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‘Wormable’ Flaw Leads January 2022 Patch Tuesday

Krebs on Security - Tue, 01/11/2022 - 15:18

Microsoft today released updates to plug nearly 120 security holes in Windows and supported software. Six of the vulnerabilities were publicly detailed already, potentially giving attackers a head start in figuring out how to exploit them in unpatched systems. More concerning, Microsoft warns that one of the flaws fixed this month is “wormable,” meaning no human interaction would be required for an attack to spread from one vulnerable Windows box to another.

Nine of the vulnerabilities fixed in this month’s Patch Tuesday received Microsoft’s “critical” rating, meaning malware or miscreants can exploit them to gain remote access to vulnerable Windows systems through no help from the user.

By all accounts, the most severe flaw addressed today is CVE-2022-21907, a critical, remote code execution flaw in the “HTTP Protocol Stack.” Microsoft says the flaw affects Windows 10 and Windows 11, as well as Server 2019 and Server 2022.

“While this is definitely more server-centric, remember that Windows clients can also run http.sys, so all affected versions are affected by this bug,” said Dustin Childs from Trend Micro’s Zero Day Initiative. “Test and deploy this patch quickly.”

Quickly indeed. In May 2021, Microsoft patched a similarly critical and wormable vulnerability in the HTTP Protocol Stack; less than a week later, computer code made to exploit the flaw was posted online.

Microsoft also fixed three more remote code execution flaws in Exchange Server, a technology that hundreds of thousands of organizations worldwide use to manage their email. Exchange flaws are a major target of malicious hackers. Almost a year ago, hundreds of thousands of Exchange servers worldwide were compromised by malware after attackers started mass-exploiting four zero-day flaws in Exchange.

Microsoft says the limiting factor with these three newly found Exchange flaws is that an attacker would need to be tied to the target’s network somehow to exploit them. But Satnam Narang at Tenable notes Microsoft has labeled all three Exchange flaws as “exploitation more likely.”

“One of the flaws, CVE-2022-21846, was disclosed to Microsoft by the National Security Agency,” Narang said. “Despite the rating, Microsoft notes the attack vector is adjacent, meaning exploitation will require more legwork for an attacker, unlike the ProxyLogon and ProxyShell vulnerabilities which were remotely exploitable.”

Security firm Rapid7 points out that roughly a quarter of the security updates this month address vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s Edge browser via Chromium.

“None of these have yet been seen exploited in the wild, though six were publicly disclosed prior to today,” Rapid7’s Greg Wiseman said. “This includes two Remote Code Execution vulnerabilities affecting open source libraries that are bundled with more recent versions of Windows: CVE-2021-22947, which affects the curl library, and CVE-2021-36976 which affects libarchive.”

Wiseman said slightly less scary than the HTTP Protocol Stack vulnerability is CVE-2022-21840, which affects all supported versions of Office, as well as Sharepoint Server.

“Exploitation would require social engineering to entice a victim to open an attachment or visit a malicious website,” he said. “Thankfully the Windows preview pane is not a vector for this attack.”

Other patches include fixes for .NET Framework, Microsoft Dynamics, Windows Hyper-V, Windows Defender, and the Windows Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). As usual, the SANS Internet Storm Center has a per-patch breakdown by severity and impact.

Standard disclaimer: Before you update Windows, please make sure you have backed up your system and/or important files. It’s not uncommon for a Windows update package to hose one’s system or prevent it from booting properly, and some updates have been known to erase or corrupt files.

So do yourself a favor and backup before installing any patches. Windows 10 even has some built-in tools to help you do that, either on a per-file/folder basis or by making a complete and bootable copy of your hard drive all at once.

And if you wish to ensure Windows has been set to pause updating so you can back up your files and/or system before the operating system decides to reboot and install patches on its own schedule, see this guide.

If you experience glitches or problems installing any of these patches this month, please consider leaving a comment about it below; there’s a decent chance other readers have experienced the same and may chime in here with useful tips.

