Stories about Microsoft, Windows, Office and so on

So Microsoft has known about the IE vulnerability (CVE-2010-0249) since last September.

So, let me get this straight, MS was informed about this vulnerability by a security researcher (Meron Sellen) last August, and it’s sat in the Microsoft Security Response Center’s queue to be fixed until Google got hacked, and then they checked their queue to see if they knew about it?

Even though this was acknowledged in September, and MS planned to ship the patch in a cumulative IE update next month, so that’s 6 months, really? Wow, I thought that Adobe had it tough with not having enough developers to patch
This really makes me question the worlds largest OS developer, I have to say. The following questions come to mind though.

– If this was passed to them last September, do they have that many bugs in their code that they haven’t gotten around to this one yet?

– What happened to MS’s secure development program if something like this can get missed?

–  As it’s the fault of a software development house that another 33 companies were hacked, will any legal action be taken against then for this?

– Will/Could Google sue MS for damages if they do decide to pull out of China because of this hack?

Just random thoughts, but hey…

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Microsoft Security Essentials review

What with twenty years experience in reviewing AV software, I figured I’d better try it out.

It’s not altogether terrible.  The fact that it’s free, and from Microsoft (and therefore promoted), might reduce the total level of infections, and that would be a good thing.

But even for free software, and from Microsoft, it’s pretty weird.

When I installed it, I did a “quick” scan.

That ran for over an hour on a machine with a drive that’s got about 70 Gb of material on it, mostly not programs.  At that point I hadn’t found out that you can exclude directories (more on that later), so it found my zoo.  It deleted nine copies of Sircam.

Lemme tell ya ’bout my zoo.  It’s got over 1500 files in it.  There are a lot of duplicate files (hence the nine copies of Sircam), and there are files in there that are not malware.  There are files which have had the executable file extensions changed.  But there are a great number of common, executable, dangerous pieces of malware in there, and the only thing MSE found was nine copies of Sircam.

(Which it deleted.  Without asking.  Personally, for me, that’s annoying.  It means I have to repopulate my zoo from backups.  But for most users, that’s probably a good thing.)

Now, when I went to repopulate my zoo, I, of course, opened the zoo directory with Windows Explorer.  And all kinds of bells and whistles went off.  As soon as I “looked” at the directory, the real-time component of MSE found more than the quick scan did.  That probably means the real-time scanner is fairly decent.  (In my situation it’s annoying, so I turned it off.  MSE is now annoyed at me, and continues to be annoyed, with big red flags on my task bar.)
MSE has four alert levels to categorize what it finds, and you have some options for setting the default actions.  The alert levels are severe (options: “Recommended action,” “Remove,” and “Quarantine”), high (options: “Recommended action,” “Remove,” and “Quarantine”), medium (options: “Recommended action,” “Remove,” “Quarantine,” and “Allow”), and low (options: “Recommended action,” “Remove,” “Quarantine,” and “Allow”).  Initially, everything is set at “Recommended action.”  I turned everything down to the lowest possible settings: I want information, not strip mining.  However, for most people it would seem to be reasonable to keep it at the default action, which seems to be removal for everything.
I don’t know where it puts the quarantined stuff.  It does have a directory at C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Microsoft Security Essentials, but no quarantined material appears to be there.

(I did try to find out more.  It does have help functions.  If you click on the “Help” button, it sends you to this site.  However, if you click on the link to explain the actions and alert levels, it sends you to this site.  If you examine those two URLs, they are different.  If you click on them, you go to the same place.  At that location, you can get some pages that offer you marketing bumpf, or watch a few videos.  There isn’t much help.)
You can exclude specific files and locations.  Personally, I find that extremely useful, and the only reason that I’d continue using MSE.  It does seem to work: I excluded my zoo before I did a full scan, and none of my zoo disappeared when I did the full scan.  However, for most users, the simple existence of that option could signal a loophole.  If I was a blackhat, first thing I’d do is find out how to exclude myself from the scanner.  (There is also an option to exclude certain file types.)

