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If it seems like Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) has been around forever, it’s because it has (at least compared to the many technologies that rise and fall within just a few years.) The initial version, known as “Remote Desktop Protocol 4.0,” was released in 1996 as part of the Windows NT 4.0 Terminal Server edition and allowed users to remotely access and control Windows-based computers over a network connection.

In the intervening decades, RDP has become a widely used protocol for remote access and administration of Windows-based systems. RDP plays a crucial role in enabling remote work, IT support, and system management and has served as the foundation for various remote desktop and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions.

The downside of RDP’s widespread use is that a Remote Code Execution (RCE) vulnerability in an RDP gateway can have severe consequences, potentially leading to significant damage and compromising the security and integrity of the affected system. From an attacker’s point of view, exploiting an RCE vulnerability is a way to achieve unauthorized access to the affected system, allowing them to gain control over the system, bypass security measures, and perform malicious actions that could include lateral movement, data exfiltration, malware deployment, system disruption, and more.

It’s important to note that the severity of the impact will depend on various factors, including the specific vulnerability, the attacker’s intent and capabilities, the targeted system’s importance, and the security measures in place. Still, given the potential for unauthorized access, data breaches, and systems compromise, RCE vulnerabilities in RDP are considered a critical security concern that require immediate attention and mitigation.

Surprisingly (tongue firmly in cheek), Microsoft has recently published security bulletins for exactly such a scenario. Please patch!

images from Hacker News