Feeds

IE bugs keep coming

Patch Redmond

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Microsoft issued a patch Wednesday for a critical vulnerability in most versions of Windows that gives attackers remote control of a user's machine though Internet Explorer. But if the results of a new survey are any guide, most users won't install it.

The bug is a buffer overflow in an HTML conversion library used by a number of Windows programs, including Internet Explorer, and by extension Outlook and Outlook Express. To exploit it, an attacker tricks a victim into visiting a specially-crafted malicious Web page, or -- a more likely approach -- sends an Outlook user an HTML-formatted e-mail with the attack code embedded within.

A Russian hacker called "Digital Scream" reported the hole over Bugtraq on June 22nd, and other security researchers subsequently analyzed the vulnerability and produced a proof-of-concept exploit. With no advance warning, it took Microsoft seventeen days to release a patch -- not a unreasonable amount of time given the complexity of the problem, says Marc Maiffret, a founder of California-based security vendor eEye. "Since it is a component that is shared, and is not just used within Internet Explorer, it's a lot harder to test that the patch works with everything."

But even with a patch available, many users will likely remain vulnerable for years to come. At least that's what's suggested in a survey released Wednesday by the Belgian security company ScanIT, which has been operating a popular online browser security checker since last February.

ScanIT's free browser security test does not yet check for the HTML conversion hole, but it identifies 27 other known browser vulnerabilities -- most of them in Internet Explorer. Results collected from over 100,000 visitors to the site show that 86% of them suffer from at least one of those vulnerabilities, and 45% are susceptible to "high risk" vulnerabilities that give attackers remote access to the victim machine. Internet users in China were the most vulnerable, with 65% at high risk; American users the least, at 36%.

"Hackers are increasingly entering through flaws in Internet browsers themselves," said ScanIT's managing director David Michaux in a statement. "Developers put out patches regularly but most users aren't installing them."

Because Outlook and Outlook Express use Internet Explorer to display HTML formatted e-mail, the HTML conversion bug could be used to launch a virus or a worm. Last month's successful Bugbear.B worm relied on an Outlook security hole that Microsoft had patched more than two years earlier.

Microsoft rates the HTML conversion hole "critical" in Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, and Windows XP. The bug is merely a "moderate" hole in Windows Server 2003, owing to a default security setting that prevents automatic execution.

The company released two other less-serious advisories Wednesday, patching a buffer overflow in Windows' implementation of SMB, and a local privilege escalation vulnerability in Windows 2000's accessibility features.

© SecurityFocus.com

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
Admins! Never mind POODLE, there're NEW OpenSSL bugs to splat
Four new patches for open-source crypto libraries
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.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
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.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.