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Vulnerabilities / Threats

8/14/2019
05:10 PM
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Trend Micro Patches Privilege Escalation Bug in its Password Manager

Organizations should update to latest build as soon as possible, security vendor says.

Trend Micro has patched a couple of security flaws in its Password Manager credential management product that gave attackers a way to escalate privileges and gain persistence on systems running the software.

In a security advisory Wednesday, the security vendor described the issue as involving two DLL hijacking vulnerabilities in the company's stand-alone version of the product and the version that comes integrated with the latest version of its anti-malware suite.

One of the now-patched vulnerabilities (CVE-2019-14684) would have allowed an attacker to load an arbitrary file with malicious code into the password manager. The other separate but similar vulnerability (CVE-2019-14687), also allowed attackers to load malicious code but using a different DLL.

The flaws existed in Trend Micro's 2019 versions of Password Manager, Maximum Security, and Premium Security products for Windows computers. The security vendor has issued a patch that is currently available to users who have signed up for automatic updates. Others can get the patch by manually updating their software to the latest build.

"Exploiting these types of vulnerabilities require that an attacker has access (physical or remote) to a vulnerable machine," Trend Micro said. Even though an exploit would likely require several specific conditions to exist, organizations should still upgrade to the latest build as soon as possible, the company advised.

Attractive to Attackers

Peleg Hadar, security researcher at SafeBreach Labs, the security firm that originally discovered and reported the vulnerabilities, says certain features in Trend Micro's Password Manager make it interesting for attackers.

For instance, the product runs as the most privileged user account (NT Authority\System) on Windows systems, thereby making it attractive to attackers seeking to escalate privileges on an infected system.

The product also uses a Trend Micro-signed executable. Hackers that find a way to execute code within this signed process have a way to potentially bypass whitelisting controls. Trend Micro's Password Manager service starts automatically at boot time - which benefits attackers looking for a way to maintain persistence on a system, he says.

The vulnerabilities that SafeBreach discovered would in certain situations have allowed an attacker to drop a malicious file with malicious code on a certain directory in the product, Hadar says. The code would be loaded and executed while signed as an executable under the scope of the Trend Micro password manager, he says. An attacker would have the ability to run under the highest privileges that the operating systems supports.

"This will provide the attacker the ability to do multiple malicious operations on the computer such as stealing sensitive data," Hadar says. "The attacker will also be able to likely evade security products because it's running under a process which is signed by Trend Micro." In the right conditions, an attacker would only need the lowest privilege in order to write a malicious file to a directory, he adds.

Vulnerable Password Managers

Reports of vulnerabilities in security products—including password managers—are certainly not new.

Earlier this year Independent Security Evaluators (ISE), a consulting firm based in Baltimore released a report summarizing the findings from its analysis of popular password managers for Windows systems. The five products tested were Dashlane, KeePass, LastPass, 1Password 7, and 1Password 4.

The research turned up serious security issues in every single product including in some cases those that allowed credentials—even the master password—to be easily extracted from a locked password manager.

Even so, many security researchers advocate the use of password managers because it helps users secure credentials far more effectively than if they had not been using one. Even the researchers from ISE who uncovered the issue concluded that a password manager is generally a good thing.

"Aside from being an administrative tool to allow users to categorize and better manage their credentials, password managers guide users to avoid bad password practices such as using weak passwords, common passwords, generic passwords, and password reuse," the researchers said.

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Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio

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