Feeds

MS preps emergency patch for Windows shortcut peril

Attacks on rise

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Warning of an uptick in attacks, Microsoft plans to issue an emergency update to patch a critical Windows vulnerability that hackers are exploiting to seize control of PCs.

The patch, which fixes the way Windows parses shortcut icons, will be released on Monday at around 10 a.m. California time. It comes two weeks after reports surfaced that unknown hackers were exploiting the flaw in an attempt to install malware on systems that control the operations of power plants and other critical infrastructure. At least two customer of SCADA, or supervisory control and data acquisition, software offered by Siemens have been hit by a computer worm that exploits the bug.

“We are releasing the bulletin as we've completed the required testing and the update has achieved the appropriate quality bar for broad distribution to customers,” Christopher Budd, Microsoft's senior security response communications manager,” wrote. “Additionally, we're able to confirm that, in the past few days, we've seen an increase in attempts to exploit the vulnerability. We firmly believe that releasing the update out of band is the best thing to do to help protect our customers.”

The vulnerability resides in the Windows LNK extension, which is used to create shortcuts on the operating system desktop or in select folders to make it easier to access files. The OS fails to adequately parse some parameters, making it possible to embed malicious code that is automatically executed when an icon is viewed. Hackers have been exploiting the flaw using worms that spread over USB drives. Microsoft has also warned that it is exploitable using local network file-sharing features or the WebDAV, or Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning, client service.

It affects every supported version of Windows.

Until the patch is released, the only way for users to protect themselves is to deploy a workaround that prevents folder icons from being displayed.

Microsoft rarely issues patches outside of its monthly schedule, which it put in place in 2003 so that customers in large organizations had time to make sure the changes don't disrupt operations. By our count, this is the third time this year Microsoft has issued a so-called out-of-band update.

In addition to the Stuxnet worm hitting SCADA systems, the Zeus crimeware kit and other malware titles have also been caught attacking the vulnerability. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
Forget passwords, let's use SELFIES, says Obama's cyber tsar
Michael Daniel wants to kill passwords dead
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
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 for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.