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Thursday, 14 September 2017 10:29

Microsoft patches Office flaw used to spread spyware

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Microsoft has issued a patch to fix a flaw in its Office suite that was being used to spread spyware known as FINSPY.

The flaw was discovered by security firm FireEye which co-ordinated disclosure with Microsoft.

The software giant revealed details of the flaw as part of its regular monthly updates on Tuesday, along with details of another 80-odd flaws in numerous software packages that it sells.

The flaw in question allowed the injection of arbitrary code in a Word document. Researchers from FireEye said they had analysed a document which the attackers used to download and run a Visual Basic script that contained PowerShell commands.

Researchers Genwei Jiang, Ben Read and Tom Bennett said that the document, titled Проект.doc, was probably aimed at Russian speakers.

The FINSPY malware, also known as FinFisher or WingBird, that was being distributed can be bought as part of a lawful intercept package.

"Based on this and previous use of FINSPY, we assess with moderate confidence that this malicious document was used by a nation-state to target a Russian-speaking entity for cyber espionage purposes," the trio said.

The flaw, categorised as CVE-2017-8759, is the second zero-day found by FireEye that distributes the FINSPY malware.

"These exposures demonstrate the significant resources available to 'lawful intercept' companies and their customers," the researchers said. "Furthermore, FINSPY has been sold to multiple clients, suggesting the vulnerability was being used against other targets."

The trio floated the possibility that the flaw was being used by additional actors. 

"While we have not found evidence of this, the zero day being used to distribute FINSPY in April 2017, CVE-2017-0199 was simultaneously being used by a financially motivated actor," they said. "If the actors behind FINSPY obtained this vulnerability  from the same source used previously, it is possible that source sold it to additional actors."


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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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