Feeds

Microsoft on the hunt for 'serious' Windows flaw

Mass hijackings at risk

The essential guide to IT transformation

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. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Pay to play: The hidden cost of software defined everything
Enter credit card details if you want that system you bought to actually be useful
Shoot-em-up: Sony Online Entertainment hit by 'large scale DDoS attack'
Games disrupted as firm struggles to control network
HP busts out new ProLiant Gen9 servers
Think those are cool? Wait till you get a load of our racks
Silicon Valley jolted by magnitude 6.1 quake – its biggest in 25 years
Did the earth move for you at VMworld – oh, OK. It just did. A lot
VMware's high-wire balancing act: EVO might drag us ALL down
Get it right, EMC, or there'll be STORAGE CIVIL WAR. Mark my words
Forrester says it's time to give up on physical storage arrays
The physical/virtual storage tipping point may just have arrived
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.