New vulnerabilities are continually emerging, but the best defense against attackers exploiting patched vulnerabilities is simple: keep software up to date. Timely patching is one of the most efficient and cost-effective steps an organization can take to minimize its exposure to cybersecurity threats.
On January 14, 2020, Microsoft released software fixes to address 49 vulnerabilities as part of their monthly Patch Tuesday announcement. Among the vulnerabilities patched were critical weaknesses in Windows CryptoAPI, Windows Remote Desktop Gateway (RD Gateway), and Windows Remote Desktop Client. An attacker could remotely exploit these vulnerabilities to decrypt, modify, or inject data on user connections:
- CryptoAPI spoofing vulnerability – CVE-2020-0601: This vulnerability affects all machines running 32- or 64-bit Windows 10 operating systems, including Windows Server versions 2016 and 2019. This vulnerability allows Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) certificate validation to bypass the trust store, enabling unwanted or malicious software to masquerade as authentically signed by a trusted or trustworthy organization. This could deceive users or thwart malware detection methods such as antivirus. Additionally, a maliciously crafted certificate could be issued for a hostname that did not authorize it, and a browser that relies on Windows CryptoAPI would not issue a warning, allowing an attacker to decrypt, modify, or inject data on user connections without detection.
- Windows RD Gateway and Windows Remote Desktop Client vulnerabilities – CVE-2020-0609, CVE-2020-0610, and CVE-2020-0611: These vulnerabilities affect Windows Server 2012 and newer. In addition, CVE-2020-0611 affects Windows 7 and newer. These vulnerabilities—in the Windows Remote Desktop Client and RD Gateway Server—allow for remote code execution, where arbitrary code could be run freely. The server vulnerabilities do not require authentication or user interaction and can be exploited by a specially crafted request. The client vulnerability can be exploited by convincing a user to connect to a malicious server.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is unaware of active exploitation of these vulnerabilities. However, because patches have been publicly released, the underlying vulnerabilities can be reverse-engineered to create exploits that target unpatched systems.
CISA strongly recommends organizations install these critical patches as soon as possible—prioritize patching by starting with mission critical systems, internet-facing systems, and networked servers. Organizations should then prioritize patching other affected information technology/operational technology (IT/OT) assets.