Microsoft has issued an advisory containing mitigations and workarounds for a remote code execution flaw in Windows it says is being exploited in targeted attacks.
CVE-2021-40444 exists in MSHTML, the proprietary browser engine built into Windows that allows the operating system to read and display HTML files. MSHTML, also known as Trident, was mainly used by Internet Explorer but is also used by Microsoft Office, Broadcom notes in its advisory on the vulnerability. It allows developers to add Web browsing into their applications.
Microsoft reports the targeted attacks it has observed use specially crafted Office documents. In explaining how an attack would work, it says an adversary could create a malicious ActiveX control to be used by an Office document that hosts the MSHTML browser-rendering engine. An attacker would have to convince a victim to open the file. Officials note victims with fewer user privileges on the system could be less affected than those with administrative user rights.
The company credits four external researchers with finding the vulnerability: Dhanesh Kizhakkinan, Genwei Jiang, and Bryce Abdo of Mandiant, and Haifei Li of EXPMON, in addition to Rick Cole with the Microsoft Security Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC).
Read the full advisory for more details.