People Aren’t Patching for the BlueKeep Windows Exploit, and Even the NSA Is Worried

 

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Microsoft has tried to leave Windows XP in the dust, but it just can’t get away. The company recently discovered a bug in older versions of Windows so severe that it decided to go back and patch XP, along with several other ancient versions of the OS. People aren’t updating fast enough, though. Now even the NSA is getting worried that the so-called BlueKeep flaw could result in a dangerous worm that spreads across the globe, wreaking havoc on unprotected computers.

Before it was dubbed BlueKeep, Microsoft talked about the bug in a security bulletin on its blog. At the time, Microsoft chose not to disclose too much about the vulnerability, which exists in the remote desktop module of Windows. Essentially, the operating system doesn’t correctly authenticate RDP (remote desktop protocol) requests. As a result, an attacker can run arbitrary code, steal data, and spy on users.

There’s some good news, though. Windows 8 and newer platforms don’t have the vulnerability, and Microsoft can push updates to Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Server 2008 via Windows Update. The problem is Windows XP and Serve 2003. These systems are no longer supported, so the only way to get the patch is to install it manually. People aren’t doing that, so the National Security Agency is getting involved.

According to the NSA advisory, millions of machines are potentially vulnerable. These are mostly XP and Server 2003 boxes running essential functions in businesses and industrial facilities where newer versions of Windows simply won’t work. The vulnerability is “wormable,” meaning it could spread between vulnerable systems like the WannaCry malware. The NSA is concerned that online criminals could use BlueKeep to distribute ransomware or conduct denial of service (DoS) attacks on critical infrastructure.

 

Microsoft’s Simon Pope, who authored the original advisory, also notes that systems are not being patched quickly enough. According to Pope, the likelihood of a worm is still high because of all the vulnerable systems. Malware based on BlueKeep is probably inevitable, but we have to hope that enough old systems either break down or get patched before that happens to contain the fallout.

Anyone in charge of old systems connected to the internet should head over to Microsoft’s security center to get the updates. The patches are tiny and will be easy to deploy — people just have to care enough to do it.

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