Government agencies affected by the recent partial shutdown may face difficulties installing software patches for endpoint security.
Addressing not one, but two critical security issues
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday, according to ZDNet. The organization has celebrated by releasing two critical patches that address security concerns related to the Internet Explorer browser, including one that was previously unknown to the public.
“The biggest surprise from this month’s advisories is that Microsoft has addressed not one, but two, critical Internet Explorer zero-days,” said security researcher Craig Young. “These fixes should be the highest priority for patch deployment, since both of these issues are being exploited in the wild.”
Furthermore, Tom’s Guide contributor Paul Wagenseil advised users to avoid utilizing the Web browser until all patches are installed and the machine is restarted. Wagenseil said both security weaknesses can affect endpoint data protection, as they allow cybercriminals to transmit malware when an individual clicks on a malignant page, infecting the browser despite the user only remaining on the corrupted page for less than a minute.
Microsoft released patches for 26 security flaws, in addition to updates related to the Web browser. These include certain remotely exploitable issues in Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Microsoft .Net Framework.
Effects of the government shutdown
According to Computerworld, however, some government agencies affected by the shutdown will be unable to update employee devices, or otherwise face substantial difficulties. This can leave these machines open to data leakage and other security threats.
Computerworld stated that many government organizations only kept a skeletal IT staff in place during the shutdown, as all non-essential IT systems are not currently operational. Desktop computers, laptops and other devices will go unpatched during the shutdown.
John Pescatore, SANS Institute director of emerging technologies said the Windows security weaknesses affect endpoint security across PC and server operating systems.
“While most of the government security staff was deemed essential, it is likely that many of the employee PCs and laptops were turned off, so it will be hard to patch them,” Pescatore told Computerworld.
Although one may think that updates would be easier without employees utilizing servers, Pescatore said this is not the case.
“The reality of these shutdowns is that informal processes get disrupted even if the essential people are still there,” Pescatore said.
Once employees return, they must exercise caution before using their unpatched devices.
“Best practice would be to isolate these machines until they can be brought up to the most recent patch level,” security expert Richard Stiennon told Computerworld.