Feeds

MS to issue emergency patch for potent IE vuln

Researchers show exploits for IE 7 and 8

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

High performance access to file storage

Microsoft will release an emergency update that patches the Internet Explorer vulnerability used to breach the security defenses of Google and other large companies.

The software maker has said that real-world attacks against the browser continue to be "very limited" and that they're effective only against version 6, which was first released in 2001. Still, researchers have determined that it's possible to exploit more recent versions using well-known techniques, causing the level of concern generated by the vulnerability to spiral since last week, when Google revealed that it 20 other companies were hit by highly sophisticated attacks that pilfered intellectual property and user data.

Independent researchers have since raised the number of victims to 34 and said source code was specifically appropriated.

"Given the significant level of attention this issue has generated, confusion about what customers can do to protect themselves and the escalating threat environment Microsoft will release a security update out-of-band for this vulnerability," George Stathakopoulos, the general manager of the company's Trustworthy Computing Security group, wrote Tuesday morning. "We take the decision to go out-of-band very seriously given the impact to customers, but we believe releasing an update out-of-band update is the right decision at this time."

Typically, Microsoft releases patches on the second Tuesday of each month so that IT workers who administer tens of thousands of PCs have an opportunity to test how the changes will affect their systems. The company releases security patches outside that schedule only in rare cases. Microsoft won't say when the out-of-band update will be released until Wednesday, at the earliest.

The previously unknown IE vulnerability was used to compromise PCs used by Google and at least some of the other companies that were hit by the attacks. While that exploit code was effective only on IE 6, researcher Dina Dai Zovi said he has developed proof-of-concept code that at least partially compromises machines running IE 7. Security firm Vupen Security went even further saying in a very brief advisory that it was possible to remotely execute code on machines running IE 8.

Microsoft said it is working to confirm those claims, but the findings are a good indication that with enough time, successful in-the-wild attacks on more recent platforms are likely unless an emergency patch is issued.

While the underlying null pointer reference flaw is present in all recent versions of IE, a safety feature known as DEP, or data execution prevention, makes it much harder to exploit the bug to remotely hijack machines when running more recent browsers and operating systems. The successful attacks against IE 7 and IE 8 incorporate well-known techniques to bypass DEP. So far, Dai Zovi has been able only to read sensitive files when exploiting IE 7 on Windows Vista, but he still can't modify system settings. He says he's close to being able to carry out more powerful attacks, including on IE 8, pointing out obvious limitations to the protection.

Still, he mostly agrees with Microsoft guidance that systems that use a variety of protections - including DEP, ASLR, or address space layout randomization, and protected mode - will be significantly protected from exploits targeting the vulnerability.

Computer users "should eat their vegetables and exercise regularly like people have been telling them for 20 years," Dai Zovi told The Register. "DEP is not an excuse not to eat your vegetables. These mitigations are speed bumps. They're not perfect, so it requires paying conscious attention." ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
OpenSSL Heartbleed: Bloody nose for open-source bleeding hearts
Bloke behind the cockup says not enough people are helping crucial crypto project
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
Heartbleed exploit, inoculation, both released
File under 'this is going to hurt you more than it hurts me'
Bad PUPPY: Undead Windows XP deposits fresh scamware on lawn
Installing random interwebs shiz will bork your zombie box
Experian subsidiary faces MEGA-PROBE for 'selling consumer data to fraudster'
US attorneys general roll up sleeves, snap on gloves
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
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.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.