Feeds

Symantec highlights Windows Vista user vulnerabilities

Access comes with privileges

Security for virtualized datacentres

Symantec has shed more light on potential vulnerabilities in Windows Vista that could circumvent new security measures and leave users vulnerable to attack.

The security specialist expects hackers will try to work around restrictions in Windows Vista that sandbox code downloaded from the internet in the hopes of preventing attacks on other PC system resources. Symantec says it's just a matter of time before "a low-privilege, low-integrity level process" will ultimately bypass Windows Vista's new system for securing user's machines "and ultimately execute code at a high- privilege, high-integrity level."

Symantec released the information in its latest paper, Analysis of the Windows Vista Security Model Analysis, which updates its overview of Windows Vista's network security last month. Readers wanting technical details should click here for the PDF.

The paper stresses its assessment is based on an out-of-the box installation of Windows Vista running on code used in Microsoft's February Community Technology Preview (CTP). Symantec concedes later builds of the operating system have closed potential gaps, and that Windows Vista's out-of-the-box security is already a "significant" improvement over previous versions of Windows.

However, Symantec's principal security researcher Matthew Conover wrote he "expects several other privilege escalation vulnerabilities to be discovered."

The nub of the issue appears to be a system of privileges Windows Vista assigns to both code and the end user. Microsoft's User Account Control (UAC) asks users to enter their credentials, which will depend on their company's security policy, before they are allowed to do things like install software.

Windows Vista also defines the "integrity" of things like objects and processes to control different levels of access they have to different system resources.

According to Microsoft's documentation, all files and registry keys will have a "medium" default integrity level, while IE running in protected mode - which it will do when installed out of the box - has a "low" integrity level. That means IE is not allowed to modify existing files on a Windows Vista machine, and will receive "access denied" error messages should it try to change files.

One popular means of attacking PCs is for the user to either visit a web site running malicious code, with code automatically downloading, installing and consuming system resources or stealing data. Another is for the user to download and install code, breezing through any warning pop-ups that get in way. Changes in Windows Vista are designed to close these avenues of attack.

Conover, though, expects hackers will see this defense strategy as a potential challenge. He expects hackers will look for ways to turn code downloaded using IE from low to medium or even high integrity. Next, he predicted it will be "just a matter of time" before hackers find ways to abuse Windows local and remote procedure calls (LPCs and RPCs) using high-integrity processes.

LCPs and RPCs a favored method of attacking servers and PCs running older versions of Windows.

Of course, hyping Vista security fears can't hurt Symantec's business.®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
NASTY SSL 3.0 vuln to be revealed soon – sources (Update: It's POODLE)
So nasty no one's even whispering until patch is out
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
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
Forget passwords, let's use SELFIES, says Obama's cyber tsar
Michael Daniel wants to kill passwords dead
FBI boss: We don't want a backdoor, we want the front door to phones
Claims it's what the Founding Fathers would have wanted – catching killers and pedos
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
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.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
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?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.