Feeds

ActiveX security faces storm before calm

MS responds to more Moore flaws

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Moore separated his work analysing ActiveX for flaws because he created the tool himself and he wanted to give Microsoft a chance to fix the issues before releasing the fuzzer, he said.

"You have to really know what you're fuzzing for to cover all the possible vulnerabilities," Moore said.

A major problem with ActiveX is that the components, especially those accessible through Internet Explorer, place the PC's user in a critical role as gatekeeper for the security of the system. While other models, such as Java, may allow for less interactivity and cool features, they deemphasise the users security role, Websense's Hubbard said.

"ActiveX passes the security process to the end user, as opposed to being handled within the language," he said. "In Java, there are certain things that you can't do, as opposed to ActiveX, which allows you to do them, if the users says OK."

The result is that many security-conscious system administrators and users shy away from the software. Source-code security firm Fortify, which looks to its customers for where to focus its efforts, has rarely looked at ActiveX because its customers are wary of the security problems posed by the software.

"I'm pretty sure what we would find - a lot of problems," Fortify chief scientist Brian Chess said. "You take the problems of Javascript and multiply it by a large number."

To minimise the danger of attack in the future, Microsoft plans to disable by default all but the most commonly used ActiveX controls in its coming browser, Internet Explorer 7. Moreover, the company will also use more informative warnings to users before allowing them to install new ActiveX controls, a feature the software giant calls ActiveX Opt-in.

"ActiveX Opt-in removes the default ability for malicious websites to load any ActiveX control as a means to attack a system," Microsoft said in a statement sent to SecurityFocus. "When a website attempts to load a control IE has never used before, the information bar will be displayed to advise the users a trust decision is required."

The software giant said that users who want more security now can upgrade to the third beta version of IE 7. The final version will be pushed out as a high-priority update via the company's Automatic Updates distribution channel in the fourth quarter of this year. Users will be notified that the update is available can can make a choice of whether to download it. Microsoft is also making a policy tool available for companies that want to block the notification to employees.

Upgrading to Internet Explorer 7 will require that the Windows user authenticate their system using Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage antipiracy tool.

The security improvements in Internet Explorer will make the latest flaws found by Metaploit's Moore go away, the security researcher said.

"Assuming everyone switches to IE 7, the easiest way to load ActiveX controls go away," he said. "So these issues pretty much go away with Internet Explorer 7."

This article originally appeared in Security Focus.

Copyright © 2006, SecurityFocus

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Rupert Murdoch says Google is worse than the NSA
Mr Burns vs. The Chocolate Factory, round three!
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Know what Ferguson city needs right now? It's not Anonymous doxing random people
U-turn on vow to identify killer cop after fingering wrong bloke
Germany 'accidentally' snooped on John Kerry and Hillary Clinton
Dragnet surveillance picks up EVERYTHING, USA, m'kay?
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
Who needs hackers? 'Password1' opens a third of all biz doors
GPU-powered pen test yields more bad news about defences and passwords
Think crypto hides you from spooks on Facebook? THINK AGAIN
Traffic fingerprints reveal all, say boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
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 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
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.