CVE-2020-1472, a privilege elevation vulnerability in the Netlogon Remote Protocol (MS-NRPC) for which Microsoft released a patch in August, has just become a huge liability for organizations that are struggling with timely patching.
Secura researchers – the very same ones who found and disclosed the flaw to Microsoft – have published additional technical details on Monday, and just a few hours later several PoC exploit/tools have been published on GitHub.
CVE-2020-1472 (aka Zerologon) affects all supported Windows Server versions, but the danger is highest for servers that function as Active Directory domain controllers in enterprise networks.
The vulnerability stems from a flaw in a cryptographic authentication scheme used by the Netlogon Remote Protocol.
“By simply sending a number of Netlogon messages in which various fields are filled with zeroes, an attacker can change the computer password of the domain controller that is stored in the AD. This can then be used to obtain domain admin credentials and then restore the original DC password,” Secura researchers explained.
“This attack has a huge impact: it basically allows any attacker on the local network (such as a malicious insider or someone who simply plugged in a device to an on-premise network port) to completely compromise the Windows domain. The attack is completely unauthenticated: the attacker does not need any user credentials.”
“In a hypothetical attack, one could use this vulnerability to deploy ransomware throughout an organization and maintain a persistent presence if cleanup and restoration efforts miss any additional malicious scripts,” Tenable security response manager Ryan Seguin noted.
“Organizations with network-accessible backups could end up with a perfect storm if a ransomware group destroys backups to increase their likelihood of payout from the victim organization.”
Many PoC exploits have been released security researchers in the past day (1, 2, 3, 4), and the effectiveness of some of them has been confirmed:
Yeah, I can confirm that this public exploit for Zerologon (CVE-2020-1472) works. Anybody who has not installed the patch from August's Patch Tuesday already is going to be in much worse shape than they already were.https://t.co/SWK2hUDOYc https://t.co/0SDFfageQC pic.twitter.com/Lg8auMdtVU
— Will Dormann (@wdormann) September 14, 2020
Secura researchers published a Python script organizations can used to check whether a domain controller is vulnerable or not.
Systems that have received the patch released in August are safe from attack, as it enforces secure NRPC for all Windows servers and clients in the domain. All Active Directory domain controllers should be updated, including read-only domain controllers.
“The updates will enable the Domain Controllers (DCs) to protect Windows devices by default, log events for non-compliant device discovery, and have the option to enable protection for all domain-joined devices with explicit exceptions,” Microsoft explained.
But complete remediation will happen after organizations deploy Domain Controller (DC) enforcement mode, which requires all Windows and non-Windows devices to use secure NRPC or to explicitly allow the account by adding an exception for any non-compliant device.
While organization can deploy DC enforcement mode immediately by enabling specific registry key, on February 9, 2021, DCs will be placed in enforcement mode automatically.
This phased rollout is due to the fact that there are many non-Windows device implementations of the Netlogon Remote Protocol, and vendors of non-compliant implementations have been given enough time to provide customers with the needed updates.