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Internet Explorer zero-day lets hackers steal files from Windows PCs

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A security researcher has published today details and proof-of-concept code for an Internet Explorer zero-day that can allow hackers to steal files from Windows systems.

The vulnerability resides in the way Internet Explorer processes MHT files. MHT stands for MHTML Web Archive and is the default standard in which all IE browsers save web pages when a user hits the CTRL+S (Save web page) command.

Modern browsers don’t save web pages in MHT format anymore, and use the standard HTML file format; however, many modern browsers still support processing the format.

An XEE in IE 11

Today, security researcher John Page published details about an XEE (XML External Entity) vulnerability in IE that can be exploited when a user opens an MHT file.

“This can allow remote attackers to potentially exfiltrate Local files and conduct remote reconnaissance on locally installed
Program version information,” Page said. “Example, a request for ‘c:Python27NEWS.txt’ can return version information for that program.”

Because on Windows all MHT files are automatically set to open by default in Internet Explorer, exploiting this vulnerability is trivial, as users only need to double-click on a file they received via email, instant messaging, or another vector.

Page said the actual vulnerable code relies on how Internet Explorer deals with CTRL+K (duplicate tab), “Print Preview,” or “Print” user commands.

This normally requires some user interaction, but Page said this interaction could be automated and not needed to trigger the vulnerability exploit chain.

“A simple call to the window.print() Javascript function should do the trick without requiring any user interaction with the webpage,” he said.

Furthermore, Internet Explorer’s security alert system can also be disabled.

“Typically, when instantiating ActiveX Objects like ‘Microsoft.XMLHTTP’ users will get a security warning bar in IE and be prompted to activate blocked content,” the researcher said. “However, when opening a specially crafted .MHT file using malicious < xml > markup tags the user will get no such
active content or security bar warnings.”

Exploit works on Windows 7, 10, Server 2012 R2

Page said he successfully tested the exploit in the latest Internet Explorer Browser v11 with all the recent security patches on Windows 7, Windows 10, and Windows Server 2012 R2 systems.

Probably the only good news about this vulnerability disclosure is the fact that Internet Explorer’s once dominating market share has now shrunk to a meager 7.34 percent, according to NetMarketShare, meaning the browser is seldom used.

But, as Windows uses IE as the default app to open MHT files, users don’t necessarily have to have IE set as their default browser, and are still vulnerable as long as IE is still present on their systems, and they’re tricked into opening an MHT file.

Microsoft was notified but declined to patch

Page said he notified Microsoft about this new IE vulnerability on March 27, but the vendor declined to consider the bug for an urgent security fix in a message sent to the researcher yesterday, April 10.

“We determined that a fix for this issue will be considered in a future version of this product or service,” Microsoft said, according to Page. “At this time, we will not be providing ongoing updates of the status of the fix for this issue, and we have closed this case.”

Following Microsoft’s firm response, the researcher released details about the zero-day on his site, along with proof-of-concept code and a YouTube demo.

This vulnerability should not be taken lightly, despite Microsoft’s response. Cybercrime groups have exploited MHT files for spear-phishing and malware distribution in previous years, and MHT files have been a popular way to package and deliver exploits to users’ computers.

Because they can store malicious code, all MHT files should always be scanned before opening, regardless of if the file was recently received, or it’s been standing there on your PC for months.

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Adventist Risk Management Data Protection Infrastructure

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Companies always want to enhance their ability to quickly address pressing business needs. Toward that end, they look for new ways to make their IT infrastructures more efficient—and more cost effective. Today, those pressing needs often center around data protection and regulatory compliance, which was certainly the case for Adventist Risk Management. What they wanted was an end-to-end, best-in-class solution to meet their needs. After trying several others, they found the perfect combination with HYCU and Nutanix, which provided:

  • Ease of deployment
  • Outstanding ROI
  • Overall TCO improvement

Nutanix Cloud Platform provides a software-defined hyperconverged infrastructure, while HYCU offers purpose-built backup and recovery for Nutanix. Compared to the previous traditional infrastructure and data protection solutions in use at Adventist Risk Management, Nutanix and HYCU simplified processes, speeding day-to-day operations up to 75%. Now, migration and update activities typically scheduled for weekends can be performed during working hours and help to increase IT staff and management quality of life. HYCU further increased savings by providing faster and more frequent points of recovery as well as better DR Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) by increasing the ability to do daily backups from one to four per day.

