[ISN] Security UPDATE--Security Researchers Vulnerable to Buffer
Underflow Attack?--January 5, 2005
isn at c4i.org
Fri Jan 7 07:40:47 EST 2005
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The Key to Stopping Email Attacks: Sender ID Can't Do It
Exchange & Outlook Administrator
1. In Focus: Security Researchers Vulnerable to Buffer Underflow
2. Security News and Features
- Recent Security Vulnerabilities
- Exploits on the Loose Against Unpatched Bugs in Windows
- Netcraft Joins the Anti-Phishing Brigades
3. Security Matters Blog
- Update Your Netcat Software for Windows
4. Security Toolkit
- Security Forum Featured Thread
5. New and Improved
- Remotely Change Network Passwords
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==== 1. In Focus: Security Researchers Vulnerable to Buffer Underflow
by Mark Joseph Edwards, News Editor, mark at ntsecurity / net
It's inevitable: Someone posts proof-of-concept code, and almost
immediately someone goes to work developing a malicious exploit. Do
these exploiters have nothing better to do, nothing better to think
Anyway, as you probably know by this time, a series of new Windows
vulnerabilities was recently published in the usual places. And now at
least one exploit, the Phel worm, is on the loose. The worm installs
code on penetrated systems to open back doors and make those systems
part of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) network. The worm
infects systems by using inroads through Microsoft Internet Explorer
(IE), often without the user's knowledge.
On the surface, these vulnerabilities and exploits might seem to come
from opposing forces: On one side are "researchers" who release
proof-of-concept code for their discoveries. On the other side are
people who turn the proven concept into something malicious for their
own nefarious purposes.
The side that puzzles me is the alleged "researchers." Are they
suffering some sort of mental buffer underflow attack (i.e., not
clearly thinking things through)? They're very adept at finding
security vulnerabilities, yet some of them fail to recognize one of
the most obvious security problems of all--their own premature public
revelations of explicit details of security weaknesses. It's possible
that some researchers do see the problem and they simply don't care,
which could mean that those particular researchers and the malicious
coders are, for all intents and purposes, cohorts playing a dastardly
Other researchers make a half-hearted effort to contact a vendor. In
one relatively recent case of vulnerability reporting, a researcher
claimed that he tried to contact a vendor but couldn't, so he thought
it reasonable to release his detailed findings to the public. I happen
to use the product in question, so I decided to try to contact the
vendor myself. After about 60 seconds of clicking around on the vendor
Web site, I found several contacts and emailed them the researcher's
findings. Within 24 hours, the vendor emailed me back a solution. I
then forwarded the vendor-provided solution to the researcher, who
didn't bother to publish it! In this case, a so-called "researcher"
could scour code for vulnerabilities, yet couldn't find any contact
info for the vendor! Obviously, such researchers aren't really
researchers at all. They too play a dastardly game.
On another note, last week I wrote about an incident that involved
Microsoft's release of a critical update for Windows Firewall that
improves the way in which the firewall handles local subnet
restrictions. The update wasn't part of Microsoft's monthly security
bulletins. If you missed last week's newsletter, then you can read
about the reasons why this happened in the December 29, 2004 Security
UPDATE commentary (first URL below) and in the related news story
"Critical Update for Windows Firewall Flies Under the Radar" (second
A reader wrote in response to the commentary that, "The [Microsoft
Baseline Security Analyzer (MBSA)] for use with SMS 2003 doesn't
report the firewall update patch." The reader did add that, in his
situation, the lack isn't an issue because he doesn't rely on local
subnet restrictions for defining firewall exceptions. Nevertheless,
the reader does point out another aspect of notifying users about
critical updates that needs better attention from Microsoft.
We posted an Instant Poll question last week that asks, "Do you think
Microsoft should improve its security alerting process?" The possible
answers are "Yes, it should send alerts about all security updates"
and "No, the process works fine for me the way it is." So far, we
haven't had a huge flood of people answer the question, but most of
those who have answered have said "Yes." If you haven't taken 30
seconds to visit our Web site and answer the question, please do--the
poll results will undoubtedly be read by Microsoft and could make a
difference in how the company handles its security update alerting
process in the future.
That said, I hope you all had pleasant holidays. Best wishes to all of
you for the new year, and until next time, have a great week!
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==== 2. Security News and Features ====
Recent Security Vulnerabilities
If you subscribe to this newsletter, you also receive Security
Alerts, which inform you about recently discovered security
vulnerabilities. You can also find information about these discoveries
Exploits on the Loose Against Unpatched Bugs in Windows
Researchers have posted proof-of-concept code that can take
advantage of vulnerabilities in Windows platforms. The concept code
works against vulnerabilities in the Windows Help subsystem and in
code used to load desktop icons and the Windows Help subsystem.
Netcraft Joins the Anti-Phishing Brigades
Netcraft, a company known for its statistical analysis of a vast
number of Web sites, has joined those groups who attempt to prevent
phishing scams by releasing a new toolbar for Microsoft Internet
Explorer (IE). The toolbar performs checks on URLs and enforces
behavior changes in the Web browser.
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==== 3. Security Matters Blog ====
by Mark Joseph Edwards, http://www.windowsitpro.com/securitymatters
Check out these recent entries in the Security Matters blog:
Update Your Netcat Software for Windows
An unchecked buffer in the popular Netcat tool for Windows could
allow remote code execution. The vulnerability, discovered by Hat
Squad, can be exploited when using the netcat -e option.
==== 4. Security Toolkit ====
FAQ: How can I quickly search for shared folders that are published in
Active Directory (AD)?
by John Savill, http://www.windowsitpro.com/windowsnt20002003faq
Find the answer at
Security Forum Featured Thread: Fending Off DDoS Attacks
A forum participant writes that he helps run a major Internet-based
retail operation and wonders if he can make any advance preparations
to mitigate or alleviate the threat of Distributed Denial of Service
(DDoS) attacks. Join the discussion at:
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