Feeds

Windows Media Player must be patched to fix IE

That makes sense

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

A trivial scrap of malicious JavaScript can defeat entirely the Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P) 'protections' Microsoft has integrated into Internet Explorer 6, all because of a dodgy 'feature' in Windows Media Player (WMP).

According to a post by privacy advocate Richard M. Smith to the BugTraq mailing list Tuesday, WMP generates by default a serial number which can be grabbed by a Web site using the simple exploit. The number can be used as a 'super cookie', as Smith calls it, enabling a nosey third party to track a victim's on-line comings and goings regardless of their cookie handling rules.

Even if all cookies are deleted and privacy policy set to reject them, the WMP number can be used to track users because it's stored in the Windows Registry. It can be read with a simple ClientID request, as Smith illustrates with a demo Web page. The hole affects both IE6 and older versions of Netscape, Smith says.

The coding here is embarrassingly simple:

<OBJECT classid="clsid:22D6F312-B0F6-11D0-94AB-0080C74C7E95"

ID=WMP WIDTH=1 HEIGHT=1>
</OBJECT>

<script>

alert(document.WMP.ClientID);


</script>

"Once the ID number is available to a JavaScript program, it can be sent back to a Web site either by appending it to the URL of a Web bug or storing it in a regular Web browser cookie," Smith explains.



The only fix is for users of older versions of WMP to patch their systems, and then to select the option in WMP which disables the wonderful 'feature' allowing their players to be uniquely identified. (Why anyone in his right mind would desire such a thing is quite beyond me; but the feature, incredibly, is enabled by default.)

Once a user turns off the option, a unique WMP number will be generated for each IE session, so long-term tracking is impossible.

"However, asking the average user to solve an Internet Explorer privacy leak by manually changing settings in a different program seems a bit much to me. Especially considering that there are many people who have never run Windows Media Player, yet they are still vulnerable to the problem," Smith notes.

And indeed, the idea that a media application might be causing a Web browser to leak data in spite of its own security settings would be counter-intuitive to the casual user or computing newbie.

It's only after we've become familiar with Microsoft's habits in security engineering that such a thing begins to make perfect sense. ®

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.