Feeds

Critical and unpatched, Windows XP bug is under attack

Red meat for full disclosure critics

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Five days after it was disclosed in a highly controversial advisory, a critical vulnerability in Microsoft's Windows XP operating system is being exploited by criminal hackers, researchers from anti-virus provider Sophos said on Tuesday.

The flaw in the Windows Help and Support Center was disclosed on Thursday by researcher Tavis Ormandy. His public advisory came just five days after he privately informed Microsoft of the defect, prompting fierce criticism from some circles that he hadn't given the software giant adequate time to fix the hole. That made it easier for attackers to target the bug, which allows attackers to take complete control of vulnerable machines when a user views a specially designed webpage, the critics howled.

According to Sophos, researchers have seen the first case of a website using the vulnerability to install malicious software on victim machines. “This malware downloads and executes an additional malicious component (Troj/Drop-FS) on the victim’s computer, by exploiting this vulnerability,” they warned.

Microsoft soon amended its own advisory on the vulnerability to say researchers are “aware of limited, targeted active attacks that use this exploit code.” Although the vulnerability also afflicts Windows Server 2003, Microsoft's advisory said that OS wasn't “currently at risk from these attacks.”

Ormandy's advisory has reignited the age-old debate over full disclosure, in which researchers publish complete details of a vulnerability under the belief that it is the best way to ensure a company fixes it quickly. Ormandy has defended his decision to give Microsoft just five days of advanced warning saying in a recent tweet: “I'm getting pretty tired of all the '5 days' hate mail. Those five days were spent trying to negotiate a fix within 60 days.”

Users of XP and Server 2003 should consider disabling features within Help Center that allow administrators to remotely log onto machines. For individual users, the easiest way to do this is to use the online “Fixit” application Microsoft has provided here. ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
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
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
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
NSA denies it knew about and USED Heartbleed encryption flaw for TWO YEARS
Agency forgets it exists to protect communications, not just spy on them
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
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.
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.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.