MS12-020 RDP Exploit Code In The Wild

Outsmart Malicious Hackers


The big news that erupted towards the end of last week was about the latest pretty serious vulnerability patched quietly by Microsoft, AKA MS12-020 (which plenty of people are using to bait skiddies into downloading dodgy code).

The flaw is in the RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) service – which is a pretty bad service to have a flaw in as it’s generally exposed over the Internet – as that’s the whole point of it (remote access huhu).

It reminds me of the predecessor to RDP – TS (Terminal Services) – who remembers that one? And TSGrinder of course..

Luigi Auriemma, the researcher who discovered a recently patched critical vulnerability in Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), published a proof-of-concept exploit for it after a separate working exploit, which he said possibly originated from Microsoft, was leaked online on Friday.

Identified as CVE-2012-0002 and patched by Microsoft on Tuesday, the critical vulnerability can be exploited remotely to execute arbitrary code on systems that accept RDP connections.

Security experts have expressed concern because exploiting this vulnerability does not require authentication, which means that it can be used to create a computer worm.

However, the fact that RDP is disabled by default on Windows workstations limits the number of potential targets, so we shouldn’t worry about the next Conficker, said Carsten Eiram, chief security specialist at Danish vulnerability research firm Secunia.

Even so, the vulnerability still presents an interest for attackers because the RDP service is commonly used in enterprise environments and is usually accessible through firewalls.

“This is an attractive vulnerability from an exploitation standpoint and various parties are spending significant resources on developing reliable exploits for this,” Eiram said.

The upside? RDP is disabled by default, and most home users wouldn’t even know what it is. So I think we are pretty safe from some kind of mass infection worm type malware spawning from this vulnerability. Also, right now only the PoC code is out there, not an actual working exploit – that keeps us safe from the people dealing with low hanging fruit.

The downside? A LOT of businesses use RDP for support, desktop management and so on – and it’s quite often exposed to the Internet facing interfaces. Not a good idea, but since when did corporates make smart security decisions? Plus I don’t think it will take a massive amount of time for someone nefarious character to convert the PoC into a working exploit.


Creating a working exploit for the CVE-2012-0002 vulnerability is not trivial, Microsoft security engineers Suha Can and Jonathan Ness said in a blog post on Tuesday. “We would be surprised to see one developed in the next few days. However, we expect to see working exploit code developed within the next 30 days.”

However, an exploit appeared earlier Friday on a Chinese file hosting website, and its creator is most likely Microsoft itself, Auriemma said. “The executable PoC [proof-of-concept exploit] was compiled in November 2011 and contains some debugging strings like MSRC11678, which is a clear reference to the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC).”

Furthermore, the exploit sends a special packet that is identical to the one the researcher included in his report to ZDI (Zero Day Initiative), a program that pays researchers for vulnerability reports and later shares the details with the affected vendors. Auriemma is sure it’s the same packet because it contains unique elements that he added to it.

The researcher believes that Microsoft created the exploit for internal testing and then shared it with other security vendors through its Microsoft Active Protections Program (MAPP) to enable them to create attack and malware signatures.

The file might have been leaked by one of those companies or by a Microsoft employee, either directly or indirectly, Auriemma said. There is also the possibility of a hacker stealing it from Microsoft, but that’s unlikely, he added.

It seems it was the same PoC code that was originally submitted to Microsoft, as confirmed by a Microsoft representative in a blog post here:

Proof-of-Concept Code available for MS12-020

The details of the proof-of-concept code appear to match the vulnerability information shared with Microsoft Active Protections Program (MAPP) partners. Microsoft is actively investigating the disclosure of these details and will take the necessary actions to protect customers and ensure that confidential information we share is protected pursuant to our contracts and program requirements.

So much for trusted partners eh?

Source: Network World

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