Feeds

Microsoft on the hunt for 'serious' Windows flaw

Mass hijackings at risk

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

Microsoft bug squashers are investigating reports of a serious security vulnerability in Windows operating systems that could allow attackers to take control of vast numbers of machines, particularly those located off US shores.

A Microsoft spokesman had only minimal details about the investigation, which was prompted by a presentation last week by researcher Beau Butler at the Kiwicon security conference in New Zealand. According to this report in the Sydney Morning Herald, the flaw affects every version of Windows including Vista and is actually the continuation of an old vulnerability that Microsoft supposedly fixed years ago.

The bug, according to Symantec's DeepSight threat notification service, resides in a feature known as Web Proxy Autodiscovery (WPAD), which helps IT administrators automate the configuration of proxy settings in Internet Explorer and other web browsers. The vulnerability can be "widely exploited" to "intercept web sessions, direct browsers to malicious proxies, and effectively gain control over unsuspecting users' web traffic," according to Symantec, which said it had yet to confirm the vulnerability.

Vulnerable browsers will traverse a company's host domain to search for a WPAD data file used to set up the proxy feature. IE running on host a.b.c.d.net, for example, first would look in b.c.d.net, then c.d.net and finally d.net. "In certain configurations, the third-level domain is not a trusted part of the network; an attacker can set up a malicious driftnet-type WPAD server situated outside of an organization's normal administrative control," Symantec warned.

"Now that we understand the issue we're researching comprehensive mitigations and workarounds to protect customers," Microsoft's general manager of product security, George Stathakopoulos, wrote in an email to the Sydney Morning Herald. Engineers in Australia and the US were scrambling to replicate and confirm the issue over the US Thanksgiving holiday, according to the paper. A Microsoft spokesman had no additional details on Monday.

Microsoft appears to have released a patch for the vulnerability in 1999. But the patch only protected domain names ending in .com, so WPAD servers using all other addresses have remained vulnerable. ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Kingston DataTraveler MicroDuo: Turn your phone into a 72GB beast
USB-usiness in the front, micro-USB party in the back
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
BOFH: Oh DO tell us what you think. *CLICK*
$%%&amp Oh dear, we've been cut *CLICK* Well hello *CLICK* You're breaking up...
AMD's 'Seattle' 64-bit ARM server chips now sampling, set to launch in late 2014
But they won't appear in SeaMicro Fabric Compute Systems anytime soon
Amazon reveals its Google-killing 'R3' server instances
A mega-memory instance that never forgets
Cisco reps flog Whiptail's Invicta arrays against EMC and Pure
Storage reseller report reveals who's selling what
prev story

Whitepapers

SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.