Zero-day Vulnerability in Microsoft Windows: How to Protect Your Organizations’ Privileged Accounts

Sandi Green
September 11th, 2018

Zero Day

Last month, a security researcher reported a vulnerability that impacts privileged accounts in Microsoft Windows environments. The alert stated, “Microsoft Windows task scheduler contains a vulnerability in the handling of ALPC, which can allow a local user to gain SYSTEM privileges.” Specifically, the ALPC zero-day vulnerability allows attackers to gain the admin rights needed to implement their backdoors.

The good news is that Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday release on September 11th will likely correct the issue. But this sort of vulnerability makes you wonder: are you doing everything you can to protect your organization’s privileged accounts?

Eliminating excessive rights on user endpoints is a great first step to close security gaps. After all, 95% of system vulnerabilities on Microsoft Windows systems can be eliminated by removing admin rights. But protecting your organization’s privileged accounts from sophisticated attacks might require an additional layer of protection. For example, if your current security solutions can’t provide security risk visibility into the status of the applications targeted for privilege elevation, or worse, if those applications’ privileges are elevated for use without first determining their safety, you haven’t really protected your organization.

If you’re tackling endpoint privilege management with a bunch of point tools that work in a silo but don’t come together to paint a broader picture of user behavior, then there’s a chance that your organization is still vulnerable. BeyondTrust can help.

PowerBroker for Windows is a privilege management solution that gives you unmatched visibility and control over physical and virtual desktops and servers. With PowerBroker for Windows, you can:

  • Reduce attack surfaces by removing admin rights from end users and employing fine-grained policy controls for all privileged access, without disrupting productivity.
  • Monitor and audit sessions for unauthorized access and/or changes to files and directories. 
  • Analyze behavior to detect suspicious user, account and asset activity.

While we anxiously await the patch to fix the Microsoft vulnerability, here are three tips to help protect your organization from future attacks:

  1. Do not allow users to log in with administrator access. Most users only require a handful of applications that require elevated rights to perform their job duties. PowerBroker for Windows can easily create policy that allows these apps to run as expected without giving the user those rights. Without these rights, attackers cannot load malware, move laterally, and infect the system.
  2. Know who in your organization has access to privileged credentials. Understanding which users have access to these credentials and under what conditions is a fundamental component in preventing breaches. PowerBroker Password Safe addresses this need by controlling access to accounts and systems within your network and identifying misuse. You can start by performing a quick discovery scan to find and profile all user and local accounts.
  3. Use effective application control: Controlling which applications are even allowed to execute should be a critical priority in your security model. PowerBroker for Windows includes Application Control as part of its core functionality. Beyond whitelisting and blacklisting, PowerBroker includes vulnerability insights into the application targeted for elevation before granting privileges.

To learn more about how BeyondTrust solutions can help simplify and secure the application of least privilege in your Microsoft Environment, contact us today.

Sandi Green

Sandi Green is the Product Marketing Manager for PowerBroker Password Safe, PowerBroker for Windows, and PowerBroker Mac at BeyondTrust. She has over 20 years of sales and solutions marketing experience with technology companies that served a variety of industries ranging from life sciences, human capital management, consumer packaged goods and most recently IT security. When she’s not following the latest trends in Cybersecurity, she’s busy following college football and basketball. Follow her on Twitter at @SandiGreen3.