Feeds

Microsoft warns of poisoned picture peril

JPEG of Death

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Remote control for virtualized desktops

The old bromide that promises you can't get a computer virus by looking at an image file crumbled a bit further Tuesday when Microsoft announced a critical vulnerability in its software's handling of the ubiquitous JPEG graphics format.

The security hole is a buffer overflow that potentially allows an attacker to craft a special JPEG file that would take control of a victim's machine when the user views it through Internet Explorer, Outlook, Word, and other programs. The poisoned picture could be displayed on a website, sent in email, or circulated on a P2P network.

Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Office XP are vulnerable. Older versions of Windows are also at risk if the user has installed any of a dozen other Microsoft applications that use the same flawed code, the company said in its advisory. The newly-released Windows XP Service Pack 2 does not contain the hole, but vulnerable versions of Office running atop it can still be attacked if left unpatched. Patches are available from Microsoft's website.

The company said it's not aware of the hole being publicly exploited in the wild, and has not seen any examples of proof of concept code.

The JPEG bug rounds out a growing menagerie of vulnerabilities in code that displays image files. Mozilla developers last month patched the open-source browser against a critical hole discovered in a widely-deployed library for processing PNG images. And last July, Microsoft simultaneously fixed two image display holes in Internet Explorer: one made users potentially vulnerable to maliciously-crafted BMP images, the second to corrupt GIF files. The GIF bug had been publicly disclosed 11 months earlier.

There was a time when the idea of a malicious image file was absurd enough to be the topic of an April Fools joke. One early and widely-circulated hoax message dating from 1994 warned users of a computer virus infecting the comment field of JPEG files.

"It was someone saying that just looking at a JPEG on your screen can get you a virus," recalls Rob Rosenberg, editor of the debunking site Vmyths.com. "In '94 it was a myth, but in '04 it's the real thing... We've got the JPEG of death now."

Copyright © 2004, SecurityFocus logo

Related story

First JPEG virus not a threat

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Webcam hacker pervs in MASS HOME INVASION
You thought you were all alone? Nope – change your password, says ICO
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
Meet OneRNG: a fully-open entropy generator for a paranoid age
Kiwis to seek random investors for crowd-funded randomiser
USB coding anarchy: Consider all sticks licked
Thumb drive design ruled by almighty buck
Attack reveals 81 percent of Tor users but admins call for calm
Cisco Netflow a handy tool for cheapskate attackers
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
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.
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?
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.