Fresh Internet Explorer Zero-Day Used In Targeted Attacks

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‘Operation Clandestine Fox’ attacks take advantage of a fresh Internet Explorer vulnerability

An unpatched, previously-unknown Internet Explorer vulnerability has been exploited in targeted attacks, Microsoft has warned.

The groups behind the attacks have exploited browser zero-day flaws in the past, according to security firm FireEye. They used the Internet Explorer “use-after-free vulnerability”, which took advantage of problems when memory was freed to allow for external execution of code, alongside an Adobe Flash exploit to bypass Windows protections.

Clandestine Fox bites Internet Explorer

On-line Piracy Key © bloomua - Fotolia“They are extremely proficient at lateral movement and are difficult to track, as they typically do not reuse command and control infrastructure,” FireEye warned in a blog post on the attacks it named “Operation Clandestine Fox”.

All versions of Internet Explorer, from 6 to 11, are affected and administrators have been urged to take action. Microsoft said Enhanced Protected Mode, on by default in Internet Explorer 10 and Internet Explorer 11, as well as Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) 4.1 and EMET 5.0 Technical Preview should help mitigate the threat.

“We also encourage you to follow the “Protect Your Computer” guidance of enabling a firewall, applying all software updates and installing anti-virus and anti-spyware software,” Microsoft said in a blog post.

“Additionally, we encourage everyone to exercise caution when visiting websites and avoid clicking suspicious links, or opening email messages from unfamiliar senders.”

Experts are concerned about Windows XP users, given the recent end of support for the operating system. Once Microsoft does push out a patch, it won’t cover those XP users who haven’t acquired some kind of extended support.

“Don’t say you weren’t warned. Microsoft told the world it would stop releasing XP security updates a full seven years ago,” said security blogger Graham Cluley.

“Alternatively, you could consider using an alternative web browser like Chrome, Firefox, Opera, etc… That’s not to say that these Internet Explorer competitors don’t, from time to time, have security issues of their own, of course, but while you’re waiting for a proper fix from Microsoft it might be a course of action worth considering.”

It was only in February that Microsoft warned of another zero-day user-after-free vulnerability in Internet Explorer.

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