Feeds

Microsoft rejects call to fix SQL password-exposure risk

Unpatched and staying that way

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Microsoft is butting heads with a company that provides software for database security over a weakness in SQL Server that can expose user passwords to anyone with administrative access to the program.

Researchers at San Mateo, California-based Sentrigo warned Wednesday that the "significant vulnerability" is present in the 2000, 2005, and 2008 versions of SQL Server that use the mixed authentication mode, aka the SQL Server and Windows Authentication Mode. While those with administrative privileges typically have the ability to change others' passwords, they should never be able to view those access codes in the clear, they say.

"Applications go to great lengths to obfuscate passwords when they are needed within the software, and should not store passwords as 'clear text,' either in memory (as is the case with this vulnerability) or on disk," Sentrigo's advisory stated.

Microsoft has rejected the company's calls to change the way the software handles passwords, saying people with administrative rights already have complete control of the system anyway.

"Microsoft has thoroughly investigated claims of vulnerabilities in SQL Server and found that these are not product vulnerabilities requiring Microsoft to issue a security update," a spokesman wrote in an email. "An attacker who has administrative rights already has complete control of the system and can install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights."

He called on customers using SQL Server to follow security guidelines Microsoft has already laid out.

Each side in this kerfuffle has a point. Clearly, the feature exposed by Sentrigo makes it easier for rogue insiders and attackers who breach a network's defenses to sniff out passwords that could aid in additional intrusions. And in the 2000 and 2005 versions of the program, this can be done remotely, raising the possibility that an attack could be done by exploiting a SQL injection vulnerability that gives a hacker administrative access to a backend database.

(Changes in the 2008 versions make it more difficult for users to access the memory, so the vulnerability can only be exploited locally, Sentrigo said).

But given the ability of the average administrator to sniff out credentials a half-dozen other ways, the vulnerability seems to be more a sin of omission. While it probably violates principles of security in depth, most IT pros aren't likely to lose much sleep over it.

For those who do, Sentrigo has released a free utility that provides SQL Server users with additional security by erasing passwords. It's available here. The exposure weakness has been designated CVE-2009-3039 by the common vulnerabilities and exposures project. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
'Regin': The 'New Stuxnet' spook-grade SOFTWARE WEAPON described
'A degree of technical competence rarely seen'
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
Regin: The super-spyware the security industry has been silent about
NSA fingered as likely source of complex malware family
You stupid BRICK! PCs running Avast AV can't handle Windows fixes
Fix issued, fingers pointed, forums in flames
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
HACKERS can DELETE SURVEILLANCE DVRS remotely – report
Hikvision devices wide open to hacking, claim securobods
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.