So I did a full scan.  That took over eight hours.  I don’t know exactly how long it took, I finally had to give up and leave it running.  MSE doesn’t report how long it took to do a scan, it only reports what it found.  (I suspect the total run was around ten or eleven hours.  MSE reports that a full scan can take up to an hour.)

While MSE is running it really bogs down the machine.  According to task manager it doesn’t take up much in the way of machine cycles, but the computer sure isn’t responsive while it’s on.
When I came back and found it had finished, the first thing it wanted me to do was send a bunch of suspect files to Microsoft.  The files were all from my email.  On the plus side, the files were all messages that reported suspect malware or Websites, so it’s possible that we could say MSE is doing a good job in scanning files and examining archives.  (On the other hand, every single message was from Sunbelt Software.  This could be coincidence, but it is also a fact that Sunbelt makes competing AV software, and was formerly associated with a company that Microsoft bought in its race to produce AV and anti-spyware components.)

Then I started to go through what Microsoft said it found, in order to determine what I had lost.

The first item on the list was rated severe.  Apparently I had failed to notice six copies of the EICAR test file on my machine.

Excuse me?  The EICAR test file?  A severe threat?  Microsoft, you have got to be kidding.  And the joke is not funny.

The EICAR test file is a test file.  If anyone doesn’t know what it is, read about it at EICAR, or at Wikipedia if you don’t trust EICAR.  It’s harmless.  Yes, a compatible scanner will report it, but only to show that your scanner is, in fact, working.

It shouldn’t delete or quarantine all copies it finds on the machine.

MSE also said it quarantined fifteen messages from my email for having JavaScript shell code.  Unfortunately, it didn’t say what they were, and I wasn’t sure I could get them back.  I don’t know why they were deleted, or what the trigger was.  MSE isn’t too big on reporting details.  I don’t know whether these messages were simply ones that contained some piece of generic JavaScript, and got boosted up to “severe” level.  Given the EICAR test file experience, I’m not inclined to give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt.

After some considerable work, I did find them.  They seemed to be the “suspect” messages that Microsoft wanted.  And when I tried to recover them, I found that MSE had not quarantined them: they were left in place.  So, at the very least, at times MSE lies to you.

(I guess I’d better add my email directory to places for MSE not to scan.)
MSE quarantined some old DOS utilities.  It quarantined a bunch of old virus simulators (the ones that show you screen displays, not actual infectors).  (Called them weird names, too.)

MSE quarantined Gibson Research‘s DCOMbob.exe.  This is a tool for making sure that DCOM is disabled on your machine.  Since DCOM was the vector for the Blaster worm (among others), and is really hard to turn off under XP, I find this rather dangerous.

OK, final word is that I can use it.  I’ll want to protect certain areas before I do, but that shouldn’t be too much of a concern for most users.

You might want to make sure Microsoft isn’t reading your email …

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Major Browsers Pwnd

0day exploits for Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari were used to own machines at the Pwn2Own contest @ CanSecWest 2009. Is now the time for someone to port Windows 3.1 to MIPS and install a good telnet client? Roffles.

Credit for the fierce FF/IE photo 🙂

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Don’t open that PDF!

Adobe Acrobat, at least the reader, has been owned. Again. So Surprising.

The good news is that Xpdf probably isn’t vulnerable 🙂

    SecuriTeam Secure Disclosure

    SecuriTeam Secure Disclosure (SSD) helps researchers turn their vulnerability discovery skills into a highly paid career. Contact SSD to get the most for your hard work.

NetBSD gone Mobile

There is an interesting article about NetBSD becoming the new os on the tmobile sidekick. While NetBSD can run on just about any kind of relevant hardware, running NetBSD on the sidekick and painting a nice GUI (with the help of Danger probably) should be lots of fun. As an end result, could this not rank as the most secure mobile device if nothing else?

    SecuriTeam Secure Disclosure

    SecuriTeam Secure Disclosure (SSD) helps researchers turn their vulnerability discovery skills into a highly paid career. Contact SSD to get the most for your hard work.



