Software makers Microsoft and Adobe both released large updates for their regularly scheduled Patch Tuesday releases today, with each company closing more than 70 security holes in their products.
Among the issues patched by Microsoft are a privilege escalation vulnerability in Microsoft’s Exchange server. The vuln allowed a security researcher to combine two other issues, creating an exploit that allows any mail user to become any other user or take control of the domain. The exploit for the flaw is already considered to be in the wild.
“This bug allows a regular user to escalate privileges to any other user on an Exchange server,” said Dustin Childs, communications manager for Trend Micro’s Zero Day Initiative. “They could take over an account to send mail as a part of a phishing campaign, or they could just escalate and take over the server. Taking over an Exchange server would be the more likely scenario.”
The nearly 150 security issues fixed by the two companies could hint at another banner year for vulnerability research. In 2018, more than 16,500 vulnerabilities were disclosed, up 13 percent from the previous year, according to the National Vulnerability Database.
The number of security issues that each company patched is large, but not unprecedented, according to Trend Micro’s Childs, who noted that the last few Adobe Reader patches have had a similar number of issues.
“December and January are historically ‘light’ patch months for Microsoft, so the volume of patches this month isn’t that surprising,” he said.
One of the major issues identified by experts is a flaw in Microsoft’s DHCP server, which dynamically assigns network addresses to devices when they join a particular network. Such servers use the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) to assign addresses from a local network subdomain. In a blog post on the updates, Trend Micro added “[i]f you have a DHCP server on your network, and chances are you do, this patch should be at the top of you[r] list.”
“Most enterprises will have their DHCP server isolated from the Internet, so that adds some protection,” Trend Micro’s Childs said. “As far as I know, there are no workarounds for this bug. Patch quickly.”
Such servers are ubiquitous, but often the DHCP server is built into networking hardware such as routers.
Security firm Tenable had the same advice for users of Microsoft’s Exchange server.
“If exploited, the vulnerability would give an attacker Domain Administrator privileges that would allow them to access domain user credentials,” Satnam Narang, senior research engineer at Tenable, said in a statement. “Given the severity and publicity of the vulnerability, organizations should patch immediately.”
Security firm Ivanti recommended that the patches for Microsoft’s operating system, browser, and its Office productivity suite be made a priority, as some of the Windows and Internet Explorer flaws are actively being exploited. The company also warned that Adobe Flash, Acrobat and Reader should all be patched quickly, as all are often targeted by attackers for compromise.
Adobe’s update patched 71 issues in Adobe’s PDF software, Acrobat and Reader, and another four issues in other software, such as Flash and ColdFusion. While the company said it is not aware of any exploitation of the issues, at least one of the vulnerabilities has a detailed technical analysis posted online.
While the number of vulnerabilities publicly reported through bounty programs is typically under 5 percent, almost a quarter of the security issues patched by Adobe were reported through the Zero Day Initiative, according to data from Adobe’s advisory.
“The worst of the bugs fixed could allow an attacker to execute their own code on a target system,” ZDI stated on its blog.
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Veteran technology journalist of more than 20 years. Former research engineer. Written for more than two dozen publications, including CNET News.com, Dark Reading, MIT’s Technology Review, Popular Science, and Wired News. Five awards for journalism, including Best Deadline … View Full Bio