Microsoft Corp. has patched a number of vulnerabilities in its Windows operating system that were exposed by the most recent release of National Security Agency-linked tools by the hacking group the Shadow Brokers.
The hacks, released by the group Friday, included a number of working exploits for Windows machines ranging from XP up to Windows 8 but did not contain any exploits for Windows 10. The severity of the hacking software exposed was described by experts as an emergency for Microsoft because they consisted of a variety of zero-day, or newly discovered, exploits that can serve to infiltrate Windows machines for espionage, vandalism or document theft.
Despite their publication on Good Friday, a time where some of the Western world was enjoying a public holiday, Microsoft didn’t waste any time in addressing the exposure. It said late Friday that it had patched some of the vulnerabilities a month ago, with the rest now being patched.
“Today, Microsoft triaged a large release of exploits made publicly available by Shadow Brokers,” Microsoft Principal Security Group Manager Philip Misner said in a blog post. “Our engineers have investigated the disclosed exploits, and most of the exploits are already patched.”
The fact that Microsoft had previously patched some of the newly exposed vulnerabilities has gained particular attention, since it would appear that someone may have tipped off the company about the security issues before the Shadow Brokers could leak them. Ars Technica noted that the updates, indexed as MS17-010, CVE-2017-0146 and CVE-2017-0147, do not make mention of the group or person who reported the vulnerabilities to Microsoft. That’s an uncommon practice suggesting that the tip-off may have come from the NSA itself, though Microsoft has denied this.
Whoever tipped Microsoft off is beside the point, however. What was described in the press initially as a huge danger for Windows users has already been addressed. Microsoft did add that the vulnerabilities have been fixed only in “supported” versions of Windows, so users of older versions of the operating system such as Windows XP or Windows Vista remain unpatched and vulnerable.