NSA Bank System Tracking Revealed in Shadow Brokers' Zero-Day List

NEWS ANALYSIS: The group Shadow Brokers revealed a list of zero-day vulnerabilities for Microsoft Windows that that had been patched or were soon to be fixed. But the list contained hints that the NSA was tracking an important international banking service.

Word Flaw Cyber-Spy

When the hacker group Shadow Brokers released its latest list of Windows vulnerabilities last week, much of the security community was aghast. The new leaks listed a series of hacking tools aimed at those Windows vulnerabilities along with tools aimed at other services and operating systems, ostensibly stolen from the National Security Agency several months ago.

The leaks appeared to be so serious that some security researchers were calling it a Windows apocalypse. Then on April 14, Microsoft spoiled all that fun by pointing out that the vulnerabilities that everyone was all atwitter over had actually been patched a month earlier. This meant that if you were using a machine that had been patched, your machine shouldn't be vulnerable any more.

Microsoft’s Phillip Misner, Principal Security Group Manager for the Microsoft Security Response Center explained in his blog what was going on. “Most of the exploits that were disclosed fall into vulnerabilities that are already patched in our supported products,” he said. Misner provided a chart of the exploits and of the updates that fixed them.

Code Name

Solution

EternalBlue

Addressed by MS17-010

EmeraldThread

Addressed by MS10-061

EternalChampion

Addressed by CVE-2017-0146 & CVE-2017-0147

“ErraticGopher”

Addressed prior to the release of Windows Vista

EsikmoRoll

Addressed by MS14-068

EternalRomance

Addressed by MS17-010

EducatedScholar

Addressed by MS09-050

EternalSynergy

Addressed by MS17-010

EclipsedWing

Addressed by MS08-067

It’s worth noting that not only was the information from Shadow Brokers not an apocalypse, some of the vulnerabilities were nearly a decade old. One was fixed before the days of Windows Vista. The most recent fix was sent out in March, 2017, about a month before the revelations.

Originally Shadow Brokers tried to auction the vulnerabilities and the tools that were used to exploit them, but there were no takers. At the time it was clear that many of those tools were already known, but on further examination, it seems that they simply were old.

But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any risk. While Windows computers that run up to date versions of Windows aren’t at risk for these exploits, there are a lot of machines that are still running Windows XP and are no longer supported by Microsoft, and these machines are vulnerable.

In addition, enterprise implementations of Windows 7 and Windows 10 are frequently not up to date because the IT departments delay deployments of security patches for as long as several months to confirm that any updates don’t break anything. Those machines may be vulnerable and will be highly attractive to cyber-attackers.

This means that enterprise IT departments should identify the updates from Microsoft that contain the fixes in the list and apply them as soon as possible. While it pays to be careful when making changes to mission-critical software, it doesn’t pay when you know those fixes are related to real attacks.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...