Feeds

Windows XP will make Internet unstable – top security expert

Disturbing but true

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

According to top security expert Steve Gibson, Windows XP threatens to make the Internet unstable as it will allow large numbers of people to launch uncontrollable denial-of-service attacks to whichever IP address they see fit.

Mr Gibson came across the flaw while doing an in-depth investigation into DoS attacks on his own site, grc.com. "In a fluke of laziness (or good judgement?) that has saved the Internet from untold levels of disaster," he wrote, "Microsoft's engineers never fully implemented the complete 'Unix Sockets' specification in any of the previous versions of Windows. (Windows 2000 has it.) As a consequence, Windows machines (compared to Unix machines) are blessedly limited in their ability to generate deliberately invalid Internet packets."

These invalid Internet packets are what malicious Internet users fire at sites from a range of computers. So many are aimed at a particular site that all the bandwidth is used up and so the site disappears from view for all other Internet users as they get no information to or from the site's server.

All Windows OSes until Windows 2000 and now Windows XP would not allow someone to "spoof" the source of such Internet packets. This means that a sysadmin can see where they are coming from and then block all data from that PC - freeing up bandwidth and letting others see the site. Spoof packets don't allow you to do that.

Why, if Windows 2000 and all machines running on Unix can already spoof packets, do we need worry about Windows XP allowing the same thing? Simple: Windows XP is a consumer OS and so will be taken up by a huge number of technically illiterate consumers. These are precisely the people that hackers will target due to their limited understanding of security issues. They will allow Trojans, Zombie and other types of malicious program on their PCs, they will remain unaware of them and they won't be able to remove it, even if they do discover them.

This means that the opportunity for hackers to control and direct others' computers as they wish will grow at an enormous rate as more and more people upgrade to Windows XP.

Steve Gibson writes in his piece: "When those insecure and maliciously potent Windows XP machines are mated to high-bandwidth Internet connections, we are going to experience an escalation of Internet terrorism the likes of which has never been seen before."

He calls on everyone to contact Microsoft senior execs and explain the potential problem, with the aim of removing this ability, possibly in the first service pack it knocks out. He's serious. ®

Related Story

Everything you wanted to know about DDoS attacks

Related Link

Steve Gibsons' DoS piece

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
ONE MILLION people already running Windows 10
A third of them are doing it in VMs, but early feedback focuses on frippery
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
Sway: Microsoft's new Office app doesn't have an Undo function
Content aggregation, meet the workplace ... oh
Sign off my IT project or I’ll PHONE your MUM
Honestly, it’s a piece of piss
Do Moan! MONSTER 6-day EMAIL OUTAGE hits Domain Monster
Customers freaked out by frightful service
Return of the Jedi – Apache reclaims web server crown
.london, .hamburg and .公司 - that's .com in Chinese - storm the web server charts
NetWare sales revive in China thanks to that man Snowden
If it ain't Microsoft, it's in fashion behind the Great Firewall
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.