Security researcher uncovers two Office XP flaws

Two new security flaws in Microsoft Corp.'s Office XP productivity suite could be combined to allow attackers to take over a system, according to independent security researcher Georgi Guninski.

Guninski sent an advisory about the issues to security e-mail lists and posted it on his Web site Monday.

The first vulnerability, which affects Outlook XP, would allow an attacker to embed "active" content in an e-mail, he wrote. Active content contains both an object and a script. The content embedded in the e-mail would then execute when the e-mail is forwarded or replied to, wrote Guninski, who has uncovered a number of vulnerabilities in Microsoft products in the past. The vulnerability could force a user to visit a Web page designated by the attacker, Guninski wrote.

The second security hole, which affects the spreadsheet component of Office XP, can be used in conjunction with the first vulnerability to place executable files in a user's start-up directory, which could lead to a takeover of the target machine, he wrote.

Guninski, who lives in Bulgaria, included sample code in his advisory to demonstrate how to exploit both vulnerabilities.

Guninski wrote that he notified Microsoft of the bugs on March 17, but that the company did not produce a patch in two weeks, triggering his advisory. In the past, Microsoft has criticized Guninski for releasing his vulnerability data too quickly, calling his actions "irresponsible." Work-arounds for the vulnerability include disabling all "active" content in Internet Explorer (which is used by parts of Outlook) and fully deleting the spreadsheet component of Office XP. Guninski also wrote that "the solution is to get a real mail client and office applications."

In a statement e-mailed to the IDG News Service, Microsoft said that it is investigating the matter, but also acknowledged the accuracy of the first vulnerability.

As a work-around for that flaw, Microsoft recommends disabling HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) e-mail and not selecting Microsoft Word as the e-mail editor.

As for the second vulnerability, Microsoft said it does "not as yet have a work-around for the second issue, but note that even in the worst case it could only be used to create files -- not to execute them or take any other action on the user's computer."

"We are concerned that this report has gone public before we've had a fair chance to investigate it," Microsoft said in the statement. "Its publication may put our customers at risk or at the very least cause customers needless confusion and apprehension. Responsible security researchers work with the vendor of a suspected vulnerability issue to ensure that countermeasures are developed before the issue is made public and customers are needlessly put at risk."

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sam Costello

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?