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Sophos bug highlights wider anti-virus flaws

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Users of Sophos’s anti-virus products were warned this week of a potentially serious security vulnerability. The bug - unearthed by security researcher Alex Wheeler - involves an unspecified heap-based buffer overflow vulnerability. The cross-platform flaw applies to Sophos Anti-Virus Small Business Edition and in version 3.x and 4.x of its flagship Sophos Anti-Virus product.

Successful exploitation of the vulnerability might be used to compromise vulnerable systems. Sophos is keen to calm possible security concerns. "Although theoretically a risk, Sophos has not seen any examples of malware attempting to exploit this vulnerability," it said.

The UK-based anti-virus vendor has released updates for Sophos Anti-Virus (3.96.0 and 4.5.4) that include a security fix. An update for Windows versions of Sophos Anti-Virus Small Business Edition is due Friday with updates for the software on other platforms due within the next two weeks, as explained in Sophos's alert here.

Wheeler and Neel Mehta, of security tools firm ISS, were scheduled to make a presentation at this week's Black Hat security conference explaining how anti-virus programs are becoming a target for hackers because of inherent security weaknesses. The duo have plenty of examples to back up this warning.

Over recent weeks security vendor ISS has issued alerts over similar but distinct vulnerabilities in various security packages from Symantec, involving the processing of UPX compressed files; and anti-virus products from F-Secure and Trend Micro, both involving the handling of ARJ archive files. ISS has also unearthed a glitch with McAfee security software involving the processing of LHA files. ®

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