MS kernel patch skirts infected machines

Damage control bypasses pwned PCs


Microsoft's latest batch of patches contains a kernel update designed not to install on machines infected with a rootkit.

The move is designed to prevent the confusion that occurred when one of the patches released in February resulted in a Blue Screen of Death and continuous reboot cycles on some Windows XP machines.

Microsoft copped a fair bit of criticism for the incident before the cause was pinned down to the interaction between the hard-to-detect Tdss rootkit and a Windows kernel security update. Rootkits are a type of malware that attempt to avoid detection by anti-virus scanners by burying themselves in the likes of Windows kernel code.

Redmond's April patch batch also contains a Windows kernel patch. In an effort to prevent the same snafu as February, Microsoft is using technology designed to prevent the update from installing onto malware-compromised machines.

"This security update includes package-detection logic that prevents the installation of the security update if certain abnormal conditions exist" Microsoft explains in the FAQ for its MS10-21 patch.

"These abnormal conditions on a system could be the result of an infection with a computer virus that modifies some operating system files, which renders the infected computer incompatible with the kernel update."

The same technology was used in a modified version of the MS10-15 update, which was initially released as part of February's Patch Tuesday and revised with an "avoid infected systems" add-on in mid-March.

Users who attempt to install either the revised MS010-15 package or the new Ms10-021 kernel update on infected machines ought to get an error code.

Possible error codes (such as 0x8007F0F4) fail to explain what might have gone wrong, but a bit of judicious searching ought to direct sys admins or regular users who hit the snag to this advisory here. This notice explains that users who run across problems installing the patch are probably dealing with a malware-infected machine.

Microsoft's April patch batch included 11 bulletins along with an update to the software giant's Malicious Software Removal Tool. The idea is that this tool will remove malware and clean up systems which can then by safely patched at the second time of asking. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Emotet malware gang re-emerges with Chrome-based credit card heistware
    Crimeware groups are re-inventing themselves

    The criminals behind the Emotet botnet – which rose to fame as a banking trojan before evolving into spamming and malware delivery – are now using it to target credit card information stored in the Chrome web browser.

    Once the data – including the user's name, the card's numbers and expiration information – is exfiltrated, the malware will send it to command-and-control (C2) servers that are different than the one that the card stealer module uses, according to researchers with cybersecurity vendor Proofpoint's Threat Insight team.

    The new card information module is the latest illustration of Emotet's Lazarus-like return. It's been more than a year since Europol and law enforcement from countries including the United States, the UK and Ukraine tore down the Emotet actors' infrastructure in January 2021 and – they hoped – put the malware threat to rest.

    Continue reading
  • Symbiote Linux malware spotted – and infections are 'very hard to detect'
    Performing live forensics on hijacked machine may not turn anything up, warn researchers

    Intezer security researcher Joakim Kennedy and the BlackBerry Threat Research and Intelligence Team have analyzed an unusual piece of Linux malware they say is unlike most seen before - it isn't a standalone executable file.

    Dubbed Symbiote, the badware instead hijacks the environment variable (LD_PRELOAD) the dynamic linker uses to load a shared object library and soon infects every single running process.

    The Intezer/BlackBerry team discovered Symbiote in November 2021, and said it appeared to have been written to target financial institutions in Latin America. Analysis of the Symbiote malware and its behavior suggest it may have been developed in Brazil. 

    Continue reading
  • HelloXD ransomware bulked up with better encryption, nastier payload
    Russian-based group doubles the extortion by exfiltrating the corporate data before encrypting it.

    Windows and Linux systems are coming under attack by new variants of the HelloXD ransomware that includes stronger encryption, improved obfuscation and an additional payload that enables threat groups to modify compromised systems, exfiltrate files and execute commands.

    The new capabilities make the ransomware, first detected in November 2021 - and the developer behind it even more dangerous - according to researchers with Palo Alto Networks' Unit 42 threat intelligence group. Unit 42 said the HelloXD ransomware family is in its initial stages but it's working to track down the author.

    "While the ransomware functionality is nothing new, during our research, following the lines, we found out the ransomware is most likely developed by a threat actor named x4k," the researchers wrote in a blog post.

    Continue reading
  • Now Windows Follina zero-day exploited to infect PCs with Qbot
    Data-stealing malware also paired with Black Basta ransomware gang

    Miscreants are reportedly exploiting the recently disclosed critical Windows Follina zero-day flaw to infect PCs with Qbot, thus aggressively expanding their reach.

    The bot's operators are also working with the Black Basta gang to spread ransomware in yet another partnership in the underground world of cyber-crime, it is claimed.

    This combination of Follina exploitation and its use to extort organizations makes the malware an even larger threat for enterprises. Qbot started off as a software nasty that raided people's online bank accounts, and evolved to snoop on user keystrokes and steal sensitive information from machines. It can also deliver other malware payloads, such as backdoors and ransomware, onto infected Windows systems, and forms a remote-controllable botnet.

