Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

7/19/2010
05:50 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

SANS Raises Infocon Alert To Yellow In Light Of New Windows 'Shortcut' Attack Threat

Security experts closely monitoring spread of new zero-day threat

A zero-day flaw being used in targeted attacks against organizations worldwide -- most notably on SCADA systems -- has security experts worried that the threat could spread further. Concerns about additional attacks using the so-called "LNK" vulnerability in Windows machines via USB devices and fileshares prompted the SANS Internet Storm Center today to raise its Infocon alert level to "yellow," up from "green," or normal, status.

SANS made the call to go Code Yellow to help raise awareness of the vulnerability, which Microsoft officially revealed on Friday after security researchers in Belarus reported finding new malware samples that could infect a Windows 7 machine via an infected USB drive. "We decided to raise the Infocon level to Yellow to increase awareness of the recent LNK vulnerability and to help preempt a major issue resulting from its exploitation," blogged SANS ISC handler and security consultant Lenny Zeltser today. "Although we have not observed the vulnerability exploited beyond the original targeted attacks, we believe wide-scale exploitation is only a matter of time. The proof-of-concept exploit is publicly available, and the issue is not easy to fix until Microsoft issues a patch. Furthermore, anti-virus tools' ability to detect generic versions of the exploit have not been very effective so far."

The number of machines hit so far is only in the tens of thousands, according to some estimates, but many security experts worry that could change fast.

"This is not something to just shrug off," says Paul Henry, security and forensics analyst for Lumension Security. Henry says the biggest targets for the attack are Microsoft XP SP2 machines, which the software giant stopped patching as of this month.

"You've got a large user base that can't move off of XP SP2, and that creates a perfect situation for the bad guys," Henry says, noting many SCADA apps only run on XP. "Now they've got a wide, open field where they can create malware, with no fear that Microsoft will create a patch for it."

Microsoft late Friday issued a security advisory that points to a flaw in Windows Shell, which was being used along with a family of malware called Stuxnet. Dave Forstrom, Microsoft's director of marketing communications for integrated communications & response, says Microsoft had only seen "limited, targeted attacks" thus far, and that the attacks were most likely to occur via removable USB drives.

While Microsoft as of that posting had spotted most of the attacks in Iran and Indonesia, researchers at ESET today report that the Stuxnet worm going after the LNK flaw is mostly hitting the U.S. now, with 58 percent of all infections, 30 percent in Iran, and more than 4 percent in Russia. "This particular attack targets the industrial supervisory software SCADA. In short, this is an example of malware-aided industrial espionage. The question is why the chart of affected nations looks as it does," says Juraj Malcho, head of ESET's Virus Lab, based in Bratislava, Slovakia.

ESET expects other malware to exploit the Windows vulnerability, which has to do with how it processes LNK files.

SANS' yellow alert indicates it's tracking a significant, new threat, and that users should take "immediate specific action" to contain any impact the threat could unleash.

While USB-born malware is nothing new, what makes this attack unique is that even if Windows Autoplay and Autorun are disabled, the Stuxnet worm can still automatically infect a USB drive. The exploit can also spread via SMB fileshares, posing the possibility of further internal infections within a targeted organization, experts say.

A few workarounds are available to defend against the threat. Microsoft suggests disabling icon shortcuts as well as the WebClient service, for instance. SANS suggests disabling autorun for USB contents and locking down SMB shares internally such that it limits who is able to write to the shares. SANS' Zeltser also points to a free tool called Ariad, which is in beta.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Commentary
What the FedEx Logo Taught Me About Cybersecurity
Matt Shea, Head of Federal @ MixMode,  6/4/2021
Edge-DRsplash-10-edge-articles
A View From Inside a Deception
Sara Peters, Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  6/2/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Post a Comment
Current Issue
The State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
In this report learn how enterprises are building their incident response teams and processes, how they research potential compromises, how they respond to new breaches, and what tools and processes they use to remediate problems and improve their cyber defenses for the future.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-21439
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-14
DoS attack can be performed when an email contains specially designed URL in the body. It can lead to the high CPU usage and cause low quality of service, or in extreme case bring the system to a halt. This issue affects: OTRS AG ((OTRS)) Community Edition 6.0.x version 6.0.1 and later versions. OTR...
CVE-2021-23394
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-13
The package studio-42/elfinder before 2.1.58 are vulnerable to Remote Code Execution (RCE) via execution of PHP code in a .phar file. NOTE: This only applies if the server parses .phar files as PHP.
CVE-2021-34682
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-12
Receita Federal IRPF 2021 1.7 allows a man-in-the-middle attack against the update feature.
CVE-2021-31811
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-12
In Apache PDFBox, a carefully crafted PDF file can trigger an OutOfMemory-Exception while loading the file. This issue affects Apache PDFBox version 2.0.23 and prior 2.0.x versions.
CVE-2021-31812
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-12
In Apache PDFBox, a carefully crafted PDF file can trigger an infinite loop while loading the file. This issue affects Apache PDFBox version 2.0.23 and prior 2.0.x versions.