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Windows vulnerable to backdoors and other malicious tools

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January 30, 2008

Yesterday, Internet security researchers said they have discredited Microsoft's claim that 2008's first critical Windows security vulnerability would be difficult and unlikely to be exploited by potential attackers. Security firm Immunity Inc. updated a working exploit for the TCP/IP flaw spelled out January 8 in Microsoft's MS08-001 bulletin.

Immunity Inc. also posted a Flash demonstration of the attack on its website. The exploit, which was released to customers of its CANVAS penetration testing software was a revised version of code first issued Jan. 16.

Dave Aitel, Immunity's chief technology officer said "this demonstrates conclusively that the MS08-001 IGMP-v3 vulnerability is highly exploitable."

Aitel's assertion challenged Microsoft's earlier assessment that "there are a number of factors that make exploitation of this issue difficult and unlikely in real-world conditions." However, Immunity did acknowledge that its newest exploit was not 100 percent reliable.

It urged Internet users who have not already deployed the patches Microsoft issued Jan. 8 to do so immediately. Previously, Aitel had called out the IGMP (Internet Group Management Protocol) vulnerability as a potential blockbuster for this year.

In a detailed analysis of the flaw and its exploitation, Symantec agreed that the reward to hackers would be large even if replicating Immunity's work might be tough. Other security firms reacted to the revamped attack code and Flash proof by issuing new alerts.

For example, Symantec sent a new warning to customers of its DeepSight threat network. "The exploit demonstrates remote code execution. It works against Windows XP SP2 English Default and shows two Windows XP SP2 computers on a local subnet with firewall enabled being compromised," said Symantec in a security advisory.

"Although exploitation of a remote kernel flaw is considered quite difficult, over the past few years numerous papers have been released on the subject. Examples of exploits successfully leveraging such flaws have also been released to the public. Therefore, we assume that this issue will be exploited in the wild to execute arbitrary code. Deploy patches immediately," urged Symantec.

In the past, successful attacks by the Immunity exploit allows arbitrary code to execute within the context of the Windows kernel, an especially egregious scenario for Windows Vista, warned Symantec.

The security firm added "this is especially critical on Vista, due to its enhanced kernel security mechanisms. A local user, even an admin, may have difficultly introducing unsigned code into the kernel, but in this case, it can be done remotely without any authentication whatsoever."

In its Jan. 8 MS-08-001 bulletin, Microsoft ranked the IGMP flaw as "Critical" for Windows XP SP2, Windows Vista, Windows Small Business Server and Windows Home Server. On other versions, including Windows Server 2003, the bug rated an "Important" label.

Symantec also warned its users that "this vulnerability presents an opportunity to not only execute arbitrary code on the system, but also to install backdoors and other malicious tools as well as a rootkit, which may normally be more difficult with a typical remote userland vulnerability."

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Source: Symantec

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