevation-of-privilege flaws in particular should be carefully prioritized, as we've seen ransomware groups like Conti favor them as part of its playbook."

Breen also highlighted two other important-rated bugs as patching priorities:

  • CVE-2022-29108, a remotely executable flaw in Sharepoint that could likely be abused by an attacker seeking to move laterally across an organization. "Requiring authenticated access to exploit, it could be used by a threat actor to steal confidential information or inject documents with malicious code or macros that could be part of a wider attack chain," Breen warns.
  • A bug in Azure Data Factory (no CVE assigned) is remotely exploitable and can expose an enterprise’s confidential data, according to Breen.

Virsec CTO and co-founder Satya Gupta says that overall, the broader context of Microsoft's patching trends is important to consider for defenders. Specifically, in the last year, more than a third of the patches (1,330, or 36%) are for RCE issues.

"This of course represents a massive opportunity for malicious actors to compromise nearly any customer," he says. "In total, several of May's vulnerabilities represent a Log4j level of exposure, particularly if you consider what it would take to patch millions of servers."

Editors' Choice
Elizabeth Montalbano, Contributor, Dark Reading