Feeds

Critical Windows vulnerability under attack, Microsoft warns

Drive-by web exploits possible

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Microsoft has warned of a critical security bug in older versions of its Windows operating system that is already being exploited in the wild to remotely execute malware on vulnerable machines.

The vulnerability in a Windows component known as DirectX is being targeted using booby-trapped QuickTime files, which when parsed can allow attackers to gain complete control of a computer. Because many browsers are designed to automatically play video, people can be compromised simply by visiting a site serving malicious files. Vista, Windows Server 2008 and the beta version of Windows 7 are not affected, and neither is Apple's QuickTime player, Microsoft said.

Microsoft has offered several work-arounds until a patch is available. The most straight-forward of them involves visiting this link and clicking on the "Fix it" icon. (We got an error when using Firefox, but it worked fine with Internet Explorer.) Several additional fixes are available on the work-arounds section here. The installation of QuickTime doesn't protect Windows users from being compromised.

The vulnerability exists in the way a DirectX application programming interface known as DirectShow handles supported QuickTime files. By manipulating the format, attackers can gain the same system privileges assigned to the logged-in user. Since Microsoft doesn't make it easy on users who log in to limited accounts, the vulnerability means most people using 2000, XP and Server 2003 versions of Windows are at risk of losing complete control of their machines.

Vista and later versions of Windows aren't affected because the vulnerable QuickTime parser filter was removed from them.

Microsoft was vague about the real-world attacks targeting the flaw except to say it "is aware of limited, active attacks that use this exploit code." It said it is sharing additional details with company partners through its Microsoft Active Protections Program, which was announced in August.

Microsoft has additional information here and here. ®

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'
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
Ello? ello? ello?: Facebook challenger in DDoS KNOCKOUT
Gets back up again after half an hour though
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
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.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.