Feeds

Microsoft on the hunt for 'serious' Windows flaw

Mass hijackings at risk

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

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. ®

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Apple fanbois SCREAM as update BRICKS their Macbook Airs
Ragegasm spills over as firmware upgrade kills machines
Attack of the clones: Oracle's latest Red Hat Linux lookalike arrives
Oracle's Linux boss says Larry's Linux isn't just for Oracle apps anymore
THUD! WD plonks down SIX TERABYTE 'consumer NAS' fatboy
Now that's a LOT of porn or pirated movies. Or, you know, other consumer stuff
EU's top data cops to meet Google, Microsoft et al over 'right to be forgotten'
Plan to hammer out 'coherent' guidelines. Good luck chaps!
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
FLAPE – the next BIG THING in storage
Find cold data with flash, transmit it from tape
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.