Newly found TrueCrypt flaw allows full system compromise

A security researcher has found two serious flaws in TrueCrypt

Windows users who rely on TrueCrypt to encrypt their hard drives have a security problem: a researcher has discovered two serious flaws in the program.

TrueCrypt may have been abandoned by its original developers, but it remains one of the few encryption options for Windows. That keeps researchers interested in finding holes in the program and its spin-offs.

James Forshaw, a member of Google's Project Zero team that regularly finds vulnerabilities in widely used software, has recently discovered two vulnerabilities in the driver that TrueCrypt installs on Windows systems.

The flaws, which were apparently missed in an earlier independent audit of the TrueCrypt source code, could allow attackers to obtain elevated privileges on a system if they have access to a limited user account.

The original authors of TrueCrypt, who have remained anonymous, abruptly shut down the project in May 2014 warning that "it may contain unfixed security issues" and advised users to switch to BitLocker, Microsoft's full-disk encryption feature that's available in certain versions of Windows.

At that time a crowd-funded effort was already underway to perform a professional security audit of TrueCrypt's source code and its cryptography implementations. The first phase, which analyzed the TrueCrypt driver and other critical parts of the code, had already been completed when TrueCrypt was discontinued. The auditors found no high-severity issues or evidence of intentional backdoors in the program.

It's impossible to tell if the new flaws discovered by Forshaw were introduced intentionally or not, but they do show that despite professional code audits, serious bugs can remain undiscovered.

The first phase of the TrueCrypt audit project, performed by security engineers from iSEC Partners, a subsidiary of information assurance company NCC Group, covered the driver code, but "Windows drivers are complex beasts" and it's easy to miss local elevation of privilege flaws, Forshaw said on Twitter.

The Google researcher hasn't disclosed details about the two bugs yet, saying that he usually waits seven days after a patch is released to open his bug reports.

Since TrueCrypt is no longer actively maintained, the bugs won't be fixed directly in the program's code. However, they have been fixed in VeraCrypt, an open-source program based on the TrueCrypt code that aims to continue and improve the original project.

VeraCrypt 1.15 that was released Saturday, contains patches for the two vulnerabilities, identified as CVE-2015-7358 and CVE-2015-7359, as well as for other bugs. The program's developer only flagged the CVE-2015-7358 flaw as critical and said that it can be exploited by "abusing drive letter handling."

There are still many users of TrueCrypt or VeraCrypt, because it's one of the few free options they have for encrypting their entire hard disks, including the Windows system partition. Microsoft's BitLocker is not available on Home editions of Windows, which come pre-installed on many consumer laptops, and most other programs that can encrypt the system partition require a paid license.

Users who still use TrueCrypt should switch to VeraCrypt as soon as possible. In addition to patches for these two flaws, the program also has other security improvements over its predecessor.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?