​Microsoft cleans up Dell’s certificate mess as it did after Lenovo’s Superfish

Microsoft has updated its anti-malware program Windows Defender to clean up a risky Dell root certificate uncovered this week.

Trust for Dell is in tatters after consumers discovered a self-signed root certificate on their Dell Windows machines. The certificate, dubbed “eDellRoot”, and its private key exposed users to attacks that could compromise encrypted communications and make it easier for an attacker to install malware.

The certificate was installed by Dell Foundation Services, an application pre-loaded on several Dell models that helped the firm provide remote service and support to customers. Despite Dell’s benign intentions, the incident was reminiscent of Lenovo’s “Superfish” fiasco earlier this year, in which pre-loaded third-party adware and a compromised root certificate had much the same impact for users.

Making matters worse for Dell however was a second Dell root certificate that surfaced called DSDTestProvider. Once again, the certificate was intended to assist a remote support function but exposed users to additional security risks.

Carnegie Mellon University CERT warned that systems that trust the DSDTestProvider certificate authority (CA) will trust any certificate issued by the CA, with the same impact to end-user security as eDellRoot. Unlike eDellRoot, however, the DSDTestProvider certificate only affected customers who installed a piece of software called Dell System Detect from its support site between October 20 and November 24, 2015.

Dell has since released a tool that removes both eDellRoot and DSDTestProvider, however there will undoubtedly be some users who weren’t aware of either update or don’t have the technical know how to manually remove the certificate.

Fortunately for Windows-users, they can opt to use Microsoft’s free anti-malware program Windows Defender, and Microsoft has updated to address the second certificate in similar fashion to its clean-up efforts after Lenovo’s Superfish debacle.

As Microsoft points out in a document that Dell Windows users will see if they’re running Windows Defender: “A PC with this certificate could be vulnerable to SSL/TLS spoofing attacks, and can allow an attacker to digitally sign binaries so that they are trusted by the affected PC. This can give an attacker control over your PC and browsing experience.”

The compromised certificate heightens the risk of phishing and man-in-the-middle attacks, particularly on banking, social media and web mail, it said.

Read more: As IAM demand builds, tight identity integration will secure enterprises’ cloud transition: Okta

“This could allow a malicious hacker to steal your user names, passwords, and confidential data. They could also carry out transactions without your knowledge, even when it seems like you have a secure browser connection to a website,” Microsoft warned.

The risky certificate can affect Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 7, it added.

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