Windows SP2 security compromised

A security researcher claims to have crafted a simpler version of an exploit that could compromise a Microsoft Windows system patched with Service Pack 2.

The exploit, discussed in a Saturday message to the Bugtraq security mailing list, is based on an exploit first disclosed in late October. That exploit used two vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer 6, in combination with an inappropriate behavior in the ActiveX Data Objects model, to compromise an SP2-patched system.

The October vulnerability was itself a variant of a bug dating back to August. Both earlier flaws were ranked "highly critical" by Danish security firm Secunia, the second most serious of the company's ratings.

The October exploit required a user to drag an image from one part of a Web page to another, and then to click a button. At the time, Microsoft said the bug required too much user interaction to be considered serious. The new version, discovered by the Greyhats Security Group, eliminates the step of clicking a button, the group said. Like the earlier exploit, the new attack could lead to the execution of HTML and script code in the context of a trusted site, Greyhats said.

The researcher posted a proof of concept demonstration which, when an image is moved from one part of a Web page to another, is designed to create a file on the user's machine, bypassing the "Local Computer" zone lockdown security feature in SP2. Secunia said on Monday it had confirmed the exploit was effective against SP2-patched systems.

While no patch is available, users can protect themselves by disabling the "Drag and Drop or copy and paste files" option in Internet Explorer, according to Microsoft. Secunia said users could also set the security level for the "Internet" zone to "high" and disable active content.

A few vulnerabilities in SP2 have begun to surface. Earlier this month, Finjan Software claimed to have discovered a set of 10 major security flaws in SP2, bypassing many of the security measures the update puts into place and allowing the execution of malicious code on a system by luring the user to a specially crafted Web page.

However, the service pack has blocked some new attacks that are effective against earlier versions of Windows XP, for example the still-unpatched IFRAME vulnerability that allowed attackers to plant malicious code on PCs via a hacked banner ad server.

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Matthew Broersma

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