New IE bug causes concern

Security researchers are warning of a bug in Internet Explorer that could allow attackers to infect a PC by persuading a user to click on a Web image.

The vulnerability affects even Windows XP machines patched with Microsoft's security-oriented update, Service Pack 2 (SP2), making it the most serious hole discovered in SP2 to date.

IE versions 5.01, 5.5 and 6 aren't effective enough in the way they screen drag-and-drop events, allowing attackers to potentially slip code from the "Internet" zone to the local machine, according to researchers. In a demonstration posted online by a "white-hat" hacker using the Internet pseudonym http-equiv, who discovered the flaw, a user drags a graphic from one part of a Web page to another, and this action implants code in the user's startup folder, to be run the next time Windows launches.

The exploit could be simplified even further, making it more dangerous, according to IT security firm Secunia. "Though the (proof-of-concept) depends on the user performing a drag and drop event, it may potentially be rewritten to use a single click as user interaction instead," the firm said in its advisory.

In the absence of a fix from Microsoft, Secunia recommended users to disable active scripting or use a different browser. Instructions on disabling active scripting can be found on their Web site.

Secunia considers the bug "highly critical", but Microsoft doesn't agree -- the company said the exploit requires so much user interaction that it is effectively impossible to carry out. Microsoft hasn't issued a patch, but said it is continuing to investigate.

The reaction is similar to that received by an earlier bug discovered in SP2 shortly after its release. German security firm Heise Security warned that a new alert system warning users of potentially dangerous files could be bypassed.

In that case, most researchers -- including Heise itself -- said that an exploit would require an unrealistic degree of social engineering. "I think that Microsoft could have found a better solution that would cause less chance of 'mishaps', but it doesn't make it a vulnerability," said Secunia CTO Thomas Kristensen.

SP2 is designed to improve Windows security -- and Microsoft's reputation -- through extensive changes to Windows XP's default security settings, new security tools and a new patch management system. Because of the scale of the changes, which Microsoft admits are likely to break many existing applications, businesses say they are putting the service pack through a more rigorous testing procedure than with other service packs.

IT managers are mainly enthusiastic about SP2, but a significant minority say they have no plans to implement it, according to two recent surveys, one in the U.K., the other in the U.S. However, they are sanguine about the impact on applications, seeing it as the price you have to pay for added security.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Matthew Broersma
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Jack Jeffries


As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr


The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?