Microsoft Aims to Harden Windows Update to Fight "Flame"
June 6, 2012 2:24 PM
comment(s) - last by
Fighting copycats variants of a piece of escaped government malware is no easy task
In the Middle East, information technology experts are grappling with a very persistent piece of malware dubbed Flame. Flame is slightly older than the much-discussed Stuxnet worm. Stuxnet is a researcher-named escaped variant of "The Bug", a series of worms used in
an elaborate U.S. and Israeli cyber-sabotage program
code-named "Olympics Games". That effort was aimed (successfully) at
destroying Iranian nuclear weapons fuel enrichment centrifuges
I. Flame Forces Patch
Likewise, Flame is suspected to be written by the U.S. to target Iranian nuclear efforts or possibly Al Qaeda. However, its goals appeared to be aimed at reconnaissance rather than sabotage.
Regardless of the purpose, it is less subtle than "The Bug" variants, and while confined largely to the Middle East has been a top cleanup priority for Microsoft Corp. (
Rooting out the Flame worm is a top priority for Microsoft. [Image Source: Krishnan Vasuvedan]
Microsoft Security Response Center
blog, Microsoft laid out its plans to slay Flame and harden its
Windows Update (WU) process
Microsoft reports that Flame spread itself by using cryptography weaknesses in an older version of Microsoft's certification process. That allowed the software to pose as trusted signed software from Microsoft and install without warning the user.
Flame has narrowly targeted the Middle East, particularly Iran. [Image Source: Kapersky Labs]
In its blog, Microsoft warns, "As many reports assert, Flame has been used in highly sophisticated and targeted attacks and, as a result, the vast majority of customers are not at risk.... That said, our investigation has discovered some techniques used by this malware that could also be leveraged by less sophisticated attackers to launch more widespread attacks."
The blog goes on to reveal the company's current fix to the problem, outlining:
First, today we released a
outlining steps our customers can take to block software signed by these unauthorized certificates.
• Second, we released an update that automatically takes this step for our customers.
• Third, the Terminal Server Licensing Service no longer issues certificates that allow code to be signed.
II. Malicious Updates are a Harder Fix
But Flame illustrated deeper underlying security issues for Windows, in that Microsoft feared that copycats could tamper with the Windows Update process to prevent its potential removal. Some malware authors have been finding ways to literally "turn off" Windows Update, preventing fixes and patches from reach affected machines. And as Microsoft notes in its blog update, sophisticated attackers could even leverage Windows Update to deliver malware masquerading as signed Microsoft updates.
Malware writers could potentially disguise their malfeasant wares as Windows Updates.
The company writes that it plans on "hardening" WU, commenting:
To increase protection for customers, the next action of our mitigation strategy is to further harden Windows Update as a defense-in-depth precaution. We will begin this update following broad adoption of Security Advisory 2718704 in order not to interfere with that update’s worldwide deployment. We will provide more information on the timing of the additional hardening to Windows Update in the near future.
In other words, while sophisticated state-written malware like Flame and Stuxnet may have created headaches, both diplomatically and technologically, they served as a "full disclosure" warning of sorts to Microsoft. These attacks have given it the knowledge and motivation to patch some gaping holes that might have otherwise gone unnoticed and quietly exploited for some time -- or at least that's the glass half-full way of looking at the situation.
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
RE: School for Jason Mick ?
6/7/2012 2:02:02 AM
We've long inferred that editorial content and integrity isn't a real priority here, but at least we now have written confirmation that you guys don't care about the technical quality of writing either. Thanks
RE: School for Jason Mick ?
6/7/2012 2:25:06 PM
"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007
NYT: President Obama Authorized Stuxnet Attack on Iran
June 1, 2012, 1:54 PM
Windows 8 Looks to Ditch the "Zombie" Security Restarts of Windows 7
November 15, 2011, 4:38 PM
Israel Suspected in Worm Sabotage of Iran's First Nuclear Plant
September 27, 2010, 10:45 AM
Quick Note: Samsung's Request to Dismiss Microsoft Lawsuit is Rejected
November 20, 2014, 12:53 PM
Amazon Offers "The Washington Post" Free for Six Months to Kindle Fire Owners
November 20, 2014, 7:41 AM
Apple Watch Screen Resolution, App Limitations are Laid Bare by Developer Kit
November 19, 2014, 11:31 PM
Apple Replaces “FREE” Label with “GET” on App Downloads in iTunes App Store
November 19, 2014, 5:38 PM
Nokia Lumia 635 LTE Windows Phone is Only $40 at Best Buy on Black Friday
November 18, 2014, 11:59 AM
Samsung to Slash Number of Smartphone Models by 30 Percent in 2015, Reduce Costs
November 18, 2014, 10:00 AM
Most Popular Articles
Austrian Pilots Call Surface 3 Pro Flight Bag a "Dream Come True"
November 14, 2014, 2:00 PM
U.S. Marshals Using Fake, Airplane-based Cell Towers to Scan Cell Phones of Americans
November 14, 2014, 9:05 AM
Wal-Mart: Miss Thanksgiving, Get Xbox One + Master Chief Collection for $299
November 17, 2014, 9:40 PM
Nokia Explores Two Paths Back to the Smartphone Market
November 14, 2014, 9:05 PM
Microsoft: All* Lumias Will Get Windows 10; Adds Real-Time Battery Live Tile
November 13, 2014, 6:32 PM
Latest Blog Posts
Costco Gives Employees Thanksgiving Off; Wal-Mart Leads "Black Thursday" Charge
Oct 29, 2014, 9:57 PM
"Bear Selfies" Fad Could Turn Deadly, Warn Nevada Wildlife Officials
Oct 28, 2014, 12:00 PM
The Surface Mini That Was Never Released Gets "Hands On" Treatment
Sep 26, 2014, 8:22 AM
ISIS Imposes Ban on Teaching Evolution in Iraq
Sep 17, 2014, 5:22 PM
Space Terrorism is a Looming Threat For the United States
Apr 23, 2014, 7:47 PM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information