Feeds

ActiveX security faces storm before calm

MS responds to more Moore flaws

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

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 next step in data security

More from The Register

next story
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Infosec geniuses hack a Canon PRINTER and install DOOM
Internet of Stuff securo-cockups strike yet again
'Speargun' program is fantasy, says cable operator
We just might notice if you cut our cables
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
Greater dev access to iOS 8 will put us AT RISK from HACKERS
Knocking holes in Apple's walled garden could backfire, says securo-chap
Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't
We know what's good for you, because we made the mess says Redmond
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
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.