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Wednesday, 14 June 2017 08:30

Microsoft patches older Windows against NSA exploits

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Microsoft has issued patches for older versions of Windows against NSA exploits that were leaked by the Shadow Brokers back in April.

One of these exploits, known as EternalBlue, was used to build the ransomware known as WannaCry that exploded onto the scene in May, and was quelled by accident when a British researcher registered a domain that was mentioned within its code.

The three exploits that were patched this month for older systems like Windows XP, are known as EnglishmanDentist, EsteemAudit and ExplodingCan.

EnglishmanDentist can be used against Microsoft Exchange servers, EsteemAudit exploits vulnerabilities in the Windows remote desktop protocol, and ExplodingCan takes advantage of holes in Internet Information Server 6.0.

When WannaCry was at its height, Microsoft issued a notice that it had already patched supported versions of Windows against this and other vulnerabilities that had been leaked in April.

This was possible, it later emerged, because the NSA informed Microsoft about the leak of the exploits. Microsoft then held back on its monthly security updates in February, and issued updates the following month.

After WannaCry emerged, Microsoft issued patches for unsupported operating systems like XP to guard against being exploited by EternalBlue. As it turned out, most of the machines that were infected by WannaCry ran Windows 7.

In a blog post issued on Tuesday, Eric Doerr, general manager of the Microsoft Security Response Centre, made no mention of the NSA or Shadow Brokers, but wrote: "Today, as part of our regular Update Tuesday schedule, we have taken action to provide additional critical security updates to address vulnerabilities that are at heightened risk of exploitation due to past nation-state activity and disclosures.

"Some of the releases today are new, and some are for older platforms under custom support agreements, that we are making publicly available today. Customers with automatic updates enabled are protected and there is no additional action required. For customers managing updates, or those on older platforms, we encourage them to apply these updates as soon as possible."

A slew of other updates were also released as part of the company's regular monthly patching process.

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Sam Varghese

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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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