Feeds

Microsoft sics worldwide braintrust on XP vuln

PDF attack prompts round-the-clock patch fest

Seven Steps to Software Security

Escalating attacks exploiting a serious weakness in PDF files have prompted Microsoft to issue an all-hands-on-deck call to fix a vulnerability that lurks in the bowels of Windows XP.

"We currently have teams worldwide who are working around the clock to develop an update of appropriate quality for broad distribution," Bill Sisk, a member of Microsoft's security response team wrote in a blog post Thursday. "Because ShellExecute is a core part of Windows, our development and testing teams are taking extra care to minimize application compatibility issues."

In the meantime, users should take extra care when receiving email attachments, even when delivered from known sources, and when visiting familiar or unknown websites, Sisk said. He didn't mention updates Adobe has issued here for its Reader program or here, but installing them immediately is also critical.

Sisk's warning is being prompted by a flurry of spam-carrying rigged PDF files that exploit the vulnerability. Based on reports by independent researchers, the emails appear to be on the rise. According to Ken Dunham, director of global response for iSIGHT Partners, one source of his intercepted more than 75,000 hostile PDF attachments in the past few days, a rate that translates to one sample every 10 seconds.

"Multiple private sources are now reporting a high volume of emails containing hostile PDF attachments," Dunham wrote in an email.

F-Secure is also reporting malware-tainted PDF are "being spammed heavily through email."

The urgency and transparency Microsoft is showing is commendable. But let's not forget that for more than three months, Redmond's security pros maintained that weaknesses resulting when third-party applications passed malicious uniform resource identifiers (URIs) to Internet Explorer was "not a vulnerability in a Microsoft product." As such, Redmond maintained, responsibility for plugging the hole lay elsewhere.

Two weeks ago, the software juggernaut, (which, incidentally, stunned Wall Street yesterday with strong quarterly earnings, largely on the sale of desktop titles) reversed itself on this position, admitting for the first time that the URI-handling weakness was an issue that had to be addressed by Microsoft.

The change of heart came as it became increasingly clear that the URI-handling weakness was doomed to repeat itself over and over on countless third-party apps. As Sisk put it, "...these third party updates do not resolve the vulnerability - they just close an attack vector."

Microsoft isn't due to issue another patch batch until November 13. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Attackers raid SWISS BANKS with DNS and malware bombs
'Retefe' trojan uses clever spin on old attacks to grant total control of bank accounts
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.