Feeds

Critical and unpatched, Windows XP bug is under attack

Red meat for full disclosure critics

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

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. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
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
Astro-boffins start opening universe simulation data
Got a supercomputer? Want to simulate a universe? Here you go
State Dept shuts off unclassified email after hack. Classified mail? That's CLASSIFIED
Classified systems 'not affected' - but, is this reconnaissance?
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.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
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.