Possible password flaw discovered in Windows XP

A security flaw recently revealed in Microsoft’s Windows XP could enable unauthorized users to access password-protected PCs.

Using the Windows 2000 CD, anonymous users can apparently boot up a computer with the Windows XP OS and call up the troubleshooting program Windows 2000 Recovery Console.

Using the program’s system recovery routine, the unauthorized user can then work under the guise of a Windows XP Administrator, effectively rendering any passwords useless. The flaw affects all XP user accounts, password-protected or not -- visitors can then access files from the hard drive and copy to any removable media.

Representatives from Microsoft were not immediately available for comment.

Thomas Slodichak, chief security officer for WhiteHat Inc. in Burlington, Ontario, said the possible flaw was brought to his attention on Monday.

“It seems as though XP has a bit of programming missing that was included in its predecessor Windows 2000,” the security expert said.

Although Microsoft hasn’t officially confirmed the XP flaw, it highlights the notion, Slodichak said, that proper security practices within the enterprise are paramount. Even if this access flaw is confirmed “there are tons of other routines available that enable you to break into a workstation,” Slodichak said.

Enterprises face an endless see-saw battle between security and convenience, Slodichak said. “You can prevent this kind of thing from happening by changing settings in the BIOS and making sure you can’t boot from the CD or floppy disk.”

On the flipside, organizations may argue this usually ends up making networks less manageable, software upgrades harder to implement and ultimately results in more calls to the help desk, he added.

But the overall consensus within the security community, Slodichak continued, is that as long as there is any physical access to a box, data can be improperly accessed. “If a Windows box can be broken, let’s make sure that there isn’t data on it that can be leveraged or (is at least) encrypted…let’s put the data on the servers, behind locked doors where it belongs,” Slodichak said.

“It’s a question of corporate policy -- if the data is on servers it can’t breached or touched in this manner. It’s safe, it’s secure from the standpoint that it will be backed up on corporate data back-up systems.”

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.

Ryan B. Patrick

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

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.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?