Feeds

Word 97 feature spawns no-brainer pilfering exploit

Document Collaboration Spyware

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Microsoft is investigating a security vulnerability with Word 97 which allows attackers to filch documents from victim's PCs using a craft social engineering attack.

If an attacker can persuade a target to open, modify and then return a document to him he can snaffle sensitive files on a user's PC. The files will be silently wrapped into the returned file using the INCLUDETEXT field, one of the numerous hidden fields embedded in Word documents.

An attacker would need to know the location of the file he wants to nick (hardly the greatest problem) but apart from that there's little to protect users from this attack. No viruses, no macros - just a Word document ready to place your most sensitive data in the INCLUDETEXT field, possibly using a white font or some such to conceal the pilfered text.

This is not a flaw, it's a feature - which can't be disabled by users. True, you can manually check the fields, but will the average user do that do that?

What should happen is that user confirmation (via a dialog box) for all includes should be mandated, and until Microsoft comes up with a fix along these lines then paranoia has to be the order of the day.

Information about the cracker-friendly feature was first published by Alex Gantman on BugTraq on August 26. He describes the attack as one involving Document Collaboration Spyware, which sounds about right to us.

Woody Leonhard, editor of Woody's Office Watch, brought the issue to wider attention in his email newsletter, and carried out tests which showed the problem may also affect Word 2000 and 2002.

This is a horribly nasty and childishly easy exploit and Microsoft can't patch it a moment too soon. The fact that the feature exists at all is ample illustration that Microsoft places usability (users don't want to click on dialogue boxes) over security. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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
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.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.