Critical Windows Vulnerability Discovered by NSA – What you should know!

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If you have Window 10 or Windows Server 2016/2019 installed, like most of the planet, you need to patch now!  NSA recently released a notification along with Microsoft that a critical vulnerability exists in how the mentioned platforms validate Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) certificates.

It was discovered by security researchers at NSA, before Microsoft learned of the vulnerability.  It is considered to have been in the wild before discovery.

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.

The security update addresses the vulnerability by ensuring that Windows CryptoAPI completely validates ECC certificates.

The NSA advisory states,

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.

This is also a step in a new direction for the NSA, as it was the first time it has publicly taken credit for a discovered vulnerability.  It is unclear how long this vulnerability has been known.

Critical Path Security has developed and published a Bro/Zeek detection for this vulnerability.  Critical Path Security has also contacted our Managed IT Partners for verification of patch deployment.

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