Kaspersky Lab and Microsoft Cooperate in Closing New Zero-Day Vulnerability Exploited by Stuxnet

16 Sep 2010
Virus News

Kaspersky Lab has announced it has cooperated with Microsoft in successfully closing a serious vulnerability in Microsoft Windows. The vulnerability was classified as being of the 'zero-day' type when it was detected, and has been used by the notorious Stuxnet worm, Worm.Win32.Stuxnet.

Since it first emerged in July 2010, IT security specialists have watched Worm.Win32.Stuxnet closely. The virus was designed as an industrial espionage tool to gain access to the Siemens WinCC operating system, which is responsible for data collection and monitoring production. As a result of the serious nature of the virus, Kaspersky Lab's experts have gone to great lengths to research Stuxnet's capabilities and have discovered that, in addition to the vulnerability when processing LNK and PIF files that was detected originally, it also uses four other vulnerabilities in Windows.

One such example is MS08-067, which was also used by the infamous Kido (Conficker) worm in early 2009. The other three vulnerabilities were previously unknown and exist in the current versions of Windows.

Along with MS08-067, Stuxnet also uses a vulnerability in the Windows Print Spooler to propagate. It uses this weakness to send malicious code to a remote computer where it is then executed. By virtue of the features of this vulnerability, the infection can spread to computers using a printer or through shared access to one. Having infected a computer connected to a network, Stuxnet then attempts to spread to other computers.

As soon as Kaspersky Lab's experts detected this vulnerability, they reported it to Microsoft. Microsoft then analysed it themselves and agreed with Kaspersky Lab's findings. The vulnerability was classified as a Print Spooler Service Impersonation Vulnerability and was rated as 'critical'. Microsoft immediately started working to close the loophole and subsequently released the MS10-061 patch on 14 September, 2010.

Kaspersky Lab's experts detected yet another zero-day vulnerability in the Stuxnet code. It was classified as an 'Elevation of Privilege' (EoP) vulnerability which could be exploited by the worm to gain full control over the infected computer. A similar EoP-class vulnerability was detected by Microsoft's experts. Both will be corrected in future security updates for Windows operating systems.

Alexander Gostev, Chief Security Expert at Kaspersky Lab, played an active role in identifying the new threat and cooperated closely with Microsoft to resolve the issue. Alexander later published an informative blogpost on the topic. The data collected while analysing Stuxnet, including the details of how the vulnerabilities can be exploited, will be presented at the Virus Bulletin conference in Canada in September 2010.

"Stuxnet was the first malware program to simultaneously exploit as many as four vulnerabilities," said Alexander Gostev. "This makes Stuxnet truly unique: it is the first threat we have encountered that contains this many surprises in a single package. Before we detected this new vulnerability, it would have been worth a fortune to hackers. Given Stuxnet also uses Realtek and Jmicron digital certificates – and remember too that it was ultimately designed to steal the data stored in Simatic WinCC SCADA – all of this makes this threat truly unprecedented. It has to be said, the malware writers have demonstrated quite remarkable programming skills."

All Kaspersky Lab's products are capable of successfully detecting and neutralising Worm.Win32.Stuxnet.