Feeds

Spam-squirting hole found in McAfee antivirus kit

Ironic server-side flaw exploited, patch promised

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

McAfee is promising to patch a vulnerability in its hosted anti-malware service after it found a flaw that allowed systems where the product was installed to be turned into potential spam-relay nodes.

SaaS for Total Protection, the vulnerable software, will be patched on "January 18 or 19, as soon as we have finished testing", McAfee promised in a blog post published on Wednesday.

Two security issues in SaaS for Total Protection product have cropped up over recent days. The first security scare involves the possibility that an attacker might misuse an ActiveX control to execute code. The second abuses McAfee's "rumor" (update) technology to turn machines running the SaaS for Total Protection client into spam-spewing open relays.

The spam-relay problem resulted in genuine inconvenience for some McAfee customers, whose email was blocked after their IP addresses appeared on blacklists, prompting complaints to McAfee's forums and blog posts on the issue (here and here).

McAfee said the first bug is already blocked by a patch it released to address a similar problem last August. However the second spam-relaying bug still needs some attention, hence the plan to release a server-side patch this week. Since SaaS for Total Protection is a managed product, customers will not be obliged to update their software themselves.

In its blog post, the security giant said that neither of the two security issues placed customer data at any risk of exposure. Its notice explains the impact of the spam-relay flaw, which has been actively abused by spammers.

"The second issue has been used to allow spammers to bounce off of affected machines, resulting in an increase of outgoing email from them," it said. "Although this issue can allow the relaying of spam, it does not give access to the data on an affected machine. The forthcoming patch will close this relay capability."

McAfee says both the issues are restricted to SaaS for Total Protection and don't affect any of its other products.

Old-school scammers used to search the net for open relays through which they might be able to send junk mail before the botnets became the preferred technique for sending junk mail around 10 years ago. Using zombie drones to spew spam is so much easier for crooks, because of the large number of tools that have been developed to automate the process. These tools allow junk mail to be sent out in burst through different machines, rather than the same open relay, a tactic that runs circles around less sophisticated spam-filtering techniques.

Perhaps recent botnet takedowns have prompted spammers to return to older techniques but our guess is that the McAfee spam relay flaw is something of a one-off, opportunistically seized upon and exploited by a small number of spammers. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Webcam hacker pervs in MASS HOME INVASION
You thought you were all alone? Nope – change your password, says ICO
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
Meet OneRNG: a fully-open entropy generator for a paranoid age
Kiwis to seek random investors for crowd-funded randomiser
USB coding anarchy: Consider all sticks licked
Thumb drive design ruled by almighty buck
Attack reveals 81 percent of Tor users but admins call for calm
Cisco Netflow a handy tool for cheapskate attackers
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
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
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.
The Heartbleed Bug: how to protect your business with Symantec
What happens when the next Heartbleed (or worse) comes along, and what can you do to weather another chapter in an all-too-familiar string of debilitating attacks?
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.