Categories: Technology, Virus Info

500M Avira Antivirus Users Introduced to Cryptomining

Krebs on Security - Sat, 01/08/2022 - 11:05

Many readers were surprised to learn recently that the popular Norton 360 antivirus suite now ships with a program which lets customers make money mining virtual currency. But Norton 360 isn’t alone in this dubious endeavor: Avira antivirus — which has built a base of 500 million users worldwide largely by making the product free — was recently bought by the same company that owns Norton 360 and is introducing its customers to a service called Avira Crypto.

Avira Crypto

Founded in 2006, Avira Operations GmbH & Co. KG is a German multinational software company best known for their Avira Free Security (a.k.a. Avira Free Antivirus). In January 2021, Avira was acquired by Tempe, Ariz.-based NortonLifeLock Inc., the same company that now owns Norton 360.

In 2017, the identity theft protection company LifeLock was acquired by Symantec Corp., which was renamed to NortonLifeLock in 2019. LifeLock is now included in the Norton 360 service; Avira offers users a similar service called Breach Monitor.

Like Norton 360, Avira comes with a cryptominer already installed, but customers have to opt in to using the service that powers it. Avira’s FAQ on its cryptomining service is somewhat sparse. For example, it doesn’t specify how much NortonLifeLock gets out of the deal (NortonLifeLock keeps 15 percent of any cryptocurrency mined by Norton Crypto).

“Avira Crypto allows you to use your computer’s idle time to mine the cryptocurrency Ethereum (ETH),” the FAQ explains. “Since cryptomining requires a high level of processing power, it is not suitable for users with an average computer. Even with compatible hardware, mining cryptocurrencies on your own can be less rewarding. Your best option is to join a mining pool that shares their computer power to improve their chance of mining cryptocurrency. The rewards are then distributed evenly to all members in the pool.”

NortonLifeLock hasn’t yet responded to requests for comment, so it’s unclear whether Avira uses the same cryptomining code as Norton Crypto. But there are clues that suggest that’s the case. NortonLifeLock announced Avira Crypto in late October 2021, but multiple other antivirus products have flagged Avira’s installer as malicious or unsafe for including a cryptominer as far back as Sept. 9, 2021.

Avira was detected as potentially unsafe for including a cryptominer back in Sept. 2021. Image: Virustotal.com.

The above screenshot was taken on Virustotal.com, a service owned by Google that scans submitted files against dozens of antivirus products. The detection report pictured was found by searching Virustotal for “ANvOptimusEnablementCuda,” a function included in the Norton Crypto mining component “Ncrypt.exe.”

Some longtime Norton customers took to NortonLifeLock’s online forum to express horror at the prospect of their antivirus product installing coin-mining software, regardless of whether the mining service was turned off by default.

“Norton should be DETECTING and killing off crypto mining hijacking, not installing their own,” reads a Dec. 28 thread on Norton’s forum titled “Absolutely furious.”

Others have charged that the crypto offering will end up costing customers more in electricity bills than they can ever hope to gain from letting their antivirus mine ETH. What’s more, there are hefty fees involved in moving any ETH mined by Norton or Avira Crypto to an account that the user can cash out, and many users apparently don’t understand they can’t cash out until they at least earn enough ETH to cover the fees.

In August 2021, NortonLifeLock said it had reached an agreement to acquire Avast, another longtime free antivirus product that also claims to have around 500 million users. It remains to be seen whether Avast Crypto will be the next brilliant offering from NortonLifeLock.

As mentioned in this week’s story on Norton Crypto, I get that participation in these cryptomining schemes is voluntary, but much of that ultimately hinges on how these crypto programs are pitched and whether users really understand what they’re doing when they enable them. But what bugs me most is they will be introducing hundreds of millions of perhaps less savvy Internet users to the world of cryptocurrency, which comes with its own set of unique security and privacy challenges that require users to “level up” their personal security practices in fairly significant ways.

