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What is SMB and How Secure Is It in 2022?


Despite the fact people do not know about the SMP protocol, many of them are using it on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the SMB protocol has a vulnerability that was exploited for a massive cyberattack affecting people from all over the globe. If that is not enough, the SMB protocol is no longer a valid solution. All is not lost though, as there is still a safe way to utilize this protocol. However, let’s learn a bit more about what is SMB first.

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What is SMB?

SMB (Server Message Block) Protocol allows users to communicate with remote servers and computers, thus allowing them to open, share, and edit files. With this protocol, users can even utilize the resources of remote servers or computers they connect to. Since the server has a resource that can be shared with the client, SMB is also referred to as the server/client protocol.

Just like any other sharing protocol, SMB needs to communicate with other systems via network ports. Initially, the protocol utilized port 139 to communicate with computers on the same network, but it switched to port 445 since Windows 2000 and uses the TCP network protocol to communicate with other computers over the internet.

Understanding SMB Authentication

Like other connection protocols, the SMB protocol also makes use of security measures to make communication secure. For users, SMB authentication requires credentials to access a server. This authentication process is controlled by a system administrator, who can also add or block users as he/she sees fit.

When it comes to servers and shared files, users will need to enter a one-time login password, but identity authentication is not required in this case.

What is Windows SMB? – Types of SMB Protocol

Microsoft tried to rename SMB to CIFS back in 1996 since it was an updated version of the very same protocol with additional features. Unfortunately for Microsoft, the name did not stick. Due to this, people still think the two are one and the same, but that is not true. In fact, CIFS is a variant of the SMB protocol. Keeping this in mind, here are all the variants of the SMB protocol:

  • SMBv1

Released in 1984 for file sharing in DOS by IBM.

  • CIFS

Released with additional features in 1996 with support for larger files. This SMB protocol came with Windows 95.

  • SMBv2

This protocol was released with Windows Vista in 2006. Due to increased efficiency, it offered a tremendous boost in performance.

  • SMBv2.1

SMBv2.1 was released with Windows 7 with even better performance.

  • SMBv3

SMBv3 was released with Windows 8 with numerous updates, most notably its enhanced security that offered end-to-end encryption.

  • SMBv3.02

This protocol was bundled together with Windows 8.1, offering greater security and performance by eliminating SMBv1.

  • SMBv3.1.1

SMBv3.1.1 was released with Windows 10 in 2015. It came with more security features like session verification, AES-128 encryption, and more. \

What is SMB Protocol Used For?

The SMB protocol creates a connection between the client and the server by sending request-response messages between the two. Real-world applications include accessing and editing shared files, printing documents using a printer located in another location, and so on.

How Secure is SMB?

While the different versions of SMB offering varying protection and security, SMBv1 was found to have a vulnerability that hackers could use to execute their code without the user knowing about it. When a device was infected, it would attack other devices connected to it. The exploit was discovered by none other than the NSA in 2017.

The exploit was referred to as EternalBlue, which was stolen from the NSA and leaked online by a hacker organization known as Shadow Brokers. Microsoft did release a patch to eliminate the vulnerability, but only a month later the WannaCry ransomware attack took the world by storm.

Is SMB Secure with a VPN?

There are still millions of Windows machines running the SMBv1 protocol that remains unpatched. Most of these devices are connected to the internet, which makes other devices on the same network insecure, no matter what version of SMB they may be using.

If you are using a PC or server that still uses the unpatched version of SMBv1, you should immediately install the necessary update. In fact, you should update to the latest version of the SMB protocol. If you are unable to do so, and you do not use any applications that require SMB, then you should disable the protocol entirely.

Now that you know what is SMB, and everything related to it, take the necessary steps to avoid getting into a pickle. While you may have come across blogs claiming a VPN can help remedy this situation, please note that a VPN cannot help you in this regard. Your only options are to disable or update the protocol. For everything else, like your privacy and security online, you can of course use a reliable VPN, like Ivacy VPN.

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