Microsoft released a security update to safeguard Windows OS users against a fast-moving malware threat like the WannaCry ransomware attacks of 2017. While this is nothing new, the company has chosen to include officially unsupported Windows XP, Windows 2003 as well. The security patches will also be sent out to the soon-to-be-discontinued Windows 7.
Microsoft has officially discontinued Windows XP and Windows 2003, and will soon end official support to Windows 7 on January 14, 2020. However, there are several thousand Windows OS users still running these obsolete operating systems. Moreover, the recently discovered security vulnerability is actually a “wormable” flaw. In other words, after successfully compromising devices, the virus can move and spread quickly to unpatched devices.
Microsoft has assured it has not yet observed any evidence of attacks against the dangerous security flaw. But it has still chosen to take action to protect Windows OS users from a serious and imminent threat. Speaking about the vulnerability and the evasive actions, Simon Pope, director of incident response for the Microsoft Security Response Center, said,
“While we have observed no exploitation of this vulnerability, it is highly likely that malicious actors will write an exploit for this vulnerability and incorporate it into their malware. This vulnerability is pre-authentication and requires no user interaction. In other words, the vulnerability is ‘wormable,’ meaning that any future malware that exploits this vulnerability could propagate from vulnerable computer to vulnerable computer in a similar way as the WannaCry malware spread across the globe in 2017. It is important that affected systems are patched as quickly as possible to prevent such a scenario from happening.”
It is interesting to note that the latest Windows OS, Windows 10 and Windows Server 2019, are immune to vulnerability. Incidentally, even the slightly older Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows Server 2016, Windows Server 2012 R2, or Windows Server 2012 are inherently protected. The vulnerability essentially targets the “Remote Desktop Services” or RDS component built into Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, and Windows Server 2008. A vulnerable variant of RDS is also present in Windows XP and Windows 2003.
The security vulnerability is officially called CVE-2019-0708. While Windows XP and 2003 users can find more information on another official Microsoft page, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2012 users can head to this page. The Knowledge Base or KB article pertaining to the flaw is KB4494441.