Feeds

MS confirms Windows shortcut zero-day flaw

Power Plant peril

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Microsoft has confirmed the presence of a zero-day vulnerability in Windows, following reports of sophisticated malware-based hacking attacks on industrial control systems that take advantage of the security flaw.

Security shortcomings in the Windows shortcut (.lnk files) are being exploited by the Stuxnet rootlet, an information stealing threat that targets industrial and power plant control systems. The malware - which has been detected in the wild - executes automatically if an infected USB stick is accessed in Windows Explorer.

The attack features rootkit components designed to hide the presence of the information-stealing payload on compromised systems. The digital certificate, assigned to legitimate firm Realtek Semiconductor, used to sign the rootkit components in the malware was revoked by VeriSign last week following discovery of the attack.

All versions of Windows - including Win XP SP2, widely used despite the discontinuation of further security updates earlier this month - are vulnerable. Disabling Windows AutoPlay and AutoRun - the normal defence against malware on USB sticks - has no effect.

Sophos has published a video illustrating the attack in action against a fully patched Win 7 system on its YouTube channel here.

In an advisory, Microsoft confirmed the flaw and suggested possible workarounds, ahead of a possible future patch.

"Microsoft is investigating reports of limited, targeted attacks exploiting a vulnerability in Windows Shell, a component of Microsoft Windows," it said.

"The vulnerability exists because Windows incorrectly parses shortcuts in such a way that malicious code may be executed when the user clicks the displayed icon of a specially crafted shortcut. This vulnerability is most likely to be exploited through removable drives.

"For systems that have AutoPlay disabled, customers would need to manually browse to the root folder of the removable disk in order for the vulnerability to be exploited."

The same vulnerability might also lend itself to exploitation via Windows file shares and WebDav as well as infected USB sticks, net security firm F-Secure adds. Disabling the displaying of icons for shortcuts and turning off WebClient service are offered by Microsoft as workarounds against possible attacks, ahead of the completion of Microsoft's investigation and the possible publication of a more comprehensive security fix. These workarounds would also work on end of life Win XP SP2 systems.

Additional commentary on the flaw, including the results of early analysis, can be found in a blog post by the SANS Institute's Internet Storm Centre here. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Ice cream headache as black hat hacks sack Dairy Queen
I scream, you scream, we all scream 'DATA BREACH'!
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
JLaw, Kate Upton exposed in celeb nude pics hack
100 women victimised as Apple iCloud accounts reportedly popped
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
Three quarters of South Korea popped in online gaming raids
Records used to plunder game items, sold off to low lifes
Oz fed police in PDF redaction SNAFU
Give us your metadata, we'll publish your data
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.