Feeds

Windows Media Player must be patched to fix IE

That makes sense

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft on the Threshold of a new name for Windows next week
Rebranded OS reportedly set to be flung open by Redmond
'In... 15 feet... you will be HIT BY A TRAIN' Google patents the SPLAT-NAV
Alert system tips oblivious phone junkies to oncoming traffic
Apple: SO sorry for the iOS 8.0.1 UPDATE BUNGLE HORROR
Apple kills 'upgrade'. Hey, Microsoft. You sure you want to be like these guys?
SMASH the Bash bug! Apple and Red Hat scramble for patch batches
'Applying multiple security updates is extremely difficult'
ARM gives Internet of Things a piece of its mind – the Cortex-M7
32-bit core packs some DSP for VIP IoT CPU LOL
Lotus Notes inventor Ozzie invents app to talk to people on your phone
Imagine that. Startup floats with voice collab app for Win iPhone
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.