Skip the navigation

Microsoft starts '08 by patching 3 bugs

But researchers wonder: Where's the fix for the WPAD problem?

January 8, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Microsoft Corp. today released just two security updates that patch three vulnerabilities in Windows, marking the beginning of the bug year with a relatively slow start, said researchers.

Just one of the three flaws is rated "critical," the highest ranking Microsoft uses, while the other two were tagged as "important" and "moderate," the next two steps in the company's four-stage scoring system.

MS08-001, the update that addresses two bugs in a trio of Windows' TCP/IP protocols, was the obvious pick for immediate deployment. "This is a classic kind of IP attack," said Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Inc. "All an attacker needs is a well-crafted multicast packet."

Amol Sarwate, manager of Qualys Inc.'s vulnerability lab, agreed. "An attack doesn't require any user intervention," he said, "such as clicking on a link or opening an attachment. An attack only requires remotely sent packets."

The three vulnerable protocols patched by the update include IGMP (Internet Group Management Protocol), MLD (Multicast Listener Discovery) and ICMP (Internet Control Message Protocol). The first two are used in over-IP multicasting -- the classic example of that one-to-many technology is a webcast -- while the third, ICMP, is a maintenance protocol that manages more mundane things: network connectivity and routing.

Storms downplayed the threat posed by the bugs patched in MS08-001. "The good news is that in the enterprise many servers don't have multicast [protocols] enabled, and the firewall blocks [the traffic] on client machines."

Sarwate, on the other hand, considers the danger to be more significant. "The protocols can easily be enabled [on servers]," he said. "Companies may have enabled them, especially IGMP for group management applications in mixed environments with both Unix and Windows systems."

By default, both IGMP and MLD are enabled on client PCs running Windows XP or Windows Vista; that's why Microsoft slapped the "critical" label on both operating systems and why researchers who reported the bug to Microsoft urged watchfulness.

"The lack of user interaction, widespread availability of the protocols and the possibility of complete compromise of targeted systems means that administrators should treat this vulnerability as highly critical," said IBM's X-Force in its own advisory. "This [is] a possible target for botnets, such as the Storm {Trojan]."

As reported earlier today, the MS08-002 bulletin patched a privilege-elevation bug in the LSASS (Local Security Authority Subsystem Service) process within Windows 2000, XP and Server 2003.

Both Storms and Sarwate, however, also remarked on what was not included in today's batch: a fix for the Web Proxy Autodiscovery (WPAD) bug that Microsoft acknowledged a month ago. The WPAD vulnerability -- actually a flaw in how Windows PCs look up DNS information -- was originally patched in 1999 but resurfaced recently when a researcher pointed out that it had crept back into later versions of the operating system.



Our Commenting Policies