The flaw discovered by Dan Kaminsky put a forthright scare into the entire internet community — and it should have. This attack, which is trivial in nature, could make the difference between sending all your private data to the secure server across the ocean, or to a happy hacker filling his/her eye balls with goodies.

But now, since everyone was woken up, there are two mainstream, proposed solutions in hopes of ending the insecurity in DNS: DNSSEC and DNSCurve. Which one should you bet your network’s integrity on? Better hope your patched or you might get bailiwicked. Let the enlightenment begin.

DNSSEC, or Domain Name System Security Extensions, is a suite of IETF specifications for securing certain kinds of information in DNS. Recently, lots of companies have been gearing up to implement DNSSEC, as a means of securing DNS on the Internet. One man, that opposes DNSSEC, has written his own code to provide a nicer, more secure solution, and far better than DNSSEC. He calls it DNSCurve.

DNSCurve uses high-speed, high-security elliptic cryptography to improve and secure DNS. Daniel J. Bernstein, the creator of DNSCurve and many other high security servers such as qmail and djbdns servers, doesn’t want DNSSEC implemented, but DNSCurve instead. And it is no question which one is the better choice after looking at the comparisons Bernstein makes between the two now rivals.

Some huge advantages with DNSCurve vs DNSSEC are encrypting DNS requests and responses, not publishing lists of DNS records, much stronger cryptography for detecting forgeries, (some) protection against denial of service attacks, and other improvements.

There is one quick, unrelated issue that I disagree with Mr. Bernstein about. After offering $500 “to the first person to publish a verifiable security hole in the latest version of qmail”, he states: “My offer still stands. Nobody has found any security holes in qmail”. But in 2005, Georgi Guninski found one and has confirmed exploitability on 64 bit platforms with a lot of memory.

Bernstein denied his claim and then stated “In May 2005, Georgi Guninski claimed that some potential 64-bit portability problems allowed a remote exploit in qmail-smtpd.” This claim is denied. Nobody gives gigabytes of memory to each qmail-smtpd process, so there is no problem with qmail’s assumption that allocated array lengths fit comfortably into 32 bits.”. Now, to me, and I am sure to many other people as well, an exploitable bug in an exploitable bug. Conditions have to sometimes be met and “can be carried too far”, one might put it, but in this case, it is clear that Guninski found at least one exploitable bug in qmail. Game over. No disrespect to Mr. Bernstein or his code; he does have both great code and concepts. On with my main literature.

So, if I were a betting man (and I am), I would gamble on Bernstein’s all around great approach to making DNS safer, more resilient against attacks, and definatly more secure. Hopefully, people will realize money can’t solve all our problems, but the guys that know what they are doing, can, and might just make some things happen pretty soon.

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Top Exploits of the Week #1

Quicktime 0day

I thought I’d try something different (excuse me if its been done before, oh well). Every week I will be making a list of the top 5 exploits of the week, details about them, etc.

So lets get the ball rolling:

#1 Internet Explorer 7 XML Buffer Overflow Exploit (Vista Target) — This remote beauty executes remote code on a vulnerable (probably still unpatched) Internet Explorer 7 machine running Windows Vista. Coded by muts.

#2 Internet Explorer 7 XML Buffer Overflow Exploit (XP SP3 Target) — Exploits the same bug as above but executes code on a Windows XP SP3 target. Coded by Guido Landi.

#3 XOOPS 2.3.1 Multiple LFI Exploits — XOOPS suffers from a few local file inclusion bugs, and DSecRG has some code for you.

#4 Linux Kernel ATMSVC DoS Exploit — Send a kernel into an infinite loop by locally running this exploit on a vulnerable machine. Code by Jon Oberheide.

#5 phpMyAdmin 3.1.0 XSRF Exploit — Cross site scripting attacks are more dangerous than most developers think. Here is exploit code, just don’t have phpMyAdmin open in another tab! Provided by Michael Brooks.

See you all next week with more. Bug on 🙂

    SecuriTeam Secure Disclosure

    SecuriTeam Secure Disclosure (SSD) helps researchers turn their vulnerability discovery skills into a highly paid career. Contact SSD to get the most for your hard work.