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MS claims give false sense of security

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Firms upgrading their computer systems to the Windows 2000 operating systems from NT 4 are exposing themselves to greater security risks from Web site defacement.

Records kept by security site Attrition.org indicate that an average of 55 per cent of Web site defacements so far this year are linked to exploitation of Windows NT operating systems vulnerabilities. Linux is the second most commonly hacked Web server and accounted for around 21 per cent of Web page defacement last month.

However buried within these figures is a trend of increased exploitation of sites running Windows 2000.

One in ten defaced Web sites in the Attrition archive run Windows 2000, which is racing ahead of the deployment of the technology. Prior to November 2000 less than 3 per cent of defacement were on Windows 2000 servers. The sharp increase since then is likely to be related to the release of exploits against Microsoft's IIS 5 Web server software.

This is having a real effect as s'kiddies are exploiting Windows 2000 vulnerabilities to claim an ever increasing number of high-profile victims including: The Walt Disney Company, The Wall Street Journal, BT, HSBC, The US Navy and The US Army.

Graeme Pinkney, of managed services security firm Activis, said that many firms had been "duped" into a false sense of security with Windows 2000 because of Microsoft's claims of enhanced security functionality with the operating system.

Pinkney said he wouldn't advise customers against using Windows 2000, which he said could be securely configured by people properly aware of latest security issues. This goes for any operating system but is all the more important for NT users, according to Activis.

"Building a secure site with Windows 2000 is like looking after a small child. It needs constant attention," said Pinkney, who added that regular vulnerability scanning and security audits are also a good idea for those administering Linux Web servers. ®

External links

Statistics on defacements from Attrition

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

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