Microsoft just patched a 15-year-old bug that in some cases allows attackers to take complete control of PCs running all supported versions of Windows. The critical vulnerability will remain unpatched in Windows 2003, leaving that version wide open for the remaining five months Microsoft pledged to continue supporting it.
The flaw, which took Microsoft more than 12 months to fix, affects all users who connect to business, corporate, or government networks using the Active Directory service. The database is built into Windows and acts as a combination traffic cop and security guard, granting specific privileges to authorized users and mapping where on a local network various resources are available. The bug—which Microsoft classifies as MS15-011 and the researcher who first reported it calls Jasbug—allows attackers who are in a position to monitor traffic passing between the user and the Active Directory network to launch a man-in-the-middle exploit that executes malicious code on vulnerable machines.
"All computers and devices that are members of a corporate Active Directory may be at risk," warned a blog post published Tuesday by JAS Global Advisors, the firm that reported the bug to Microsoft in January 2014. "The vulnerability is remotely exploitable and may grant the attacker administrator-level privileges on the target machine/device. Roaming machines—Active Directory member devices that connect to corporate networks via the public Internet (possibly over a Virtual Private Network (VPN))—are at heightened risk."