Microsoft patches Cortana lock screen vulnerability discovered by McAfee

Windows 10 Cortana

"The security update addresses the vulnerability by ensuring Cortana considers status when [retrieving] information from input services".

Microsoft described the Windows DNS patch as addressing a remote code execution (RCE) vulnerability that affects Windows desktop versions 7 through 10 and Windows Server 2008 and newer.

Among the patches are fixes for Spectre Variant 4 or "speculative store bypass", a security flaw affecting PCs with Intel microprocessors. Microsoft Cortana is a digital assistant available as a free feature in all Windows 10 PCs which can be accessed from the lock screen without unlocking a system.

However, McAfee experts were also able to summon the window that houses Cortana on the desktop interface simply by typing with any key while Cortana is listening to a query.

By exploiting this vulnerability, researchers have been able to locate any file on an infected computer in a matter of seconds.

In a blog post on its site, McAfee explained exactly how a potential hacker would go about getting Cortana to index malicious files from a USB drive in order to execute them.

This indexing process is what enables Cortana to find the files on your computer.

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These malicious apps can be used to change passwords, infect Windows 10 with viruses, and get unfettered access to the machine. Microsoft fixed the bug Tuesday, June 12.

Users who have updated with the most recent patch will be safe from this vulnerability.

Experts assured users that the vulnerability is not as unsafe as it sounds.

McAfee said in a written statement.

'The attack surface created by vocal commands and personal digital assistants requires much more investigation; we are just scratching the surface of the amount of research that should be conducted in this critical area, ' the researchers wrote.

McAfee encourages Windows 10 users to install this month's security update as soon as possible, though turning off Cortana on the lock screen is also a good mitigation.

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