Home Security Microsoft claims Shadow Brokers' NSA exploits fixed in March updates

Microsoft claims Shadow Brokers' NSA exploits fixed in March updates

Reacting to the release of Windows exploits by the hacker group Shadow Brokers, Microsoft has issued a statement that its March patches fixed all critical vulnerabilities that affect currently supported products.

The company did not specify how it had come to know of these vulnerabilities. It is common for those who provide knowledge of critical bugs to be acknowledged in security bulletins.

March was the last month for which such bulletins were issued in the same style as they have been for more than a decade; from this month, Microsoft changed the style of issuing details of its monthly security updates.

On Friday, the Shadow Brokers released a number of what it said were NSA exploits for many versions of Windows and also details of what were said to be NSA intrusions into the SWIFT banking system.

The statement, issued by Phillip Misner, principal security group manager at the Microsoft Security Group Manager, said most of the Shadow Brokers exploits in supported products had been fixed as depicted in the table below.

ms fixed

But three exploits — going by the names EnglishmanDentist, EsteemAudit, and ExplodingCan — were not reproducible in supported products, Misner said. Hence they had not been patched.

This meant that "customers running Windows 7 and more recent versions of Windows or Exchange 2010 and newer versions of Exchange are not at risk. Customers still running prior versions of these products are encouraged to upgrade to a supported offering".

While home and small business users, who generally patch as soon as possible, may be protected against these exploits, bigger businesses generally take a while to patch because they have extensive testing to be done, and may still be vulnerable. Two months is generally about the standard time taken for testing by bigger firms before patching.

The Microsoft statement has led to security researchers speculating how the company came to be aware of these exploits and whether the NSA was the informant. There has also been speculation that Microsoft may have paid the Shadow Brokers to obtain knowledge of the exploits.

The abrupt cancellation of security updates in February is suspected of being linked to Microsoft's becoming aware of these exploits, with the theory being that the issue of patches was delayed until March to ensure that all the exploits against supported products were fixed.

Security researchers, who had claimed that the release of the exploits created a dangerous situation for Windows users, said they had tested without the patches from March, as there was no indication that these patches had fixed the Shadow Brokers' exploits.


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.