Latest Exploit Dump By Shadow Brokers Contains Easy-To-Use Windows Exploits, Most Already Patched By Microsoft
from the menu-driven-God-Mode dept
The Shadow Brokers — having failed to live up to half their name — released more NSA exploits last week when it became apparent no one was willing to purchase the exploits from them. This dump was far more interesting than previous releases, as it contained a large number of Windows exploits and — for some — a very handy, easy-to-use front end for malware deployment.
This dump probably ruined a few Easter weekends at Microsoft, but not nearly as many as was first presumed. While the exploits targeted older versions of Windows, they would have caused trouble for government and corporate networks still relying those versions. Those targeting unsupported versions are the most dangerous, as those holes will never be patched. They’re also the ones with the smallest user bases, so that mitigates the damage somewhat.
As Marcy Wheeler points out, the NSA had plenty of time to warn Microsoft about unpatched holes prior to the Shadow Brokers’ latest dump.
That’s a critical detail for the debate going on on Twitter and in chats about how shitty it was for SB to release these files on Good Friday, just before (or for those with generous vacation schedules, at the beginning of) a holiday weekend. While those trying to defend against the files and those trying to exploit them are racing against the clock and each other, it is not the case that the folks at NSA got no warning. NSA has had, at a minimum, 96 days of warning, knowing that SB could drop the files at any time.
The big question, of course, is whether NSA told Microsoft what the files targeted. Certainly, Microsoft had not fully responded to that warning, as hackers have already gotten a number of these files to work.
Unlike the CIA dump happening at Wikileaks, the NSA had a pretty good idea what was contained in the Shadow Brokers stash. Microsoft, however, says it was never contacted by the NSA or “any agency” about the exploits ahead of their release.
Despite this statement, the exploits appear to have already been patched by Microsoft.
Today, Microsoft triaged a large release of exploits made publicly available by Shadow Brokers. Understandingly, customers have expressed concerns around the risk this disclosure potentially creates. Our engineers have investigated the disclosed exploits, and most of the exploits are already patched.
The most interesting patch on the list is MS17-010, released March 14th. It patched several remote code execution holes in older Windows versions. These patches weren’t applied to test machines, resulting in the mistaken conclusion these vulnerabilities hadn’t been fixed.
But the patch notes say nothing about who disclosed the vulnerabilities, which makes it an anomaly. Microsoft’s denial, combined with its blank “acknowledgements” page, suggests the NSA itself warned the company about the vulnerabilities. It seems unlikely Shadow Brokers would have given Microsoft a heads up, as it hadn’t warned any other affected vendor up to this point.
If so, the Vulnerabilities Equity Process sort of works. I mean, the NSA held onto these as long as it could, but finally informed the affected party when it became apparent it might have to share its “exclusive” exploits with the rest of the world. Better late than never, and certainly better when delivered ahead of a very public disclosure.
What’s in the latest dump is now mostly useless. But not completely useless. There are still plenty of machines running older Microsoft software that are still vulnerable, many of them possessed by corporations and government agencies. If the software is old enough, the security holes are permanent.
Not that those with the latest and greatest should rest easy. The NSA hasn’t stopped producing and purchasing exploits. The SB stash was a few years old. Current Microsoft software remains under attack from state intelligence agencies and criminals. But this dump of tools shows just how powerful the NSA’s toolkit is — one made even more dangerous by its apparent ease of use. It makes exploit delivery possible for anyone, not just those with a very specific skillset.