Feeds

MS issues bum security patch, contradicts self

Why full disclosure is good

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Boost IT visibility and business value

Recently-issued patches for an exploitable RDP (Remote Data Protocol) bug in Win-NT and 2K have given users trouble enough for MS to yank one of them (details below). The timing is unfortunate. Only last week Microsoft Security Manager Scott Culp called on outside security researchers to follow Redmond's no-tell bug reporting example.

One core issue is exploit code, and the examples are Nimda and Code Red. "It's high time the security community stopped providing blueprints for building these weapons," Culp said.

His aim is to keep exploitable data out of the hands of the Blackhat development community, which, while perfectly legitimate, is a fairly shaky proposition in practical terms. Blackhats are often well ahead of vendors, as we've seen many times.

We certainly don't advocate broadcasting step-by-step exploit manuals -- especially by the mainstream press and by security vendors which stand to profit from abuse; but we believe that the tech press and independent security lists should continue to publish detailed information. We wish Microsoft would contribute the data they find, at least after a patch has been issued.

We say this because system configurations vary and it's important to verify that a given patch actually does the job in each case. Withholding the information needed to prove that it works forces admins to trust that it does. This can produce a false sense of security, which is worse than incomplete security of which one is, at least, aware.

For rigorous evaluation we need two things: a detailed description of the bug, and as many working exploits as we can find to run against the patch. Only then can we be confident that a patch is robust.

"Without exploit code, how do we ensure that the patches actually work," VulnWatch moderator Steve Manzuik asked in a recent letter to Culp.

"Trust our vendor? I don't think so. Vendors have proven that they bow to stock prices and market pressures and will continue to do this over and above security needs. Multiple vendors, not just Microsoft, have also proved that they will not completely research the issues themselves, and release insufficient patches," Manzuik says.

Funny that

Talk about insufficient patches. MS concludes that the NT version of their RDP-bug patch can be installed safely, while the 2K patch will make a mess of your system and has been removed from the TechWeb site pending a fix.

If you've downloaded the 2K patch and not yet installed it, then you should discard it before some well-meaning OFH ninny goes ahead with the installation for you.

The patch is not crucial as the RDP hole can't (yet) be exploited in a destructive manner. A "particular series of data packets" will shut the server down, but a simple re-boot is all that's needed to bring things back. Of course, if one's being deliberately attacked with this vulnerability, re-booting every fifteen minutes pretty much equals a denial of service.

The systems affected are: NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition; 2K Server; 2K Advanced Server; and 2K Datacenter Server. The NT patch is available here; and the 2K patch will be posted as soon as possible, MS says.

It would be nice if MS would specify the 'particular series of packets' which triggers the RDP freeze, as it's quite possible there's a simple workaround which might be applied as a stopgap. It would also be nice to run an attack against one's own machine after patching, to ensure that the fix is effective on one's system.

But that would require us to regard exploit code as a tool, not a weapon. Unfortunately it's both, which is why it may never be possible to reconcile these two quite legitimate, and eternally conflicting, points of view. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Microsoft refuses to nip 'Windows 9' unzip lip slip
Look at the shiny Windows 8.1, why can't you people talk about 8.1, sobs an exec somewhere
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
Intel's Raspberry Pi rival Galileo can now run Windows
Behold the Internet of Things. Wintel Things
Linux Foundation says many Linux admins and engineers are certifiable
Floats exam program to help IT employers lock up talent
Microsoft cries UNINSTALL in the wake of Blue Screens of Death™
Cache crash causes contained choloric calamity
Eat up Martha! Microsoft slings handwriting recog into OneNote on Android
Freehand input on non-Windows kit for the first time
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
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.
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?