Feeds

AOL 6.0 security questioned

'You've got bugs'

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Application security programs and practises

The annoyingly buggy AOL 6.0, carefully engineered to redeem its hopelessly buggy 5.0 predecessor, brings up a few spyware-esque security issues, according to WinMag.com columnist Fred Langa who actually went so far as to install it (talk about journalistic sacrifice).

"About a year ago, I tried AOL 5.0 when it was new. But I ended up reformatting my hard drive after the AOL software made myriad clumsy, undesirable and irrevocable changes to my system," Langa reports in a recent column.

AOL's latest newbie trap seems to offer better, if not actually good, stability, but installs something like eleven superfluous networking protocols, among them what Langa characterises as a "dangerous" Virtual Private Networking (VPN) set-up.

"Dial-Up Adapter #2 also gets TCP/IP but in that case 'file and print sharing' is enabled - a potentially huge security hole. Worse, AOL binds IPX to that adapter, creating a potentially dangerous cross-link between the normally internal LAN protocols and the normally external Internet protocols," he says.

This is no understatement. Unless a user knows what he's doing - and AOL clients rarely fall into that category - file and print sharing is the easiest of all security holes for malicious third parties to exploit. Indeed, there's little we can think of that could make one's box less secure on the Net.

So what's up with that? Does AOL want access to users' files for some diabolical purpose?

Langa doesn't think so. Grotesque technical incompetence, not malevolence, strike him as the chief operator here. "I was able to get AOL to run after modifying the VPN components to improve their security." he reports.

"For example, I unbound IPX from the second Dial-Up Adapter; and likewise disabled print and file sharing for that adapter. AOL6 ran without complaint, which suggests that AOL's default VPN settings are probably incorrect."

Unfortunately, 6.0 wouldn't run with the VPN set-up disabled, so we can assume that AOL definitely wants it there, whether the user does or not. The problem is that the company attracts precisely the sort of newbie user who's unlikely to know that file and print sharing is a suicidal option and to have less than a clue as to how to muck about successfully with network settings.

AOL, we're disappointed to report, was unable or unwilling to return our call by press time and explain the rationale behind this apparent security faux pas. We'll be delighted to update the story if and when they do. ®

Related Story

AOL 6.0 gets user flak

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Airbus promises Wi-Fi – yay – and 3D movies (meh) in new A330
If the person in front reclines their seat, this could get interesting
UK Parliament rubber-stamps EMERGENCY data grab 'n' keep bill
Just 49 MPs oppose Drip's rushed timetable
Want to beat Verizon's slow Netflix? Get a VPN
Exec finds stream speed climbs when smuggled out
Samsung threatens to cut ties with supplier over child labour allegations
Vows to uphold 'zero tolerance' policy on underage workers
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.