Furthermore, the recent adoption of Nutanix Objects, which provides secure and performant S3 storage capabilities, enhanced the infrastructure by:

    • Improving overall performance for backups
    • Adding security against potential ransomware attacks
    • Replacing components difficult to manage and support

In the end, Nutanix and HYCU enabled their customer to save money, improve the existing environment, and, above all, meet regulatory compliance requirements without any struggle.

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Secure Insight: GigaOm Partners with the CISO Series

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Don’t look now, but GigaOm, the analyst firm that enables smart businesses to future-proof their decisions, is forging new partnerships to extend its reach and better inform busy IT decision makers. On Thursday, the company announced it was teaming with the CISO Series to share content and better support the community of chief information security officers, security practitioners, and security vendors.

“The CISO Series is one we have admired for a while because they have a very similar aim: They help security professionals become more knowledgeable and understand how their roles are changing,” said Ben Book, GigaOm founder and CEO. “We saw a clear common interest and are delighted to be working together.”

The CISO Series brand has built a formidable reputation through its podcasts, blogs, video chats, and live events for the security community. It has added the extremely popular CyberSecurity Headlines podcast to its stable this year, which joins the CISO/Security Vendor Relationship and Defense in Depth podcasts. Every Friday at 10am Pacific Time, the CISO Series hosts its highly engaging and fun weekly live CISO Series Video Chat, which viewers can register for here.

The channel partnership connects two of the strongest, fastest-growing brands in enterprise IT content production. The agreement enables the CISO Series to share exclusive GigaOm reports with its audience ahead of publication, while GigaOm is able to share insights from the CISO Series’ various publications through its social channels and newsletters. The CISO Series joins other media firms, such as The Register and SDXCentral, as official GigaOm Channel Partners.

“We are delighted to be working with GigaOm because we’re not only both addressing the same audience, but we’re also both trying to bring education and understanding to both the security vendor and practitioner communities,” said David Spark, managing editor and executive producer at the CISO Series. “GigaOm is providing some excellent reports that we’re leaning on for our discussions and reporting across all of our shows.”

Spark continued: “We are always tweaking our programming to bring the best and most up-to-date resources and we’re really impressed with both the volume and quality GigaOm is delivering. Not only are we impressed with their editorial work, but we also appreciate their business branding. It’s something we felt comfortable about aligning with the CISO Series brand as well.”

Check out the CISO Series schedule at http://crowdcast.io/cisoseries, or visit cisoseries.com for more information about the CISO Series and its weekly Video Chats.

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Key Criteria for Evaluating Vulnerability Management Tools

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Vulnerability management tools scan your IT estate to help identify and mitigate security risks and weaknesses. These tools can facilitate the development of a more comprehensive vulnerability management program. Leveraging people, processes, and technologies, successful initiatives effectively identify, classify, prioritize, and remediate security threats.

A security vulnerability is a weakness that can compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and availability (CIA) of information. Attackers are constantly looking to exploit defects in software code or insecure configurations. Vulnerabilities can exist anywhere in the software stack, from web applications and databases to infrastructure components such as load balancers, firewalls, machine and container images, operating systems, and libraries. This includes code used in the CI/CD pipeline as well as the infrastructure-as-code (IAC) that defines the compute, network, and storage infrastructure.

Recent cybersecurity events have exposed widespread vulnerabilities involving the exploitation of zero-day malware and unknown weaknesses. Threat actors continually discover new exploitation tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to take advantage of weaknesses throughout integrated systems. Moreover, identifying breach paths is increasingly complicated due to the widespread adoption of ephemeral services.

Vulnerability management solutions should provide end-to-end visibility of the protect-surface by aggregating both platform and application risks in a single pane of glass, while leveraging prioritized remediation based on business risk and threat context for efficiency. Containerized workloads deployed via DevOps pipelines have unique security requirements that demand a fully integrated vulnerability assessment to be automated into cloud platform services running containerized workloads.

The path to a mature security posture starts with the ability to identify vulnerabilities in software code, third-party libraries, and at runtime. In addition, the cloud platform used to host your applications should be scanned for misconfigurations. This requires the use of policy configuration baselines, benchmarks, and compliance standards that apply to both the infrastructure and the code used to build it. As organizations implement security guardrails early in the software development lifecycle (SDLC), they can take advantage of cloud-native culture to ensure network and security tools are used throughout all phases of the SDLC.

This GigaOm report explores the key criteria and emerging technologies that IT decision makers should evaluate when choosing a vulnerability management solution. The key criteria report, together with the GigaOm radar report that evaluates relevant products, provides a framework to help organizations assess the solutions currently available on the market and how these tools fit with their requirements.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:
Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Vendor Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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