    Continue reading
  • Microsoft fixes under-attack Windows zero-day Follina
    Plus: Intel, AMD react to Hertzbleed data-leaking holes in CPUs

    Patch Tuesday Microsoft claims to have finally fixed the Follina zero-day flaw in Windows as part of its June Patch Tuesday batch, which included security updates to address 55 vulnerabilities.

    Follina, eventually acknowledged by Redmond in a security advisory last month, is the most significant of the bunch as it has already been exploited in the wild.

    Criminals and snoops can abuse the remote code execution (RCE) bug, tracked as CVE-2022-30190, by crafting a file, such as a Word document, so that when opened it calls out to the Microsoft Windows Support Diagnostic Tool, which is then exploited to run malicious code, such spyware and ransomware. Disabling macros in, say, Word won't stop this from happening.

    Continue reading
  • EnemyBot malware adds enterprise flaws to exploit arsenal
    Fast-evolving botnet targets critical VMware, F5 BIG-IP bugs, we're told

    The botnet malware EnemyBot has added exploits to its arsenal, allowing it to infect and spread from enterprise-grade gear.

    What's worse, EnemyBot's core source code, minus its exploits, can be found on GitHub, so any miscreant can use the malware to start crafting their own outbreaks of this software nasty.

    The group behind EnemyBot is Keksec, a collection of experienced developers, also known as Nero and Freakout, that have been around since 2016 and have launched a number of Linux- and Windows-based bots capable of launching distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and possibly mining cryptocurrency. Securonix first wrote about EnemyBot in March.

    Continue reading
  • Microsoft Defender goes cross-platform for the masses
    Redmond's security brand extended to multiple devices without stomping on other solutions

    Microsoft is extending the Defender brand with a version aimed at families and individuals.

    "Defender" has been the company's name of choice for its anti-malware platform for years. Microsoft Defender for individuals, available for Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscribers, is a cross-platform application, encompassing macOS, iOS, and Android devices and extending "the protection already built into Windows Security beyond your PC."

    The system comprises a dashboard showing the status of linked devices as well as alerts and suggestions.

    Continue reading
  • Symantec: More malware operators moving in to exploit Follina
    Meanwhile Microsoft still hasn't patched the fatal flaw

    While enterprises are still waiting for Microsoft to issue a fix for the critical "Follina" vulnerability in Windows, yet more malware operators are moving in to exploit it.

    Microsoft late last month acknowledged the remote code execution (RCE) vulnerability – tracked as CVE-2022-30190 – but has yet to deliver a patch for it. The company has outlined workarounds that can be used until a fix becomes available.

    In the meantime, reports of active exploits of the flaw continue to surface. Analysts with Proofpoint's Threat Insight team earlier this month tweeted about a phishing campaign, possibly aligned with a nation-state targeting US and European Union agencies, which uses Follina. The Proofpoint researchers said the malicious spam messages were sent to fewer than 10 Proofpoint product users.

    Continue reading
  • Clipminer rakes in $1.7m in crypto hijacking scam
    Crooks divert transactions to own wallets while running mining on the side

    A crew using malware that performs cryptomining and clipboard-hacking operations have made off with at least $1.7 million in stolen cryptocurrency.

    The malware, dubbed Trojan.Clipminer, leverages the compute power of compromised systems to mine for cryptocurrency as well as identify crypto-wallet addresses in clipboard text and replace it to redirect transactions, according to researchers with Symantec's Threat Intelligence Team.

    The first samples of the Windows malware appeared in January 2021 and began to accelerate in their spread the following month, the Symantec researchers wrote in a blog post this week. They also observed that there are several design similarities between Clipminer and KryptoCibule – another cryptomining trojan that, a few months before Clipminer hit the scene, was detected and written about by ESET analysts.

    Continue reading
  • Chinese-sponsored gang Gallium upgrades to sneaky PingPull RAT
    Broadens targets from telecoms to finance and government orgs

    The Gallium group, believed to be a Chinese state-sponsored team, is going on the warpath with an upgraded remote access trojan (RAT) that threat hunters say is difficult to detect.

    The deployment of this "PingPull" RAT comes as the gang is broadening the types of organizations in its sights from telecommunications companies to financial services firms and government entities across Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe and Africa, according to researchers with Palo Alto Networks' Unit 42 threat intelligence group.

    The backdoor, once in a compromised system, comes in three variants, each of which can communicate with the command-and-control (C2) system in one of three protocols: ICMP, HTTPS and raw TCP. All three PingPull variants have the same functionality, but each creates a custom string of code that it sends to the C2 server, which will use the unique string to identify the compromised system.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022