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Last week, the NSA published an advisory urging Microsoft Windows administrators and users to update their older Windows systems to protect against the BlueKeep vulnerability. This vulnerability was first noted by UK National Cyber Security Centre and reported by Microsoft on 14 May 2019.

On May 30, Microsoft wrote a security notice to its users to update their systems as “some older versions of Windows” could be vulnerable to cyber-attacks. On May 31, MalwareTech posted a detailed analysis of the BlueKeep vulnerability.

“Microsoft has warned that this flaw is potentially “wormable,” meaning it could spread without user interaction across the internet. We have seen devastating computer worms inflict damage on unpatched systems with wide-ranging impact, and are seeking to motivate increased protections against this flaw,” the advisory states.

BlueKeep(CVE-2019-0708) is a vulnerability in the Remote Desktop (RDP) protocol. It is present in Windows 7, Windows XP, Server 2003 and 2008, and although Microsoft has issued a patch, potentially millions of machines are still vulnerable.

“This is the type of vulnerability that malicious cyber actors frequently exploit through the use of software code that specifically targets the vulnerability”, the advisory explains.

NSA is concerned that malicious cyber actors will use the vulnerability in ransomware and exploit kits containing other known exploits, increasing capabilities against other unpatched systems.

They have also suggested some additional measures that can be taken:

  • Block TCP Port 3389 at your firewalls, especially any perimeter firewalls exposed to the internet. This port is used in RDP protocol and will block attempts to establish a connection.
  • Enable Network Level Authentication. This security improvement requires attackers to have valid credentials to perform remote code authentication.
  • Disable remote Desktop Services if they are not required. Disabling unused and unneeded services helps reduce exposure to security vulnerabilities overall and is a best practice even without the BlueKeep threat.

Why has the NSA urged users and admins to update? Ian Thornton-Trump, head of security at AmTrust International told Forbes, “I suspect that they may have classified information about actor(s) who might target critical infrastructure with this exploit that critical infrastructure is largely made up of the XP, 2K3 family.”

NSA had also created a very similar EternalBlue exploit which was recently used to hold the city of Baltimore’s computer systems for ransom. The NSA developed the EternalBlue attack software for its own use but lost control of it when it was stolen by hackers in 2017.

BlueKeep is similar to EternalBlue that Microsoft compared the two of them in its warning to users about the vulnerability.

“It only takes one vulnerable computer connected to the internet to provide a potential gateway into these corporate networks, where advanced malware could spread, infecting computers across the enterprise,” Microsoft wrote in its security notice to customers.

Microsoft also compared the risks to those of the WannaCry virus, which infected hundreds of thousands of computers around the world in 2017 and caused billions of dollars worth of damage.

NSA said patching against BlueKeep is “critical not just for NSA’s protection of national security systems but for all networks.”

To know more about this news in detail, head over to Microsoft’s official notice.

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