ALERT: Avoid IE until vulnerability is patched

01/20/2020

The information below was sent to U-M IT staff groups in email January 20, 2010. It is intended for U-M IT staff who are responsible for university machines that have Microsoft Internet Explorer installed, as well as individuals who have IE on their own devices.

Summary

The Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) web browser has a critical vulnerability that is being exploited in the wild. A patch is not yet available. If you still use IE, please use an alternate web browser (such as Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, or Mozilla Firefox) until a patch is available.

Problem

A remote code execution (RCE) vulnerability has been found in the scripting engine of the Internet Explorer (IE) web browser. This critical vulnerability (CVE-2020-0674) impacts IE across all versions of Windows and can corrupt memory so that an attacker can execute arbitrary code. According to Microsoft, "if the current user is logged on with administrative user rights, an attacker who successfully exploited the vulnerability could take control of an affected system." Microsoft has not yet released a patch for this vulnerability.

Affected Versions

All supported Windows desktop and Server OS versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer.

Action Items

Use an alternate web browser until Microsoft releases an update to IE. Apply the update when it is available after appropriate testing.

Microsoft offers some mitigation options and work-arounds for those with technical expertise at ADV200001 | Microsoft Guidance on Scripting Engine Memory Corruption Vulnerability.

Threats

There is as yet no patch for this critical vulnerability, and it is being exploited in the wild. An attacker who successfully exploits the vulnerability could gain the same user rights as the current user.

Technical Details

According to Microsoft: "A remote code execution vulnerability exists in the way that the scripting engine handles objects in memory in Internet Explorer. The vulnerability could corrupt memory in such a way that an attacker could execute arbitrary code in the context of the current user." 

According to the Carnegie Mellon CERT Coordination Center: “Microsoft Internet Explorer contains a scripting engine, which handles execution of scripting languages such as VBScript and JScript. The scripting engine JScript component contains an unspecified memory corruption vulnerability. Any application that supports embedding Internet Explorer or its scripting engine component may be used as an attack vector for this vulnerability." 

The center also noted: "jscript.dll is a library that provides compatibility with a deprecated version of JScript that was released in 2009. Blocking access to this library can prevent exploitation of this and similar vulnerabilities that may be present in this old technology.”

How We Protect U-M

  • Information Assurance (IA) monitors a number of sources for information about new vulnerabilities and threats and provides up-to-date information to the university community.
  • IA performs regular vulnerability scans of university networks to identify vulnerable devices and request remediation.
  • IA provides vulnerability management guidance to the university.

Information for Users

If you have Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) installed on your own devices that are not managed by the university, use an alternate web browser (for example, Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, or Mozilla Firefox) for now until an IE update is available and you have applied it.

In general, the best protection for your devices is this: keep your software and apps up-to-date, do not click suspicious links in email, do not open shared documents or email attachments unless you are expecting them and trust the person who sent them, and only use secure, trusted networks. For more information, see Phishing & Suspicious Email, Secure Your Devices, and Secure Your Internet Connection on the U-M Safe Computing website.

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