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Samsung Patches Privilege Escalation Flaw in Update Tool

A serious vulnerability in Samsung’s SW Update application allows an attacker to elevate their privileges on systems where the utility is installed, researchers warned on Monday.

SW Update, an application that is pre-installed on Samsung computers, helps users easily update their software and drivers. Benjamin Gnahm of Blue Frost Security discovered that the tool is plagued by a vulnerability that can be exploited by an authenticated attacker to escalate their privileges.

According to the researcher, SW Update installs a service called SWUpdateService, which has SYSTEM privileges. The application’s binary is located in a ProgramData folder where any authenticated user can create new files. When SWUpdateService is launched, it attempts to load several DLL files from this directory. While these DLL files don’t exist, they can be created by a user and they will get executed with SYSTEM privileges when the service is started.

This allows an attacker to gain complete control over the system by placing specially crafted DLLs in the SW Update folder. Gnahm noted that while an attacker with the privileges of a normal user is not able to restart the service, they can simply restart the device or wait until it’s rebooted by the victim.

This vulnerability can be highly useful for a malicious actor who has already gained limited access to the targeted system.

The flaw was reported to Samsung on April 25 and it was patched roughly one month later with the release of SW Update As a workaround, the access control list (ACL) can be configured so that normal users are prevented from writing files to the application’s folder.

This is not the first time researchers have found vulnerabilities in Samsung’s SW Update utility. In March, Core Security reported identifying a flaw that exposed systems to man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks.

Software update and support tools from other vendors are also plagued by serious vulnerabilities. A detailed analysis conducted recently by Duo Security showed that the tools preinstalled on PCs by Acer, Asus, Dell, HP and Lenovo expose users to remote attacks.

Related: Pre-installed Lenovo Bloatware Causing More Security Problems

Related: Intel Patches Vulnerability in Driver Update Utility

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.