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CyberWisdom Safe Harbor Commentary:
This story from revealed a security researcher has discovered a way to get around the “controlled folder access” feature added to Windows 10 in October 2017, which Microsoft said is a credible counter-raster software defensive measure.
This feature, which is detailed in this Bleeping Computers evaluation, is part of the Windows Defender anti-virus software built into all versions of Windows 10.
Users who update to Windows 10 Fall Creators Update receive a Windows Defender update called Controlled Folder Access (CFA) that allows them to block any changes to the files found in the user-specified directory.
Users must manually approve any application that allows editing of files located in the CFA folder by adding each application’s executable to the whitelist managed by the Allow access to applications through controlled folders option.
Controlled Folder Access – Application Whitelist
However, Yago Jesus, security researcher at SecurityByDefault, a Spanish security researcher, found that Microsoft has automatically whitelisted all Office applications in the list. This means that Office applications can modify files that reside in the CFA folder, whether or not the user likes it.Ransomware can bypass the CFA using Office OLE objects
Jesus said ransomware developers can easily bypass the Microsoft CFA anti-ransomware functionality by bypassing the CFA by adding simple scripts through OLE objects in Office files.
In a research note published over the weekend, Jesus listed three examples of using fraudulent office files (received via spam) to overwrite the contents of other Office files stored in the CFA folder, password-protecting the same files, or copying and pasting Go to a file outside the CFA folder, encrypt it, and delete the original.
Although the first example is only destructive, the last two will be used as actual ransom and the victim will have to pay the ransomware author for the password / decryption code to unlock the file.Jesus is dissatisfied with Microsoft
Jesus said he informed Microsoft of what he found. In an email screenshot from Microsoft that Jesus received from Microsoft, operating system manufacturers did not classify the issue as a security breach, but instead said they would improve the CFA in future releases to address reported bypassing.
“This really means that Microsoft will fix this loophole and should be categorized as mitigating detours without recognition,” Jesus said, referring to the issues he pointed out that he did not get any credit or wrong bounties.
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