MS targets Linux, Mac rivals with IIS astroturf

'Vulnerabilities also exist elsewhere' Really?

When we revealed the delightful bulletin yesterday that Microsoft has sent its salesforce, defending its Internet Information Server (IIS), we rather deviously kept one section under wraps.

It's a list of vulnerabilities in rival products, apparently listed because "switching from IIS to another platform does not eliminate security vulnerabilities or virus problems nor will it eliminate the need to remain vigilant," as the crib-sheet puts it.

We'd actually love to see an Internet server that does eliminate the need to be vigilant (wouldn't that be great?), but we doubt that it's a claim made by any of IIS' rivals. And surely that's not the point that Gartner's John Pescatore was making either, in his recommendation that companies abandon IIS. He was pointing out that the rivals require less maintenance to achieve acceptable levels of security, and present a lower risk.

But here's the list, and pay close attention. There'll be a test in a minute:

Apache - Windows Equivalent, Core IIS Services


  • 2001-07-10: Apache Possible Directory Index Disclosure Vulnerability
  • 2001-07-02: Apache Tomcat Cross-Site Scripting Vulnerability
  • 2001-06-10: MacOS X Client Apache File Protection Bypass Vulnerability
  • 2001-04-12: Apache Web Server HTTP Request Denial of Service Vulnerability
  • 2001-03-28: Apache Tomcat 3.0 Directory Traversal Vulnerability
  • 2001-03-28: Multiple Vendor URL JSP Request Source Code Disclosure Vulnerability
  • 2001-03-13: Apache Artificially Long Slash Path Directory Listing Vulnerability

PHP - Windows Equivalent to ASP.DLL
  • 2001-06-30: PHP SafeMode Arbitrary File Execution Vulnerability
  • 2001-01-16: PHP .htaccess Attribute Transfer Vulnerability
  • 2001-01-12: PHP Engine Disable Source Viewing Vulnerability

PHPMyAdmin - Web Interface for managing MySQL

  • 2001-07-02: phpMyAdmin Included File Arbitrary Command Execution Vulnerability
  • 2001-04-23: PHPMyAdmin File Inclusion Arbitrary Command Execution Vulnerability


Now, then. We wondered how long it would be our mailbox started filling up with concerned readers citing any of the above?

Not very long.

"To be quite honest," writes Charles Astwood, "I am not convinced by Gartner's arguments."

He continues:

"Running an older version of Apache than 1.3.19 (I think released on 28th February 2001) has a vulnerability where the web server may display a directory listing when it should display an error message."

Really? What else?

"More severe problems become apparent when dynamic media, as used on more and more web pages these days, is used. These require modules to be added to Apache and it is these that are exploitable. Some modules in the past that have been exploitable are Apache with PHP3 on the Windows platform and Tomcat on Unix."

In total, we're three-quarters of the way to collecting the full set, from various concerned correspondents, and were whimsically thinking of trading them with you. Can you swap us a Mac OS X vulnerability for a couple of PHP Engine Disable Source Viewing Vulnerabilities? We've lots of those... But most correspondents point out the first two on the list. And almost all such letters continue the theme: "It doesn't matter what system you are running, if you don't keep up to date you will be hit."

Microsoft surely gave an honest answer yesterday, by tacitly accepting that IIS has a unique problem (or combination of problems), that they recognize it, and are taking steps to fix it with a rewrite. But we fear that this kind of Astroturf will continue for a while yet. ®

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