Welcome to this week’s edition of the Threat Source newsletter.
As a longtime macOS user, I must admit I’m behind the times when it comes to Microsoft Windows. Since buying a Steam Deck, I’ve actually come to learn more about Linux and the Proton compatibility layer than I ever did about Windows.
But it still came as a shock to me this week when I uncovered a weird trend on social media: People bragging about still using Windows 7.
Microsoft stopped putting out free security updates for Windows 7 in January 2020 and only more recently stopped offering its paid Extended Security Updates (ESU). The company explicitly told users at the beginning of this year that it was unsafe to continue to keep using Windows 7 and that users should upgrade to Windows 10 or use a new machine that can run Windows 11.
Yet I still found an entire subreddit dedicated to keeping Windows 7 up and running on computers and countless posts promoting how well the 13-year-old operating system runs with modern GPUs and graphics cards.
Steam, the most popular video game storefront on PCs, only recently announced that it was ending support for Windows 7 and 8, and even then, it won’t be official until January. And Roblox, which is quietly one of the biggest video games in the world, only recently ended support for Windows 7 and 8.
I’m sure there are other examples of this among other types of software, but video games are the most specific corner of the internet I’m in, so that’s my frame of reference.
The moral of the story here is that using Windows 7 to do anything, but especially connecting to the internet (which is required to download and play video games) is a terrible idea. Attackers are always targeting outdated operating systems because they’re the most likely to be unpatched and vulnerable.
Running an operating system that is no longer receiving any type of security updates is extremely dangerous. If infected, that single machine could also be used as a springboard for the attacker to target and infect other machines on your network.
Since the start of this year, there have been 47 vulnerabilities discovered in Windows 7, according to the U.S.’s National Institute of Standards and Technology Vulnerability Database. There are even more security issues with third-party software running on Windows 7.
Just because something is old, doesn’t mean that attackers aren’t paying attention anymore. Without official support or security updates for Windows 7, Microsoft is no longer compelled to disclose formal vulnerabilities with CVEs attached to inform users about any security holes in the operating system.
Upgrading a PC or buying a new one is expensive, I get it. But Windows 7 isn’t a novelty anymore, it’s a security risk. If you feel like you absolutely have to keep Windows 7 running on a machine for some reason, make sure it is isolated from your network or just doesn’t connect to the internet at all.
But more preferably, upgrade to Windows 10. If you’re already using Windows 7, it’s free, and likely whatever hardware you’re using can support Windows 10. If you’re starting from scratch, many online stores have deeply discounted product keys for Windows 10 or 11 for $20 or less — just make sure to download the ISO directly from Microsoft still.
The one big thing
Montana recently became the first state in the U.S. to ban the app TikTok, though the law still has a long way to go before it can be enforced. The state’s governor signed a bill last week that prohibits mobile application stores from offering the app in the state by the start of 2024, or else they’ll face fines. However, it’s currently unclear if it’s even feasible for Montana to enforce this ban, as app stores don’t geofence certain applications on its stores, and internet service providers are exempt from having to enforce these rules. TikTok has recently become a target for Republican lawmakers over concerns that its Chinese-backed parent company is collecting and using Americans’ data. TikTok and popular TikTok creators in Montana have already sued the state to stop the law.
Why do I care?
Even if you are not an active TikTok user, the ban is noteworthy because it has major implications for American law and the enforcement of the First Amendment in the U.S. Opponents of Montana’s bill say it's a clear violation of the First Amendment. The various legal challenges are likely going to shift through the legal system for months, but any eventual decisions could influence how states view banning certain technology or even books and movies.
So now what?
There are many questions still unanswered about how this ban will work or whether it will stand. So for now, interested parties can’t do much but sit back and wait for the legal proceedings to play out.
Top security headlines of the week
Apple released a security update for many of its devices last week that fixed three zero-day vulnerabilities in the WebKit browser engine. A few days after the patches initially dropped, security researchers also discovered the updates addressed a different vulnerability known as “ColdInvite” (CVE-2023-27930). An attacker could exploit ColdInvite to attack a co-processor chip on iPhones and escape its isolation environment, eventually accessing the iPhone’s kernel. The three WebKit vulnerabilities affect some iPhones and iPads. CVE-2023-28204, CVE-2023-32373 and CVE-2023-32409 could be exploited to escape the Web Content sandbox. Google’s Threat Analysis Group and Amnesty International co-reported CVE-2023-32409, which led many security experts to speculate means attackers exploited this issue to spread spyware. (SecurityWeek, Forbes)
Two popular Android set-top TV boxes sold on Amazon are preloaded with malware that quietly generates revenue for the manufacturers in the background. The devices click on ads while running without the user knowing and connect to a global botnet of other infected Android devices around the globe. Despite the reported security issues, the devices were still for sale on Amazon as of earlier this week. However, the security researcher who discovered this botnet worked with the internet company hosting the command and control servers that sent directions to devices part of the botnet to take those servers down. However, that doesn’t mean the botnet or ad-click malware could never come back — the easiest solution for users is to replace the devices immediately. (TechCrunch, ArsTechnica)
Security researchers are concerned that two new top-level domains from Google — .zip and .mov — will cause confusion among users and potentially open the door for scammers. Because these new TLDs (like .com, .gov, .uk, etc.) are the same as popular file extensions, adversaries could disguise legitimate-looking file names and actually send people to a malicious web address without the user knowing that it could even be a web page. They could also be used to create legitimate-looking URLs that match that of a real website but just add one character in a long string, eventually pointing people to a malicious file or site. However, Google says it's actively monitoring for domain abuse. (Wired, Ars Technica)
Can’t get enough Talos?
- Highlights of Talos IR On Air: Reviewing Q1's top threats
- Beers with Talos Ep. #135: The XDR Files
- Talos Takes Ep. #139: RA Group is just the latest example of the ransomware landscape splintering
- Beers with Talos Ep. #136: Oh hello, “Susan”
Upcoming events where you can find Talos
Cisco Live U.S. (June 4 - 8)
Las Vegas, NV
Discover Cyber Workshop for Women (June 8)
REcon (June 9 - 11)
Most prevalent malware files from Talos telemetry over the past week
SHA 256: 856777e16c153722ebd3f389197d4b6482f8afb2e51345e1ab19760c486c3f78
Typical Filename: DOC001.exe
Claimed Product: N/A
Detection Name: DeepScan:Generic.BitcoinMiner.9.88FBC400
SHA 256: e4973db44081591e9bff5117946defbef6041397e56164f485cf8ec57b1d8934
Typical Filename: Wextract
Claimed Product: Internet Explorer
Detection Name: PUA.Win.Trojan.Generic::85.lp.ret.sbx.tg
SHA 256: 5616b94f1a40b49096e2f8f78d646891b45c649473a5b67b8beddac46ad398e1
Typical Filename: IMG001.exe
Claimed Product: N/A
Detection Name: Win.Dropper.Coinminer::1201
SHA 256: 00ab15b194cc1fc8e48e849ca9717c0700ef7ce2265511276f7015d7037d8725
Typical Filename: mssqlsrv.exe
Claimed Product: N/A
Detection Name: Trojan.GenericKD.65065311
SHA 256: e12b6641d7e7e4da97a0ff8e1a0d4840c882569d47b8fab8fb187ac2b475636c
Typical Filename: AAct.exe
Claimed Product: N/A
Detection Name: PUA.Win.Tool.Kmsauto::1201