Menu
Cost of a Windows zero-day exploit? This one goes for $90,000

Cost of a Windows zero-day exploit? This one goes for $90,000

The exploit supposedly allows hackers to gain system privileges on a Windows system once they have code execution capabilities

Ever wonder how much an exploit for a previously unknown vulnerability that affects all Windows versions costs on the black market? The answer, according to a recent offer seen on a cybercrime forum, is $90,000.

The offer was observed by researchers from security firm Trustwave on an underground market for Russian-speaking cybercriminals, where users hire malware coders, lease exploit kits, buy access to compromised websites or rent botnets.

Zero-day exploits -- exploits for unpatched vulnerabilities -- are typically used for cyberespionage. Hackers sell them to governments and large corporations, under strict non-disclosure agreements, often through specialized brokers, so it's uncommon to see them traded on cybercrime forums.

While it's hard to prove the authenticity of the offer without actually buying the exploit, there are strong indications that the author's claims are real, the Trustwave researchers said in a blog post.

The author went to great effort to prove that he has what he claims: a local privilege escalation exploit that works on all Windows versions since XP, including Windows Server editions, and bypasses common exploit mitigations like DEP, SMEP and ASLR.

The vulnerability is supposedly located in the win32k.sys kernel driver, which historically has been a source of many privilege escalation flaws. The exploit relies solely on the KERNEL32 and USER32 Windows libraries (DLLs), the seller claims.

The original starting price was $95,000, but it has since dropped to $90,000. For this sum, the exploit author offers the exploit's source code as well as consultation and help integrating it into the buyer's project.

While privilege escalation flaws do not, by themselves, allow the remote compromise of a computer system, they're still an important part of most attack chains. Many applications now run with limited privileges on Windows or have sandboxing mechanisms meant to prevent a full system compromise if an attacker finds and exploits a remote code execution vulnerability in them.

In such environments, attackers need privilege escalation exploits to gain system-level access and take full control of a computer, making them highly valuable. With system privileges attackers can then install rootkits and hide their malicious code from security products for increased stealth and persistence.

In a Windows server environment, a simple SQL or file injection vulnerability in a website can turn into a complete server compromise through such an exploit.

Based on the little data that has leaked into the public domain about exploit prices, $90,000 for a Windows privilege escalation exploit is "on the high end but still within a realistic price range, especially considering the return on investment criminals are likely to make using this exploit in any campaign," the Trustwave researchers said.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

If the exploit seller's claims are accurate, it's hard to defend against this exploit, especially since a demo video shows the exploit successfully bypassing all the protections enforced by Microsoft's Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET).

That said, users should make sure that they take the common precautions like keeping their software up-to-date and running a capable security product. This could break a different link in a potential attack chain, such as a remote code execution exploit needed to gain access to the system in the first place.

Follow Us

Join the New Zealand Reseller News newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Windowshacking

Slideshows

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016

Reseller News looks back on a tumultuous 12 months for the New Zealand channel, assessing the fallout from a year of sizeable industry change. Whether it be local or global mergers and acquisitions, distribution deals or job changes, the channel that started the year differs somewhat to the one set to finish it - Reseller News assesses the key moments that made 2016.​

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016
​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel

​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel

Hewlett Packard Enterprise honoured its top performing Kiwi partners at the second running of its HPE Partner Awards in New Zealand, held at a glitzy ceremony in Auckland. Recognising excellence across eight categories - from distributors to resellers - the tech giant celebrated its first year as a standalone company, following its official split from HP in 2015.

​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel
Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise

Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise

Nutanix recently took to the seas for a Christmas Cruise around Sydney Harbour with its Australia and New Zealand staff, customers and partners to celebrate a stellar year for the vendor. With the sun out, they were all smiles and mingled over drinks and food.

Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise
Show Comments