IE flaw lets hackers take over user's PC

The program could then allow the attacker to take control of the user's machine and add, change or erase data, communicate with Web sites or reformat the machine's hard drive, Microsoft said in a security bulletin.

The vulnerability is caused by HTML-based e-mail that contains an executable attachment whose MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) is incorrectly given as one of several unusual types. The flaw in IE will cause the attachment to be executed without displaying a warning, Microsoft said. MIME is an Internet standard for encoding binary files as e-mail attachments.

The versions of IE affected are 5.01 and 5.5. These versions of the browser are not capable of handling the unusual MIME types and automatically execute the attachment without alerting the user, Microsoft said. IE should only open files if the user explicitly asks for them to be opened. However, the flaw allows an attacker to circumvent this security measure, the company said. By default, IE downloads files automatically.

An attacker could exploit the vulnerability in one of two ways, according to Microsoft. The attacker could host the HTML e-mail on his or her Web site and try to persuade the user to visit it or the attacker could send the e-mail directly to the user, Microsoft said.

Microsoft already has created a patch for the IE vulnerability, which was brought to the company's attention by Juan Carlos Cuartango, a telecommunications engineer with Kriptopolis, a Spanish online magazine that focuses on Internet cryptography, security and privacy. The patch prevents e-mails from automatically launching executable attachments, Microsoft said.

Russ Cooper, an analyst at TruSecure was unaware of the vulnerability but said there have been similar problems with MIME before. One was discovered in 1997 in the MIME header that allowed for a buffer overrun, he said. This would allow a hacker to run embedded malicious code in an e-mail and have it be executed when read. This affected both Microsoft Outlook and Netscape Communications' Communicator. Another MIME vulnerability was also identified in late 2000, he said.

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

James Evans

PC World

Comments

Comments are now closed.

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Shopping.com

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?