Categories: Technology, Virus Info

Norton 360 Now Comes With a Cryptominer

Krebs on Security - Thu, 01/06/2022 - 10:26

Norton 360, one of the most popular antivirus products on the market today, has installed a cryptocurrency mining program on its customers’ computers. Norton’s parent firm says the cloud-based service that activates the program and allows customers to profit from the scheme — in which the company keeps 15 percent of any currencies mined — is “opt-in,” meaning users have to agree to enable it. But many Norton users complain the mining program is difficult to remove, and reactions from longtime customers have ranged from unease and disbelief to, “Dude, where’s my crypto?”

Norton 360 is owned by Tempe, Ariz.-based NortonLifeLock Inc. In 2017, the identity theft protection company LifeLock was acquired by Symantec Corp., which was renamed to NortonLifeLock in 2019 (LifeLock is now included in the Norton 360 service).

According to the FAQ posted on its site, “Norton Crypto” will mine Ethereum (ETH) cryptocurrency while the customer’s computer is idle. The FAQ also says Norton Crypto will only run on systems that meet certain hardware and software requirements (such as an NVIDIA graphics card with at least 6 GB of memory).

“Norton creates a secure digital Ethereum wallet for each user,” the FAQ reads. “The key to the wallet is encrypted and stored securely in the cloud. Only you have access to the wallet.”

NortonLifeLock began offering the mining service in July 2021, and early news coverage of the program did not immediately receive widespread attention. That changed on Jan. 4, when Boing Boing co-editor Cory Doctorow tweeted that NortonCrypto would run by default for Norton 360 users.

NortonLifeLock says Norton Crypto is an opt-in feature only and is not enabled without user permission.

“If users have turned on Norton Crypto but no longer wish to use the feature, it can be disabled by temporarily shutting off ‘tamper protection’ (which allows users to modify the Norton installation) and deleting NCrypt.exe from your computer,” NortonLifeLock said in a written statement. However, many users have reported difficulty removing the mining program.

From reading user posts on the Norton Crypto community forum, it seems some longtime Norton customers were horrified at the prospect of their antivirus product installing coin-mining software, regardless of whether the mining service was turned off by default.

“How on Earth could anyone at Norton think that adding crypto mining within a security product would be a good thing?,” reads a Dec. 28 thread titled “Absolutely furious.”

“Norton should be DETECTING and killing off crypto mining hijacking, not installing their own,” the post reads. “The product people need firing. What’s the next ‘bright idea’? Norton Botnet? ‘ And I was just about to re-install Norton 360 too, but this has literally has caused me to no longer trust Norton and their direction.”

It’s an open question whether Norton Crypto users can expect to see much profit from participating in this scheme, at least in the short run. Mining cryptocurrencies basically involves using your computer’s spare resources to help validate financial transactions of other crypto users. Crypto mining causes one’s computer to draw more power, which can increase one’s overall electricity costs.

“Norton is pretty much amplifying energy consumption worldwide, costing their customers more in electricity use than the customer makes on the mining, yet allowing Norton to make a ton of profit,” tweeted security researcher Chris Vickery. “It’s disgusting, gross, and brand-suicide.”

Then there’s the matter of getting paid. Norton Crypto lets users withdraw their earnings to an account at cryptocurrency platform CoinBase, but as Norton Crypto’s FAQ rightly points out, there are coin mining fees as well as transaction costs to transfer Ethereum.

“The coin mining fee is currently 15% of the crypto allocated to the miner,” the FAQ explains. “Transfers of cryptocurrencies may result in transaction fees (also known as “gas” fees) paid to the users of the cryptocurrency blockchain network who process the transaction. In addition, if you choose to exchange crypto for another currency, you may be required to pay fees to an exchange facilitating the transaction. Transaction fees fluctuate due to cryptocurrency market conditions and other factors. These fees are not set by Norton.”

