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Monthly Cyber Vulnerability Bulletin – November 2021

Introduction

During the past month, the following notable high-severity vulnerabilities have been observed. It is recommended that those using affected products take immediate action to assess their exposure and patch and/or remediate as necessary.

  • CVE-2021-41379 – Windows Installer Elevation of Privilege Vulnerability
  • CVE-2021-42321 – Microsoft Exchange Server Remote Code Execution Vulnerability
  • CVE-2021-42292 – Microsoft Excel Security Feature Bypass Vulnerability

 

CVE-2021-41379 – Windows Installer Elevation of Privilege

Introduction

A new vulnerability was found in Windows Installer allowing elevation-of-privilege (EoP). Exploiting this vulnerability which received a CVSS score of 7.8, will be possible when a threat actor already has gained access to the targeted Windows machine with Microsoft Edge installed. Although Microsoft claims the issue was fixed on November’s patch Tuesday, Abdelhamid Naceri, the researcher that found this vulnerability, claims that the fix provided for this issue does not work properly and the published proof-of-concept (POC)  still works on patched Windows 10, 11 and Server 2022.

Impact

The specific flaw exists within the Windows Installer service. By creating a junction, an attacker can abuse the service to delete a file or directory. A threat actor looking for an elevation of privileges can utilize this vulnerability and execute an arbitrary code with SYSTEM privileges.

The proof-of-concept (POC) technique that is implied is an overwrite of Microsoft Edge elevation service “Discretionary Access Control List” (DACL) and copy desired executable to the service location, then executes it to gain elevated privileges.

Given the fact that the POC is efficient and works properly with minimal effort, it is highly likely to see many threat actors utilizing this POC as a part of their campaigns. Although a threat actor still needs to have local access to the targeted Windows machine, It still might be a popular weapon as part of the deployment process of a certain malware, taking part in a bigger campaign.

While Microsoft didn’t address the issue rather the POC exploits the patched versions or if another fixed should be expected, Cyberint has already found a high number of malwares that are weaponized with the exploit mechanism.

Recommendations

  • A naïve detection approach for exploitation of this zero-day is via Application installation logs. Look out for the application name “test pkg” used in the POC. In a case in which a threat actor uses the POC “as is” this might be a good indication, for example:

    norm_id=WinServer label=Application label=Install application="test pkg"

  • According to Naceri, the best workaround available is to wait for Microsoft’s patch. In the meantime, we recommend that enterprise defenders monitor for any exploitation attempt of this elevation of privileges zero-day.
  • Until Microsoft delivers a fix, Snort rules were released by Cisco to detect attacks targeting this vulnerability going by the SIDs:
    • 58635
    • 58636

 

CVE-2021-42321 – Microsoft Exchange Server Remote Code Execution

Introduction

Released on November 9th, 2021, and with CVSS 8.8, a new Remote Code Execution (RCE) vulnerability was discovered in Microsoft Exchange 2019 and 2016 servers, including exchange hybrid mode users.

A proof-of-concept (POC) was published, and the most popular is the one a security researcher name “Janggggg” has released.

This exploit enables authenticated threat actors to execute code remotely on vulnerable servers.

Microsoft’s November 2021 Patch Tuesday addresses this issue.

Impact

Remote code execution vulnerabilities might have severe consequences, and this case is not different. As mentioned, successful exploitation will grant a threat actor the ability to set up for an attack on an organization network without local access to the machine itself.

The overall flow of the attack according to the POC published goes through 4 different POST Requests, all to the /ews/exchange.asmx URL, while using a User-Agent ExchangeServicesClient/15.01.2308.008.

Microsoft Exchange servers, allowing certain data to be stored in the BinaryData section of a UserConfiguration (Figure 1) on a directory /ews within the server. When a UserConfiguration is set with a payload in the BinaryData, threat actor can perform a POST request for the ClientAccessToken, leading to a deserialization bug that results in the execution of the payload stored in the BinaryData.

Although this exploit is fairly simple to exploit, especially when POC is already provided, it seems that threat actor will need to be authenticated, making this exploit less probable and demands compromised credentials to be leaked prior.

While Microsoft claims they are aware of ‘limited targeted attacks’ using this vulnerability, They have also published a fix is already available and urges everyone using the affected products to update as soon as possible.

Uploaded payload in the BinaryData in the POST request to the Exchange server.
Figure 1: Uploaded payload in the BinaryData in the POST request to the Exchange server.

Recommendations

  • Organizations utilizing vulnerable versions of Microsoft Exchange 2016, 2019 including exchange hybrid mode users, advised to update to the fixed versions as detailed in the Microsoft security advisory as soon as possible.
  • As mentioned, for this vulnerability exploitation to go through, a threat actor must get user credentials prior. Employee awareness when it comes to enterprise credentials use unrelated to professional platforms is highly important in this case.
  • It is also recommended to monitor the Event Log on each or suspicious servers for events that might indicate if an attack already accrued – rather if it was successful or not. According to our findings, the event log request should include the “MSExchange Common” as Application Source and the ErrorType Object should be “BinaryFormatter.Deserialize”.
  • Another solution that might help mitigate incoming attack in a case in which an update was not installed is monitoring on connections contain 4 POST requests containing the /ews/exchange.asmx URL and the ExchangeServicesClient/15.01.2308.008 User-Agent in a relatively short time coming from a remote host. Although this solution might cause a number of false positives.

 

CVE-2021-42292 – Microsoft Excel Security Feature Bypass

Introduction

A new critical vulnerability with CVSS score of 8.4 was found in:

  1. Microsoft Office:
    • 2013
    • 2013 RT
    • 2016
    • 2019 – Mac included
    • LTSC 2021 – Mac included
  2. Microsoft Excel:
    • 2013
    • 2013 RT Servuce Pack 1
    • 2016
  3. Microsoft 365 for Enterprise (32 and 64 bit versions)

The vulnerability exists due to an input validation bug when processing Excel files.

Threat actor that is looking to utilize this vulnerability should create a specially crafted Excel file and have the victim open it and execute arbitrary code on the system.

Impact

The vulnerability was apparently discovered by Microsoft’s Security Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC). While the issue was addressed on Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday on the 9th of November, There are reports that suggest that the vulnerability is being exploited in the wild.

In order for the attack to go through, it is expected that a threat actor looking to utilize this attack should form a malspam campaign or apply other social engineering technique to lure a victim to open a weaponized document that exploiting the bypass.

Once successful, likely due to loading bug, the threat actor is able to execute code, thus compromising the victim’s machine.

As far is putting this scenario in a proper place as a campaign phase, it seems that this vulnerability will be a part of delivery phase of other malwares such as Trojans, RATs and ransomwares.

Recommendations

  • Organizations utilizing vulnerable versions of Microsoft products, advised to update to the fixed versions as detailed in the Microsoft security advisory as soon as possible.
  • As mentioned, for this vulnerability exploitation to go through, a threat actor must lure a user to open a weaponized document that exploits this vulnerability. Employee awareness when it comes to enterprise malspam campaigns and the importance of ‘know who to trust’ is highly important in this case.
  • There is currently an available tool that identifies if if the systems it runs on it exploitable for this vulnerability

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