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Researcher finds simple way of backdooring Windows PCs and nobody notices for ten months

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A security researcher from Colombia has found a way of gaining admin rights and boot persistence on Windows PCs that’s simple to execute and hard to stop –all the features that hackers and malware authors are looking for from an exploitation technique.

What’s more surprising, is that the technique was first detailed way back in December 2017, but despite its numerous benefits and ease of exploitation, it has not received either media coverage nor has it been seen employed in malware campaigns.

Discovered by Sebastián Castro, a security researcher for CSL, the technique targets one of the parameters of Windows user accounts known as the Relative Identifier (RID).

The RID is a code added at the end of account security identifiers (SIDs) that describes that user’s permissions group. There are several RIDs available, but the most common ones are 501 for the standard guest account, and 500 for admin accounts.


Image: Sebastian Castro

Castro, with help from CSL CEO Pedro García, discovered that by tinkering with registry keys that store information about each Windows account, he could modify the RID associated with a specific account and grant it a different RID, for another account group.

The technique does not allow a hacker to remotely infect a computer unless that computer has been foolishly left exposed on the Internet without a password.

But in cases where a hacker has a foothold on a system –via either malware or by brute-forcing an account with a weak password– the hacker can give admin permissions to a compromised low-level account, and gain a permanent backdoor with full SYSTEM access on a Windows PC.

Since registry keys are also boot persistent, any modifications made to an account’s RID remain permanent, or until fixed.

The attack is also very reliable, being tested and found to be working on Windows versions going from XP to 10 and from Server 2003 to Server 2016, although even older versions should be vulnerable, at least in theory.

“It is not so easy to detect when exploited, because this attack could be deployed by using OS resources without triggering any alert to the victim,” Castro told ZDNet in an interview last week.

“On the other hand, I think is easy to spot when doing forensics operations, but you need to know where to look at.

“It is possible to find out if a computer has been a victim of RID hijacking by looking inside the [Windows] registry and checking for inconsistencies on the SAM [Security Account Manager],” Castro added.

A dead giveaway is if a guest account’s SID ends with a “500” RID, a clear hint the guest account has admin rights and that someone has tampered with the registry keys.

rid-hijacking-demo.pngrid-hijacking-demo.png

Image: Sebastian Castro

The CSL researcher has created and released a module for the Metasploit Framework that automates the attack, for pen-testing purposes.

“We reached out Microsoft as soon as the module was developed, but we did not receive any kind of response from them,” Castro told us. “And no, it is not already patched.”

It is unclear why Microsoft hasn’t responded, but the researcher has been on a tour this summer, presenting his findings at various cyber-security conferences, such as Sec-T, RomHack, and DerbyCon. A video of his most recent presentation is embedded below.

“As far as I know, there was no internet documentation about this particular attack when I published the blog describing it,” Castro told ZDNet. “Since this is a simple technique, I do not think that only my company and I knew about this.”

But while some clever hacks like the one Castro has documented have been known to slip through and get no media coverage, they often don’t go unnoticed by malware authors.

RID hijacking is simple, stealthy, and persistent –just what hackers like most about Windows flaws. But in this case, RID hijacking appears to have slipped by malware authors as well.

“I am not aware of any malware using this persistence technique,” Castro told us. “I asked some malware analysts about it, but they told me they have not seen this implemented on malware.”

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Key Criteria for Evaluating Unified Endpoint Management

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Endpoint management is one of the most significant challenges in the enterprise today. An increasingly large percentage of our workforce is distributed and demands flexibility to work wherever they want, whenever they want. We must respond by giving them access to the services they require to do their jobs effectively. The alternative is that we, as a business, will suffer, lose good people, and become less competitive. However, we must achieve this essential access while maintaining security and control of our business’s data assets.

An appropriate endpoint management strategy is key to addressing these issues. Our approach should be holistic and unified, bringing together control of devices, management of applications, security of data, and access controls.

Unified endpoint management (UEM) is the approach to meeting this challenge. It has evolved from traditionally disparate solutions for endpoint management, application delivery, and security into a single platform. This single platform delivers a consistent end-user experience across all devices, applications, and locations while maintaining security and control of data assets. The leading solutions allow us to enroll devices easily into our control, provide support, and ensure constituency and compliance while managing access to our applications and data.

This GigaOM Key Criteria Report describes UEM solutions and identifies key criteria and evaluation metrics for selecting such a solution. The corresponding GigaOm Radar Report identifies vendors and products that excel in this sector. Together, these reports give decision-makers an overview of the market to help them evaluate existing platforms and decide where to invest.

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.

Solution 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.

The post Key Criteria for Evaluating Unified Endpoint Management appeared first on Gigaom.

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Data Storage for Ever Changing Business Needs

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Join GigaOm analyst Enrico Signoretti and CTERA CTO Aron Brand in this one-hour live webinar as they explore file storage trends and dynamics through the lens of IT infrastructure modernization projects.

The file and cloud experts will discuss the limitations of traditional NAS architectures in today’s corporate environments and how organizations are implementing distributed cloud file storage to solve remote collaboration, ransomware protection, and unstructured data growth challenges.

Signoretti and Brand will also examine the recently published GigaOm Radar for Distributed Cloud File Storage, in which CTERA was named the leader. They will review the report’s key criteria and evaluation metrics for choosing a distributed cloud file storage platform, helping IT leaders to understand which vendors are most aligned to their needs today as well as 12-18 months down the road.

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High Performance Application Security Testing – Cloud WAF Security Platforms

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This free 1-hour webinar from GigaOm Research features analyst Jake Dolezal and will focus on comparing Web Application Firewall (WAF) security platforms in an enterprise with high performance needs.

This webinar will discuss web application security mechanisms deployed in the cloud. The cloud enables enterprises to differentiate and innovate with microservices at a rapid pace. However, the cloud is just as vulnerable, if not more so, to attacks and breaches as on-premises APIs and apps are. Our focus is specifically on approaches to securing apps, APIs, and microservices that are tuned for high performance and availability. We define “high performance” as companies that experience workloads of more than 1,000 transactions per second (tps) and require a maximum latency below 30 milliseconds across the landscape.

In this webinar, we will reveal the performance tests of security mechanisms on NGINX, AWS, and Azure, specifically: ModSecurity, NGINX App Protect WAF, AWS Web Application Firewall (WAF), and Azure WAF.

Register now to join GigaOm and NGINX for this free expert webinar.

The post High Performance Application Security Testing – Cloud WAF Security Platforms appeared first on Gigaom.

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