Which might explain why so many Norton Crypto users have taken to the community’s online forum to complain they were having trouble withdrawing their earnings. Those gas fees are the same regardless of the amount of crypto being moved, so the system simply blocks withdrawals if the amount requested can’t cover the transfer fees.

Norton Crypto. Image: Bleeping Computer.

I guess what bothers me most about Norton Crypto is that it will be introducing millions of perhaps less savvy Internet users to the world of cryptocurrency, which comes with its own set of unique security and privacy challenges that require users to “level up” their personal security practices in fairly significant ways.

Several of my elder family members and closest friends are longtime Norton users who renew their subscription year after year (despite my reminding them that it’s way cheaper just to purchase it again each year as a new user). None of them are particularly interested in or experts at securing their computers and digital lives, and the thought of them opening CoinBase accounts and navigating that space is terrifying.

Big Yellow is not the only brand that’s cashing in on investor fervor over cryptocurrencies and hoping to appeal to a broader (or maybe just older) audience: The venerable electronics retailer RadioShack, which relaunched in 2020 as an online-focused brand, now says it plans to chart a future as a cryptocurrency exchange.

“RadioShack’s argument is basically that as a very old brand, it’s primed to sell old CEOs on cryptocurrency,” writes Adi Robertson for The Verge.

“Too many [cryptocurrency companies] focused on speculation and not enough on making the ‘old-school’ customer feel comfortable,” the company’s website states, claiming that the average “decision-making” corporate CEO is 68 years old. “The older generation simply doesn’t trust the new-fangled ideas of the Bitcoin youth.”

Categories: Technology, Virus Info

Happy 12th Birthday, KrebsOnSecurity.com!

Krebs on Security - Wed, 12/29/2021 - 14:32


KrebsOnSecurity.com celebrates its 12th anniversary today! Maybe “celebrate” is too indelicate a word for a year wracked by the global pandemics of COVID-19 and ransomware. Especially since stories about both have helped to grow the audience here tremendously in 2021. But this site’s birthday also is a welcome opportunity to thank you all for your continued readership and support, which helps keep the content here free to everyone.

More than seven million unique visitors came to KrebsOnSecurity.com in 2021, generating some 12 million+ pageviews and leaving almost 8,000 comments. We also now have nearly 50,000 subscribers to our email newsletter, which is still just a text-based (non-HTML) email that goes out each time a new story is published here (~2-3 times a week).

Back when this site first began 12 years ago, I never imagined it would attract such a level of engagement. Before launching KrebsOnSecurity, I was a tech reporter for washingtonpost.com. For many years, The Post’s website was physically, financially and editorially separate from what the dot-com employees affectionately called “The Dead Tree Edition.” When the two newsrooms finally merged in 2009, my position was eliminated.

Happily, the blog I authored for four years at washingtonpost.com — Security Fix — had attracted a sizable readership, and it seemed clear that the worldwide appetite for in-depth news about computer security and cybercrime would become practically insatiable in the coming years.

Happier still, The Post offered a severance package equal to six months of my salary. Had they not thrown that lifeline, I doubt I’d have had the guts to go it alone. But at the time, my wife basically said I had six months to make this “blog thing” work, or else find a “real job.”

God bless her eternal patience with my adopted occupation, because KrebsOnSecurity has helped me avoid finding a real job for a dozen years now. And hopefully they let me keep doing this, because at this point I’m certainly unqualified to do much else.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to remind Dear Readers that advertisers do help keep the content free here to everyone. For security and privacy reasons, KrebsOnSecurity does not host any third-party content on this site — and this includes the ad creatives, which are simply images or GIFs vetted by Yours Truly and served directly from krebsonsecurity.com.

That’s a long-winded way of asking: If you regularly visit KrebsOnSecurity.com with an ad blocker, please consider adding an exception for this site.

Thanks again, Dear Readers. Please stay safe, healthy and alert in 2022. See you on the other side!

Categories: Technology, Virus Info
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