The world woke up on Tuesday to not one, but two new vulnerabilities—one in Windows and the other in Linux—that allow hackers with a toehold in a vulnerable system to bypass OS security restrictions and access sensitive resources.
As operating systems and applications become harder to hack, successful attacks these days typically require two or more vulnerabilities. One vulnerability allows the attacker access to low-privileged OS resources, where code can be executed or sensitive data can be read. A second vulnerability elevates that code execution or file access to OS resources reserved for things like password storage or other sensitive operations. The value of so-called local privilege escalation vulnerabilities, accordingly, has increased in recent years.
The Windows vulnerability came to light by accident on Monday when a researcher observed what he believed was a coding regression in a beta version of the upcoming Windows 11. The researcher found that the contents of the security account manager—the database that stores user accounts and security descriptors for users on the local computer—could be read by users with limited system privileges.