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Microsoft douses Flame

Redmond smothers fake certificates fingering it as the spark

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Microsoft has noticed Flame, the malware supposedly burning up the middle east and spreading like wildfire to the rest of the world, and has taken steps to stop it before becoming an uncontrollable conflagration.

Redmond's chief concern, according to Mike Reavey, a senior director of the Microsoft Trustworthy Computing effort, is that Flame pretends it's a legitimate piece of Redmond-written code. He uses this blog post to describe how Flame pulls that off:

“We have discovered through our analysis that some components of the malware have been signed by certificates that allow software to appear as if it was produced by Microsoft. We identified that an older cryptography algorithm could be exploited and then be used to sign code as if it originated from Microsoft. Specifically, our Terminal Server Licensing Service, which allowed customers to authorize Remote Desktop services in their enterprise, used that older algorithm and provided certificates with the ability to sign code, thus permitting code to be signed as if it came from Microsoft.”

The company also feels the unsigned certificates could be used to “spoof content, perform phishing attacks, or perform man-in-the-middle attacks” on all versions of Windows.

That outcome, and the idea that Microsoft is behind Flame, are obviously not things Redmond wishes to spread widely, so it has tweaked the Terminal Server Licensing Service so it “no longer issues certificates that allow code to be signed.”

There's also a new security advisory, lucky number 2718704, that starves Flame of oxygen before it can seriously singe your Windows setup. In what may well be the non-surprise of the year, Redmond suggests you apply the patch ASAP, lest you go up in smoke. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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