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Windows 10 Vulnerability Allows Hijack, Even When Locked!

Windows 10 Vulnerability

Is your computer and Network Security up to scratch? Regardless of whether the device has been locked, a recent vulnerability in Windows 10 has given hijackers an easy route to taking over – simply by using the digital assistant, Cortana, to execute commands. If you’re running Windows 10, you may want your IT Support personnel to tighten up the security on your systems.

Security software giant McAfee provided an in-depth analysis of the new vulnerability, which states that the “Hey, Cortana!” voice command (a default feature enabled in Windows 10) could be triggered even when the device was in a locked state, giving potential attackers a route to being able to see files, information and potentially allow arbitrary code execution.

Due to the vulnerability, it is possible to launch a Windows contextual menu by typing when Cortana starts to listen to a query on a device that is locked.

“All the results presented by Cortana come from indexed files and applications, and that for some applications the content of the file is also indexed. Now we can simply hover over any of the relevant matches. If the match is driven by filename matching, then you will be presented with the full path of the file. If the match is driven by the file content matching, then you may be presented with the content of the file itself,” McAfee explains.

Once hackers have gained access to contents and files, they can potentially continue the hijack and gain code execution rights – all from the Windows lock screen. This type of vulnerability will allow malicious individuals to run scripts (via things like PowerShell or Command Prompt) and commands without the need for parameters and without needing to have the device unlocked. It can even be possible, for example, for the hacker to remove software from the system.

You can test your system for the vulnerability simply by following the instructions as outlined by McAfee – if you can successfully follow these steps then we strongly advise you patch your system.

  • Trigger Cortana via “Tap and Say” or “Hey Cortana”
  • Ask a question (this is more reliable) such as “What time is it?”
  • Press the space bar, and the context menu appears
  • Press the space bar again, and the contextual menu appears, but this time the search query is empty
  • Start typing (you cannot use backspace). If you make a mistake, press esc and start again.
  • When done (carefully) typing your command, click on the entry in the Command category. (This category will appear only after the input is recognized as a command.)
  • You can always right click and select “Run as Administrator” (but remember the user would have to log in to clear the UAC)

Luckily, Microsoft has already released a patch (as part of this month’s Patch Tuesday rollout) to address this vulnerability, but for systems that haven’t yet received this update, we strongly advise you get the latest patch or simply switch off Cortana until you have updated.

As part of our Managed IT Services, you can have peace of mind that your operating systems are always up-to-date with the very latest security patches and rollouts.

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