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Unpatched SMB bug crashes Windows 7, researcher says

Microsoft investigating public exploit that locks up Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 systems

November 11, 2009 03:57 PM ET

Computerworld - A day after Microsoft plugged more than a dozen holes in its software, a security researcher unveiled a new unpatched bug in Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 that, when exploited, locks up the system, requiring a total shutdown to regain control.

Microsoft acknowledged that it's investigating the flaw.

Laurent Gaffie posted details of the vulnerabilities, along with proof-of-concept exploit code, to the Full Disclosure security mailing list today, as well as to his personal blog. The attack code, said Gaffie, crashes the kernel in Windows 7 and its server sibling, Windows Server 2008 R2, triggering an infinite loop.

"No BSOD [Blue Screen of Death], you gotta pull the plug," Gaffie said in notes inserted into the exploit code.

Gaffie claimed that the exploit, powered by a vulnerability in the new operating systems' implementation of SMB (Server Message Block), could be successfully launched from within a network from an already compromised computer, or used to attack Windows 7 machines via Internet Explorer (IE) by transmitting a rogue SMB packet to the PC.

Unlike more serious flaws, the Windows 7 SMB bug cannot be used by attackers to hijack a PC, Gaffie confirmed. "No code execution, but a remote kernel crash," he said in an e-mail today.

Gaffie also said that Microsoft's security team has acknowledged the vulnerability, which he first reported to them last weekend, but was told by the company that it wasn't planning to fix the flaw with a security update, instead perhaps correcting it in the first service packs for Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2.

A Microsoft spokesman confirmed that the company is looking into Gaffie's claims. "Microsoft is investigating new public claims of a possible denial-of-service vulnerability in Windows Server Message Block," said the spokesman in an e-mail reply to questions. "Once were done investigating, we will take appropriate action & [which] may include providing a security update through the monthly release process, an out-of-cycle update or additional guidance to help customers protect themselves."

Gaffie's disclosure came just a day after Microsoft issued November's security updates, which patched 15 vulnerabilities in Windows, Windows Server and Office. None of the 15 affected the final version of Windows 7, which was released to retail Oct. 22, or affected Windows Server 2008 R2.

Read more about Security in Computerworld's Security Topic Center.



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