Exploit-for-sale hacker pins bug on Vista's e-mail app

Vulnerability potentially allows hackers to run malicious code on a victimized PC

A just-disclosed bug in Windows Vista's built-in e-mail program can be used by hackers to run malicious code on a victimized PC, said a researcher Friday who two weeks ago touted an exploit-for-sale service.

Microsoft acknowledged the report, and said it is investigating the vulnerability.

Symantec's DeepSight network, which issued a warning about the vulnerability in Windows Mail early this morning, upped the threat rating from 6.8 to 7.5 in a follow-up alert after it confirmed that the bug was remote code exploitable. That means an attacker could introduce his or her own malware onto a compromised computer. Windows Mail is the successor to Outlook Express, the entry-level e-mail app that's been bundled with the operating system since the Windows 95 edition.

By crafting an e-mail message with a link to a malicious file -- one hosted on a remote Internet server, say -- and duping the recipient to click on the link, an attacker could infect a Vista PC with software that steals identities or with a backdoor Trojan horse.

In some cases, all that's required is that the user clicks on the link, said Symantec. "An attacker can deliver an e-mail message containing a malicious link that references a local executable," the DeepSight alert read. "If the victim clicks on this link, the native program is executed with no further action required. For instance: An attacker could achieve the execution of the local file 'winrm.cmd.'"

If run, "winrm.cmd" -- the Windows Remote Management command-line tool -- would give an attacker complete access to a PC.

If the link points to a malicious file not on the PC, the user has one more chance to figure out the scam, added Symantec. "If the user follows [this] link, they are presented with a dialog box where they must click 'Yes' to open the file. Once the user clicks 'Yes,' the file opens or executes with the privileges of that user."

Microsoft's Security Response Center (MSRC) team downplayed the potential risk. "Microsoft is not aware of any attacks attempting to use the reported vulnerability or of customer impact at this time," the MSRC said through a company spokeswoman Friday.

It's possible that could change. The researcher who disclosed the bug and posted exploit code on the Full Disclosure security mailing list also announced an exploit-for-sale service nearly almost two weeks ago on the same list.

On March 11, the researcher, who goes by "Kingcope" posted a message on Full Disclosure touting the new service. "We now have our Exploit selling site up and running ... [where] you can purchase quality advisories and exploits. Feel free to contact our sales person for getting the latest Zero-Days," Kingcope wrote.

The Web site referenced in Kingcope's message was unavailable Friday, and sported a "The system is down for maintenance" message. Kingcope did not respond to e-mails requesting details of the bug-for-sale service.

Both Symantec and Microsoft urged users not to click links in unsolicited e-mail, while the former also recommended that users disable HTML within Windows Mail.

As is its practice, Microsoft said it may issue an additional advisory, or patch the problem in a future -- but unspecified -- security update. The next scheduled patch release date for Microsoft products, including Vista, is April 10.

Coincidentally, it was only last week that an executive in Microsoft's security technology unit boasted about Vista and gave the new operating system an A-plus for security in its first 90 days of release.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?