McAfee says Vista's StickyKeys could be misused

McAfee says Windows Vista's StickyKeys feature is vulnerable to a flaw.

A Windows feature designed to simplify computing for disabled users could be misused in Vista, a McAfee Inc. researcher reported Monday.

Attackers could use this feature, called StickyKeys, to trick a user into launching unauthorized software on the Vista machine, according to Vinoo Thomas, a McAfee researcher who blogged about the issue on Monday.

StickyKeys is launched when a Windows user hits a modifier key like Shift or Alt five times. This makes the modifier key "sticky" so commands like Shift-F1 can be launched without having to hit two keys simultaneously.

An attacker could replace the sethc.exe file used to launch StickyKeys with some other executable, like the Windows command utility, Thomas wrote.

This backdoor vulnerability was already known to exist in Windows 2000 and Windows XP, according to Thomas.

Although it is interesting that Vista is also vulnerable, it's not clear how useful the backdoor would be to an attacker because one must first gain access to the machine in order to replace the StickyKeys file.

Thomas believes that it could be used by an inside attacker to bypass log-in on terminal servers and workstations.

Microsoft executives were not immediately available to comment on the issue.

To avoid the problem, "one can uninstall the Accessibility Tools feature, which is installed by default, to avoid this fairly simple, yet potentially serious built-in backdoor," he wrote.

"And don't forget to hit the shift key five times and see what pops up on your desktop."

Join the newsletter!

Or

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.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

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!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?