Tavis Ormandy has found and reported multiple vulnerabilities in Symantec’s security products, endangering both home users and enterprises. The story doesn’t end with his disclosure of the terrifying CVE-2016-2208, found in the core Symantec Antivirus Engine applied in most Symantec and Norton AV products. As it turns out, most Symantec products contain a range of vulnerabilities that can cause self-replicating attacks. The recently discovered flaws are rated critical, some of them at a wormable remote code execution level.
What Are Symantec’s Vulnerabilities All About?
These vulnerabilities are as bad as it gets. They don’t require any user interaction, they affect the default configuration, and the software runs at the highest privilege levels possible. In certain cases on Windows, vulnerable code is even loaded into the kernel, resulting in remote kernel memory corruption.
Things are quite serious, because Symantec, employs the same core engine across all of their products, Norton included. This is a list of some of the affected products:
Ormandy points out that as some of the products can’t be updated automatically administrators should take immediate action to shield their networks. If you are a network administrator, have a look at Symantec’s advisories for customers.
Symantec’s Unpackers Allow Attackers Take Over a Vulnerable System
The bugs are located in the product’s core engine which is used to reverse the compression tools employed by malware coders to hode malicious payloads. How do the unpackers work? Unpackers parse code incorporated in files before they can be downloaded or executed. As explained by Arstechnica:
Because Symantec runs the unpackers directly in the operating system kernel, errors can allow attackers to gain complete control over the vulnerable machine. Ormandy said a better design would be for unpackers to run in a security “sandbox,” which isolates untrusted code from sensitive parts of an operating system.
Symantec’s latest advisory is available, but it raises some paradoxes. Antivirus software is generally considered a must especially for Windows. However, the installation of such can actually open the system to attacks and exploits that wouldn’t be available in other circumstances. That’s why it’s good that researchers like Ormandy hand in dangerous flaws to software vendors so that things can be patched before it’s too late. Besides Symantec, other infamous products have been deemed to exploits – Comodo, Eset, Kaspersky, McAfee, TrendMicro, FireEye.
Network admins should note that some of the updates available in Symantec’s advisory will be installed automatically, while others will need manual install. Symantec customers should have a good look at the advisory and double-check if they are susceptible.