Feeds

Simon says: let me hack your Vista PC

Voice recognition attack

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Microsoft is playing down the possibility that the speech recognition system in Windows Vista could be hijacked to delete files or perform other unauthorised actions.

Vista contains improved speech recognition technology, a factor which prompted security researchers to see if it was possible to create MP3 files on hacker websites or audio tracks distributed on P2P networks to issue spoken commands which takes control of PCs running Vista.

Microsoft said the exploit is technically possible but unlikely to be much of a threat in practice. The attack scenario relies on activation of the speech recognition feature (with a user's microphone and speakers switched on to receive commands) and for a user to be away from his desk, so that the mischief takes place without anyone intervening. Many PCs are left on all the time, so hitting unattended PCs on, for example, the trading floor of a bank simply by targeting them at night might be possible.

A number of security researchers and Vista geeks have already tested the approach and were able to delete files and visit, albeit with considerable difficulty, arbitrary websites. But Microsoft says a number of additional factors make attacks based on the approach implausible, if not impossible.

"It is not possible through the use of voice commands to get the system to perform privileged functions such as creating a user without being prompted by UAC for Administrator credentials. The UAC prompt cannot be manipulated by voice commands by default. There are also additional barriers that would make an attack difficult including speaker and microphone placement, microphone feedback, and the clarity of the dictation," Adrian, a Microsoft security researcher wrote on Redmond's security response blog.

"While we are taking the reports seriously and investigating them accordingly I am confident in saying that there is little if any need to worry about the effects of this issue on your new Windows Vista installation," he added.

The SANS Institute's Internet Storm Centre (ISC), disputes Microsoft's assessment of the potential danger posed by the feature. "Downloading and executing a local privilege escalation is still eminently possible, you just need a suitable 0-day local privilege escalation for Vista. Indeed, any way to download and run arbitrary code as a valid user is never good news, this one just happens to be from the 'neat trick' pile," ISC duty staffer Arrigo Triulzi writes. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SMASH the Bash bug! Apple and Red Hat scramble for patch batches
'Applying multiple security updates is extremely difficult'
Shellshock: 'Larger scale attack' on its way, warn securo-bods
Not just web servers under threat - though TENS of THOUSANDS have been hit
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
Hackers thrash Bash Shellshock bug: World races to cover hole
Update your gear now to avoid early attacks hitting the web
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Who.is does the Harlem Shake
Blame it on LOLing XSS terroristas
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
Stunned by Shellshock Bash bug? Patch all you can – or be punished
UK data watchdog rolls up its sleeves, polishes truncheon
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
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?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.