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Vulnerability found and fixed in HP bloatware

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Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

HP Touchpoint Analytics, an application that comes preinstalled on HP systems, contains a security flaw that could let malware gain admin rights and take over vulnerable systems.

The security flaw was discovered over the summer by security researchers from SafeBreach Labs.

HP has released updates this month to address the issue.

HP desktop and laptop owners are advised to follow instructions detailed in the HP security advisory and update the HP Touchpoint Analytics client at their earliest convenience.

Vulnerability details

The HP Touchpoint Analytics app is what users normally call “bloatware,” a type of software that comes pre-installed on new devices.

The app’s purpose is to collect diagnostics data about hardware performance and send the information back to HP.

As such, the app usually whitelisted and runs with admin rights on HP systems — to be able to access various details from software drivers and other hardware components.

But in a report shared with ZDNet this week, Peleg Hadar, a security researcher with SafeBreach Labs, said he found a way to hijack the application’s normal mode of operation and load malicious DLL files to run rogue code with elevated privileges.

Hadar found what security experts call a local privilege escalation (LPE), a type of vulnerability that’s quite common in modern software.

The vulnerability won’t allow hackers to take over a system from a remote location, but it will allow local apps or malware to funnel malicious commands through its code and execute those operations with full admin rights.

While most LPE vulnerabilities are low risk, this one’s severity is amplified by the app’s huge install-base — being found on hundreds of millions of HP desktops and laptops.

This makes this vulnerability attractive to malware gangs, who will see a real benefit to gain by including it into their future exploit chains.

Controversial app

As ZDNet sister-site TechRepublic pointed out in its coverage, the disclosure of a security flaw in the HP Touchpoint Analytics app will not go down well with HP users.

In the past, users have complained about the app being nothing more than spyware disguised as an analytics app, and about the app slowing down systems on which it was installed [1, 2].

Across the years, HP denied any such rumors and said that users were free to uninstall the app at any time they wished [1, 2].

The HP Touchpoint Analytics vulnerability is the second security flaw that Hadar discovered this year in a vendor’s bloatware. He previously found one that impacted the SupportAssist app that comes pre-installed on Dell systems.



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Security

The Five Pillars of (Azure) Cloud-based Application Security

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This 1-hour webinar from GigaOm brings together experts in Azure cloud application migration and security, featuring GigaOm analyst Jon Collins and special guests from Fortinet, Director of Product Marketing for Public Cloud, Daniel Schrader, and Global Director of Public Cloud Architecture and Engineering, Aidan Walden.

These interesting times have accelerated the drive towards digital transformation, application rationalization, and migration to cloud-based architectures. Enterprise organizations are looking to increase efficiency, but without impacting performance or increasing risk, either from infrastructure resilience or end-user behaviors.

Success requires a combination of best practice and appropriate use of technology, depending on where the organization is on its cloud journey. Elements such as zero-trust access and security-driven networking need to be deployed in parallel with security-first operations, breach prevention and response.

If you are looking to migrate applications to the cloud and want to be sure your approach maximizes delivery whilst minimizing risk, this webinar is for you.

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Data Management and Secure Data Storage for the Enterprise

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This free 1-hour webinar from GigaOm Research brings together experts in data management and security, featuring GigaOm Analyst Enrico Signoretti and special guest from RackTop Systems, Jonathan Halstuch. The discussion will focus on data storage and how to protect data against cyberattacks.

Most of the recent news coverage and analysis of cyberattacks focus on hackers getting access and control of critical systems. Yet rarely is it mentioned that the most valuable asset for the organizations under attack is the data contained in these systems.

In this webinar, you will learn about the risks and costs of a poor data security management approach, and how to improve your data storage to prevent and mitigate the consequences of a compromised infrastructure.

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Security

CISO Podcast: Talking Anti-Phishing Solutions

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Simon Gibson earlier this year published the report, “GigaOm Radar for Phishing Prevention and Detection,” which assessed more than a dozen security solutions focused on detecting and mitigating email-borne threats and vulnerabilities. As Gibson noted in his report, email remains a prime vector for attack, reflecting the strategic role it plays in corporate communications.

Earlier this week, Gibson’s report was a featured topic of discussions on David Spark’s popular CISO Security Vendor Relationship Podcast. In it, Spark interviewed a pair of chief information security officers—Mike Johnson, CISO for SalesForce, and James Dolph, CISO for Guidewire Software—to get their take on the role of anti-phishing solutions.

“I want to first give GigaOm some credit here for really pointing out the need to decide what to do with detections,” Johnson said when asked for his thoughts about selecting an anti-phishing tool. “I think a lot of companies charge into a solution for anti-phishing without thinking about what they are going to do when the thing triggers.”

As Johnson noted, the needs and vulnerabilities of a large organization aligned on Microsoft 365 are very different from those of a smaller outfit working with GSuite. A malicious Excel macro-laden file, for example, poses a credible threat to a Microsoft shop and therefore argues for a detonation solution to detect and neutralize malicious payloads before they can spread and morph. On the other hand, a smaller company is more exposed to business email compromise (BEC) attacks, since spending authority is often spread among many employees in these businesses.

Gibson’s radar report describes both in-line and out-of-band solutions, but Johnson said cloud-aligned infrastructures argue against traditional in-line schemes.

“If you put an in-line solution in front of [Microsoft] 365 or in front of GSuite, you are likely decreasing your reliability, because you’ve now introduced this single point of failure. Google and Microsoft have this massive amount of reliability that is built in,” Johnson said.

So how should IT decision makers go about selecting an anti-phishing solution? Dolph answered that question with a series of questions of his own:

“Does it nail the basics? Does it fit with the technologies we have in place? And then secondarily, is it reliable, is it tunable, is it manageable?” he asked. “Because it can add a lot overhead, especially if you have a small team if these tools are really disruptive to the email flow.”

Dolph concluded by noting that it’s important for solutions to provide insight that can help organizations target their protections, as well as support both training and awareness around threats. Finally, he urged organizations to consider how they can measure the effectiveness of solutions.

“I may look at other solutions in the future and how do I compare those solutions to the benchmark of what we have in place?”

Listen to the Podcast: CISO Podcast

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